Glanmore Sonnets

By Seamus Heaney 1939–2013 Seamus Heaney

For Ann Saddlemyer,
our heartiest welcomer

I
Vowels ploughed into other: opened ground.   
The mildest February for twenty years   
Is mist bands over furrows, a deep no sound   
Vulnerable to distant gargling tractors.
Our road is steaming, the turned-up acres breathe.   
Now the good life could be to cross a field   
And art a paradigm of earth new from the lathe   
Of ploughs. My lea is deeply tilled.
Old ploughsocks gorge the subsoil of each sense   
And I am quickened with a redolence   
Of farmland as a dark unblown rose.
Wait then...Breasting the mist, in sowers’ aprons,   
My ghosts come striding into their spring stations.   
The dream grain whirls like freakish Easter snows.

                                  II
Sensings, mountings from the hiding places,   
Words entering almost the sense of touch   
Ferreting themselves out of their dark hutch—
‘These things are not secrets but mysteries,’   
Oisin Kelly told me years ago
In Belfast, hankering after stone
That connived with the chisel, as if the grain   
Remembered what the mallet tapped to know.   
Then I landed in the hedge-school of Glanmore   
And from the backs of ditches hoped to raise
A voice caught back off slug-horn and slow chanter   
That might continue, hold, dispel, appease:   
Vowels ploughed into other, opened ground,   
Each verse returning like the plough turned round.

                                  III
This evening the cuckoo and the corncrake   
(So much, too much) consorted at twilight.   
It was all crepuscular and iambic.   
Out on the field a baby rabbit
Took his bearings, and I knew the deer
(I’ve seen them too from the window of the house,   
Like connoisseurs, inquisitive of air)   
Were careful under larch and May-green spruce.   
I had said earlier, ‘I won’t relapse   
From this strange loneliness I’ve brought us to.   
Dorothy and William—’ She interrupts:   
‘You’re not going to compare us two...?’   
Outside a rustling and twig-combing breeze   
Refreshes and relents. Is cadences.

                                  IV
I used to lie with an ear to the line
For that way, they said, there should come a sound   
Escaping ahead, an iron tune
Of flange and piston pitched along the ground,   
But I never heard that. Always, instead,
Struck couplings and shuntings two miles away   
Lifted over the woods. The head
Of a horse swirled back from a gate, a grey   
Turnover of haunch and mane, and I’d look   
Up to the cutting where she’d soon appear.
Two fields back, in the house, small ripples shook   
Silently across our drinking water
(As they are shaking now across my heart)
And vanished into where they seemed to start.

                                  V
Soft corrugations in the boortree’s trunk,
Its green young shoots, its rods like freckled solder:   
It was our bower as children, a greenish, dank
And snapping memory as I get older.
And elderberry I have learned to call it.
I love its blooms like saucers brimmed with meal,   
Its berries a swart caviar of shot,
A buoyant spawn, a light bruised out of purple.   
Elderberry? It is shires dreaming wine.
Boortree is bower tree, where I played ‘touching tongues’
And felt another’s texture quick on mine.
So, etymologist of roots and graftings,
I fall back to my tree-house and would crouch
Where small buds shoot and flourish in the hush.

                                  VI
He lived there in the unsayable lights.
He saw the fuchsia in a drizzling noon,
The elderflower at dusk like a risen moon
And green fields greying on the windswept heights.   
‘I will break through,’ he said, ‘what I glazed over   
With perfect mist and peaceful absences’—
Sudden and sure as the man who dared the ice   
And raced his bike across the Moyola River.   
A man we never saw. But in that winter
Of nineteen forty-seven, when the snow
Kept the country bright as a studio,
In a cold where things might crystallize or founder,   
His story quickened us, a wild white goose
Heard after dark above the drifted house.

                                  VII
Dogger, Rockall, Malin, Irish Sea:
Green, swift upsurges, North Atlantic flux   
Conjured by that strong gale-warning voice,   
Collapse into a sibilant penumbra.
Midnight and closedown. Sirens of the tundra,
Of eel-road, seal-road, keel-road, whale-road, raise   
Their wind-compounded keen behind the baize   
And drive the trawlers to the lee of Wicklow.   
L’Etoile, Le Guillemot, La Belle Hélène   
Nursed their bright names this morning in the bay   
That toiled like mortar. It was marvellous   
And actual, I said out loud, ‘A haven,’   
The word deepening, clearing, like the sky   
Elsewhere on Minches, Cromarty, The Faroes.

                                  VIII
Thunderlight on the split logs: big raindrops   
At body heat and lush with omen
Spattering dark on the hatchet iron.
This morning when a magpie with jerky steps   
Inspected a horse asleep beside the wood   
I thought of dew on armour and carrion.
What would I meet, blood-boltered, on the road?   
How deep into the woodpile sat the toad?
What welters through this dark hush on the crops?   
Do you remember that pension in Les Landes   
Where the old one rocked and rocked and rocked   
A mongol in her lap, to little songs?   
Come to me quick, I am upstairs shaking.   
My all of you birchwood in lightning.

                                  IX
Outside the kitchen window a black rat
Sways on the briar like infected fruit:
‘It looked me through, it stared me out, I’m not   
Imagining things. Go you out to it.’
Did we come to the wilderness for this?
We have our burnished bay tree at the gate,
Classical, hung with the reek of silage
From the next farm, tart-leafed as inwit.
Blood on a pitchfork, blood on chaff and hay,
Rats speared in the sweat and dust of threshing—
What is my apology for poetry?
The empty briar is swishing
When I come down, and beyond, inside, your face   
Haunts like a new moon glimpsed through tangled glass.

                                  X
I dreamt we slept in a moss in Donegal
On turf banks under blankets, with our faces   
Exposed all night in a wetting drizzle,   
Pallid as the dripping sapling birches.   
Lorenzo and Jessica in a cold climate.   
Diarmuid and Grainne waiting to be found.   
Darkly asperged and censed, we were laid out   
Like breathing effigies on a raised ground.
And in that dream I dreamt—how like you this?—
Our first night years ago in that hotel   
When you came with your deliberate kiss   
To raise us towards the lovely and painful   
Covenants of flesh; our separateness;   
The respite in our dewy dreaming faces.

Seamus Heaney, “Glanmore Sonnets” 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)

 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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