Patrick Kavanagh

My People

Stranger:   What kind your people are
                  I would wish to know - 
                  Round-shouldered men like rolling-stock?
                  Great in despair
                  Simple in prayer
                  And their hard hands tear
                  The soil on the rock
                  Where the plough cannot go?
Poet:           'Tis not so.
                   Faint-hearted folk my people are
                   To Poverty's house they have never invited
                   The giant Pride,
                   But await the hour when wrongs are righted.
                   They till their fields and scrape among the stones
                   Because they cannot all be policemen - 
                   They work because they cannot eat the stones.
Stranger:     Poet be fair
                   You surely must have seen
                   Beneath these rags of care
                   Hearts that were not mean
                   And cowardly and faint?
Poet:           O stranger why
                   Should poet seek to prove
                   The lean purse of a saint?
                   For one in love
                   Would never sharply pry
                   Into the quiet cove
                   Where all that is God's
                   Is safe from the hurtling clods.
                   I cannot give you what you wish
                   But I shall give you other things
                   I shall pile your dish
                   With the flesh historian's find on Irish kings.
Stranger:     I will go
                   To my townfull [sic] of vermin
                   That sways to-and-fro
                   Like fool-heads at a sermon.
                   I shall pour out for them
                   The vitriol of Hell,
                   And may Christ condemn
                   My name if I tell
                   Of the jewels your folk
                   Hide in a thin cloak.
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