I Had a Future
Wednesday 27 November 2013, 5 p.m. section
- Published 1964
- recite poem
Historical Context/critical reception
- Patrick Kavanagh, born in 1904 in rural county of Ireland
- Wrote about Irish lifestyles, descriptions of Irish life through commonplace events
- Lots of Irish critics called him the best poet since Yeats in his time, actively writing from 1928 until his death in 1967… although the same thing is often heard about Heaney, who came later on. Interestingly he kept writing up until his death, similar to both Yeats and Heaney
I; in this poem refers to Kavanagh himself… as the poem refers to Kavanagh's personal experiences in '40's Dublin later in the poem.
- Reflects on feelings of not fulfilling the potential he had as a writer earlier in his life
I had a future, as if Kavanagh/the narrator does not feel the promise of their youth's tomorrow came to fruition. The narrator seems to miss the way he felt in the past.
The mirage/ That was my future
- Obviously the narrator is not living in the world he previously dreamed/thought he would be living in. This disconnection, between the way the narrator imagined his future from the past and the present reality that the narrator finds himself living in gives this poem its tone of unfulfillment.
- However, the use of the word
mirage does seem to be an admittance of the fact that his past view of the future was flawed — perhaps overly optimistic.
- — Seems to be looking back with fondness toward his youth. (e.g.
not just any streets/ but the streets of nineteen forty.)
how I felt about money/ not frantic as later he imagines his past self as less stressed out than he used to be.
- Thinks of all the good times
Show me the stretcher-bed I slept on/ In a room on Drumcondra Road [a road in Dublin]/ Let John Betjeman call for me in a car.
- — what is the nature of memory?
Something that stands out to me is
Give the quarter-seeing eyes I looked out of/ The animal-remembering mind …
quarter-seeing eyes — possibly referring to the fact that we'll never even consciously register all the information surrounding us, let alone remember it with our
animal-remembering mind. I think that here, the narrator is admitting to the imperfect nature in which memory is consolidated.
- is Kavanagh suffering from some sort of rosy retrospection? I think yes.
- How did you guys like this poem? What did you think about it?
- What might the lines
Give the quarter-seeing eyes I looked out of/The animal-remembering mind mean to you?
- The narrator refers to the future he previously
walked towards as a
mirage Do you think Kavanagh felt like he could have achieved
the mirage that he imagined his future to be in the '40's?
- My answer: I have no idea.
- The second to last stanza in the poem states
the eerie beat/ of madness in Europe trembles the/ wings of butterlies along the canal. Do you think he is referring to WWII? Perhaps foreshadowing the tumultuous state in which he finds himself writing this poem?
- I think he's talking about WWII.
- Do you guys see any parallels between this poem and some of the other works/poems we've covered in class?
- talk about parallels with Yeats and Yeat's poem "The circus animal's desertion"
Relationship to Kavanagh's other poems/other works we have covered in the course
I Had a Future the lines
And then the pathos of the blind soul,/ How without knowing stands in its own / kingdom. Seems to dovetail with the poem
On Raglan Road
- Kavanagh was often compared to Yeats. Not as better than Yeats, but close.
- both authors wrote these poems later on in their careers. Yeat's poem being published in the same year that he died, and Kavanagh's poem being published three years before he died.
- both poems refer to feeling unfulfilled with the present state; Yeats in failing to find inspiration, and Kavanagh-looking back, in not living up to the potential he idealizes himself as having in the past.
- could Kavanagh just be copying Yeats in a way?