Submit Poems
Get Your Premium Membership

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.

Search for the best famous Seamus Heaney poems, articles about Seamus Heaney poems, poetry blogs, or anything else Seamus Heaney poem related using the PoetrySoup search engine at the top of the page.

See Also:
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

The Harvest Bow

 As you plaited the harvest bow
You implicated the mellowed silence in you
In wheat that does not rust
But brightens as it tightens twist by twist
Into a knowable corona,
A throwaway love-knot of straw.
Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent Until your fingers moved somnambulant: I tell and finger it like braille, Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable, And if I spy into its golden loops I see us walk between the railway slopes Into an evening of long grass and midges, Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in hedges, An auction notice on an outhouse wall-- You with a harvest bow in your lapel, Me with the fishing rod, already homesick For the big lift of these evenings, as your stick Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes Nothing: that original townland Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand.
The end of art is peace Could be the motto of this frail device That I have pinned up on our deal dresser-- Like a drawn snare Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn Yet burnished by its passage, and still warm.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Exposure

 It is December in Wicklow:
Alders dripping, birches
Inheriting the last light,
The ash tree cold to look at.
A comet that was lost Should be visible at sunset, Those million tons of light Like a glimmer of haws and rose-hips, And I sometimes see a falling star.
If I could come on meteorite! Instead I walk through damp leaves, Husks, the spent flukes of autumn, Imagining a hero On some muddy compound, His gift like a slingstone Whirled for the desperate.
How did I end up like this? I often think of my friends' Beautiful prismatic counselling And the anvil brains of some who hate me As I sit weighing and weighing My responsible tristia.
For what? For the ear? For the people? For what is said behind-backs? Rain comes down through the alders, Its low conductive voices Mutter about let-downs and erosions And yet each drop recalls The diamond absolutes.
I am neither internee nor informer; An inner ?migr?, grown long-haired And thoughtful; a wood-kerne Escaped from the massacre, Taking protective colouring From bole and bark, feeling Every wind that blows; Who, blowing up these sparks For their meagre heat, have missed The once-in-a-lifetime portent, The comet's pulsing rose.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Mid-Term Break

 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 shake my hand And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble," Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest, 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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Digging

 Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pin rest; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging.
I look down Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked, Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle Corked sloppily with paper.
He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf.
Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Keeping Going

 The piper coming from far away is you
With a whitewash brush for a sporran
Wobbling round you, a kitchen chair
Upside down on your shoulder, your right arm
Pretending to tuck the bag beneath your elbow,
Your pop-eyes and big cheeks nearly bursting
With laughter, but keeping the drone going on
Interminably, between catches of breath.
* The whitewash brush.
An old blanched skirted thing On the back of the byre door, biding its time Until spring airs spelled lime in a work-bucket And a potstick to mix it in with water.
Those smells brought tears to the eyes, we inhaled A kind of greeny burning and thought of brimstone.
But the slop of the actual job Of brushing walls, the watery grey Being lashed on in broad swatches, then drying out Whiter and whiter, all that worked like magic.
Where had we come from, what was this kingdom We knew we'd been restored to? Our shadows Moved on the wall and a tar border glittered The full length of the house, a black divide Like a freshly opened, pungent, reeking trench.
* Piss at the gable, the dead will congregate.
But separately.
The women after dark, Hunkering there a moment before bedtime, The only time the soul was let alone, The only time that face and body calmed In the eye of heaven.
Buttermilk and urine, The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom.
We were all together there in a foretime, In a knowledge that might not translate beyond Those wind-heaved midnights we still cannot be sure Happened or not.
It smelled of hill-fort clay And cattle dung.
When the thorn tree was cut down You broke your arm.
I shared the dread When a strange bird perched for days on the byre roof.
* That scene, with Macbeth helpless and desperate In his nightmare--when he meets the hags agains And sees the apparitions in the pot-- I felt at home with that one all right.
Hearth, Steam and ululation, the smoky hair Curtaining a cheek.
'Don't go near bad boys In that college that you're bound for.
Do you hear me? Do you hear me speaking to you? Don't forget!' And then the postick quickening the gruel, The steam crown swirled, everything intimate And fear-swathed brightening for a moment, Then going dull and fatal and away.
* Grey matter like gruel flecked with blood In spatters on the whitewash.
A clean spot Where his head had been, other stains subsumed In the parched wall he leant his back against That morning like any other morning, Part-time reservist, toting his lunch-box.
A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt, Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped Level with him, although it was not his lift.
And then he saw an ordinary face For what it was and a gun in his own face.
His right leg was hooked back, his sole and heel Against the wall, his right knee propped up steady, So he never moved, just pushed with all his might Against himself, then fell past the tarred strip, Feeding the gutter with his copious blood.
* My dear brother, you have good stamina.
You stay on where it happens.
Your big tractor Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people, You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep old roads open by driving on the new ones.
You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen, But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.
I see you at the end of your tether sometimes, In the milking parlour, holding yourself up Between two cows until your turn goes past, Then coming to in the smell of dung again And wondering, is this all? As it was In the beginning, is now and shall be? Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush Up on the byre door, and keeping going.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Act of Union

