Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

1939- [Seamus Justin Heaney]; b. 13 April, at Mossbawn, a 50-acre farm in the townland of Tamniarn between Toomebridge (‘soft slab under the tongue’) and Castledawson in Co. Derry; the eldest of nine children with two sisters and six brothers [incl. Sheena, Hugh, Pat, Charlie and Dan and Christopher]; in the ‘ever-growing family’ of Patrick and Margaret [Margaret Kathleen, née McCann, of Castledawson], his father Patrick being a cattle-dealer who had grown up orphaned, with three uncles; family moved to a farm inherited from an uncle Hugh Scullion at the other end of the parish, where Patrick Heaney had been brought up, coinciding with the death of a Christopher, a brother of Seamus, in a road accident, 1953 [aetat. 4], as related in “Mid-term Break”; ed. at Anahorish Primary School, a ‘mixed’ denominational school, 1945-51 (headmaster Barney Murphy); afterwards proceeded on 11-plus scholarship to St. Columb’s, Derry, as a boarder - under terms of the Butler Act of 1948; shared a classroom with Seamus Deane and others; taught by John Hume and Francis Brolly [see St Columb’s online];
St Columb's Note: Heaney is often associated with other graduates of St Columb’s such as John Hume ((b.1937), Brian Friel (b.1929), Eamon McCann (b.1943), Phil Coulter (b.1942), Paul Brady (1947), James Sharkey (b.1945), Felim Egan (b.1952) et mult. al. - many of whom distinguished themselves in Arts, Politics or Public Life. In fact his school days - 1951-57 - were identical with Seamus Deane’s but preceed John Hume’s return to St Columb’s from the novitiate by one year, while Eamon McCann was almost five years younger. [Click photo to enlarge.]
1957: enters QUB on scholarship, 1957; published poems in college magazine Gorgon under pseud. “Incertus”, but did not think of literary attainment; grad. with Ist Class Hons., and named outstanding student, 1961, with teaching in mind as a career; spent his prize money on books of Louis MacNeice, J. M. Synge and Oscar Wilde (‘a kind of looking for one’s own crowd, you know, after all that English literature’); commenced teacher-training at St. Joseph’s TTC, Belfast; taught at St. Thomas’s Intermediate School, 1962-63 - a Catholic ‘maintained’ secondary school under Michael McLaverty [q.v.], then Head of English, who like to quote Gerard Manley Hopkins’s phrase, ‘description is revelation’, and lent him Patrick Kavanagh’s Soul for Sale (1947) in late 1962; became aware of contemporary Southern poets on buying Robin Skelton’s edn. of Six Irish Poets (1962); contrib. “Tractors” [‘gargling sadly astride furrows’] and “Turkeys Observed” to Belfast Telegraph, 1962 [var. 1963] - his first poems to be accepted by the public press; first joined Philip Hobsbaum’s QUB poetry circle, 1963, meeting on Mondays in the Hobsbaums’ flat; published poems in The Irish Times; English lecturer at St Joseph’s College of Education (TTC), 1963-66;
1964: wrote “In our Own Dour Way”, an ‘extended essay’ on Ulster literary magazines (Trench, 1964); wrote “Digging” [‘the first poem I wrote where I thought my feelings had got into words’], Summer 1964; sent poem-collection entitled “Advancements to Learning” for publication to Dolmen Press, and was rejected, 1964; Hobsbaum sent Group poems to Edward Lucie Smith, resulting in three by Heaney appearing in The Statesman (Dec. 1964) under editorship of Karl Miller - acc. to whom the typescripts arrived ‘meekly attended by a stamped and addressed envelope for their return’; Belfast Group given exposure by Mary Holland in Observer, during Belfast Festival, 1965; received letters of enquiry from Charles Monteith of Faber, January 1965; contrib. “Out of London” [column], to New Statesman, 1965, identifying the ominous influence of Ian Paisley on Protestant opinion; pub. his first collection, Death of A Naturalist (May 1966); m. Marie Devlin, Aug. 1965 - a school-teacher and one of six siblings incl. Polly and Barry, previously sharing a flat with her on Tate St., Belfast; served as a member of Belfast Festival Committee (QUB); issued Eleven Poems (Fest. 1966); a first child, Michael [fam. Mick], b. 1966; wrote “Requiem for the Croppies” to celebrate 1966 - a poem dealing with the Wexford rather than the Antrim United Irishmen’s Rebellion of 1798); winner of Eric Gregory Award, 1967; winner of E.C. Gregory Award, the Cholmondeley Award, 1967; with Michael Longley, edited Northern Review, 1965-69; joined Michael Longley and David Hammond [d.2008] on the “Room to Rhyme• tour of Northern Ireland, May 1969;
1968: Somerset Maugham Award, 1968, and Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, 1968; wrote “Bogland” after a visit to his friend the painter T. P. Flanagan in Autumn 1968; reporting Civil Rights for The Listener (“Old Derry Walls”, 28 Oct. 1968); QUB lecturer in English, 1968-72; contrib. “Bachelor Deceased” (June) and “The Thatcher” (Oct.) and other poems to The Honest Ulsterman during 1968; second son, Christopher, b. 1968; provided heavily ironic lyrics of song “Craig’s Dragoons” to be sung to the tune of “Dolly’s Brae”, for Seán Ó Riada’s Radio Éireann programme; issues Door into the Dark (1969), Poetry Book Society Choice; visits Spain in 1969; guest lecturer at UC Berkeley, 1970-71; resigned from ‘entirely agreeable’ teaching job in English Dept., QUB (Belfast) [‘to put the practice of poetry more deliberately at the centre of my life’] following death-threats from Loyalists; moved to cottage in Glanmore, nr. Ashford, Co Wicklow, summer 1972, which he later bought from Prof. Ann Saddlemyer 1988; portrayed in acrylic by Edward McGuire, sitting at a table in the cottage; issues Wintering Out (Nov. 1972); winner of Irish-American cultural Foundation Award, 1972; ed. Soundings (1972), the long-running Leaving Certificate poetry anthology;
1973: scheduled to read with Auden, Hughes, and Spender when Auden suddenly died - being represented on stage by an empty spot-lit chair, 1973; occas. presented Radio Éireann book programme Imprints, 1973-77, introducing Robert Lowell in 1975 [var. 1973 - but see note]; dg. Catherine Ann, b. 1973; Denis Devlin Award, 1973; winner of Writer in Residence Award of American Irish Foundation; received dedication of Brian Friel’s play Volunteers (1975); appointed Head of English Dept. at Carysfort College, Dublin, 1975-1981, death of Colum McCartney, a second cousin, with Louis O’Neill, in random sectarian killing, 1975 - resp. commemorated in the consecutive poems “The Strand at Lough Beg”, and “Casualty”, both in Field Work, and later revisited in “Station Island”; read at the Yeaets International Summer School in Sligo, Aug. 1975, using galleys of North - which he generously gave to Helen Vendler, also lecturing there; issues North (1975), winner of E. M. Forster Award, 1975; publ. 25 “Stations” poems in Frank Ormsby’s Honest Ulsterman pamphlet ser., 1975; moved from Glanmore to settle in Dublin in 1976; wins Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, presented by Lowell, 1976; succeeds Lowell as leader of poetry workshop, Harvard, 1976; delivers “The Sense of Place” [lecture], Ulster Museum (Jan. 1977); delivers “The God in the Tree”, a radio-talk on early Irish nature-poetry incl. “Buile Suibhne”, and locating the origins of poetry in the pagan, feminine mysteries of the grove, RTÉ 1978; visits sites of Tollund Man in Silkeborg and the Grauballe man in Arrhus, Denmark; issues Field Work (1979);
