Postscript

Honoring the poet Seamus Heaney, who died today at 74.  In 1995, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) A son of Northern Ireland.  Poet.
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)
A son of Northern Ireland. Poet.

This is one of my favorite poems of his; it’s called Postscript.

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open

(From his collection, The Spirit Level; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1996)

8 comments

    • Right?! Completely agree. In past posts, I’ve often highlighted my favorite lines of whatever poem or song I’m blogging about, but for some reason I didn’t today. Had I done so, I would have highlighted that very line, along with “the earthed lightening of flock of swans”…

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  • That’s a beautiful poem. Thank you for posting it. At school I was told that poetry should always be read aloud because good poetry feels good when you speak it. Boy, is it just so in this case! And that final line, as you and Vinyl have pointed out is a real treasure. It somehow creates the effect it is describing. I am reminded, oddly enough, of C S Lewis’s phrase “Surprised by Joy” which seems to be hinting at the same thing, though of course Lewis was referring to a specifically spiritual, indeed religious, feeling.

    I’ve read little of Heaney’s poetry, for which I should be ashamed. I even knew him very slightly many years ago. Our paths crossed at Oxford, though I was a mere undergraduate while he was, of course, Professor of Poetry. A friend of mine ran a poetry society and so was acquainted with the Prof. I remember one occasion sitting with Prof Seamus and a few others in the Turf (a higgledy-piggledy tavern that nestled amongst sections of the ancient city wall). I wish that I could relate tales of wit and wisdom, but it was a constrained gathering. I think we youngsters felt intimidated by the presence of a famous man, and perhaps this discomfort communicated itself to the poet.He was affable enough, but I’m afraid our shyness marked the occasion. A lost opportunity, to be sure.

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    • Thank you GHB, as always, for your reflections and insight. Regarding your comment that the ‘final line….somehow creates the effect it is describing’, check out this comment by Richard Murphy in his review of Heaney’s collection “North” in The New York Review of Books in 1976: “His original power, which even the sternest critics bow to with respect, is that he can give you the feeling as you read his poems that you are actually doing what they describe. His words not only mean what they say, they sound like their meaning.”

      Murphy’s line was quoted in The New York Times’ obituary of Mr. Heaney, which I read during the day yesterday. Hours later, I read your comment on my post and thought, “Wow!”

      How wonderful to have the memory of crossing paths with a future Nobel Prize winner in a higgledy-piggledy tavern!

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