Raglan Road

written by Patrick Kavanagh, 1946
For song licensing, see The Katherine and Patrick Kavanagh Trust


This example of "Raglan Road" is performed by Donal Hegarty, traditional singer from Co. Cork.
Please refer to Cantaria's Copyright information

This song was first recorded and popularized by the great Luke Kelly of the Dubliners in the 1960s.  The words, written by Paddy Kavanagh, were set to the traditional air 'Fainne Gael an Lae' (The Dawning of the Day).  This poem was first published in 1946 under the name "Dark haired Myriam ran away".

(2/07) Excellent resource:   Portrait of Patrick Kavanagh from RTE
   (You will need a RealPlayer for the audio and video clips)

Notes from a post on the Digital Tradition forum:
Both Ewan McVicar and Arthur Johnstone claim it was Luke Kelly who married the tune to the words. Luke's own account seems to contradict this:
[1994:] Luke told the following story in an interview in 1980: 'I was sitting in a pub in Dublin, The Bailey, and as you know in the old days - it's changed a bit now - it was known as a literary pub, an artistic pub. I happened to be sitting there in the same company with Patrick Kavanagh and one or two other poets, and someone asked him to recite a poem, which he did, and then someone asked me to sing a song which I did. Being in the presence of the great man I was very nervous. Then he leaned over to me and said in that sepulchral voice of his - he could hardly get his voice out, he was very old ... it was just the year before he died - and he said 'You should sing my song,' and I said 'What's that, Mr Kavanagh?' and he said 'Raglan Road''. So he gave me permission. I got permission from the man himself.' (Geraghty, Luke Kelly 38f)

There is a recording of Kavanagh himself singing 'Raglan Road' in the RTE Radio archive. Proof enough that he conceived his verses as a song. The line endings 'at the dawning of the day' are also proof of the air he had in mind. 

If the lyrics pique your curiosity, read a group analysis of the song on mudcat

Also, there are some interesting notes about Kavanagh's life here: http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels/poems/971.html 

Incidentally, the same tune is used, at a quicker pace, for the song William Bloat.

On Raglan Road of an Autumn day
I saw her first and knew,
That her dark hair would weave a snare
That I might someday rue.
I saw the danger and I passed
Along the enchanted way.
And I said,"Let grief be a fallen 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 play.
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts
And I not making hay;
Oh, I loved too much and by such and such
Is happiness thrown away.

I gave her gifts of the mind,
I gave her the secret signs,
That's known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone.
And her words and tint without stint
I gave her poems to say
With her own name there and her own dark hair
Like clouds over fields of May.

On a quiet street where old ghosts meet
I see her walking now,
And away from me so hurriedly
My reason must allow.
That I had loved, not as I should
A creature made of clay,
When the angel woos the clay, he'll lose
His wings at the dawn of day.