Urthona - A Journal of Buddhism and the Arts

In Memory and Celebration: Seamus Heaney

On Fri, 13 September, 2013 - 08:57
Ratnagarbha's picture
Seamus Heaney died on August 30th this year at the age of 74 after a short illness – he had taken of fall outside a Dublin restaurant. Physically he had been weaker since a stroke in 2006, but his last collection Human Chain (2010) showed no dimmunition in his powers of sensitivity and reflection. It was described by Ruth Pardell, poet and judge of the Forward Prize, as ‘a collection of painful, honest and delicately weighted poems… a wonderful and humane achievement’ (Human Chain was the first of his collections to win that prize – perhaps the only major poetry award he had not so far received.)

His previous collection District and Circle (2006) likewise contained several moving poems with an elegiac mood. It was characteristic of the man, loved by so many, poets,writers and millions of others
around the world, to have been preparing us, and himself, for his expected departure, with intensely moving, yet down to earth images of both mortality and on going life.

For example in ‘The Blackbird of Glanmore’ the poet finds the bird:

On the grass when I arrive,
Filling of the stillness with life,
But ready to scare off
At the very first wrong move.
In the ivy when I leave.

It’s you, Blackbird, I love.

And this reminds him of the little brother lost in a traffic accident when he was only just out of the nest himself:

And I think of one gone to him,
A little stillness dancer –
Haunter-son, lost brother –
Cavorting through the yard,
So glad to see me home,

My homesick first term over.

But although the blackbird portended death to neighbours who were sensitive to such things ‘I’ve never liked yon bird’, for the poet he is both sentinel of death and emissary of life. The poem closes:

Hedge-hop, I am absolute
For you, your ready talk back,
Your each stand-offish come back,
Your picky, nervy goldbeak –
On the grass when I arrive,

In the ivy when I leave.

The full text of this obituary appears on the urthona essays site at:


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