Seamus Heaney

The bard of modern Ireland

At a literary fest in England's Lake District circa 1977, I first fell under the spell of Seamus Heaney's brogue, and his carnal yet deeply moral music snapped me awake. "Between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests; snug as a gun." The assonance of thumb and snug and gun makes an uh uh uh noise--a grunting, incantatory, almost aboriginal longing toward speech. Yet Heaney's lines are elegant as Yeats', with their own potent charm--from the Latin carmen, to sing.

Heaney, who was 74 when he died on Aug. 30, never lost his humility even after he was Nobelled...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now

Subscribe
Subscribe

Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!