The title "Advent", immediately introduces a religious motif - Advent being the four week period in the Catholic Church which immediately precedes Christmas. Advent is traditionally a period of penance and preparation of contrition and denial. In this poem, Kavanagh draws an analogy between the season of Advent and the nativity which follows and his own wish to rediscover the innocence and wonder of a child's mind. The theme has much in common with Vaughen's "Retreate", in which the poet seeks to return to prenatal existence.
The opening lines represent Kavanagh's confession of guilt, he has committed the sin of gluttony, a metaphor - for original sin. The lover of the opening line is Kavanagh's inner-self, his id or soul. He recognises that wonder, awe, imagination and magic of a child's mind is directly related to their innocence and lack of knowledge. If the window of knowledge is open wide, the reality of life becomes apparent and a child's sense of wonder is no longer, "Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder". Kavanagh hopes that by submitting himself to the penance of Advent, he can cleanse his mind of this knowledge, as the soul is cleansed of sin - that he can return that knowledge to the tree of knowledge, as it had been stolen by man and was of no use to him. Kavanagh sees original sin - the eating of the tree of knowledge by Adam and Eve and their subsequent banishment from Eden, as the reason why mankind must suffer the loss of childhood innocence. The legacy of original sin is this loss which Kavanagh wants to retrieve. Kavanagh hopes to cleanse his mind of the knowledge he has gained through experience of life "tested and tasted too much" and require "the luxury of a child's soul". The word, Doom, represents Kavanagh's vision of mankind's legacy from Eden, for Kavanagh the consequences of original sin were disastrous for mankind.
In the second stanza, Kavanagh considers the rewards of forgiveness and grace, he alludes to the ordinary aspects of life, the environment and society in which he spent his childhood. The contrast between newness and stale, is a contrast between the mind of the child and the mind of the adult. The sense of awe, wonder and mystery, that Kavanagh associates with childhood is conveyed through the imagery and language of the second stanza, phrases such as "spirit-shocking", "black slanting", "prophetic astonishment" and "tedious talking" gives substance to the excitement that is wished for by the poet. Kavanagh anticipates the ordinary and the benal will be transformed into the wonderful and fantastic by the sense of innocence that Kavanagh will acquire, the contrast between prophetic astonishment and tedious talking, between spirit-shocking and black slanting is a contrast between the mind of the child and the mind of the adult. Kavanagh's language is designed to highlight the contrast. In the final two lines Kavanagh alludes to his poem "A Christmas Childhood" in which he pictures the Christmas he experienced as a seven year old in Inniskeen. In that poem, three whin bushes represented the three wise men, the family cow byer was the stable of Bethlehem, and the frost encrusted ground was a magical carpet, where the sound of breaking ice was the evidence of people going to midnight mass. Here he seeks to rejuvenate that imaginative scene. The word "Time", is like Doom, of metaphorical significance, the phrase "old stables where time begins", is a reference to the nativity - the event for which Advent is the preparation - the moment of Kavanagh's renaissance.
In stanza three, Kavanagh begins confident of both penance and forgiveness, sure that "after Christmas we'll have no need to go searching", once again he lists a series of images of ordinary everyday life which have been transformed through the imagination into scenes and events of universal significance. Kavanagh's world of awe and wonder, "wherever life of pours ordinary plenty". In the final half of the third stanza, Kavanagh considers the value of the return of childhood innocence, casts off the benalities and materialism of the society around him, which he portrays in monetary terms - "reasons payment", "analyse God's breath", "clay-minted-wages" - drawing the analogy between the material world and the world of the imagination, which is reflected in the final line of the poem, "And Christ comes with a January flower". Religion is the dominant motif throughout the poem, the poet's wish to regain the innocence of a child's mind is portrayed in a religious context. Kavanagh attributes the staleness and materialism of the adult world to original sin. The Advent, Christmas and the New Year will provide him with a means of recovering his lost innocence, he begins by confessing his sin, "we have tested and tasted too much", recognises that this sin has been responsible for the staleness with which he viewed the world.
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