Patrick Kavanagh’s “A Wreath for Tom Moore’s Statue” is a four-verse satire in which the poet voices his anger and disillusionment with the cultural hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and materialism of post-revolutionary Ireland. Identified with the urban middle classes, Dublin corrupts and stifles the creative originality of its contemporary poets while raising upon a pedestal a false image of the heroic past. This means that Irish society has lost its ideals, joyful vitality, and vision and has reverted its gaze toward idolizing a reusable past, molding and manipulating it so that it fits perfectly the rather insular and practical interests of the rising Catholic bourgeoisie.
The title and the first verse of the poem introduce Thomas Moore, a prominent figure of the Irish cultural and national revival, and use his monument as a tool to satirize the current state of affairs in Ireland. To a certain extent, Moore’s monument comes to represent a horde of national poets and heroes whose achievements are gradually narrowed down to and categorized in one single expression and image. Having petrified and, thus, appropriated them for a cause different from, and even opposite to, their original ones, the Catholic middle class has dishonored these public figures of the past, Kavanagh’s lyric persona claims: “The cowardice of Ireland is in his statue,/ No poet’s honoured when they wreathe this stone.”
Moreover, in doing so, the...
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