North

By Seamus Heaney 1939–2013 Seamus Heaney
I returned to a long strand,
the hammered curve of a bay,   
and found only the secular
powers of the Atlantic thundering.

I faced the unmagical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland, and suddenly

those fabulous raiders,
those lying in Orkney and Dublin   
measured against
their long swords rusting,

those in the solid
belly of stone ships,
those hacked and glinting
in the gravel of thawed streams

were ocean-deafened voices
warning me, lifted again
in violence and epiphany.
The longship’s swimming tongue

was buoyant with hindsight—
it said Thor’s hammer swung
to geography and trade,
thick-witted couplings and revenges,

the hatreds and behind-backs
of the althing, lies and women,   
exhaustions nominated peace,   
memory incubating the spilled blood.

It said, ‘Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow   
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.   
Expect aurora borealis   
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep your eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure   
your hands have known.’

Seamus Heaney, “North” from Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996. Copyright © 1998 by Seamus Heaney. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1998)

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Poet Seamus Heaney 1939–2013

POET’S REGION Ireland

Subjects Heroes & Patriotism, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Winter, Mythology & Folklore

 Seamus  Heaney

Biography

Seamus Heaney is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. A native of Northern Ireland, Heaney was raised in County Derry, and later lived for many years in Dublin. He was the author of over 20 volumes of poetry and criticism, and edited several widely used anthologies. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995 "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the . . .

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SUBJECT Heroes & Patriotism, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Poetry & Poets, Nature, Arts & Sciences, Winter, Mythology & Folklore

POET’S REGION Ireland

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