Obama quotes Irish poet in Biden eulogy

President Obama quoted Irish poet Patrick Kavanaugh in the eulogy he delivered for Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, on 6 June. The president began:

“A man,” wrote an Irish poet, “is original when he speaks the truth that has always been known to all good men.”  Beau Biden was an original.  He was a good man.  A man of character.  A man who loved deeply, and was loved in return.

Towards the end of the eulogy, Obama said:

I got to know Joe’s mom, Catherine Eugenia Finnegan Biden, before she passed away.  She was on stage with us when we were first elected.  And I know she told Joe once that out of everything bad that happens to you, something good will come if you look hard enough.  And I suppose she was channeling that same Irish poet with whom I began today, Patrick Kavanagh, when he wrote, “And I said, let grief be a fallen leaf at the dawning of the day.”

Kavanagh was born in County Monaghan in 1904, 16 years before the political partition that carved Northern Ireland from Monaghan and five other counties in Ulster.  He wrote poetry, fiction, autobiography and articles for Irish periodicals.

Image from Kavanagh Centre via Choose Ireland.

Image from Kavanagh Centre via Choose Ireland.

“Many critics and Irish literary figures have called him the nation’s best poet since William Butler Yeats, and one of his long poems, ‘The Great Hunger,’ is widely regarded as a work of major importance,” according to this biography from the Poetry Foundation. He died in 1967

Learn more here, including details of the Kavanagh Centre.