A Follow-Up to In Bruges: “On Raglan Road” by Patrick Kavanagh

“I will immortalize you in poetry, Hilda.”

Patrick Kavanagh

How could I review In Bruges without mention of the bewitching poem it features, “On Raglan Road” by Patrick Kavanagh?

I have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with poetry. In a sense, I find myself at opposition with the stringent rules and regulation that define so much of poetry. I think art should not be governed, but be governor. At the same time, perhaps I am just too lazy to learn and respect them. Undeniably though, the well structured “On Raglan Road” is one of the most beautiful tunes I’ve read and listened to and casts Ireland as an enchanted place of poetry. If you don’t like reading poetry, Luke Kelly’s cover from the film is most compelling and is embedded below.

Kavanagh and Kelly actually met at the Bailey Pub in Dublin. Kavanagh, with embarrassment, asked Kelly to cover his poem about a girl run away. Kelly did…and with much dignity.

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I passed along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
Of the deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay
Oh I loved too much and by such by such is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s known
To the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint without stint for I gave her poems to say.
With her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds over fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I had loved not as I should a creature made of clay
When the angel woos the clay he’d lose his wings at the dawn of day.

Patrick Kavanagh
An interview with Kelly followed by “On Raglan Road”

As far as its usage in the film, I think it is quite self-evident. Kavanagh talks of his unrequited love, a sacrifice. Ken makes his own poetic sacrifice for Ray.

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