Kerr's Ass

We borrowed the loan of Kerr's ass
To go to Dundalk with butter,
Brought him home the evening before the market
And exile that night in Mucker.

We heeled up the cart before the door,
We took the harness inside -
The straw-stuffed straddle, the broken breeching
With bits of bull-wire tied;

The winkers that had no choke-band,
The collar and the reins . . .
In Ealing Broadway, London Town
I name their several names

Until a world comes to life -
Morning, the silent bog,
And the God of imagination waking
In a Mucker fog.

by Patrick Kavanagh

Comments (2)

This poem is a rebuke to the Irish Literary Revival movement and to Romanticism generally. Brutal realism signals that PK's peasant origins are not idyllic; his inadequate farm is not an ideal subject for poetry, just the only life he had. His example shows that rural peasants are capable of poetry, which is usually crushed by their poverty, not inspired by it. It is not wonderful that he emerged from this setting - it is amazing.
An impoverished peasant has discoverd in himself the imagination for poetry, but he achieves that inspiration in spite of his crushing poverty, not because of it. This rural scene is his material not because it is appealing or romantic but because it is all he has. There is nothing attractive or beneficial in poverty and the brutal realism of this poem is part of PK's rejection of such romanticised twaddle (notably in Ireland's Literary Revival) .