Part Two: Station Island – the Sequence

Part Two: Station Island – the Sequence Part 2 traces a ‘pilgrim’s progress’; Heaney composes a sequence of 12 poems under a chosen topological heading. At least twenty five years separate his original experiences on Station Island and the moment at which he chooses the location to draw together the different strands. Much water has passed beneath Heaney’s emotional, ethical, […]

Station Island – the Sequence I

I The first piece follows the aftermath of a young man’s decision to ‘go with the spiritual flow’ and undertake the pilgrimage. A dissenting voice pressures him in vain to abandon the pilgrimage and urges him to overcome the orthodoxy of his upbringing. The early-morning Sunday sounds that summon folk to worship are sudden and urgent: A hurry of bell […]

Station Island – the Sequence II

II Heaney’s self-scrutiny is pursued in his encounter with the ghost of William Carleton (see below) on the road to Lough Derg. Carleton’s emphasis concerns politics and social turbulence. Pausing on the journey (parked on a high road)and savouring the sights and sounds of nature around him Heaney’s preoccupations are interrupted: something came to life in the driving mirror. The […]

Station Island – the Sequence III

III The pilgrim has gone to one of Station Island’s ‘beds’. His initial humble posture (I knelt)is followed by a pause: Hiatus.. This is not prayer but rather obedience of the protocols of the pilgrimage, a ‘pervasive element’ from Heaney’s Catholic upbringing. The mindset (Habit’s afterlife) has transported him back to bead clicks and the murmurs/ from inside confessionals. Textures […]

Station Island – the Sequence IV

IV Heaney encounters the ghost of Terry Keenan whom he knew from childhood and who became a missionary father in the tropical rain forests. The certainty of Keenan’s religious convictions conflicts with Heaney’s lapsing/ lapsed status (the pilgrim stands with his backto the religious icons at the outset of the poem). The piece reflects upon religious certainty and the status […]

Station Island – the Sequence V

V The poet encounters three figures who have influenced his personal development. The first is with an old man finding forward momentum difficult: his hands, like soft paws rowing, who groped for and warded off the air ahead. He is identified first by name and then by schoolmaster status: Barney … Master. Murphy’s debilitated shuffle and weakened voice are shadows of […]

Station Island – the Sequence VI

VI The pilgrim achieves sexual freedom. The happening is presented as a real event and not just the fantasy of a young Catholic adolescent male indulging in a brazen carnal act on a hallowed site. The poem’s third sonnet sets out the sexually frustrated adolescence that preceded it. Twenty-five years before Heaney encountered a girl without a name, a child […]

Station Island – the Sequence VII

VII The pilgrim has walked down to the water-line and felt soothed by just looking at it. The clear barometer of the water has brought relief from the issues that trouble him. There he sensed a presence un-reflected in the water (because a ghost has no mass to reflect). Hearing the sound of his name was unexpected: entering into my […]

Station Island – the Sequence VIII

VIII The mood has changed: the soothing clear water of VII is replaced by the sombre turbulence of some Wagnerian overture. From his kneeling ‘station’ at the hard mouth of St Brigid’s Bed our staring pilgrim is conscious of darkening nature around him (Black water … granite airy space), of strengthening wind (White waves. Furrows snowcapped. A magpie … staggered), […]

Station Island – the Sequence IX

IX A hunger-striker’s ghost guarantees a restless night for the pilgrim who is operating at varying levels of wakefulness. A voice describes in graphic detail the effects of self-imposed fasting: brain dried like spread turf/ stomach ( ) a cinder ( ) tightened and cracked and evidence of bodily haemorrhage: Often/ I was dogs on my own track/ Of blood […]