The Mouth, the Meal and the Book

Christopher Ricks

  • Field Work by Seamus Heaney
    Faber, 64 pp, £3.00, June 1979, ISBN 0 571 11433 4

Those of us who have never swallowed an oyster have presumably never lived life to the full. The Augustan poet was not merely mocking the heroic when he said that the man must have had a palate coated o’er with brass who first risked the living morsel down his throat. Seamus Heaney offers ‘Oysters’ (‘Alive and violated’) as his opening. Opened at once are the oyster, the mouth, the meal and the book. It is at the start a delicious poem, not least in its play of the obdurate against the liquid:

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