Friday, 30 August 2013

Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013

The first poem of his I read was The Wife's Tale, in the quick thundering through of English Literature that our A-level course began with. I remember explaining to a class of Surrey suburbanites that a hedge could be stone, and what threshing was (our teacher, urban as the rest, was unsure). I knew already that here was a poet I would come back to, over and over.

But that isn't the poem I would post to remember him, but one I read for the first time today, thanks to a friend. Small and perfect,The Shipping Forecast, for the Atlantic I dreamed of as a child, and ran to every summer, and for the murkier waters of the North Sea that I live beside now and love less fiercely but still deeply.

Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice,
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.
L’Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous
And actual, I said out loud, ‘A haven,’
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.

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