And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 2. september 2013

Out of Ireland - elegy for Seamus Heaney

For the past few years I have been an avid reader of Seamus Heaney's verse. His poetry belongs to a generation which experienced rapid changes in technology and society as a whole, a generation which grew up in the Christian tradition but who grew into a world which sometimes distances itself from it as if it were something alien. Heaney's generation, to which I count such poets as Derek Walcott, Geoffrey Hill and Joseph Brodsky (though the latter did not have a Christian upbringing), who combined the poetic modernity of their time with the classical and biblical heritage so much of Western culture is founded upon. This has resulted in much great and beautiful poetry.

I was therefore immensely saddened by the news of Seamus Heaney's sudden death. To my mind, there are few poetic voices equal to his in our time, and he should have had so many more years to write more poetry and delight us with his verse.

In the course of the day of his death some lines came to me and I decided to do what people so often do on such occasions, namely to compose an elegy. I was at first apprehensive of putting it up on the blog, particularly because such flaunting of verse tends to work as a soap box for the writer rather than a dirge for the dead. In the end, however, I decided to go through with it in the hope that whoever reads it will see it for what it is: a well-meant and honest adieu to one of my favourite poets.

Out of Ireland

Elegy for Seamus Heaney

August 30 2013

I) Dies Natalis

When news came out of Ireland I was stung.
First I refused to believe: the mourner's
privileged intransigence towards truth
that keeps him buoyant in the instant grief.

After the first shock the mind moved
towards acceptance, settled in, agreed
that this was now reality. And then,
I slowly sought to fathom the depth of loss:

there would be no more words and no more songs,
but worst of all was this: we never spoke
and now our silence must remain a silence
like candlesmoke when the flame has found its end.

The book of mankind is a house of many rooms,
each has its own and now your door is shut.
A closed door opens wounds as now the close
of your last chapter turns my heart to grief.

II) The Morning After

It was the morning after and I stood
bare-breasted in the morrow, felt the wind
against the skin and saw the dawn erupt
in a fire that gave the pines their darkness,

and the fire hung heavily in the east
like some slow pulse that spoke of deep vexation,
like a mourner's heart settling to the facts
or the Creator's regret when things commence.

I stood there with the cold air as my clothing
and lent my eyes to the camera's blind winks
to eternise the moment, when a lapwing
called out and I looked up to find its flight

and saw him as a black speck in the fire,
a messenger of change and I thought of you,
raised from your flesh to the spirit level
which is your words in time and after time.
- August 30-31 2013

Requiescat in pace
(courtesy of wikimedia common)

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