"On Raglan Road on an Autumn day, I saw her first and knew that her dark her would weave a snare that I might one day rue."
So wrote Patrick Kavanagh who lived first on Pembroke Street round the corner from 1946 to 1958 and then at 19 Raglan Road itself from 1958 to 1959, (which is now the Mexican Embassy).
The poem, originally entitled "Dark-haired Miriam ran away", is really all about Hilda Moriarty, a 22year old medical student at University College Dublin. Paddy loved her, but Hilda who was 20 years younger, although flattered did not reciprocate his desire.
Undaunted he had the idea of setting the lines to the traditional air "The Dawning of the Day" (Fáinne Geal an Lae).
Later on Luke Kelly of The Dubliners was having a drink with him one day and asked if he could record it, and so was born one of the most famous Irish songs of recent times. It's become a bit of a standard, My favourite is Sinéad O'Connor's hauntingly beautiful version, and to have such a womans voice singing Paddy's heartfelt words gives it added poignancy.
Paddy never had much money, despite literary success, seemingly being as unlucky with his finances as he was with his choice of females. His upstairs flat apparently had a mirror positioned in the window in such a way that it would alert Paddy when creditors or other undesirables came calling!
Of course the days when well to do Ballsbridge played home to penniless writers living in upstairs bedsits have long since gone, but if you love the poem and song, and Patrick as much as I do, a visit here, particularly in the Autumn is magical. And as you cross the wide & relatively quiet, tree-lined avenue it is easy to imagine the "Quiet street where old ghosts meet", and and...sadly...a beautiful dark-haired Irish girl walking away "from me so hurriedly," even if reason must allow.
I make the journey along Mount Street & then up Northumberland & Pembroke Roads to here every time I'm in Dublin not only because I'm as hopeless a romantic as Patrick, but also because his work for me represents the deeper creative & cultural Ireland, the magic, and the real enchanted way.
"I saw the danger, yet I walked along the enchanted way,
And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day."
This road for me typifies my home town of Dublin. It is a beautiful place to be in Autumn when the evening sun shines on the leaves in the trees. It is a magical place of reds and yellows. Sadly I live many thousands of miles away, but every time i listen to RAGLAN ROAD I am transported back to Dublin. One day I hope to return and listen to the song on the very street in Autumn.
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