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Authors: Seamus Heaney

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New and Selected Poems

BOOK: New and Selected Poems
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SEAMUS HEANEY

 
New Selected Poems
1966–1987
 

For Marie and Michael and
Christopher and Catherine Ann

Table of Contents
 

Title Page
Dedication
from
Death of a Naturalist
(1966)
Digging
Death Of A Naturalist
Blackberry-Picking
Follower
Mid-Term Break
Poem
Personal Helicon
from
Door into the Dark
(1969)
Thatcher
The Peninsula
Requiem For The Croppies
The Wife’s Tale
Night Drive
Relic Of Memory
Bogland
from
Wintering Out
(1972)
Bog Oak
Anahorish
Gifts Of Rain
Broagh
Oracle
A New Song
The Other Side
The Tollund Man
Wedding Day
Summer Home
Limbo
Bye-Child
Westering
from
Stations
(1975)
Nesting-Ground
England’s Difficulty
Visitant
Trial Runs
Cloistered
The Stations Of The West
Incertus
from
North
(1975)
Mossbawn: Two Poems In Dedication
Funeral Rites
North
Viking Dublin: Trial Pieces
Bone Dreams
Bog Queen
The Grauballe Man
Punishment
Strange Fruit
Act Of Union
Hercules And Antaeus
from
Whatever You Say Say Nothing
from
Singing School
from
Field Work
(1979)
Oysters
Triptych
The Toome Road
A Drink Of Water
The Strand At Lough Beg
Casualty
Badgers
The Singer’s House
The Guttural Muse
Glanmore Sonnets
An Afterwards
The Otter
The Skunk
A Dream Of Jealousy
from
Field Work
Song
The Harvest Bow
In Memoriam Francis Ledwidge
from
Sweeney Astray
(1983)
Sweeney Praises The Trees
Sweeney Astray
Sweeney’s Lament On Ailsa Craig
Sweeney In Connacht
Sweeney’s Last Poem
from
Station Island
(1984)
The Underground
Sloe Gin
Chekhov On Sakhalin
Sandstone Keepsake
from
Shelf Life
Making Strange
A Hazel Stick For Catherine Ann
A Kite For Michael And Christopher
The Railway Children
The King Of The Ditchbacks
Station Island
From Sweeney Redivivus
The First Kingdom
The First Flight
Drifting Off
The Cleric
The Master
The Scribes
Holly
An Artist
In Illo Tempore
On The Road
from
The Haw Lantern
(1987)
For Bernard And Jane Mccabe
Alphabets
Terminus
From The Frontier Of Writing
The Haw Lantern
From The Republic Of Conscience
Hailstones
The Stone Verdict
The Spoonbait
Clearances
The Milk Factory
The Wishing Tree
Wolfe Tone
From The Canton Of Expectation
The Mud Vision
The Disappearing Island
Notes
Index
Praise
About the Author
By the Same Author
Copyright

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.

Death of a Naturalist
 
 

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles

Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.

There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how

The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

   

 

    Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass and angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Blackberry-Picking
 

For Philip Hobsbaum

 

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full,

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

   

 

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

BOOK: New and Selected Poems
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