I shall say straightaway that you will have to overlook the mention of July in this poem when it is so clearly still June. The lovely sunny weather, so perfect for a stroll and then a quiet rest on the canal side has inspired this choice from Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967). His was such a modest commemorative request and such a wise one, as one’s thoughts would always turn to the person named on the bench. A sure way to be remembered and perhaps also a way to be discovered by new readers.
Lines Written on a Seat on the Grand Canal, Dublin
O commemorate me where there is water,
Canal water preferably, so stilly
Greeny at the heart of summer. Brother
Commemorate me thus beautifully
Where by a lock Niagarously roars
The fall for those who sit in the tremendous silence
Of mid-July […]
O commemorate me with no hero-courageous
Tomb – just a canal-bank seat for the passer-by.
As many of you will know, Kavanagh was indeed commemorated with a bench on the bank of Dublin’s Grand Canal which was set in place on the south bank in 1968. This bench was the result of a collaboration between Patrick Kavanagh’s friends and was funded by contributions from many sponsors.
I came across a website edited by Liam Brady, telling the story of the wood and granite memorial bench, which of course is not to be confused with the 1991 memorial bench by John Coll (on the north bank) featuring the bronze statue of the man himself taking his ease by the canal. A memorial gathering has been held at the original bench on St Patrick’s Day ever since 1968.
My partner (also known as He Who Put the Shelves Up) is to thank for Patrick Kavanagh’s collected edition which he bought for me a few years ago after we moved to Dublin. I haven’t read enough of the poems as I would like, but eventually I will become familiar with more of them.
I hope you liked today’s choice of verse, more tomorrow…