Today marks what would have been the 76th birthday of Seamus Heaney, one of Ireland’s defining poets. Heaney’s work touched upon a range of personal and more widely felt topics, and we take heart from his belief in the importance of poetry and the arts in times of crisis:
“If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness.”
We’ll be delving into A Little, Aloud to read one of his poems (one that’s especially appropriate with The Big Dig at Calderstones Park), but we’re also enjoying a poem from another great Irish poet, W.B. Yeats – another testament to the wonders of poetry, nature and love. We especially love ‘I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe/Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought/Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.’ – stitching and unstitching is something we’re very keen on as part of our shared reading groups!
We sat together at one summer’s end,
That beautiful mild woman, your close friend,
And you and I, and talked of poetry.
I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
Better go down upon your marrow-bones
And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
For to articulate sweet sounds together
Is to work harder than all these, and yet
Be thought an idler by the noisy set
Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
The martyrs call the world.’
That beautiful mild woman for whose sake
There’s many a one shall find out all heartache
On finding that her voice is sweet and low
Replied, ‘To be born woman is to know—
Although they do not talk of it at school—
That we must labour to be beautiful.’
I said, ‘It’s certain there is no fine thing
Since Adam’s fall but needs much labouring.
There have been lovers who thought love should be
So much compounded of high courtesy
That they would sigh and quote with learned looks
Precedents out of beautiful old books;
Yet now it seems an idle trade enough.’
We sat grown quiet at the name of love;
We saw the last embers of daylight die,
And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.
I had a thought for no one’s but your ears:
That you were beautiful, and that I strove
To love you in the old high way of love;
That it had all seemed happy, and yet we’d grown
As weary-hearted as that hollow moon.