An Invocation

Seamus Heaney

1

Incline to me, MacDiarmid, out of Shetland,
Stone-eyed from stone-gazing, sobered up
And thrawn. Not the old vigilante

Of the chimney corner, having us on,
Setting us off, the drinkers’ drinker; no,
Incline as the sage of wind that flouts the rockface,

As gull stalled in the seabreeze, gatekeeper
Of open gates behind the brows of birds –
Not to hear me take back smart remarks

About your McGonaglish propensities,
For I do not, but I add in middle age:
I underprized your far-out, blethering genius.

2

Those years in the shore-view house, especially –
More intellectual billygoat than scapegoat,
Beyond the stony limits, writing mad.

That pride of being tested. Of solitude.
Your big pale forehead in the window glass
Like the earth’s curve on the sea’s curve to the north.

At your wits’ end then, always on the go
To the beach and back, taking cognizance
Between the horizon and the dictionary,

Hardliner on the rockface of the old
Questions and answers, to which I also add:
‘Who is my neighbour? My neighbour is all mankind.’

3

And if you won’t incline, endure
At an embraced distance. Be the wee
Contrary stormcock that you always were,

The weather-eye of a poetry like the weather,
A shifting force, a factor entering
Whether it prevails or not, constantly

Tuned in, of its time and place – and ours
If we’re lucky. Never, at any rate,
Beyond us, even when outlandish.

In the accent, in the idiom, in
The idea like a thistle in the wind,
A catechism worth repeating always.