1980: issues Selected Poems (1980), with a foreword by Ted Hughes; issues prose as Preoccupations (1980); reviews Brian Friel’s Translations (‘the need we have to create enabling myths of ourselves and the danger we run if we too credulously trust to the sufficiency of these myths’, TLS Oct 1980)); founding member of Aosdána, 1981; joins newly-formed Field Day Company as Director with Seamus Deane, Brian Friel, and others, 1981; receives Harvard contract to teacher one term per year, 1980 [var. 1982]; appt. visiting professor at Harvard, 1981; features at the front place in Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion’s Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry (1982), giving rise to a riposte - ‘Don’t be surprised if I demur, for, be advised my passport’s green. / No glass of ours was ever raised to toast The Queen’, in An Open Letter (1983); receives Bennett Award, 1982; awarded D.Litt, QUB 1982; “Seamus Heaney: A Personal Selection”, an exhibition of works from the permanent collection of the Ulster Museum, 20 Aug.-24 Oct. 1982; issues Sweeney Astray (1983), from Irish - at first from Field Day and then from Farrar, Straus & Giroux (1984); beneficiary of Lannan Foundation Award ($50,000);
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1984: succeeded Robert Fitzgerald as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard, 1984; wrote “Alphabets” as Phi Beta Kappa poem at Harvard, 1984; gave lecture, ‘Place and Displacement: Recent Poetry from Northern Ireland’ (1984; pamphlet 1855); issues Station Island (1984), including verses translated from St. John of the Cross (‘How well I know that fountain, filling, running,/although it is night …’); suffered his mother’s death three days after a stroke, 1984 - to be commemorated in The Haw Lantern (1987); gave his lecture “The Placeless Heaven” as opening Address at Kavanagh’s Yearly, Carrickmacross, Co. Monaghan (Nov. 1985); received hon. degree of the Open University; settled at house on Strand Rd., Merrion Gates, Dublin 4 (‘Now I live by a famous strand’ - “In Illo Tempore”, in Station Island, 1984); suffered the death of his father, of cancer, 1986 (‘the final “unroofing” of the world [...]’; gave T. S. Eliot Memorial Lecture at Canterbury, 1986 and issued The Government of the Tongue, 1986); inaugurated the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature at Emory Univ., Atlanta, Georgia, 1988; elected to Chair of Poetry at Oxford, 1989; appears on Desert Island Discs, [Sun.] 19 Nov. 1989; issues lectures Oxford as The Place of Writing (1989) - the first of which was composed in his retreat at Glanmore; Poetry Ireland/Eigse Eireann reading marked the 60th birthday of John Montague and 50th birthday of Heaney, at Gate Theatre, Dublin; Sunday 11 June, 1989, 8.p.m.;
1990: wrote The Cure of Troy (1990), in which the eponymous hero of Sophocles’ Philoctetes decides to put aside his grievances and return to Troy to help the Greeks with his legendary bow - prefiguring the peace process in Northern Ireland; play premiered by Field Day at Derry Guildhall, 1 Oct. 1990, and soon after in New York; issues Seeing Things (1991) - heralding a new sense of metaphysics in things; appt. member of committee that awarded the first David Cohen lifetime achievement prize to V. S. Naipaul, 1993; attended the funeral of his friend Czelsaw Milosz in Kracow, Aug. 1994; gives address at the dedication service for a memorial to Oscar Wilde in Westminster Cathedral, 14 Feb. 1995- with readings by Judy Dench, et al.; his Oxford lectures published as The Redress of Poetry (1995); read his translation of Beowulf at QUB Centenary, 1995 (ded. John Braidwood) - taking the Ulster verb ‘thole’ from Anglo-Saxon tholian (suffer, endure) as ‘his little passport’ to the poem; awarded Nobel Prize for Literature, 5 Oct. 1995 (c.240,000 - ‘for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past’), being accompanied to Stockholm [Sweden] by family and friends including Seamus Deane to deliver his acceptance address, as he did on 7 Dec. 1995; awards published by Peter Fallon’s Gallery Press, 1996;
[ Heaney bought a Mercedes Benz family car with his Nobel Award, calling it his ‘brazen car’ in an echo of Yeats’s “Who Goes With Fergus?” ]
1996: his Nobel Lecture published as Crediting Poetry (1996); gives Commencement Address at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 1996; issues The Spirit Level (1996), winner of Whitbread Poetry Prize, 1997 (21,000); 1996, he was made Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture; condemns murder of Sean Brown, chairman of GAA, Bellaghy, 1997 (‘crime against the Olympic spirit’); condemns Nigerian Govt. death sentence on Wole Soyinka in letter to New York Review of Books with seven other Nobel laureates, May 1997; issued Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 (1998); issued his translation of Beowulf (1999), written in America, a surprise best-seller and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year Award, 2000; elected a Saoi on 1 May 1998, being presented with a gold torc by Dr. Mary McAleese (President of Ireland); gives funeral address at graveside of Ted Hughes, reading Tadhg Dall Ó hUiginn’s elegy for his brother (‘a stave is broken / in the wall of learning’), Oct. 1998;
2002: issued Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2000 (2002), winning Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism; publically lauded white rap-singer Enimem at Prince of Wales’ Educational Summer School, Norwich (‘sent a voltage around a generation’); appeared with Tony Harrison and Kathleen Jamie at Poetry Now Festival, Dún Laoghaire, 23-26 March 2003; issued trans. of Sophocles’ Antigone as The Burial at Thebes (Abbey, 12 April 2004; Nottingham, Sept. 2007; Oxford Playhouse, Oct. 2007) - written when ‘the deplorable Iraq/Bush business’ was under way; Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry opened at Queen’s University, Belfast, by Sir George Bain, Heaney and Ciaran Carson,] 16 Feb. 2004 - with an annual literary journal, The Yellow Nib, commencing in 2005; received Pen/Cross award for Lifetime Literary Achievement, Dublin, Feb. 2005; issued new version of Robert Henryson’s Testament of Cresseid (2005); opened the Jerwood Centre at the Wordsworth Trust, 2 June 2005;
2006: suffered a mild stroke in Donegal at the birthday party of Brian Friel’s wife Ann, and experiences ‘renewal of love’ at hand-contact with Marie in ambulance, late Sept. 2006; makes complete recovering within six weeks - the stroke becoming the subsequent subject of the title-poem and others in Human Chain (2010); winner of Forward Prize for Best Collection; issued District and Circle (2006), poems and prose poems and winner of The Irish Times “Poetry Now” Award, March 2007; winner of T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, Jan. 2007 [var. 2006]; The Burial at Thebes played at Nottingham Playhouse, The Barbican Pit, London, and Oxford Playhouse (Sept.-Oct. 2007); Heaney awarded Cunningham Medal of Royal Irish Academy [RIA], 28 Jan. 2008 (‘in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the scholarship and the objectives of the Royal Irish Academy’; issued a virtual autobiography as Stepping Stones (2008) in the form of interviews with Dennis O’Driscoll; his book-sales in 2007 makes of two-thirds of all living poets in the UK, 2007; fitted with electronic heart device (‘pleased are the pacemakers’);
2009: winner of David Cohen Prize for Lifetime Achievement, March 2009; publ. of “Heaney at 70” (11 April 2009), an Irish Times Special Supplement, ed. Gerry Smyth, with tributes by Andrew Motion, Robert Pinsky, Helen Vendler, John F. Deane, Peter Fallon, Derek Mahon [poem], Henri Cole, Paul Muldoon, Peter Sirr, Joseph Woods, and Barrie Cooke [port.] and articles by Eileen Battersby, Dennis O’Driscoll, Belinda McKeon, and Niall McGonagle; “Out of the Marvellous”, an 75-min. RTÉ portrait of Heaney by Charlie McCarthy, 2009; RTÉ issues a 15-CD box set of Heaney reading his 11 poetry collections, 2009; publically defended Barack Obama against detractors, 2009; issue The Human Chain (2010), a collection based on his stroke experience; short-listed for T. S. Eliot Prize; winner of the Forward Poetry Prize, Oct. 2010 - worth £10K; winner of Irish Times Poetry Now Award, 2010;

