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...

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