The Story of Raglan Road

Raglan Road is a famous Irish love song. It is a song of unrequited love made all the more captivating as we see that the writer himself has known from the outset that he was going to get hurt.

The genius of this song is in how it captures so brilliantly the self-destructive recklessness that otherwise rational people can display when they fall in love – no matter how old or mature they may think that they are. Poet Patrick Kavanagh was forty years old at the time of the love affair in question and the girl, student Hilda Moriarty was but a young girl of twenty two. In an interview in 1987, Moriarty reflected how the age gap was the main reason the relationship failed. Hilda was a Kerry woman who hailed from the Gaeltacht village of Baile an Lochaigh. This is a magical place, nestled in the foothills of Mount Brandon, west of Dingle town.

On Raglan Road of an autumn day I saw her first and knew
That her dark hair would weave a snare that I might one day 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’s pledge,
The Queen of Hearts still making tarts and I not making hay –
Oh I loved too much and by such by such is happiness thrown away.
I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign
That’s knownTo the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stone
And word and tint without stint for 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
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’d lose his wings at the dawn of the day.

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