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Best Famous Seamus Heaney Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Seamus Heaney poems. This is a select list of the best famous Seamus Heaney poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Seamus Heaney poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Seamus Heaney poems.

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by Seamus Heaney | |

Limbo

 Fishermen at Ballyshannon
Netted an infant last night
Along with the salmon.
An illegitimate spawning, A small one thrown back To the waters.
But I'm sure As she stood in the shallows Ducking him tenderly Till the frozen knobs of her wrists Were dead as the gravel, He was a minnow with hooks Tearing her open.
She waded in under The sign of the cross.
He was hauled in with the fish.
Now limbo will be A cold glitter of souls Through some far briny zone.
Even Christ's palms, unhealed, Smart and cannot fish there.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Rite of Spring

 So winter closed its fist
And got it stuck in the pump.
The plunger froze up a lump In its throat, ice founding itself Upon iron.
The handle Paralysed at an angle.
Then the twisting of wheat straw into ropes, lapping them tight Round stem and snout, then a light That sent the pump up in a flame It cooled, we lifted her latch, Her entrance was wet, and she came.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Strange Fruit

 Here is the girl's head like an exhumed gourd.
Oval-faced, prune-skinned, prune-stones for teeth.
They unswaddled the wet fern of her hair And made an exhibition of its coil, Let the air at her leathery beauty.
Pash of tallow, perishable treasure: Her broken nose is dark as a turf clod, Her eyeholes blank as pools in the old workings.
Diodorus Siculus confessed His gradual ease with the likes of this: Murdered, forgotten, nameless, terrible Beheaded girl, outstaring axe And beatification, outstaring What had begun to feel like reverence.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Requiem for the Croppies

 The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley.
.
.
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp.
.
.
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching.
.
.
on the hike.
.
.
We found new tactics happening each day: We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike And stampede cattle into infantry, Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until.
.
.
on Vinegar Hill.
.
.
the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin And in August.
.
.
the barley grew up out of our grave.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Follower

 My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert.
He would set the wing And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck Of reins, the sweating team turned round And back into the land.
His eye Narrowed and angled at the ground, Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake, Fell sometimes on the polished sod; Sometimes he rode me on his back Dipping and rising to his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough, To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, Yapping always.
But today It is my father who keeps stumbling Behind me, and will not go away.


by Seamus Heaney | |

The Early Purges

 I was six when I first saw kittens drown.
Dan Taggart pitched them, 'the scraggy wee shits', Into a bucket; a frail metal sound, Soft paws scraping like mad.
But their tiny din Was soon soused.
They were slung on the snout Of the pump and the water pumped in.
'Sure, isn't it better for them now?' Dan said.
Like wet gloves they bobbed and shone till he sluiced Them out on the dunghill, glossy and dead.
Suddenly frightened, for days I sadly hung Round the yard, watching the three sogged remains Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung Until I forgot them.
But the fear came back When Dan trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows Or, with a sickening tug, pulled old hens' necks.
Still, living displaces false sentiments And now, when shrill pups are prodded to drown I just shrug, 'Bloody pups'.
It makes sense: 'Prevention of cruelty' talk cuts ice in town Where they consider death unnatural But on well-run farms pests have to be kept down.


by Seamus Heaney | |

The Perch

 Perch on their water perch hung in the clear Bann River
Near the clay bank in alder dapple and waver,

Perch they called ‘grunts’, little flood-slubs, runty and ready,
I saw and I see in the river’s glorified body

That is passable through, but they’re bluntly holding the 
pass,
Under the water-roof, over the bottom, adoze

On the current, against it, all muscle and slur
In the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on air

That is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on hold
In the everything flows and steady go of the world.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Personal Helicon

 As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.
One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.
A shallow one under a dry stone ditch Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch A white face hovered over the bottom.
Others had echoes, gave back your own call With a clean new music in it.
And one Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.
Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime, To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring Is beneath all adult dignity.
I rhyme To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Twice Shy

