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Zagzagael got me thinking . . .
Sasha Blaze
sedens
. . . when she asked whether anyone knew where to find the music to "Raglan Road." That sent me back to the Chieftains' album Tears of Stone, and Joan Osborne's haunting version of the song. And as I listened to it again this morning, I remembered that I once dug up the lyrics online; they aren't actually from the folk tradition, but were written by Patrick Kavanagh with a traditional tune in mind. (Much like Yeats's poem "The Salley Gardens," which starts from a folk tune and one line of a folk song, and then goes its own way.)

The analytical rational daylight feminist sedens wants to jeer at the conceit and the melodrama and the objectification that Kavanagh is indulging in here. But . . . it's gorgeous, and evocative, and it gets me where I live in spite of myself.

On Raglan Road on an autumn day I met her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked 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 -
O I loved too much and by such and 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. I did not 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 wooed 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



So I thought, what about gender-reversing this? Would it work? Or is the emotion here so tied up with the cultural concept of the Male Artist and his superiority to the base clay of Woman that the result would just be silly?




On Raglan Road on an autumn day I saw him first and knew
That his bright hair would weave a snare that I might one day rue;
I saw the danger, yet I walked 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 -
O I loved too much and by such and such is happiness thrown away.

I gave him gifts of the mind -- I gave him the secret sign that's known
To artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint. I did not stint for I gave him poems to say
With his own name there and his own bright hair like the light over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet, I see him walking now
Away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
That I have wooed, not as I should, a creature made of clay -
When the angel woos the clay she'll lose her wings at the dawn of day.



Hmmmm. I think the shift in gender alters the meaning, subtly but surely, but I also think it works. Discuss.

Source material here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/971.html And yes, my change in the hair color as well as gender pronouns has some personal history behind it.

I'll leave the class to talk about this for a while on its own; I have to go to the post office and pick up the Big Box!
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omg there's HOMEWORK now in LJ..... but Dr Matilda I didn't do the reading... my cat peed on my homework... i took an ambien and fell asleep at 7 and just now woke up...........

LOL! Heard all those. Though usually instead of "I didn't do the reading," it's just rows and rows of glazed stares that mean the same thing.

Big box! Woo-hoo! I'm anxious to see...

I'm a huge fan of Kavanagh - my maiden name, but with a u. ;) I've worked on and off with "Raglan Road" as poetic inspiration for prose for the past four years, so I do "know" it rather intimately. However, that knowledge has become something else entirely as I've deconstructed it.

I do see what you're saying and although I am the furthest thing from a feminist, if I squint hard enough, I can see a patriarchal tone in the Idea that the Female needs the Male to Enlighten Her. Kavanagh was certainly no Van Morrison but perhaps he would have been if he had been born forty years later. ;) Meaning that Van's poetry/lyricism is so incredibly similar but he Reveres women and would very much think that it is Woman who Enlightens Man and gives him the secret sign. Although, Morrison has covered Raglan Road.

I think this poem is a testament to misdirected Desire in Love. And the speaker knows it at the end...I think. Or perhaps, he doesn't really understand what went wrong, but instead thinks that his worshipping the Divine in the Woman is what destroyed the love affair...

Oh, yes! I agree completely that the poem is about misdirected desire, and that at the end the speaker knows his desire was misdirected . . . I just think that, after that achingly beautiful opening stanza, the last two lines go all sour grapes on the woman with the cloud of dark hair, and that's what bothers me.

The way I read the language at the end of the poem, he's spitefully reducing her to mere clay, "a creature made of clay," who has--after all the poetry he lavished on her, too!--been the worthless cause of his losing his wings, his divinity/inspiration/poetry/potency. "When the angel woos the clay he'd lose his wings at the dawn of day." And that sentence doesn't even leave her the power of tearing off his wings--there's no agent there, it just happens. (The woman herself gets erased from the poem, which of course makes perfect sense: bitter ex-lovers DO that.)

Oh, my, absolutely it's pushing too hard to make the whole poem a statement on The Patriarchy (which is one of those huge loose terms that drive me stark raving nuts. Which form of patriarchal thinking? Where? When? No, when *exactly*? What specific evidence are we talking about?). But . . . the form that the speaker's bitterness takes in this poem strikes me as being so--um. Grandly condescending. The grapes were sour, anyway. So there.

I've had artist figures on my mind quite a bit this semester, what with teaching Dickens and all--so this chimed in quite nicely. Wonderful timing on your need for the music!

can i get the audio anywhere?

Ooooo, you mean online? I have no idea . . . though it's been recorded many, many times, and any online or physical record store should have some version or other. I would guess, anyway!

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