2011: attended State Dinner for Elizabeth II at Áras an Uachtarain, May 2011 - commentators remarking that he did ‘toast the Queen’ on that occasion; paid tribute to Ted Hughes at laying of memorial stone in Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey, [6] Dec. 2011; donated his literary papers to NLI, 2011; awarded Lifetime Recognition Award of the Griffin Trust For Excellence in Poetry, June 2012; received Hon. PhD from Dublin City University, and Ulysses Medal of University College, Dublin, 2011; the Seamus Heaney Professorship in Irish Writing was inaugurated at Trinity College, Dublin [TCD] in 2012; gave Poetry Day Reading at Poetry Foundation (Chicago), 18 Oct. 2012 - an event inaugurated by Robert Frost in 1955; attended Merriman Summer School, with Michael Longley and others, Summer 2013; stumbled on restaurant steps after dinner with close friend, and taken to hospital for observation and diagnosed with a split aorta; d. suddenly, awaiting surgery after a heart attack, Friday, 30 Aug. 2013; texted ‘Noli Tangere’ to his wife minutes before his death - as revealed by his son Michael in his funeral oration; funeral service held at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, attended by President Michael D. Higgins and mult. al., incl. Paul Muldoon (eulogy address) Peter Fallon (reading), Bono and his wife Allison (Allie), Anthony Cronin; Requiem Mass celebrated by an tAthair Breandán Ó Doibhlin [Monsignor Brendan Devlin], with Brahms’ “Lullaby” heard in school-days, in accordance with his own wishes, much earlier expressed to his wife; bur. later that day at St. Mary’s, Bellaghy, 2 Sept. 2013; his ‘last words’ (i.e., Noli timere), given in English, were turned into a giant mural on S. Richmond St., Dublin, by the graffiti artist Maser; a grave-stone inscribed with the words ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’ (in final stanza of “The Gravel Walks”) was engraved on the grave in August 2015.

[ Heaney’s last words were a text-message to his wife Marie, saying, ‘Noli timere’ - an echo of Matthew 14:27. (See more infra).]
Posthum: Heaney’s papers are held at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia); Heaney’s passing was marked in London by a ‘literary wake’ in the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall on Wed. 20 Nov. 2013, attended by a full capacity of 2,500; the Irish Times radio critic Mick Heaney is a son; a exhibition of memorabilia entitled “The Music of What Happens” in the Schatten Gallery of the Robert W. Woodruff Library (Level 3) at Emory College was curated by Geraldine Higgins and opened on 22 Feb. 2014; his letters are at Emory, and his MSS at the National Library of Ireland; the journalist Polly Devlin (OBE) and the musician Barry Devlin (Horslips) are in-laws; “Out of the Marvellous” (RTÉ, 2009) was broadcast by BBC4 on 22 Jan. 2014; Paul Simon unveils Heaney tapestry on the theme ‘out of the marvellous’ (poem) at Dublin Airport and joined numberous Irish writers and musicians in a Seamus Heaney Tribute event in association with Poetry Ireland and Dublin City Council as part of One City One Book at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, 23 April 2014; New Selected Poems 1988-2013 and a reprint of New Selected Poems 1966-1987 appeared in 2014 in matching hardback; an exhibition entitled “The Hedge School of Glanmore” was held at the HomePlace, Ballaghy, curated by John Dunne, in Feb.-March 2017. DIL DIW FDA ORM HAM OCIL

Last things: In June 2013 Heaney wrote the poem “In a Field” in response to another by Edward Thomas (“As the Team’s Head-Brass”) for inclusion in an interactive First World War 1914 commemorative anthology to be edited by Carol Ann Duffy. The poem, among the last he wrote, was printed in The Guardian on 25 Oct. 2013 [online] and afterwards on the front page of The Irish Times on 26 Oct. 2013 [online].
A series of “Five Fables” by the 15th-century Scottish poet Robert Henryson which Heaney completed shortly before his death have been produced in animated film-format by Flicker (Waddell Media) with a voice-over by Billy Connolly and music by Barry Douglas. Waddell also produce the Gerry Anderson On the Air show on BBC NI. The fables are part of Henryson's translation of Aesop into Scottish vernacular as Morall Fabillis. [See BBC NI News online.]
A Seamus Heaney Tribute Reading event was conducted at the National Concert Hall, Dublin, in association with Poetry Ireland and Dublin City Council as part of One City One Book, on 23 April 2014. Reading his poems were Michael Longley, Tomas Venclova, Niall O’hAnnagáin, Colette Bryce, Theo Dorgan, Medbh McGuckian, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ciaran Carson, John McAuliffe, Peter Fallon, Paula Meehan, Paul Muldoon and Michael D. Higgins (President of Ireland), with song and music by Paul Brady, Liam O’Flynn, and Dónal Lunny.

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A Classroom Tribute to Seamus Heaney presented by Bruce Stewart at UFRN (Brazil)
can be reached in the Ricorso Classroom via index or directly as attached.


