“Pegasus”*

Image: “Pegasus” in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (“il salotto di Milano (Milan’s drawing room)”

*poem of 1947 by Patrick Kavanagh

From the website of The Inner Temple:

“…Visitors to the Inner Temple, unable to miss the ubiquitous symbol of the Pegasus on buildings throughout the Inn, frequently seek the origin of the emblem. Would that we knew!…

…Project Pegasus

The Inner Temple vision for this vital redevelopment is to create attractive, flexible space with state-of-the-art facilities for the delivery of education and training programmes for students, pupils and practitioners.

The revitalisation of the Inn will secure the long term future of the Inn and ensure members, and the people who use the Inn, have the services and facilities to support a vibrant legal profession…”

From the website of the Poetry Foundation:

“Patrick Kavanagh (1904–1967)

Irish poet and writer Patrick Kavanagh was born in a rural area of County Monaghan, a northern county in the Irish province of Ulster. The son of a shoemaker who owned a small farm, he left school at about the age of 12 and thereafter largely taught himself about literature. His poetry collections include The Great Hunger: A Poem (1971), Come Dance With Kitty Stobling, and Other Poems (1960), A Soul for Sale: Poems (1947), and Ploughman and Other Poems (1936), and his most celebrated novel is Tarry Flynn (1948).

Kavanagh began his writing career in the last years of the Irish Literary Renaissance, a cultural movement paralleling the rise of nationalism in Ireland that culminated in the country’s independence from Great Britain shortly after World War I.

Though his native area was poor, he felt that “the real poverty was lack of enlightenment,” and he added, “I am afraid this fog of unknowing affected me dreadfully.”

Surprisingly, in view of his ambitions as a poet, Kavanagh’s first major critical success came with the publication of an autobiographical prose work titled The Green Fool (1938). In this book, which he later revealed was as much novel as autobiography, Kavanagh recounts his rural childhood and his struggles as a budding writer, and while doing so he provides a wide-ranging portrait of Irish society. The book gave Kavanagh international recognition, with favorable reviews appearing in prominent publications in England and the United States. Critics have been impressed by Kavanagh’s skillful balance between sentiment and humor.

While Kavanagh played the role of assertive social critic, inwardly he was more and more plagued by self-doubt. In O’Brien’s analysis, when the aspiring reformer found himself unsuccessful, a sense of failure and isolation was the natural consequence. “Often, when [Kavanagh] was not writing satire,” said the critic, “he would write about failure.” He released a poetry collection, A Soul for Sale (1947), that takes its title from an image of failure that opens the poem “Pegasus”: “My soul was an old horse / Offered for sale in twenty fairs.” ”

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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