A poetic tribute to Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney
BY NEIL STEINBERG Staff Reporter August 30, 2013 8:34AM
A Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2004 photo from files showing former Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney who has died after a half-century exploring the wild beauty of Ireland and the political torment within the nations soul. He was 74. Heaneys family and publi
Updated: August 30, 2013 9:00AM
Great poets never die, and so Seamus Heaney will always be with us. But when I heard the man himself had passed, I performed the best tribute you can do for a poet: I read one of his poems, out loud, to myself. My favorite of his many, called “Mid-Term Break.” Simple words. Nothing ornate or showy. See if you can read it without crying, particularly on the last, heartbreaking line. I couldn’t:
I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close
At two o’clock our neighbors drove me home.
In the porch I met my father crying—
He had always taken funerals in his stride—
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to hake my hand
And tell me they were “sorry for my trouble.”
Whispers informed strangers I was the oldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o’clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside, I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four foot box, a foot for every year.