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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 | |

The Grauballe Man

 As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists is like bog oak, the ball of his heel like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk cold as a swan’s foot or a wet swamp root.
His hips are the ridge and purse of a mussel, his spine an eel arrested under a glisten of mud.
The head lifts, the chin is a visor raised above the vent of his slashed throat that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound opens inwards to a dark elderberry place.
Who will say ‘corpse’ to his vivid cast? Who will say ‘body’ to his opaque repose? And his rusted hair, a mat unlikely as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face in a photograph, a head and shoulder out of the peat, bruised like a forceps baby, but now he lies perfected in my memory, down to the red horn of his nails, hung in the scales with beauty and atrocity: with the Dying Gaul too strictly compassed on his shield, with the actual weight of each hooded victim, slashed and dumped.


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 | |

Death Of A Naturalist

 All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, But best of all was the warm thick slobber Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water In the shade of the banks.
Here, every spring I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied Specks to range on window-sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until The fattening dots burst into nimble- Swimming tadpoles.
Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn.
You could tell the weather by frogs too For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before.
The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails.
Some hopped: The slap and plop were obscene threats.
Some sat Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran.
The great slime kings Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.


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 | |

Blackberry-Picking

 Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for Picking.
Then red ones inked up and that hunger Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills We trekked and picked until the cans were full Until the tinkling bottom had been covered With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned Like a plate of eyes.
Our hands were peppered With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur, A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too.
Once off the bush The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying.
It wasn't fair That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.


by Seamus Heaney | |

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.


by Seamus Heaney | |

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.


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 | |

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 | |

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.