26 November 2007


And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Unless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

~ Seamus Heaney, The Spirit Level


Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to hear Heaney speak in my undergraduate days as well. His translation of Beowulf is delicious (although it puts my wife to sleep every time when I read it aloud). I also love the way this poem you posted build up to its final line.

amcorrea said...

Yes, his translation is masterful. Where Leonard has "The sky the reek had swallowed," Heaney writes, "Heaven swallowed the smoke." The cadence of the traditional is stately, but Heaney's is more immediate.

This poem wouldn't leave me alone as I was packing to move. Had to pin it in place here. And yes, it was because of that last line.