Some topics below ...
  Trench (April 1964)
“Bogland Poems”
Bloody Sunday (30 Jan. 1972)
What I want .. (in poetry)
  ‘... Credit things’
Henry Vaughan
Seeing Things & Thomas Hardy
New Lyric Theatre (Belfast)
Philip Hobsbaum
Thomas Flanagan (novelist)
Noli Timere

Origin and variations of the family-name Heaney
Matheson’s Varieties [... &c.] (1901) cites ‘Heaney’ as a family name derived from ean (Gl.), a bird - and hence translated as Bird, Heney, &c. in English under the name-laws of the 14th. century when the use of two names came into practice in Ireland.
Source: Varieties and Synonymes of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland, for the Guidance of Registration and the Public in Searching the Indexes of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, by Robert E. Matheson, Barrister-at-Law / Register-General (Dublin: His Majesty’s Stationary Office 1901; printed by Alex. Thom), pp.20-21; [See further - as attached.]

Bellaghy in c.1900

Trench (St. Joseph’s TTC, Belfast, April 1964)
The 1st [only?] issue contains an essay on Ulster Journals by Seamus Heaney entitled ‘In Our Own Dour Way’ [see quotation, supra]. A text-box in the article contains an abbreviated quotation from the Lagan Collection of Ulster Writings (1962): “No writer, however talented, should uproot himself in spirit from his native place […] An Ulster literary tradition must spring out of the life and speech of the province […] the central problem is to interpret the complex spiritual life of the province”. [See further under John Boyd, supra].
 The editorial begins: ‘A new magazine in the North is necessary. That is the theme of Seamus Heaney’s article in this our first issue. While we do not profess to fill this need adequately at least we hope to produce the odd poem, short story or article which, he feels, is any magazine’s justification. We believe that the training colleges offer a rich untapped sources of creative talent and we hope to provide this talent with a platform on which it can develop.’ (p.1).
  The issue also contains a pedagogic contrib. by H. J. Heaney on ‘Reading’ and a schoolboy-ish story by Brian Ferran on the experience of mass-going in week-end disarray under the title ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’.
[John Hewitt Special Collection of the Central Library, University of Ulster at Coleraine, 1994.]

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Mossbawn (1): Heaney’s remark about “Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication - [1] Sunlight”: ‘I imagined it from the point of view of an infant in the cradle, taking the atmosphere of this house - 1940s traditional Irish white-washed house, thatched, sunlight. Sunlight is a rarer thing in Ireland than it is in New Mexico. So, this is basically a poem which wants to be a Vermeer but it can’t.’ (Interview, Dennis O’Driscoll, Readings and Conversations, Lannon Foundation (Oct. 2003) , p.3; quoted in Julie-Anne Devine, UG Diss., UUC, 2006; for complete text, go to RICORSO, Library, “Criticism” via index, or direct.)

Mossbawn (2) - Heaney remarked to Denis O’Driscoll on his childhood experience with his aunt Mary, which lies behind the poem “Mossbawn: Two Poems in Dedication - Sunlight”: ‘[...] Then going to sit with Mary. Not a lot getting said or needing to be said. Just a deep [sym]pathetic stillness and wordlessness. A mixture of lacrimae rerum and Deo gratias. Something in me reverted to the child I’d been in Mossbawn. Something in her just remained constant, like the past gazing at you calmly, without blame. She was a tower of emotional strength, unreflective in a way but undeceived about people or thing[s]. I suppose all I’m saying is I loved her dearly.’ (See O’Driscoll [ed.], Stepping Stones, Faber 2009, p.171.) [Note: lacrimæ rerum (the tears of things) is from the Aeneid, Bk. I, l.462.]

Bogland: Heaney’s theme - traceable to paintings of T. P. Flanagan and documented in Preoccupations (1980) signally occurs in the poem “Bogland” (‘[…] Our unfenced country / Is bog that keeps crusting / Between the sights of the sun […] The wet centre is bottomless’: Door into the Dark, 1969), in “Tolland Man” and also more incidentally in poems such as his translation of Raftery’s “Killeadan”, printed in Éire-Ireland (Fall.Winter 1996), pp.9-10, p.10 (viz., ‘the fish full of fish like a bog full of turf’).

Sources: Heaney visited the scenes of the Tollund Man and Grabaulle Man discoveries respectively in Silkeborg and Grauballe, both in Denmark, but the chief source of his information appears to have bene P.V. Glob, The Bog People: Iron-Age Man Preserved [Mosefolket 1965], trans. by Rupert Bruce-Mitford (London: Faber & Faber 1969).

Bogland - cf. Robert McCrum, et al., The Story of English (Faber 1992; 3rd rev. edn. Penguin 2002; Penguin 2003): ‘By a curious irony, the savage and primitive rituals of the Anglii have not been entirely forgotten. Peat-wate has a curious property. In the nineteenth century, Danish farmers, digging for peat, uncovered the bodies of some sacrificial victims, presumably of the Angles, perfectly preserved in the bog. Known as the Moorleichen (swamp corpses), or bog people, they are now on view in a number of Danish museums. One man had been strangled. Another’s throat had been cut. They are astonishingly well-preserved: you can see the stubble on one man’s chin. These leathery corposes are the distant ancestors of the English-speaking peoples.’ (p.55.)

Bloody Sunday: Heaney contributed to Derry Journal (Bloody Sunday Commemorative Issue, 1 Feb. 1997) stanzas of a poem he wrote on Bloody Sunday (30 Jan. 1972), and supplied at that time to Luke Kelly of the Dubliners with the suggestion that he set them to the air of “The Boys of Mullaghbawn”. Introducing them, Heaney writes: ‘Ahyay, I think it is in order to reprint this abbreviated version now, 25 years after the drive from Belfast to Derry’. The text reads: ‘On a Wednesday morning early I took the road to Derry / Along Glenshane and Foreglen and the cold woods of Hillhead; / A wet wind in the hedges and a dark cloud on the mountain / And flags like black frost mourning that the thirteen men were dead. / The Roe wept at Dungiven and the Foyle cried out to heaven, / Burntollet’s old wound opened and again the Bogside bled; / By Shipquay Gate I shivered and by Lone Moor I enquired/Where I might find the coffins where the thirteen men lay dead. / My heart besieged by anger, my mind a gap of danger, / I walked among their old haunts, the home ground where they bled; / And in the dirt lay justice like an acorn in the winter / Till its oak would sprout in Derry where the thirteen men lay dead.’ These lines, which first appeared in the Derry Journal, were widely copied the Australian Associated Press and others.

James Joyce: among numerous references to works of Joyce in Heaney’s poetry are the epigraph of the poem entitled “A Bat on the Road”: ‘A batlike soul waking to consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy and loneliness.’ (Opened Ground, p.227.) The poem subsequently quotes the sentence spoken by Stephen’s friend Davin in Chapter V of A Portrait, in the course of the narrative of attempted seduction by a country-woman the account of which summons the epigraph as Stephen’s inward response: ‘so close to me I could hear her breathing’. Not from Joyce is the concluding quotation, ‘she let them do whatever they liked’ (ibid., p.228.)

Thomas Kilroy offers strictures pertinent to Heaney’s conception of a “Sense of Place”: ‘To base one’s identity exclusively upon a mystical sense of place, upon the accident of one’s birth, seems to me a dangerous absurdity. To dedicate one’s life to the systematic betrayal of the same notion seems to be just as absurd.’ (Introduction to Double Cross; quoted in Jack Hanna, reviewing same, in Books Ireland, Oct. 1996, p.279.)

