Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Belderg by Seamus Heaney

These are the last of Heaney's bog poems, in the last verse there is a lovely line evoking two images in one, "A world-tree of balanced stones" . The world tree is part of religious myth but if you would envisage the great ash tree Ygrasdil, with the wells beneath, and combine it with the Cornwall tor image of stones precariously balanced one on top of another, ancient nature wonders, you would understand the deep power of nature within the minds of prehistoric people.

Belderg

'They just keep turning up
And were thought of as foreign'-
One-eyed and benign,
They lie about his house,
Quernstones out of a bog.

To lift the lid of the peat
And find this pupil dreaming
Of neolithic wheat!
When he stripped off blanket bog
The soft-piled centuries

Fell open like a glib;
There were the first plough-marks,
The stone-age fields, the tomb
Corbelled, turfed and chambered,
Floored with dry turf-coomb.

A landscape fossilized,
Its stone wall patternings
Repeated befor our eyes
In the stone walls of Mayo.
Before I turned to go

He talked about persistence,
A congruence of lives,
How stubbed and cleared of stones,
His home accrued growth rings
Of iron, flint and bronze.

So I talked of Mossbawn,
A bogland name 'but Moss'?,
He crossed my old home's music
With older strains of Norse.
I'd told how its foundation

Was mutable as sound
And how I could derive
A forked root from that ground,
Make bawn an English fort,
A planter's walled-in mound.

Or else find sanctuary
And think of it as Irish,
Persistent if outworn.
'But the Norse ring on your tree?'
I passed through the eye of the quern,

Grist to an ancient mill,
And in my mind's eye saw,
A world-tree of balanced stones,
Querns piles like vertebrae,
The marrow crushed to grounds.
-------------------------

Come to the
Bower

My hands come, touched
By sweetbriar and tangled vetch,
Foraging past the burst gizzards
of coin hoards

To where the dark-bowered queen,
Whom I unpin,
Is waiting. Out of the black maw
Of the peat, sharpened willow

Withdraws gently
I unwrap skins and see
The pot of the skull,
The damp tuck of each curl

Reddish as a fox's brush,
A mark of a gorget in the flesh
of her throat. And spring water
Starts to rise about her

I reach past
The riverbed's washed
Dream of gold to the bullion
Of her Venus bone.


----------------------------
This seems to be the last of Heaney's bog poems, found in his book North published in 1975.
The rest of the poems below are on an earlier blog - Kinship.



Belderg,
Come To the Bower
Bog Queen
Kinship
Tollund Man
Grauballe Man
Punishment
Strange Fruit
Kinship

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