Patrick Kavanagh’s Parish Myth

  • Antoinette Quinn


Appropriately one of Patrick Kavanagh’s best-known lyrics is the sonnet audaciously named ‘Epic’ in which he asserts the universal validity of local material as literary subject-matter:
  • I have lived in important places, times

  • When great events were decided, who owned

  • That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land

  • Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.

  • I heard the Duffys shouting ‘Damn your soul’

  • And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen

  • Step the plot defying blue cast-steel —

  • ‘Here is the march along these iron stones’

  • That was the year of the Munich bother. Which

  • Was more important? I inclined

  • To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin

  • Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind

  • He said: I made the Iliad from such

  • A local row. Gods make their own importance.

Ballyrush and Gortin are two obscure townlands in Kavanagh’s native parish of Inniskeen in Co. Monaghan and his rhetorical strategy in ‘Epic’ is to begin by emphasising the seeming perversity of choosing this local world as text.


Primary Connotation Irish Parishioner Irish Time Irish Language Realist Fiction 
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  1. 6.
    November Haggard (New York, 1971) pp. 69–70.Google Scholar
  2. 11.
    Matthew Arnold, Essays in Criticism (London, 1868) p. 61.Google Scholar
  3. 15.
    Patrick Kavanagh, The Complete Poems (New York, 1972) pp. 71–2.Google Scholar
  4. 16.
    John Montague, The Irish Times (2 Dec. 1967).Google Scholar
  5. 37.
    Daniel Corkery, Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature (London, 1931) p. 24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Terence Brown and Nicholas Grene 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antoinette Quinn

There are no affiliations available

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