Patrick Kavanagh


My soul was an old horse Offered for sale in twenty fairs. I offered him to the Church – the buyers Were little men who feared his unusual airs. One said: ‘Let him remain unbid In the wind and rain and hunger Of sin and we will get him – With the winkers thrown in – for nothing.’ Then the men of State looked at What I’d brought for sale. One minister, wondering if Another horse-body would fit the tail That he’d kept for sentiment – The relic of his own soul – Said, ‘I will graze him in lieu of his labour.’ I lent him for a week or more And he came back a hurdle of bones, Starved, overworked, in despair. I nursed him on the roadside grass To shape him for another fair. I lowered my price. I stood him where The broken-winded, spavined stand And crooked shopkeepers said that he Might do a season on the land – But not for high-paid work in towns. He’d do a tinker, possibly. I begged, ‘O make some offer now, A soul is a poor man’s tragedy. He’ll draw your dungiest cart,’ I said, ‘Show you short cuts to Mass, Teach weather lore, at night collect Bad debts from poor men’s grass.’ And they would not. Where the Tinkers quarrel I went down With my horse, my soul. I cried, ‘Who will bid me half a crown?’ From their rowdy bargaining Not one turned. ‘Soul,’ I prayed, ‘I have hawked you through the world Of Church and State and meanest trade. But this evening, halter off, Never again will it go on. On the south side of ditches There is grazing of the sun. No more haggling with the world…’ As I said these words he grew Wings upon his back. Now I may ride him Every land my imagination knew.

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