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John Clare (1): Seamus Heaney was among the signatories of letter challenging Eric Robinson’s threatened libel action against Simon Kövesi (Dundee U.), for publishing section of John Clare’s poems from MSS in British libraries (Times Literary Supplement, 14 July 2000). See also Jonathan Bate, ‘Don’t Fence Him In: New and old Disputes over the copyright of John Clare’, in Times Literary Supplement (21 July 2000), p.14f., and several letters by others culminated in a declaration by the publisher Jonathan Lloyd of Curtis Brown on the subject of intellectual property in general, the history of the Clare copyright in particular, and Robinson’s academic motives in ‘creating a level playing-field so that Clare can at last belong to everyone’ (22 Sept. 2000, p.17). Kövesi replied (29 Sept. 2000), questioning if Robinson can prove he owns the copyright on the strength of his £1 receipt for purchase of same from Joseph Whitaker in 1965 and asserts that there is no proof the sale between Whitaker and the Clare family was legitimate.

John Clare (2) - John Heath-Stubbs, ‘John Clare and the Peasant Tradition’, in The Penguin New Writing, ed. John Lehmann ([n. iss.] 1947), pp.112-24: gives an account of peasant poetry and its near extinction; recounts the life of Clare (b.1793, Helpston, nr. Peterborough, son of illeg. son of Scottish schoolteacher; knew ballads of Wordsworth (“We are Seven”) and the story of Chatterton; fell in love with Mary Joyce and later married Martha (‘Patty’) Tennant, 1820; regarded Mary, in his madness, as his first wife; apprent. gardener to Marquis of Exeter; ‘By a fortunate series of chances his poems were brought to the attention of John Taylor, Keats’s publisher, who undertook to issue a volume of Clare’s poems [1820] ... an immediate success’ (p.118); knew and corresponded with George Darley and followed his example in writing verse in imitation of the English seventeenth-century poets (p.118); encumbered with debts on disolution of Taylor’s firm, 1825; increasingly nervous and ill; confined to High Beach, in care of Dr. Allen, 1837; hallucinations; delusions of noble descent; indifferent to his real wife; escaped 1841; ate grass; care for my Martha; certified insane (‘addicted to poetical prosing’), and confined to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum; continued to write; d. 1863; bur. Helpston. [Cont.]

John Clare (2) - cont: Heath-Stubbs (op.cit., 1947) quotes Clare’s poem ‘I am: yet what I am none cares or knows ... ’ in toto [here p.121] and remarks: ‘Clare’s distinctive qualities as a poet are a peculiar sensitiveness and accuracy of observation, an unforced simplicity of language, an an extreme integrity and purity of feeling. The bulk of what he wrote is large. We find these qualities generally diffused throughout his poetry, though somewhat rarely attaining sufficient intensity to take hold upon the memory and imagination. Nevertheless, there is scarcely anything he wrote which does not show some touches of poetic feeling of a kind hardly any other poet can display.’ (p.121.) Further: ‘[...] it is in the pems that he wrote when confined in the asylum that Clare’s genius shows itself most indisputably’; notes kinship with Blake in a ‘visionary apprehension of reality which is beyond the normal’ (p.123). Gave a detailed eye-witness account of the execution of Charles I, and the battle of the Nile ... and possessed some g enuine apprehension of states of being which transcend the personal, and had reached the borderline where where halluncination passes into clairvoyance [...] implicit in his intense sensibility to the proper nature and life of natural objects; in some of his last poems it is expressed in notes of unequalled lyrical purity [quotes ‘Love lies beyond ... ’] Finally: ‘In Clare’s poetry, the old, anonymous tradition of the English countryside suddenly becomes articlate in an individual voice. And he is the last representative of that tradition, which, in his own day, powerful social and economic factors had disrupted. But also, a much as Blake or Shelley, Wordsworth or Coleridge, he claims a place in the authentic comapny of the English romantic poets.’ (p.124; end.) Note: Heath-Stubbs writes on ‘George Crabbe and the Eighteenth Century’ in New Writing, No. 25 (1945).

Cure of Derry: Heaney’s lines from The Cure of Troy (1990) - ‘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 (p.77)’ - have been quoted by Dick Spring and Mary Robinson at the time of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in Dublin, and were later adopted as the banner of the International Ireland Funds. See also Thomas Flanagan (novelist), infra.

Millenium poem: See Seamus Heaney, “Linked Verses”, contributed to The Irish Times (30 Dec. 2000).

Linked verses  

If I wasn’t there
When Barney Devlin hammered
The midnight anvil
I still can hear it: twelve blows
Struck for the millennium.
His nephew heard it

In Edmonton, Alberta:
The cellular phone
Held high as a horse’s ear,
Barney smiling to himself.
Afterwards I thought
Church bels beyond the starres heard.

And then imagined
Barney putting it to me:
“You’ll maybe write a poem.”
What I’ll do instead
Is quote lines from “Blacksmith Shop”:
It seems I was called

For this: to glorify things
Just because they are. That’s it.
Also worth hearing:
Those waterburners shouting
In Middle English
"Huf, puf! Lus, bus! Col!" Such noise

On nights heard no one never.
And Owen Rua
Requesting Seamus MacGearailt
To forge him a spade
Clear-sheened, tapered and lightsome
And ringing true as a bell.

Where I mean to be,
For all that, this New Year’s Eve
Is Hardy country,
Lychgate and hoarfrost country,
In search of a darkling thrush.

  Printed in The Irish Times (Sat Dec 30 2000).

What I want ...: In an interview, Dennis O’Driscoll quotes the following remarks made by Heaney calling them ‘the most swoon-inducing, hair-bristling quotation’, and presenting them as lines of verse: ‘What I want from poetry / is the preciousness and foundedness / of wise feeling become eternally posthumous in perfect cadence … // You want it to touch you / at the melting point / below the breast-bone / and the beginning of the solar plexus. // You want something sweetening / and at the same time something / unexpected, / something that has come / through constraint into felicity.’ (Q. source but see Lannan Foundation - infra.)

Online Bookstore - (Authors > Heaney): ‘Heaney’s work is filled with images of death and dying, and yet it is also firmly rooted in the life of this world. His tender elegies about friends and family members who have died serve many purposes: they mourn great losses, celebrate those who have gone before us, and recall the solace that remains to us, our memories. When asked recently about his abiding interest in memorialising the people of his life, he replied, “The elegaic Heaney? There’s nothing else.”’ He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 (See - Barnes & Noble - online; specific link defunct 10.01.2023.)

Christmas (1999): ‘A Light appeared and the place brightened the way the sky does when heaven’s candle is shining clear (Beowulf, lines 1570-72). Christmas card, printed privately for the the author by Peter Fallon / The Gallery Press, Loughcrew, Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland.

