Sunday, April 02, 2006


“The Birch Grove”
Seamus Heaney

At the back of a garden, in earshot of river water,
In a corner walled off like the baths or bake-house
Of an unroofed abbey or broken-floored Roman villa,
They have planted their birch grove. Planted it recently only,
But already each morning it puts forth in the sun
Like their own long grown-up selves, the white of the bark
As suffused and cool as the white of the satin nightdress
She bends and straightens up in, pouring tea,
Sitting across from where he dandles a sandal
On his big time-keeping foot, as bare as an abbot’s.
Red brick and slate, plum tree and apple retain
Their credibility, a CD of Bach is making the rounds
Of the common or garden air. Above them a jet trail
Tapers and waves like a willow wand or a taper.
“If art teaches us anything,” he says, trumping life
With a quote, “it’s that the human condition is private.”

From District and Circle by Seamus Heaney (Faber & Faber, 2006)

HEANEY Seamus [1939-] Poet. Born in Mossbawn, County Derry, Northern Ireland. POETRY District and Central (2006: shortlisted for the 2006 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Collection); Electric Light (2001); Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 (1999); The Spirit Level (1996: winner of the 1996 Whitbread Poetry and Book of the Year Awards); Sweeney’s Flight (1992); Seeing Things (1991); New Selected Poems, 1966-1987 (1990); Selected Poems 1966-1987 (1990); The Haw Lantern (1987); Sweeney Astray (1984); Station Island (1984); Sweeney Astray: A Version From the Irish (1983: revised in 1992 as Sweeney’s Flight); Poems 1965-1975 (1980); Selected Poems 1965-1975 (1980); Field Work (1979); North (1975); Stations (1975); Wintering Out (1972); Door into the Dark (1969); Death of a Naturalist (1966; rev. 1991) PROSE/ESSAYS Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971-2001 (2002); Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 (1980); The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978-1987 (1988); The Place of Writing (1989); A Collection of Critical Essays (ed. by Elmer Andrews) (1993); The Redress of Poetry: Oxford Lectures (1995); Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture (1996); Homage to Robert Frost (with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott) (1996) DRAMA The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles’ Philoctetes (1991); The Fire i’ the Flint: Reflections on the Poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins (1975) TRANSLATIONS The Burial at Thebes: A Version of Sophocles’ Antigone (2004); Beowulf (1999: winner of the 2000 Whitbread Poetry and Book of the Year Awards); Laments: Poems of Jan Kochanowski (trans. with Stanislaw Baranczak) (1995); The Midnight Verdict (translations from the Irish of Brian Merriman and from the Metamorphoses of Ovid (1993) EDITED The School Bag (with Ted Hughes) (1997); The Rattle Bag (with Ted Hughes) (1982)


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