Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kinship

Kinship

By Seamus Heaney

i

Kinned by hieroglyphic
Peat on a spreadfield
To the strangled victim,
The love-nest in the bracken,

I step through origins
Like a dog turning
Its memories of wilderness
On the kitchen mat:

The bog floor shakes
Water cheeps and lisps
As I walk down
Rushes and Heather.

I love this turf-face,
Its black incisions,
The cooped secrets
Of process and ritual;

I love the spring
Off the ground,
Each bank a gallows drop,
Each open pool

The unstopped mouth
Of an urn, a moon-drinker,
Not to be sounded
By the naked eye.

ii

Quagmire, swampland, morass:
The slime kingdoms,
Domains of the cold-blodded,
Of mud pads and dirtied eggs.

But bog
Meaning soft,
The fall of windless rain,
Pupil of amber.

Ruminant ground,
Digestion of mollusc
And seed-pod,
Deep pollen-bin.

Earth-pantry, bone vault,
Sun-bank, embalmer
Of votive goods
And sabred fugitives.

Insatiable bride.
Sword-swallower,
Casket, midden,
Floe of history.

Ground that will strip
Its dark side,
Nesting ground,
Outback of my mind.

iii

I found a turf-spade
Hidden under bracken,
Laid flat, and overgrown
With a green fog.

As I raised it
The soft lips of the growth
Muttered and split,
A tawny rut

Opening at my feet
Like a shed skin,
The shaft wettish
As I sank it upright

And beginning to
Steam in the sun.
And now they have twined
That obelisk:

Among the stones,
Under a bearded cairn
A love-nest is disturbed,
Catkin and bog-cotton tremble

As they raise up
The cloven oak-limb.
I stand at the edge of centuries
Facing a goddess.

iv

This centre holds
And spreads,
Sump and seedbed,
A bag of waters

And a melting grave.
The mothers of autumn
Sour and sink,
Ferments of husk and leaf

Deepen their ochres.
Mosses come to a head,
Heather unseeds,
Brackens deposit

Their bronze.
This is the vowel of earth
Dreaming its root
In flowers and snow,

Mutation of wathers
And seasons,
A windfall composing
The floor it rots into.

I grew out of all this
Like a weeping willow
Inclined to
The appetites of gravity.

v

The hand-carved felloes
Of the turf-cart wheels
Buried in a litter
Of turf mould,

The cupid's bow
Of the tail-board,
The socketed lips
Of the cribs:

I deified the man
Who rod there,
God of the wagon,
The hearth-feeder.

I was his privileged
Attendant, a bearer
Of bread and drink,
The squire of his circuits.

When summer died
And wives forsook the fields
We were abroad,
Saluted, given right-of-way.

Watch our progress
Down the haw-lit hedges,
My manly pride
When he speaks to me.

vi

And you, Tacitus,
Observe how I make my grove
On an old crannog
Piled by the fearful dead:

A desolate peace.
Our mother ground
Is sour with the blood
Of her faithful,

They lie gargling
In her sacred heart
As the legions stare
From the ramparts.

Come back to this
'island of the ocean'
where nothing will suffice.
Read the inhumed faces

Of casualty of victim;
Report us fairly,
How we slaughter
For the common good

And shave the heads
Of the notorious,
How the goddess swallows
Our love and terror.

The Goddess Nerthus at Foerlev Nymolle




This must surely be his best poem of the Bog sequence, a flowing stream of words that rise and fall with the sadness of our frail humanity, it reminds me of something written in Homer's Illiad, "His words fell like snow melting into the ground"......

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