Starting Lines in Scottish, Irish, and English Poetry: From Burns to Heaney

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The behaviour, while not invariably marked by bad temper, is less polite.

Starting Lines in Scottish, Irish, and English Poetry: From Burns to Heaney

Writers move upon other writers not as genial successors but as violent expropriators, knocking down established boundaries to seize by the force of youth, or of age, what they require. They do not borrow, they override. He is a busily efficient cartographer who does indeed provide a map of difficult terrain. Yet his efficiency is often apologetic, shadowed by a palpable and mitigating melancholy. In his most arresting work he makes one aware of the weighty personal sadness which attends, for him, the responsibility of bringing us the bad news that poetry is the sublimation of aggression.

There is his poetry of Anglo-Irish virtue and decay, in particular, poetry immersed in that late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century history of Ireland, where antagonism was not merely a literary trope but an all too literal revolutionary war of independence succeeded by an appallingly bitter civil war. This resulted in the creation of a political state which Yeats found increasingly antipathetic, even though it was generous, or pragmatic, enough to make him a senator in its parliament: his hostility provokes some of his most rancorous later works.

Yeats is the poet to go to, in other words, if you want a view of creativity as contestation. In the relationship between Yeats and Heaney, poets of modern Ireland, that category is inescapable. These are also, in the main, instances of Heaney at his best as a critic. Elsewhere, on occasion, his critical prose can be prone to a certain reflexivity or even orotundity, in which the work in question is not so much analysed as celebrated or even flattered; but Yeats always proves much less compliant to such procedures, provoking Heaney into some of his most alert and challenged acts of attention.

Auden to suggest how deeply problematic a figure Yeats is for Heaney. The essay is one of three—the others are frequently allusive to Yeats too—which made a short book, also called The Place of Writing , published in the United States in , excerpts from which were reprinted in the prose collection Finders Keepers in One of the admirers Yeats has most crucially become is Seamus Heaney. One consequence of this has been that, as early as the mids, Yeats was adduced in critical discussions of Heaney with the clear implication that he was to inherit the mantle.

Starting Lines in Scottish, Irish, and English Poetry : From Burns to Heaney ...

He then offers a quite unpredictable reading of a couple of moments from the life. Yeats, who had lately returned to us from the States with a paunch, a huge stride, and an immense fur overcoat, rose to speak. We were surprised at the change in his appearance, and could hardly believe our ears when, instead of talking to us as he used to do about the old stories come down from generation to generation he began to thunder against the middle classes, stamping his feet, working himself into a temper, and all because the middle classes did not dip their hands into their pockets and give Lane the money he wanted for his exhibition.

When he spoke the words, the middle classes, one would have thought that he was speaking against a personal foe, and we looked round asking each other with our eyes where on earth our Willie Yeats had picked up the strange belief that none but titled and carriage folk could appreciate pictures We have sacrificed our lives for art; but you, what have you done?

What sacrifices have you made? As far as anybody could remember, he had always lived very comfortably, sitting down invariably to regular meals, and the old green cloak that was in keeping with his profession of romantic poet he had exchanged for the magnificent fur coat which distracted our attention from what he was saying, so opulently did it cover the back of the chair out of which he had risen Animated by animosity, Moore deflates Yeats in a rhetoric of bathos. And one might expect Seamus Heaney to have some sympathy with this, since he seems congenitally incapable of any such behaviour himself.

Yeats is of course, paradigmatically, the post-Romantic poet who managed to go on writing and, indeed, produced some of his greatest work in, and about, old age. The drama of the life and the drama of the art, which must superficially seem almost destabilisingly discontinuous, are in fact continuous at the deepest creative level. The form is stately but also taut, even nervous. The questions raised by this encounter between one Irish poet and another concern the way a relationship with an audience may become a worrying element in the attempt to survive properly as a poet; the desirability of remaking yourself, at a point in your life when you have become a public person as well as a private poet, in order to resist certain expectations; the necessity of refusing certain kinds of invitation or co-option.

In concentrating on the individual death, Heaney is honouring, first of all, a personal rather than a political obligation: the poem seems initiated by the commemorative and preservative desire to give a character back to this man who would otherwise be only an anonymous statistic. Arguably, however, this refusal is in fact the greater condescension, the commiting by silence or elision of precisely the offence which the poet claims to wish to avoid; and a readerly unease at this point matches the deep social unease which attends the encounter.

To get out early, haul Steadily off the bottom, Dispraise the catch, and smile As you find a rhythm Working you, slow mile by mile, Into your proper haunt Somewhere, well out, beyond Dawn-sniffing revenant, Plodder through midnight rain, Question me again. Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? Gulliver's Travels. Introduction By Jacques Barzun.

Burns and Other Poets - Edinburgh University Press

Ancestral Voices: Religion and Nationalism in Ireland. The Hunt by Night. Poetry in the Wars. Famous Irish Lives. Bible Rain Dance. God Saves Ulster! The Clock: Poems and a Play. Negotiations with the Chill Wind. Being Modern Together. Introduction By Ronald Schuchard. The Separation of Grey Clouds. Literature And Nationalism. Venus and the Rain. Two Women, Two Shores.

Sean O'Casey. Ireland since : The Persistence of Conflict. Men That God Made Mad. Bernard Shaw. Billy: Three Plays for Television. Blood and Family. Irish Plays and Playwrights. Mistaken Identities: Poetry and Northern Ireland.


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He made a complete recovery within six weeks but engagements for 12 months were cancelled. He played a full part in the public celebrations of his 70th in In he donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland.

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Irish poet Seamus Heaney's funeral in Dublin
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