Haiku: ‘When I visited Japan in 1987, I enjoyed writing poems on fans, and for a period fiddled with the haiku. My favourite appears in Seeing Things - “Dangerous pavements. / But this year I face the ice / With my father’s stick.”’ Speaks also of seminal influence on 20th century poets and remarks especially the ‘down-to-earthness’ of much Japanese poetry: ‘The clarity, the edge of humour, the combination of horse-sense and delicacy, of swift perception and un-clammy delineation. All that is lik a less in how one should write: my own “Japanese” [the poem is “The Strand” in The Spirit Level’. (p.21; q. source.)

Quincunx: Aside from the strategic resemblance - and variance - between quincunx and the fifth province of the Field Day project, the term quincunx has a more classical and theology connotionation, viz.: in Dante’s Fifth Heaven, those who has fought for the faith including Joshua, Judas Maccabeus and Roland, form a quincunx. By a stroke of - presumaby - conscious irony, in James Joyce’s story “Grace”, the men who go together to Fr. Burke’s sermon in Gardiner St. on the mission of reforming Mr. Kernan, find the church so crowded that they cannot sit together and therefore have to form a “quincunx”. The image is considered ironical because the men are not deemed to have fought for anything. [BS] (See “Jim & Janet’s Electronic Eclectic” on Dubliners, online; 08.02.2010; defunct 01.02.2023.)

Quincunx (2): In ‘Joyce, Yeats, and the Matter of Ireland’;, Thomas Flanagan elaborated the idea of an island of towers in an article for Critical Inquiry of 1975. Could it be that Seamus Heney had met the article and been inmpressed with the architectural idea of an island culturally identified with its contrasting bastions? The addition of Spenser’s Kilcolman and Louis MacNeice’s Carrickfergus appears to be his own - though Carrickfergus is strongly mooted in the commemorative poem by Derek Mahon. [BS] (The first page of the article is reproduced on the Thomas Flanagan page of RICORSO - supra.)

Quincunx (3): Heaney’s quincunx, as I have argued in an article, is closely related to the Field Day concept of the "fifth province" which is itself founded on the idea that ancient Ireland had a central province (or fifth/cúig) which was not in some sense the druidic or ceremonial unity of the others. The idea was shortlived as a initiative aimed at uniting Ireland on the cultural plane (or plain). It clearly owes its origins to the historical research in Eoin MacNeill’s Phases of Irish History (1919) in which the fivehold order of Irish mythic polity is described. It seems, too, that James Joyce picked up on the idea since the term and concept of a "fivefold" division of Ireland is to be found in several parts of Finnegans Wake. [BS]].

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Clonmacnoise: the narrative of the man who climbs down to the monastery from a ship in the air and the back up again ‘Out of the marvellous as he had known it’ [viz., Seeing Things - Squarings/Lightenings, poem iii] derives from Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson’s Celtic Miscellany [Routledge 1951; rev. edn. Penguin 1971]- a story which Heaney calls ‘unforgettable’ in interview with Dennis O’Driscoll, remarking that his version is ‘a bit different because I misremember some of the details’ and that, in the original, ‘the boat’s anchor “came right down on to the floor of the church”, whereas I have it hooking onto the altar rails - somehow it enters miraculously through the roof and the crewman shins down a rope into the sanctuary. That wasn’t a deliberate alteration, although [321] I’m sure the image of the first “Lightenings” poem of an unroofed wallstead and an unroofed world must have prompted it.’

Belief in Action: as patron of the Charity Concern, Heaney has written, ‘Like the immunity system, art work and aid work have a salutary purpose, they are evidence that we are here for good but no guarantee that good will always carry the day’. (See Tony Farmar, Believing in Action: Concern the First Thirty Years, 1968-98, A. & A. Farmar 2003.)

Famous Seamus: The monicker “Famous Seamus” was coined by Australian writer-in-Britain and TV presenter Clive James.

16 Ashley Rd., Belfast, formerly home of Seamus Heaney, was demolished amid protests and newspaper correspondence in 2002. See Patricia Craig, ‘Belfast’, in ‘Letters from ...’, Times Literary Supplement (21 July 2002), pp.16-17. Craig makes honourable mention of C. E. B. Brett, Buildings of Belfast (1967).

Woodruff Archive: Séamus Heaney donated a large collection of his papers to the Woodruff Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in Sept. 2003. Dating back to 1964, the papers include correspondence with Brian Friel, Michael Longley, Paul Muldoon, Anthony Hecht, Ted Hughes, Robert Lowell and Robert Pinskey. The poet announced the donation at a reading at Emory in honour of the William Chace, a former president of the University and a scholar of Irish literature. (See Irish Emigrant website.)]

Crediting things ...: ‘Seamus Heaney had to wait until he was “nearly fifty / to credit marvels”, according to Seeing Things .’ (See David Wheatley, review of Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, in Times Literary Supplement, 6 Sept., 2002.)

Henry Vaughan is the author of the line ‘All gone into the world of light’ which Heaney poses as a question in poem xliv of the series “Seeing Things” , in the collection of that name: ‘If a star were confined into a tomb, / Her captive flames must needs burn there; / But when the hand that locked her up, gives room, / She’ll shine through all the sphere. // O Father of eternal life, and all / Created glories under thee! / Resume thy spirit from this world of thrall / Into true liberty. // Either disperse these mists, which blot and fill / My perspective still as they pass, /Or else remove me hence unto that hill, / Where I shall need no glass. (See full version of Vaughan’s poem, attached.)

Benchmark: Seamus Heaney selected the verse-inscriptions on all the seats in the Seamus Heaney Walk, in the Devil’s Glen, Ashford, Co. Wicklow. The Glen previously belonged to the Synge family. Heaney wrote two verses for seats involved in the nature-walking project. (The Irish Times, 3 March 2007, Weekend.)

Margaret Hassan - the Irish born aid worker kidnapped and presumed to have been executed by fundamentalist-resistance in Iraq in 2005 - was honoured by minute of silence at a gathering in Univ. College, Galway (NUI), where Seamus Heaney launched Anything Can Happen, his translation of Horace with an accompanying essay on the theme of 21st century conflict, published for Amnesty International. The Irish Times reports: ‘Mr Heaney said Horace’s poem was about an ‘individual in shock’ because his world had been shaken. It was very much the world we were ‘ushered into’ when danger and destruction ‘burst into flames’ at New York’s World Trade Centre on September 11th, 2001, he noted. ‘It registers a moment when an individual no longer feels safe in the world, no longer trusts the sky above his head or the earth beneath his feet. Anything, he suddenly realises, can happen […] / Horace ... has a vision of the world as a place where naked, cruel power is tirelessly and terribly in operation, where humanity itself is red in tooth and claw.’ / The question for us, as for Horace, is how to cope in such circumstances, Mr Heaney said. ‘And the answer has to be, by making the humanist wager, by committing ourselves to the construction of a humane culture, by enshrining in our hearts and in our institutions a respect for spiritual values and human rights.’’ (The Irish Times, 18 Nov. 2004.)

