Sunlight

Sunlight The poem is a memorial to its central figure, a warm, nostalgic rural study from the poet’s past dedicated to his Aunt Mary. The first line introduces the motif and emotions of what follows: There was a sunlit absence. The phrase encapsulates: nostalgic feelings from childhood; the warmth of sunlight; warm relationships; irreversible time past; a scene and a […]

The Seed Cutters

The Seed Cutters A second ‘word-canvas’ depicts an age-old routine practised in Heaney’s Ulster farming community. He is perhaps inspired by a memory or a photo, even literally a calendar picture depicting rural practice. Such groups of farm workers would be recognisable back in Breughel’s time: They seem hundreds of years away. Heaney addresses the Flemish artist who painted rural […]

Antaeus

Antaeus A ‘giant’ figure from Greek/ North African mythology, Antaeus was invincible in combat as long as he retained contact with the earth that renewed his strength whenever he fell. Antaeus clarifies the myth but foresees the advent of a more skilful combatant who will find the means to bring him down. Antaeus knows that earth-contact renews his life-force: I […]

Belderg

Belderg A specific historical site in Ireland provides Heaney with the catalyst for exploring, in congenial dialogue, the linkage between artefacts, peoples, myths, cultures and ancient languages; the piece tells of doggedness, roots and recurrence. The speaker cites a comment from a ‘local’ about objects that regularly came to light (just kept turning up); given lack of education no thought […]

Funeral Rites

Funeral Rites A sequence of 3 poems; Heaney follows three lines associated with death and burial: natural causes; the result of sectarian strife; myth and legend. Ultimately the sequence seeks out a solution to the unbreakable cycle of murder and revenge. I The speaker describes one of a number of traditional Irish Catholic family funerals he has attended. These conferred […]

North

North Wrestling with questions about his current status and mindset Heaney has felt the need for solitude; he would benefit in his uncertainty from the reassurance of a counselling voice. The speaker revisits a stretch of the Donegal coast, a shod of a bay. The sounds he is hearing recall the god Thor who in Viking mythology hammered to create […]

Viking Dublin: Trial Pieces

Viking Dublin: Trial Pieces ‘Then there was the Viking Dublin exhibit in the National Museum, based on the dig being done by Brendán Ó Ríordáin at the Wood Quay site’ (DOD p.163); . Dublin was founded by the Norwegian Vikings in 841AD. A sequence of 6 poems; Heaney permits his imagination free rein in pursuit of Viking links with Dublin […]

The Digging Skeleton

The Digging Skeleton Scholars and students have long set themselves the challenge of translation. Heaney show-cases his skills in this version after Baudelaire. Heaney is loyal to Baudelaire’s picture of human misery and his rejection of belief in a better life after death. I The speaker is strolling along the dusty quays of the Seine, past the stalls of Parisian […]

Bone Dreams

Bone Dreams Heaney shed light on the genesis of his six ‘dream’ poems in conversation with DOD (p 157) ‘That summer of 1972, the month before we moved (to Glanmore Cottage in County Wicklow)…we did a lot of driving in the south-west of England, saw the white horses carved into the hills, visited Maiden Castle in Dorset and the old […]

Come to the Bower

Come to the Bower In this first of six titles referred to as the ‘bog poems’ in North the voice is that of the individual who has come upon the mummified corpse of a woman hidden beneath the surface of the the bog where it has been preserved. The initial ‘forensic’ examination of the mummy is overtaken by the finder’s […]