THE VERY FIRST POST I made on this blog featured a Seamus Heaney poem. I know that at the minute every second thing on Facebook and on the radio and almost everywhere else is about ‘Famous Seamus’ (he died yesterday)—it’s not just the Irish Times and RTE, it’s several writers at the New York Times, and a couple more of them in the New York Review of Books, and more again in the New Yorker and on and on. And what is there that has not been said already—certainly nothing I could say—all the same I thought I’d recycle my original post, partly because I had no one following my blog back then and partly because the Heaney poem featured in that post is one of my favourite poems—‘Scaffolding’ (from the Station Island collection, I think).
And I want to follow it with another short poem by Heaney which I’ve just discovered by way of the New York Review of Books tribute—it’s called ‘The Poet Crowned’, which I think is excellent, a very good example of why Seamus was so famous (and justly so—and, of course, the poem is about being garlanded).
PS: by the by, I wish someone would inform the BBC that Seamus Heaney wrote poems other than that ‘Digging’ poem—he wrote poems for another 50 years after that—it’s OK, we got it…Ireland, potatoes, poetry, grave-digging…enough with that shit already (I heard ‘Digging’ on BBC Radio 4 last night 5 times in about 6 and a half hours!)
PPS: the pictures accompanying this post are photos of the Kerry Landman Memorial Tree in Ontario, Canada, by Eric Landman, a memorial to Kerry Landman, his wife, who died in 2011. I include them because I had a picture of the Kerry Landman Memorial Tree with my original post—stonemasons, see?—and because they are nice pictures and because this is an excellent memorial. (Maybe for Seamus we could do a memorial that is a mighty potato, I imagine the BBC would love that.)
by Seamus Heaney
Masons when they start upon a building,
Are careful to test out the scaffolding,
Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points,
Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints.
And yet all this comes down when the job’s done
Showing off walls of sure and solid stone.
So if, my dear, there sometimes seems to be
Old bridges breaking between you and me
Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall
Confident that we have built our wall.
‘The Poet Crowned’
by Seamus Heaney
I rode south through the petty kingdoms
(Belfast to Dublin on The Enterprise)
Resplendent in my emperor’s new bays.
Gods make their own importance! Metronomes
And metres, tattoos on the sacral drums
Of memory, etymologies
Superb as nations risen off their knees:
Our name is shouted and the influence comes.
While somewhere in the monotonous fields
The herdsman and his wife who kept the boy
Unawares through all his marvellous growing,
Bewildered now by this new name,
Think themselves forgotten and grow lonely.