 I

To-night, a first movement, a pulse,
As if the rain in bogland gathered head
To slip and flood: a bog-burst,
A gash breaking open the ferny bed.
Your back is a firm line of eastern coast And arms and legs are thrown Beyond your gradual hills.
I caress The heaving province where our past has grown.
I am the tall kingdom over your shoulder That you would neither cajole nor ignore.
Conquest is a lie.
I grow older Conceding your half-independant shore Within whose borders now my legacy Culminates inexorably.
II And I am still imperially Male, leaving you with pain, The rending process in the colony, The battering ram, the boom burst from within.
The act sprouted an obsinate fifth column Whose stance is growing unilateral.
His heart beneath your heart is a wardrum Mustering force.
His parasitical And ignmorant little fists already Beat at your borders and I know they're cocked At me across the water.
No treaty I foresee will salve completely your tracked And stretchmarked body, the big pain That leaves you raw, like opened ground, again
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

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.
Written by Seamus Heaney | Create an image from this poem

Casualty

 I

He would drink by himself
And raise a weathered thumb
Towards the high shelf,
Calling another rum
And blackcurrant, without
Having to raise his voice,
Or order a quick stout
By a lifting of the eyes
And a discreet dumb-show
Of pulling off the top;
At closing time would go
In waders and peaked cap
Into the showery dark,
A dole-kept breadwinner
But a natural for work.
I loved his whole manner, Sure-footed but too sly, His deadpan sidling tact, His fisherman's quick eye And turned observant back.
Incomprehensible To him, my other life.
Sometimes on the high stool, Too busy with his knife At a tobacco plug And not meeting my eye, In the pause after a slug He mentioned poetry.
We would be on our own And, always politic And shy of condescension, I would manage by some trick To switch the talk to eels Or lore of the horse and cart Or the Provisionals.
But my tentative art His turned back watches too: He was blown to bits Out drinking in a curfew Others obeyed, three nights After they shot dead The thirteen men in Derry.
PARAS THIRTEEN, the walls said, BOGSIDE NIL.
That Wednesday Everyone held His breath and trembled.
II It was a day of cold Raw silence, wind-blown Surplice and soutane: Rained-on, flower-laden Coffin after coffin Seemed to float from the door Of the packed cathedral Like blossoms on slow water.
The common funeral Unrolled its swaddling band, Lapping, tightening Till we were braced and bound Like brothers in a ring.
But he would not be held At home by his own crowd Whatever threats were phoned, Whatever black flags waved.
I see him as he turned In that bombed offending place, Remorse fused with terror In his still knowable face, His cornered outfaced stare Blinding in the flash.
He had gone miles away For he drank like a fish Nightly, naturally Swimming towards the lure Of warm lit-up places, The blurred mesh and murmur Drifting among glasses In the gregarious smoke.
How culpable was he That last night when he broke Our tribe's complicity? 'Now, you're supposed to be An educated man,' I hear him say.
'Puzzle me The right answer to that one.
' III I missed his funeral, Those quiet walkers And sideways talkers Shoaling out of his lane To the respectable Purring of the hearse.
.
.
They move in equal pace With the habitual Slow consolation Of a dawdling engine, The line lifted, hand Over fist, cold sunshine On the water, the land Banked under fog: that morning I was taken in his boat, The screw purling, turning Indolent fathoms white, I tasted freedom with him.
To get out early, haul Steadily off the bottom, Dispraise the catch, and smile As you find a rhythm Working you, slow mile by mile, Into your proper haunt Somewhere, well out, beyond.
.
.
Dawn-sniffing revenant, Plodder through midnight rain, Question me again.