In this thoughtful article, Sophia S. shares a few poems of the late Irish poet, Seamus Heaney, for your reading pleasure.
Irish Poet Seamus Heaney passed into another realm on August 30th 2013. Heaney was born in the Northern reaches of Ireland in the County Londonderry in 1939. Like almost all Irishmen born in the 20th century, Heaney was concerned over the state of his mother Ireland and the hateful feeling she held in Her green and grassed bosom. Heaney was gifted with a grain of truth that few can lay claim on. He published twenty volumes of poetry throughout his lifetime and received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. Yet Seamus Heaney was not only a powerful artist, arguably one of the most influential Irish poets to ever live, he was also a great man.
As an ardent lover of both Ireland and poetry I have always felt a deep connection to Heaney and his fantastic works. In honor of his death I have chosen a few selections of his poetry (that happen to be my most favorite pieces) to share with you all.
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Requiem for the Croppies
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.
Want to read more poetry? Try reading some student work: here and here!