Canal Bank Walk by Patrick Kavanagh: Summary and Analysis

Canal Bank Walk was written by Patrick Kavanagh immediately after his recovery from the lung cancer in which he had a surgery to remove his lungs in 1955. Since this time period, his poetry has changed the tract from criticism and frustration to the praise of the life and nature. A sense of enjoyment and wonder can be seen in his poetry after the surgery. This particular poem too deals with theme of renewal and recovery. It is in a combined sonnet form that is to say he combined both Shakespearean and Petrarchan form.

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967)

The Grand Canal bank is the place he used to go for the walk after surgery. He finds the canal bank is leafy with love. Then people go there for love making so such sight and scenes of love are visible in the canal bank. Green waters are pouring down redemption which means to say he is getting healed from the nature which used to be banal for him, but now it is again renewed like himself. The birds are gathering materials for the nest, the wind is blowing. He wants to wallow and lay down for pleasure in the nature like earlier. For him, now everything, including the bird, the wind, breeze, the canal water is fresh and new. His happy and cherished mood is vividly presented with the use of imagery like ‘Leafy-with-love banks’, ‘the green waters of the canal’, ‘Pouring redemption’, ‘The bright stick trapped’, ‘couple kissing on an old seat’, and ‘a bird gathering materials’. In this scene of canal banks, the speaker wants to wallow in the nature that is to say he wants to lay down and derive pleasure. In the octave of the poem, the speaker expresses his desire to derive happiness once again from this world.

In the sestet, he openly requests the brand new Mother Nature to embrace him, to enrapture him in the web of magnificent green grass with the sweet voice of the birds. He wants the nature to rule over him and he totally surrenders himself in front of nature, so that his soul gets food from the green and blue nature. Green and blue are the colors of nature, both representing the earth and trees, and sky and water respectively; the totality of the great creation.

Once the poet said that as a poet, he was born in the canal in 1955, which has absolutely changed his attitude and views on life and poetry. The religious theme can be noticed in this poem. The poet said he was reborn and the baptized in the ‘green waters of the canal.’  Everything God has made is beautifully perfect and life giving to him. He wished to live on ‘the will of God.’ His wish to grow with the nature again is vibrantly seen in the phrase ‘grow again with nature’.  Every ordinary thing gets transformed for him and he observes them very carefully with all his senses. It was so tranquil that he can hear the breeze and his eyes are so wide open that he can see the love of God even in the kissing couple. He celebrates the nature as it is and is extremely hopeful and happy for his renewed life.

The tone of the poet in this poem is warm and grateful towards the God. The sense of wonder like that of childhood is prevalent throughout the poem when he goes on praising the natural beauty and his sense of awe in the ordinary happenings of daily life.

Related Topic

Patrick Kavanagh: Biography