Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney

Sunset in the rear view mirror
photographer: Oliver B.

One of my favorite poets, and certainly my favorite living poet, Seamus Heaney, died today at the age of 74. Earlier in the week, I posted his poem Fosterling on my birthday, and today while listening to NPR's brief eulogy, I listened to him read from it. Here's the link:

Here's another of my favorites, an excerpt from a larger work, that lies underneath the glass top of my desk, a source of constant inspiration. It has always spoken to me about politics and beliefs, about non-violence and human beauty and tragedy, but it's deeply personal as well, speaking to me of disability, illness, cures and miracles and everything deeply human.

Thank you, Mr. Heaney.

from The Cure at Troy

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or son
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
Stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
Faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
On this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up,
And hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.


  1. Oh, I love that poem, too. It brings me hope. I'm so sad that he is gone out of the world. He will be missed. I'm so glad, though, that he left us with so much to carry us through...

  2. I've been thinking of you all day after I read about the news of his death this morning. He gave us a lot, didn't he?

  3. Thank you for this, dear Elizabeth.

  4. Heaney is who I've gone to for years
    to pull me back from the depths.
    It's comforting to see how many of us
    in this blog community have posted
    news of his passing, each with
    a favorite poem or few lines.
    Let's all of us raise our glasses
    in a toast to the elegant, eloquent poet.


  5. sea changes. i just the other day looked up Beck's lyrics to his song of the same name to use on my blog. we are spiritually in tandem. xoxo

  6. I must admit I don't know much Seamus Heaney, though I've heard of him and read him here and there. Seventy-four seems awfully young to me.



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