Wild swans at Lough Beg: Seamus Heaney joined Lady Moyola (widow of James Chichester-Clarke, former Prime Minister of Northern Ireland) in opposing a motorway near Lough Beg, Co. Derry. Heaney, who enjoyed duck-shooting on the lake as a boy, said: ‘I had few ecological concerns when I was a lad, but given the actual condition I couldn’t help respond. More recently I did become more commonly aware of the actual beauty of the landscape and the wetlands.’ Lady Moyola said: ‘It means a lot to him, I think [...] We’re not being as difficult as all that. It’s just sacrilege to go through there. They’ve [the DOE] got to be a little more bending. At the moment they are being what I would call arrogant.’

Cf. “The Strand of Lough Beg”: ‘The lowland clays and waters of Lough Beg / Church Island’s spire, its soft treeline of yew. […] ‘There you used to hear guns fired behind the house/ Long before rising time, when duck shooters / Haunted the marigolds and bulrushes / But still were scared to find spent cartridges, / Acrid, brassy, genital, ejected, / On your way across the strand to fetch the cows.’ (See The Irish Times, 18 May 2007.)

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Seeing (Things)?
Thomas Hardy, “The Self-Unseeing”  

Here is the ancient floor,
Footworn and hollowed and thin,
Here was the former door
Where the dead feet walked in.

She sat here in her chair,
Smiling into the fire;
He who played stood there,
Bowing to higher and higher.

Childlike, I danced in a dream;
Blessings emblazoned that day;
Everything glowed with a gleam;
Yet we were looking away!

Barack Obama: On St. Patrick’s Day the Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen presented President Obama with translations of Beowulf and The Cure at Troy by Heaney, each with a personal dedication to Mr Obama written by Heaney himself quoting the description of Beowulf in that poem: “a man who comes in an hour of need ... there was no one else like him alive”. Michelle Obama was given a collection of poems by Eavan Boland while their daughters Malia and Sasha received some Irish children’s books on the same occasion. (See Toby Harbden, ‘Irish poet Seamus Heaney on Barack Obama: “No one else like him alive”’, in Telegraph [UK], 18 March 2009.)

New Lyric Th.: ‘In 1965 Heaney, then a budding young poet, was called upon to write some lines to commemorate the laying of the foundation stone of a purpose-built theatre upstream from Queen’s University. Now a stanza from the poem has been engraved in sandstone to mark the entrance to the spectacular new Lyric Theatre [...] Heaney rose to read Peter Street at Bankside, the poem, written 44 years previously, who closing lines will mark the new phase: ‘I dedicate to speech, to pomp and show, / This playhouse re-erected for the players. / I set my saw and chisel in the wood / To joint and panel solid metaphors: / The walls a circle, the stand under a hood - / Here all the world’s an act, a word, an echo.’ Its title derrived from a London carpenter [...] who worked on the construction of the Globe [...]’ (See Jane Coyle, ‘A Dramatic Crucible Takes Shape’, in Irish Times, 8 Jan. 2011, Weekend, p.6.) Note: the new theatre has been designed by O’Donnell + Tuomey, architects (See further under Michael Longley, infra).

Portraits: among numerous portraits of Heaney are an oil by Edward McGuire (1974), set in his cottage at Glanmore, Co. Wicklow, formerly owned by Anne Saddlemyer - now in Ulster Museum; a head by Carolyn Mulholland [best liked by the poet], and a ‘head’ by Louis le Brocquy.

A Sofa in the Forties”: Heaney’s poem of this title from The Spirit Level (1996) re-appeared in an anthology of Poems for Alan Hancox (Whittington Press 1993) and later in The Blackbird’s Nest: An Anthology of Poetry from Queen’s University Belfast, ed. Frank Ormsby (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2006). Heaney read the poem at the Mansion House (Dublin) remembrance of the Jewish Holocaust in Dec. 2007.

Human Chain? The title of the 2010 collection is traceable to “London tube”, a poem in District and Central: ‘Another level down, the platform thronged. / I re-enter the safety of numbers, / A crowd half straggle-ravelled and half strung / like a human chain [...]’ (District and Central, Faber 2006, p.18.)

The ff-ers: Jane Coyle writes of Faber & Faber: ‘The Faber & Faber company logo of the double lower case letter “f”, precipitated the nickname “the effers” for Faber staff members. But, as poet Seamus Heaney recently pointed out in a tribute in the Times newspaper, there was another “f” word with which we all came to identify. “Over the years,” Heaney wrote, “I myself have had a strong sense of a family.” / There certainly were plenty of family connections - poet Walter de la Mare and directors Richard and Giles de la Mare; husband and wife poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath; writer George Ewart Evans and his son Matthew (now Baron Evans of Temple Guiting), managing director, then chairman of Faber; and, of course, Eliot and his secretary Valerie Fletcher, whom he married in 1957 and who now, at the age of 82, controls his literary estate. / But what Heaney was hinting at is a more subtle, long lasting phenomenon - that once you are received inside the Faber fold, you join an extended family to whom you will be connected for life.’ Also mentions that Charles Monteith, the Faber poetry director, had family connections with Northern Ireland. (See Culture - online; 08.06.2009.)

Burial at Thebes: The translation was originally commissioned by Dublin’s Abbey Playhouse during what Heaney calls ‘the deplorable Iraq/Bush business’ (i.e., the Gulf War). Heaney has said of it: ‘The New Yorker was looking for something to publish so I gave them the chorus and called it Sophoclean, but it could equally have been called An Open Letter to President Bush. [...] I didn’t want Creon to be a figure of mockery, because in the end there’s a kind of head prefect in me, too. But Antigone goes too far and Creon goes too far. I have a kind of Sophoclean position in between them all.’ (See Jenny McCartney, ‘Seamus Heaney: He’s seen it all’, in Telegraph [UK], 9 Sept. 2007; as supra.)

Robert Lowell: Heaney’s introduction to a reading given by Lowell at Kilkenny Arts Week, Kytler’s Inn, Kilkenny, 28 August 1975 [sic] is published for the first time in Robert Lowell and Irish Poetry, ed. Eve Cobain & Philip Coleman (Peter Lang 2020).

Elizabeth Bishop: Heaney chooses Elizabeth Bishop, One Art, as his book of the year (Times Literary Supplement, 2 Dec. 1994). Bishop’s poem “At the Fishhouses” is also the subject of closely reasoned homage in The Government of the Tongue [title essay] where he speaks of her art ‘breaking with her usual inclination to conciliate the social audience […] not basedon subservience but on a respect for other people’s skyness in the ace of poetry’s presumption. [... &c.]’ (Faber, 1988, p.101-4.)

A. A. [] Alvarez: Alavarez wrote provocatively about Field Work in a review that questions the elevation of each successive Irish poet for star treatment, adding that Heaney is merely ‘a beautiful minor poet’. (Cited in Michael Parker, review of Padraic Fiacc, Ruined Pages, in Fortnight Review, Jan. 1996, p.50.)

Donald Davie writes to Heaney, in a verse allusion to C H. Sisson’s trans., Commedia (1980): ‘I think Sisson / got it, don’t you. Plain Dante, plain as a board / And if flat, flat.’

