Thursday, May 07, 2015


Patrick Kavanagh was a famous twentieth century Irish poet, forebear to many later writers, including Seamus Heaney. Here's an excerpt from his autobiography, The Green Fool, where he writes about an incident from his childhood:

"John Gorman (Kavanagh's friend) was a naturalist in his fashion. One evening in April or May he climbed a beech tree where was a wood-pigeon's nest with eggs in it. As he climbed down very gingerly I noticed that one of his pockets was full.

"What are you up to?" I asked.

"Never you mind," he said, "but I'll tell you what you're to do. You don't let the wood-pigeons near the nest or tree till I come back."

He ran off towards his home while I sat under the tree keeping my eye skinned for the homing wood-pigeons. They did come, but I shooed them off every time till my companion arrived. He had pigeons' eggs in his cap.

"I'm after boiling them," he said, "and now we'll put the eggs back in the nest and see what'll happen."

He did so.

The hen pigeon came and sat on the eggs and the cock looked on, now and then tooting a tune that made the cuckoos envious. He nor his wife did not suspect the impending tragedy. We kept the nest under close observation, or at least my companion did; every evening after school he watched it, and if I wasn't there, kept me in touch with events.

"She's sitting on them still," he informed me four weeks later. John never tired watching the pigeon on the boiled eggs.

At the end of another month he again told me that the pigeon was still hatching in hope.

For three or four months the pigeon sat on the eggs, we could only see her beak over the brim of the nest. Then one day came and we saw no beak.

"I'll go up and investigate," John said. He went up. As he propped himself between the forked branches near the nest he shouted down:

"Be cripes, do you know what?"

"What happened?" I shouted up.

"There's what happened," he said as he pitched the wood-pigeon's nest right at my feet.

The pigeon was dead, and the boiled eggs fell on the soft, tufted grass and were unbroken." 


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