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The Loaning

Seamus Heaney

5 February 1981
... As I went down the loaning to the fields the wind shifting in the hedge was like an old one’s whistling speech. I knew then I was in the limbo of lost words. They had flown there from outhouses and crossroads, from under rotten carts and churchyard walls. I saw them streaming out of birch-white throats to nest a while in those old places, then on a day close as a stranger’s breath rising in smoky ...

Changes

Seamus Heaney

18 September 1980
... As you came with me in silence to the pump in the long grass I heard much that you could not hear: the bite of the spade that sank it, the slithering and grumble as the mason mixed his mortar, and women coming with white buckets like flashes on their ruffled wings. The cast-iron rims of the lid clinked as I uncovered it, something stirred in its mouth. I had a bird’s eye view of a bird, finch-green ...

Diptych

Seamus Heaney

3 July 1986
... I She taught me what her uncle once taught her: How easily the biggest coal block split If you got the grain and hammer angled right. The sound of that relaxed alluring blow, Its co-opted and obliterated echo, Taught me to hit, taught me to loosen, Taught me between the hammer and the block To face the music. Teach me now to listen, To strike it rich behind the linear black. II I thought of her as ...

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 his reel ...

Two Poems

Seamus Heaney

1 November 1984
... Hailstones I My cheek was hit and hit: sudden hailstones pelted and bounced on the road. When it cleared again something whipped and knowledgeable had withdrawn and left me there with my chances. I made a small hard ball of burning water running from my hand just as I make this now out of the melt of the real thing smarting into its absence. II To be reckoned with, all the same, those brats of showers ...

The Birthplace

Seamus Heaney

7 October 1982
... I The deal table where he wrote, so small and plain, the single bed a dream of discipline. And a flagged kitchen downstairs, its mote-slants of thick light: the unperturbed, reliable ghost-life he carried, with no need to invent. And high trees around the house, breathed upon day and night by winds as slow as a cart coming late from market or the stir a fiddle could make in his reluctant heart. II ...

An Invocation

Seamus Heaney

6 August 1992
... 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 ...

A Royal Prospect

Seamus Heaney

2 March 1989
... On the day of their excursion up the Thames To Hampden Court, they were nearly sunstruck. She with her neck bared in a page-boy cut, He all dreamy anyhow, wild for her But pretending to be a thousand miles away, Studying the boat’s wake in the water. And here are the photographs. Head to one side, In her sleeveless blouse, one bare shoulder high And one arm loose, a bird with a drooped wing Surprised ...

Three Poems

Seamus Heaney

20 October 1983
... Unwinding If the twine unravels to the very end the stuff gathering under my fingernails is being picked off whitewash at the bedside. And the stuff gathering in my ear is their sex-pruned and unfurtherable moss-talk, incubated under lamplight, which will have to be unlearned even though from there on everything is going to be learning. So the twine unwinds and loosely widens backward through areas ...

A Retrospect

Seamus Heaney

7 February 1991
... I 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 into water ...

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 here like ...
6 November 1986
... It is often late, by chance, and with sudden delight, that we find those poets who later become vital to us. I knew Sorley MacLean by reputation before I felt his authority. His renovation of a poetic tradition, his cross-fertilisation of love and politics, of metaphysical technique and traditional Gaelic modes, of dan direach and personal destiny – I knew about all this at second-hand; it was part ...

Crossings

Seamus Heaney

20 April 1989
... Travelling south at dawn, going full out Through high-up stone-wall country, the rocks still cold, Rainwater gleaming here and there ahead, I took a turn and met the fox stock still, Face to face in the middle of the road. Wildness tore through me as he dipped and wheeled In a level-running tawny breakaway. O neat head, fabled brush and astonished eye My blue Volkswagen flared into with morning! Let ...

Two Poems

Seamus Heaney

25 October 1979
... A Deer in Glanmore for B.C. About a mile above and beyond our place, in a house with a leaking roof and cracked dormer windows Brigid came to live with her mother and sisters. For months after that she slept in a crowded bed under the branch-whipped slates, bewildered night after night by starts of womanhood, and a dream troubled her head of a ship’s passenger lounge where empty bottles rolled at ...

Six Poems

Seamus Heaney

26 October 1989
... When you sat, far-eyed and cold, in the basalt throne Of ‘the wishing chair’ at Giant’s Causeway, The small of your back made sense of the firmament. Like a papoose at sap-time strapped to a maple-tree, You gathered force out of the world-tree’s hardness. If you stretched your hand forth, things might turn to stone. But you were only goose-fleshed skin and bone, The rocks and wonder of the ...

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