Although he frequently and vehemently denied it, Patrick Kavanagh was a distinctively Irish poet. He had already formed his own voice by the time he discovered—or was discovered by—the Celtic Revival and became a leading figure in the second generation. Kavanagh was not a Celtic mythologizer such as William Butler Yeats, a conscious dialectician such as J. M. Synge, a folklorist such as Lady Gregory, an etymologist such as James Joyce, or a Gaelic revivalist such as Douglas Hyde. He felt and wrote with less historical or political consciousness than his progenitors. His gifts and temperament made him an outsider in Inniskeen, his lack of formal education and social grooming excluded him from Dublin’s middle-class literary coteries, and his moral sensibility excluded him from Bohemia.
Yet in retrospect, Kavanagh emerges as the dominant Irish literary personality between 1940 and 1960. Although he admired each of the Revival’s pioneers for particular qualities, he regarded the Irish Literary Revival in the main as an English-inspired hoax. The romanticized peasant, for example, he considered the product of Protestant condescension, and he felt that too many writers of little talent had misunderstood the nature of Yeats’s and Joyce’s genius and achievements, so that the quality of Irishness replaced sincerity.
Against a pastiche of literary fashions that misrepresented the peasant, attempted the revival of the Irish language, and...
(The entire section is 1998 words.)
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