May 3rd, 2006

Sasha Blaze

Zagzagael got me thinking . . .

. . . 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?

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