Ah God, I thought we’d have Seamus Heaney for at least a few more years. The wispy white-haired Irish laureate died in Dublin today, at the age of 74, according to various media reports, and there are no words to properly express what he contributed to poetry and language during his immense career.
He was a makaris; an archeologist of peat bogs and Latinate etymology; a singer of old songs (“Antigone,” “Beowulf,” from Virgil) in a thrilling modern idiom… and on and on. He was a wonder.
I’m wrong about one thing, though. There ARE very good words appropriate for this moment of loss — his own, taken from his best-selling translation of “Beowulf”:
It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.
He won plenty of glory, didn’t he? I wonder if the thought ever crossed his mind, as he worked on these lines in his farmhouse years ago, that such words could apply to him and his career.
Rest in peace, old artificer.
- Nobel prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney dies (cyprus-mail.com)
- Seamus Heaney reads “St. Kevin and the Blackbird” (carlmccolman.com)
- Irish poet, Nobel winner Seamus Heaney dies at 74 (onlineathens.com)
- Seamus Heaney (vgonthemove.wordpress.com)
- Summer Oysters (themillions.com)
- Heaney and Beowulf (medievaldad.wordpress.com)
- Different Transcriptions of Beowulf (athenaseojeongnagel.wordpress.com)
- Seamus Heaney (Irish poet, b.1939) St. Kevin and the Blackbird (skiesofcoupledcolour.wordpress.com)