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Casting and GatheringSeamus Heaney
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Vol. 12 No. 18 · 27 September 1990
Poem

Casting and Gathering

Seamus Heaney

171 words

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.

I am still standing there, awake and dreamy.
I have grown older and can see them both
Moving their arms and rods, working away,
Each one absorbed, proofed by the sounds he’s making.

One sound is saying, ‘You aren’t worth tuppence,
But neither is anybody. So watch Number One!’
The other says, ‘Go with it! Give and swerve.
You are everything you feel beside the river.’

I love hushed air. I trust contrariness.
Years and years go past and I cannot move
For I see that when one man casts, the other gathers
And then vice versa, without changing sides.

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