Stony Grey Soil
This poem represents Kavanagh's frustration with both himself and the rural society in which he grew up. It was written in about 1943, at a period when Kavanagh's move to Dublin was proving unsuccessful when he was being ignored by the literary set and turned his anger and frustration on his native county.
The Title: The title of the poem is the first indicator of Kavanagh's attitude. The adjectives 'stony' and 'grey' indicate a barreness which metaphorically suggests both an intellectual and social barreness in the society produced in Monaghan. Kavanagh has accused Monaghan of robbing him of the enjoyment of the gaiety of youth and first love., of stunting his passion for life and for promoting instead a n agricultural psyche.
Stanza I: The poem is a direct address to his 'native place'-: "Oh stony grey soil of Monaghan" The tone is immediately bitter and accusatory-: "The laugh from my love you thieved;" Kavanagh lays the blame for his perceived competence firmly at the door of Monaghan- "You took the gay child of my passion And gave me your clod-conceived"
Stanza II: In stanza two, Kavanagh uses classical illusion to contrast his own perception of himself now (1945) with what he had been led to believe what it was before he had left Monaghan. Kavanagh's short-comings are magnified in the comparison with Apollo. The cosmopolitan society of Dublin and the education literary set which shunned him made him consider his voice and his walk to be a mumble and stumble.
Stanza III: In stanza three Kavanagh attacks the glorification of agricultural life in Monaghan-: "You told me the plough was immortal!" Kavanagh describes the plough as "green-life-conquering" suggesting that the green sod turned over by the plough is suffocated as his intellectual development was severely stunted. He draws an analogy between a green and unploughed field (lea-field), and his infurrowed brow of youth. He suggests that damage done by a plough to a lea-field is compropable to the lines which have appeared in his brow caused by unhappiness and frustration with life in Monaghan.
Stanza IV: The tirade against Monaghan continues in stanza four where Kavanagh again accuses his native country of being responsible for prevailing the inept, unsophisticated man he considers himself to be. He attempts to show how this has permeated his whole being by displaying how the individual senses were attacked-: "You sang on steaming dunghills You perfumed my clothes with weasel itch, You fed me on swinish food. You flung a ditch on my vision." Here Kavanagh has listed the senses of hearing, smell, sight and taste all negatively affected by the society of Inniskeen.
Stanza V: In stanza five, Kavanagh immediately reaches a crescendo when he again accuses Monaghan-: "Oh stony grey soil of Monaghan You burgled my bank of youth".
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