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Philip Hobsbaum, founder of the QUB poetry circle in 1963, had studied in Cambridge under F. R. Leavis and followed that critic in his general method of “scrutiny” of poems. (See Rory Brennan, review of Heather Clark, The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962-1972, OUP 2007, in Books Ireland, May 2007, p.104.) Hobsbaum’s own memoir appeared as ‘The Belfast Group: A Recollection’, in Éire-Ireland 32, 2&3 (Summer/Autumn 1997), pp.173-82.

John Barrell: Note that Heaney’s “sense of place” - lecture of Jan. 1977 publ. in Preoccupations, 1980 - owes much to Barrell’s study of John Clare in The Idea of Landscape and the Sense of Place 1730-1840: An Approach to the Poetry of John Clare (Cambridge UP 1972).

Kate Marsh: Heaney’s essay on W. B. Yeats’s Tower at Ballylee [presumably the original of ‘The Place of Writing’], first appeared in Writers and Their Homes, ed. Kate Marsh (London; Hamish Hamilton [1993]) - a work reviewed by Eavan Boland in The Irish Times (21 August 1993).

Kevin Whelan: Whelan remarks in connection with Heaney’s poem “The Croppy” that it ‘is still couched essentially within the Catholic-nationalist paradigm which presents the Wexford rebels ... as depoliticised peasants’. (Cited in A. T. Q. Stewart’s review of Whelan, Fellowship of Freedom, in The Irish Times, 10 Oct. 1998.)

Ronald Schuchard: Schuchard calls ‘The Sense of Place’ a ‘disinterested investigation of place’. (Intro., The Place of Writing, Scholar Press 1989), p.4. See Note also Britta Olinder, A Sense of Place: Essays in Post-colonial Literatures (1984), .

Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill: Ní Dhomhnaill has remarked, ‘[S]ometimes I think about Seamus that his great strength is that he is actually a woman - a great big benevolent mountain, standing protectively behind you, like your mother should ...’ (See TLS review of the Southern Review, 15 March 1996, p.27; see also Ní Dhomhnaill, q.v.)

Tom Flanagan: Heaney’s phrase ‘hope and history’ in The Cure of Troy (1990) resembles the final phrases of Thomas Flanagan’s novel The Year of the French (1979): ‘[I]t is in the brightness of the morning air, as the poet tells us, that hope and memory walk towards us across meadows, radiant as a girl in her first beauty.’ (Quoted in Benedict Kiely, ‘Thomas Flanagan: The Lessons of History’, in A Raid into Dark Corners, 1999, p.168.)

[ For evidence of Heaney’s indebtedness to Flanagan for the idea of Ireland as an ‘island of towers’, see under Flanagan - on the author page, or separately -as attached. ]

Helen Vendler (1833- ): Vendler, who has written much on Heaney, met him at the International Yeats Summer School in Sligo in 1975 when he was reading from the galleys of North - which he characteristically gave her after their introduction and first talk. Later she travelled in England with Heaney and his wife Marie and visited the last home of Thomas Hardy, Tennyson’s house on the Isle of Wight, Coleridge’s Nether Stowey, Eliot’s East Stoker, and the grave of Hugh McDiarmid. ‘I am forever grateful,’ she writes in a memoir-article in the Irish Times ( 7 June 2017 - available online.)

Emil Cioran

‘If we could, after the example of the mystics, pass beyond the evidence, beyond the impasse which proceeds from it, if we could, like them, reascend to the true nothingness [...] that expansiveness of their soul forever threatening to fabricate another heaven, another earth [...] Having understood the disadvantage of seeing and of leaving things as they are, they have forced themselves to denature themselves.’

E.M. Cioran, ‘Dealing with the Mystics’ [chap.], in The Temptation to Exist (NY: Arcade Publishing 1956) - quoted in paper of Shea Atchinson [email to Ricorso 2014; Atchinson’s emphasis; orig. publ. in Paris as La tentation d’exister].

Vide James Knowlson, Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett (NY Schuster &c. 1996) - on Beckett’s associates in later days: ‘For some years, he had met, occasionally for dinner, the Romanian-born philosopher Emil Cioran, but was finding that he had less in common with Cioran in terms of outlook than he had at first thought.’ (p.526.)
[ See also Neil Corcoran on Heaney’s ability to quote whole paragraphs of Cioran - under Commentary > Corcorcan - infra.]

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Noli Timere: Heaney sent the words ‘Noli timere [do not be afraid]’ to his wife Marie by text from his hospital death-bed on August 30th, as revealed by his son Michael speaking to the congregation at his father’s funeral at the the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, Co. Dublin. Note: The phrase was misquoted in The Times tweet as ‘Nolle Timere’ [sic].

The phrase noli timere comes from in the Vulgate of St. Jerome. in the scriptural episode, Jesus walks on water to join his disciples on board their fishing boat during a storm in the aftermath of the feeding of the five thousand - where he says, Noli timere [...] Habete fiduciam ego sum nolite timere. Matthew 14:27) - meaning ‘Be of good cheer, it is I, don’t be afraid.’ The Latin verb nolere (infin.) is the negative form of volere (to wish) - viz, volo, I wish; nolo, I don’t want. Noli is the conventional form of a negative imperative meaning ‘don’t’. Cf., the English phrase willy-nilly meaning ‘if you wish or don’t wish - nilly incorporating the negative form of will.

Note also that Heaney’s poem “Wedding Day” begins ‘I am afraid’ - and see remarks of his wife Marie who read it in the film The Music of What Happens - under Quotations - supra.

Heaney’s Funeral: Those in attendance included family members Marie (his wife), Michael, Christopher and Catherine Ann (their children); his br. Pat Heaney, his niece Sarah, and his br.-in-law Barry Devlin (Horslips member); statemen President Michael D. Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, former President Mary McAleese, Martin McGuinness (Dep. First Minister, NI), Gerry Adams (SF Pres.); writers and artists Peter Fallon (Gallery Press), Paul Brady, Stephen Rea, Paddy Moloney, Bono, Anthony Cronin, Anne Madden, and many others. The funeral Mass, which was celebrated by Monsignor Brendan Devlin, was broadcast on RTÉ. Paul Muldoon, who previously spoke on BBC at the announcement of his death, made a speech at the funeral service in which he praised Heaney’s ‘big heart’ and the way he ‘made each of us feel connected - not only to him but to one another’. Books of condolence were opened in Dublin (Mansion House), Belfast, and Derry (Guildhall). [See reports in Irish Post, BBC News Entertainment, and other papers.]

Inscription: The verse, ‘Walk on air against your better judgement’ has been inscribed on Seamus Heaney headstone. This comes from “The Gravel Walks”, which contains this final quatrain:

So walk on air against your better judgement
Establishing yourself somewhere in between
Those solid batches mixed with grey cement
And a tune called that conjures green.

It has been no doubt chosen because it harmonised so well with Heaney’s last words in a text-message to his wife, the scriptural phrase, ‘Noli timere’ which comes from the passage in the Gospel of St. Matthew where Jesus walks on water.

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