Week 165: Postscript, by Seamus Heaney


I have had more than one poet friend of normally sound judgment who has not taken to Seamus Heaney at all, dismissing him as dull. People are entitled to their tastes, but this puzzles me. Yes, a poem like the following may not be at all flashy, but is it not, at a deep level, quietly satisfying? And is not that image of the swans in line eight the kind of thing that marks out a true maker? It is proper in this trade of ours to resist hype and to question consensus, but one must also allow for the possibility that sometimes just because everybody says that something is good, it doesn’t mean it’s not good.


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 lightning 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.

Seamus Heaney


11 thoughts on “Week 165: Postscript, by Seamus Heaney

    • Thanks, Jasper. Obviously the ‘Collected’ would be a good next step, but if you want to take it a volume at a time I think ‘Field Work’ is a very strong collection.

  1. Pingback: Re-Post | Poetess Dee

  2. I found it quite difficult to understand “hurry”. “hurry” [noun] – a hurrying object? A tarrying hurry will not capture it more thoroughly?

    • Don’t quite see the problem. Surely ‘hurry’ here just has its normal nounal meaning: ‘a state of being in haste’, and as such not able to dwell on such epiphanic movements in the way they deserve. You might like to compare Wordsworth’s sonnet ‘The world is too much with us’, that laments how by being too preoccupied with our human affairs we are out of tune with nature.

      • Hi David, thanks for your reply. I wasn’t able to think beyond the standard phrases I know involving “hurry”. For example “in a hurry”, “there’s no hurry”, etc.

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