Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Seamus Heaney and poems about the Bog people


The Dying Cu Chulainn,

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.


Seamus Heaney
Heaney alludes to the Dying Gaul, a famous Roman stature in a Paris Museum, the picture above is the Dying Cu Chulainn in the General Post Office Dublin.
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Nerthus

For beauty, say an ash-fork staked in peat,
Its long grains gathering to the gouged split;
A seasoned, unsleeved taker of the weather
Where kesh and loaning finger out to heather
---------------------------------------------
Kinship
'Kinned by hieroglyphic
Peat on a spreadfield,
To the strangled victim,
The love-nest in the bracken

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