Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney’s The Burial at Thebes, a translation of Sophocles’ Antigone, is out in paperback from Faber.

Three Poems

Seamus Heaney, 5 May 2005

Rilke: The Apple Orchard

Come just after the sun has gone down, watch This deepening of green in the evening sward: Is it not as if we’d long since garnered And stored within ourselves a something which

From feeling and from feeling recollected, From new hope and half-forgotten joys And from an inner dark infused with these, Issues in thoughts as ripe as windfalls scattered

Under trees...

Three Poems in Memory of Charles Monteith 9 February 1921 – 9 May 1995

Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon and Tom Paulin, 21 September 1995


Tom Paulin

Or Charlus as McGahern would call youwhen we stacked up stories with Heaney– all fun a great geg pure pleasureI’d think of this village near Donegal town– Mountcharlus they say in those partsnot Mountcharleswhich was how one editor at Faberused to sign every letter he sent(was it Dunn who wonderedhad you somehow acquired a peerage?)then I’d try hard to...

Poem: ‘An Invocation’

Seamus Heaney, 6 August 1992


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


Poem: ‘A Retrospect’

Seamus Heaney, 7 February 1991


The whole country apparently afloat: Every road bridging or skirting water, The land islanded, the field drains still as moats.

A bulrush sentried the lough shore: I had to Wade barefoot over spongy, ice-cold marsh (Soft bottom with bog-water seeping through

The netted weeds) to get near where it stood Perennially anomalous and dry, Like chalk or velvet rooting in the mud.

Everything ran...

Poem: ‘Casting and Gathering’

Seamus Heaney, 27 September 1990

for Ted Hughes

Years and years ago, these sounds took sides:

On the left bank a green silk tapered cast Went whispering through the air, saying hush And lush, entirely free, no matter whether It swished above the hayfield or the river.

On the right bank, like a speeded-up corncrake, A sharp ratcheting kept on and on Cutting across the stillness as another Fisherman gathered line-lengths off...

Heaney was not in any simple sense a ‘Virgilian’ poet, but the sixth book of Virgil’s Aeneid mattered more to his later writing than any other single text.

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A Big Life: Seamus Heaney

Michael Hofmann, 4 June 2015

Robert Lowell​ has a poem called ‘Picture in The Literary Life, a Scrapbook’ which begins:A mag photo, I before I was I, or my books –a listener … A cheekbone gumballs...

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Be Nice to Mice: Henryson

Colin Burrow, 8 October 2009

Robert Henryson is the most likeable late medieval author after Chaucer. He wrote with a directness, a lightly carried learning and a lack of sentimentality hard to match anywhere in the British...

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Roaming the stations of the world: Seamus Heaney

Patrick McGuinness, 3 January 2002

In a shrewd and sympathetic essay on Dylan Thomas published in The Redress of Poetry, Seamus Heaney found a memorable set of metaphors for Thomas’s poetic procedures: he ‘plunged into...

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Hasped and Hooped and Hirpling: Beowulf

Terry Eagleton, 11 November 1999

Writing in 1887 of the proposal to establish an Anglo-Saxon-based school of English at Oxford, the moral philosopher Thomas Case protested that ‘an English School will grow up, nourishing...

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Hand and Foot: Seamus Heaney

John Kerrigan, 27 May 1999

When Seamus Heaney left Belfast in 1972, to work as a freelance writer in the relative safety of the Republic, Northern Ireland was a war zone. Internment and Bloody Sunday had recruited so many...

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James Wood, 20 June 1996

Seamus Heaney has always doubted poetry – not as a philosopher might doubt reality, but as a rich man might doubt money. He feels not scepticism, but guilt. He thanks poetry for existing but...

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Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann, 15 August 1991

Seeing things, Seamus Heaney’s ninth volume of new poems, is aimed squarely at transcendence. The title has a humble and practical William Carlos Williams ring to it, but that is...

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David Trotter, 23 June 1988

In an interview given in 1979, Seamus Heaney endorsed a fellow writer’s lament that ‘you feel bloody well guilty about writing.’ To judge by this new collection of critical...

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Ian Hamilton, 1 October 1987

‘About the only enmity I have is towards pride.’ Seamus Heaney said this in an interview, and since we know him to be the most over-interviewed of living poets, perhaps he...

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Sweaney Peregraine

Paul Muldoon, 1 November 1984

The title-sequence of Seamus Heaney’s sixth collection finds him on Station Island, Lough Derg, more commonly known as St Patrick’s Purgatory. It’s the setting for a pilgrimage...

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Ireland at Swim

Denis Donoghue, 21 April 1983

The Crane Bag is a magazine, published twice a year: each issue deals with one theme. In Irish legend, the crane bag contained the alphabet of knowledge. The bag belonged to Manannan, god of the...

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Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

‘New’ poetry can mean two things. When Ezra Pound said ‘make it new’ he was willing the advent of Modernism, the birth of a consciousness transformed by the...

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Prize Poems

Donald Davie, 1 July 1982

The Arvon Foundation’s 1980 Anthology contains four splendid poems: Stephen Watts’s ‘Praise Poem for North Uist’, and Keith Bosley’s ‘Corolla’; Aidan...

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English Fame and Irish Writers

Brian Moore, 20 November 1980

In Ireland it often seems that the great world is too little with us – that all issues are reduced to the level of the parish pump. Yet, as Patrick Kavanagh warned, Irish writers turn...

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The Mouth, the Meal and the Book

Christopher Ricks, 8 November 1979

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...

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