 Her scarf a la Bardot, 
In suede flats for the walk, 
She came with me one evening
For air and friendly talk.
We crossed the quiet river, Took the embankment walk.
Traffic holding its breath, Sky a tense diaphragm: Dusk hung like a backcloth That shook where a swan swam, Tremulous as a hawk Hanging deadly, calm.
A vacuum of need Collapsed each hunting heart But tremulously we held As hawk and prey apart, Preserved classic decorum, Deployed our talk with art.
Our Juvenilia Had taught us both to wait, Not to publish feeling And regret it all too late - Mushroom loves already Had puffed and burst in hate.
So, chary and excited, As a thrush linked on a hawk, We thrilled to the March twilight With nervous childish talk: Still waters running deep Along the embankment walk.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Anahorish

 My "place of clear water,"
the first hill in the world
where springs washed into
the shiny grass

and darkened cobbles
in the bed of the lane.
Anahorish, soft gradient of consonant, vowel-meadow, after-image of lamps swung through the yards on winter evenings.
With pails and barrows those mound-dwellers go waist-deep in mist to break the light ice at wells and dunghills.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Bogland

 for T.
P.
Flanagan We have no prairies To slice a big sun at evening-- Everywhere the eye concedes to Encrouching horizon, Is wooed into the cyclops' eye Of a tarn.
Our unfenced country Is bog that keeps crusting Between the sights of the sun.
They've taken the skeleton Of the Great Irish Elk Out of the peat, set it up An astounding crate full of air.
Butter sunk under More than a hundred years Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter Melting and opening underfoot, Missing its last definition By millions of years.
They'll never dig coal here, Only the waterlogged trunks Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking Inwards and downwards, Every layer they strip Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Testimony

 'We were killing pigs when the 
Yanks arrived.
A Tuesday morning, sunlight and gutter-blood Outside the slaughter house.
>From the main road They would have heard the screaming, Then heard it stop and had a view of us In our gloves and aprons coming down the hill.
Two lines of them, guns on their shoulders, marching.
Armoured cars and tanks and open jeeps.
Sunburnt hands and arms.
Unarmed, in step, Hosting for Normandy.
Not that we knew then Where they were headed, standing there like youngsters As they tossed us gum and tubes of coloured sweets'


by Seamus Heaney | |

Lovers on Aran

 The timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass,
Came dazzling around, into the rocks,
Came glinting, sifting from the Americas

To posess Aran.
Or did Aran rush to throw wide arms of rock around a tide That yielded with an ebb, with a soft crash? Did sea define the land or land the sea? Each drew new meaning from the waves' collision.
Sea broke on land to full identity.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Song

 A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance Stand off among the rushes.
There are the mud-flowers of dialect And the immortelles of perfect pitch And that moment when the bird sings very close To the music of what happens.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Postscript

 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 lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or 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


by Seamus Heaney | |

The Otter

 When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.
I loved your wet head and smashing crawl, Your fine swimmer's back and shoulders Surfacing and surfacing again This year and every year since.
I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape-deep air Thinned and disappointed.
Thank God for the slow loadening, When I hold you now We are close and deep As the atmosphere on water.
My two hands are plumbed water.
You are my palpable, lithe Otter of memory In the pool of the moment, Turning to swim on your back, Each silent, thigh-shaking kick Re-tilting the light, Heaving the cool at your neck.
And suddenly you're out, Back again, intent as ever, Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt, Printing the stones.


by Seamus Heaney | |

Docker

 There, in the corner, staring at his drink.
The cap juts like a gantry's crossbeam, Cowling plated forehead and sledgehead jaw.
Speech is clamped in the lips' vice.
That fist would drop a hammer on a Catholic- Oh yes, that kind of thing could start again; The only Roman collar he tolerates Smiles all round his sleek pint of porter.
Mosaic imperatives bang home like rivets; God is a foreman with certain definite views Who orders life in shifts of work and leisure.
A factory horn will blare the Resurrection.
He sits, strong and blunt as a Celtic cross, Clearly used to silence and an armchair: Tonight the wife and children will be quiet At slammed door and smoker's cough in the hall.