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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

POEM. Mid-term break - Seamus Heaney

RESOURCE. We can read the poem with www.lingro.com


MID-TERM BREAK  by Seamus Heaney (1995 Nobel Prize)

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying -
He had always taken funerals in his stride -
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble".
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless signs.
At ten o'clock an ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.



Grief is manyfold
  • The poem has such a powerful effect because the emotions are so understated. Heaney describes only what he sees, not commenting, never letting any feelings reach the surface. His emotions are restrained.


Seamus Heaney laid to rest-RTÉ  youtube


My choice: 

           Digging'

Between my finger and my thumb 
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. 
Under my window, a clean rasping sound 
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: 
My father, digging. I look down 
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds 
Bends low, comes up twenty years away 
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills 
Where he was digging. 
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft 
Against the inside knee was levered firmly. 
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep 
To scatter new potatoes that we picked 
Loving their cool hardness in our hands. 
By God, the old man could handle a spade. 
Just like his old man. 
My grandfather cut more turf in a day 
Than any other man on Toner's bog. 
Once I carried him milk in a bottle 
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up 
To drink it, then fell to right away 
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods 
Over his shoulder, going down and down 
For the good turf. Digging. 
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap 
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge 
Through living roots awaken in my head. 
But I've no spade to follow men like them. 
Between my finger and my thumb 
The squat pen rests. 
I'll dig with it. 

-- From "Selected Poems, 1966-1987," by Seamus Heaney

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