In The Advent Darkened Room

Welcome to this years yarn calendar. Our theme for this year is the beautiful poem ADVENT written by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh.

I think it is imperative to remember that this poem was written almost 70 years ago, when the Catholic Church was deeply entrenched into the everyday lives of the Irish people. At first glance, we could simply take this poem to be about Catholicism, however, I’m inclined to look past this and delve into how it could be interpreted in today’s world. Let’s start, shall we?

In this poem, Kavanagh stops to reflect and to take himself to task on squandering some of his real poetic resources – unifying the miraculous and the banal. He addresses himself in a forthright way, almost chastising himself with the words: “We have tested and tasted too much, lover”. He takes himself in hand by writing. At this point in time, he is in urgent need of purification in his deepest soul. He needs radical simplification of lifestyle to counteract the bombardment of his soul by the ‘too much’ of everything he has recently begun to experience. To me, we can relate in a modern way, when life becomes too much, the stress of every day life, the worldly issues that just seem to pile on top of each other – sometimes we need to look inwards, seek the calm, reconnect with ourselves. 

Entering the solitude of his “Advent-darkened room”, he craves again the memory of “a black-slanted Ulster hill”, his own Shancoduff, his triangular hill, that could restore renewal to his soul. He thinks also perhaps of his little room over the kitchen so that could restore him to the wonder of little things. Kavanagh was particularly fond of restricted vision, probably derived from the cramped space of his family home. When we look to the things that bring us pure joy and happiness – it’s often not out of reach, we just need to come back home. 

Kavanagh knows that he has to embark on some cleansing ritual. He mentions the traditional “dry black bread and sugarless tea” of the Advent fast long ago…Kavanagh did not need this, he was so poor he often had to borrow a shilling to buy bread pretending it was for the gas metre. But he desperately wanted to find his own way, his own poet’s practice of becoming alert to the newness in everything… to be re-awakened to the wonder of the world and the people around him. He wants all of us to join with him in discovering this mystery of newness, to put to rout boredom, any sense of the staleness of things or a know-it-all mentality that robs us of the wonder of seeing things, as if, for the first time…

Looking at this poem, it’s easy to believe it’s simply about Catholic society in Ireland. That’s an easy out, it’s all the Irish people knew of at that time. Let’s put that part to the side, and truly understand it’s meaning. It’s about introspection, coming back home, seeking the joy and pleasure in the everyday-ness of our lives. Finding the beauty.

And I think we can do real justice in bringing this poem to you through colour play, our mutual love of yarn, and finding the joy in this simple thing. 
We have always wanted to centre our calendar around Irish heritage, and found this poem to illicit some beautiful imagery and thus some beautiful colour potential.

le grá,


by Patrick Kavanagh

We have tested and tasted too much, lover-

Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.

But here in the Advent-darkened room

Where the dry black bread and the sugarless tea

Of penance will charm back the luxury

Of a child’s soul, we’ll return to Doom

The knowledge we stole but could not use.

And the newness that was in every stale thing

When we looked at it as children: the spirit-shocking

Wonder in a black slanting Ulster hill

Or the prophetic astonishment in the tedious talking

Of an old fool will awake for us and bring

You and me to the yard gate to watch the whins

And the bog-holes, cart-tracks, old stables where Time begins.

O after Christmas we’ll have no need to go searching

For the difference that sets an old phrase burning-

We’ll hear it in the whispered argument of a churning

Or in the streets where the village boys are lurching.

And we’ll hear it among decent men too

Who barrow dung in gardens under trees,

Wherever life pours ordinary plenty.

Won’t we be rich, my love and I, and please

God we shall not ask for reason’s payment,

The why of heart-breaking strangeness in dreeping hedges

Nor analyse God’s breath in common statement.

We have thrown into the dust-bin the clay-minted wages

Of pleasure, knowledge and the conscious hour-

And Christ comes with a January flower.

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