Sunday, December 06, 2015



Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967), Collected Pruse (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1967), pp. 282-283:
Parochialism and provincialism are opposites. The provincial has no mind of his own; he does not trust what his eyes see until he has heard what the metropolis—towards which his eyes are turned—has to say on any subject. This runs through all activities.

The parochial mentality on the other hand is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish. All great civilizations are based on parochialism—Greek, Israelite, English.

In Ireland we are inclined to be provincial not parochial, for it requires a great deal of courage to be parochial. When we do attempt having the courage of our parish we are inclined to go false and to play up to the larger parish on the other side of the Irish Sea. In recent times we have had two great Irish parishioners—James Joyce and George Moore. They explained nothing. The public had either to come to them or stay in the dark. And the public did come. The English parishioner recognizes courage in another man's parish.

Advising people not to be ashamed of having the courage of their remote parish, is not free from many dangers. There is always that element of bravado which takes pleasure in the notion that the potato-patch is the ultimate. To be parochial a man needs the right kind of sensitive courage and the right kind of sensitive humility.

Parochialism is universal; it deals with the fundamentals.

It is not by the so-called national dailies that people who emigrate keep in touch with their roots. In London, outside the Catholic churches, the big run is on the local Irish papers. Lonely on Highgate Hill outside St Joseph's Church I rushed to buy my Dundalk Democrat, and reading it I was back in my native fields. Now that I analyse myself I realize that throughout everything I write there is this constantly recurring motif of the need to go back. Why do we always need to go back? What is it we want to return to? Freud says, the womb, and there is something in it too. We are never happy from the moment we leave the womb. The Mother is the roots. The Mother is the thing which gives us a world of our own. The Mother is the basis of romantic love.
Far have I travelled from the warm womb.
Far have I travelled from home.
So it is for these reasons that I return to the local newspaper. Who has died? Who has sold his farm?
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