On Raglan Road by Patrick Kavanagh and Luke Kelly

On Raglan Road of an Autumn day I saw her first and knew
G D Bm D A
that her dark hair would weave a snare that I would some day rue
G D Bm D A
I saw the danger yet I chanced along the enchanted way
and I said ‘Let grief be a falling leaf at the dawning of the day

On Grafton Street in November we tripped lightly along the ledge
of a deep ravine where can be seen the worth of passion’s pledge
the Queen of Hearts still making tarts, and I not making hay
and I loved too much and by such, by such is happiness thrown away

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her a secret sign
that’s known to all the artists who have known true gods of sound and stone
and word and tint I never did stint, I gave her poems to say
with her own name there and her own dark hair like clouds o’er the fields of May

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet I see her walking now
away from me so hurriedly my reason must allow
that I have loved not as I should, a creature made of clay
when the angel wooes the clay he’ll loose his wings at the dawn of day

Kavanagh was drinking with Luke Kelly in the Bailey in Dublin and was asked to recite a poem, Raglan Road. He did and turned to Luke and said ‘I have a song for you, you should sing Raglan Road‘ (in Luke’s own words) And so he did. Sadly, Luke Kelly died at thirty eight years of age. His name is synonymous with this song.

Historical information: On Raglan Road / The Dawning of the Day. The confusion caused by the two titles of this song can be traced back to the different previous history of the tune on one hand and the words on the other.

The tune, known as Fainne Gael an Lae, strictly meaning The Bright Ring of Day, probably originates from the seventeenth century blind Sligo harpist Thomas O’Connellan. In 1847 Edward Walsh scored an eighteenth century poem to this air and the song Fainne Gael an Lae, by then translated as The Dawning of the Day, was born. The popularity of this song rocketed when a masterly interpretation by the famous Irish-American tenor John McCormack, of the The Dawning of the Day was used in the 1937 film Wings of the Morning.

O’Connellan’s air inspired not only Edward Walsh, but also Thomas Moore, when he sought music for The Minstrel Boy, as well as the author of The Ballad of William Bloat, Raymond Calvert.
In 1909, to make thing even more complicated, Cicely Fox Smith published a poem entitled At the Dawning of the Day. Apart from some phrases this poem has little to do with our subject, although it is not entirely unthinkable that Patrick Kavanagh at least knew this poem.

Most likely with knowledge of Walsh’s song The Dawning of the Day and Smith’s poem At the Dawning of the Day Patrick Kavanagh wrote a poem entitled Dark Haired Myriam Ran Away. This poem, which was published in 1946, seemingly referred to an unrequited love of Patrick Kavanagh. The words however don’t give a clue about her name and like a true gentlemen he never consigned the lady’s identity.

‘Raglan Road’ was written in 1946.


Kavanagh’s poem led a forlorn existence on the dark bookshelves until Patrick Kavanagh and Luke Kelly of The Dubliners, at that time, novices in the music scene, treated each other with their talents during a joyful pub session somewhere in the 1960’s.

 The exact course of this gathering is vague. Some assume that Kavanagh recited his poem Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away and that Kelly set it to O’Connellan’s air. Others, among them Luke Kelly himself, state that Kavanagh already had set the poem to the air. Anyway, Patrick was impressed by the musical talents of Luke Kelly and he gave him permission to use the song. For some reasons The Dubliners didn’t use the original title of the poem and because there was already a song entitled The Dawning of the Day they came up with On Raglan Road.

Notes: Leaving Cert Poetry On Raglan Road – Patrick Kavanagh

Patrick Kavanagh’s Real Journey (Rosemarie Rowley) – Academia …

I watched ‘In Bruges’. In one of the scenes towards the end they used the song ‘On Raglan Road’ by The Dubliners. It went really well with the scene. ‘On Raglan Road’ is an Irish song created from a poem by Irish poet, Patrick Kavanagh, entitled ‘Dark Haired Miriam Ran Away’.


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