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Seamus Heaney: The grand old man of Irish poetry who had a boyish openness to life

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney dies, aged 74 Close

Seamus Heaney...Irish poet Seamus Heaney, 1995. (Photo by Steve Pyke/Getty Images)...Ent

Seamus Heaney...Irish poet Seamus Heaney, 1995. (Photo by Steve Pyke/Getty Images)...Ent

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach and Fine Gael Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach and Fine Gael Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. The event was attended by Taoiseach and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. The event was attended by Taoiseach and Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.21/12/2011 Dr Seamus Heaney literary papers to National Library. Irish Nobel laureate Dr Seamus Heaney with Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, today handed over his literary papers to the National Library of Ireland. At the heart of the Archive are the manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's poetry, a comprehensive and vast collection of loose-leaf, typescript and manuscript worksheets and bound notebooks that span Heaney's literary career from the publication of his first major collection 'Death of a Naturalist' right through to 'Station Island' and Human Chain'. Photo Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.22/06/2013. Kennedy homecoming. Seamus Heaney pictured as a bust of the late Senator Edward Kennedy is unveiled at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown Co Wexford. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.22/06/2013. Kennedy homecoming. Seamus Heaney pictured as a bust of the late Senator Edward Kennedy is unveiled at the Kennedy homestead in Dunganstown Co Wexford. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Seamus Heaney -
Ulster poet / writer

Seamus Heaney - Ulster poet / writer

Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.

Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley.

Seamus Heaney Ulster Poet

Seamus Heaney Ulster Poet

Seamus Heaney Ulster Poet

Seamus Heaney Ulster Poet

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. (LtoR) Playwright Brian Friel and poet Seamus Heaney prior to the Bloomsday conferral ceremony where Mr Heaney was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature. June the 16th is Bloomsday and the most important honours day at UCD, where Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1902. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. (LtoR) Playwright Brian Friel and poet Seamus Heaney prior to the Bloomsday conferral ceremony where Mr Heaney was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature. June the 16th is Bloomsday and the most important honours day at UCD, where Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1902. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. Nobel Laureate, Poet, Seamus Heaney (right) with poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in the grounds of University College Dublin (UCD) where he was presented with the Ulysses medal, the highest honor that the university can bestow. Ni Dhomhnall was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature. June the 16th is Bloomsday and the most important honours day at UCD, where Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1902. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Has Died Today.16/06/2011. Seamus Heaney receives Ulysses medal. Nobel Laureate, Poet, Seamus Heaney (right) with poet Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill in the grounds of University College Dublin (UCD) where he was presented with the Ulysses medal, the highest honor that the university can bestow. Ni Dhomhnall was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Literature. June the 16th is Bloomsday and the most important honours day at UCD, where Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts in 1902. Photo: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

13.04.2009...Seamus Heaney,Nobel Laureate, 70th Birthday Celebration at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham...Pic shows the ..Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney pic before his speech in the ..Great Hall.Pic Maxwells Dublin No Fee Pictured issued on behalf of RTE press Office contact Cathriona Edwards 087 6471120 or Rory coveney 086 8320979

13.04.2009...Seamus Heaney,Nobel Laureate, 70th Birthday Celebration at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham...Pic shows the ..Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney pic before his speech in the ..Great Hall.Pic Maxwells Dublin No Fee Pictured issued on behalf of RTE press Office contact Cathriona Edwards 087 6471120 or Rory coveney 086 8320979

File photo dated 20/06/06 of Seamus Heaney who has died aged 74

File photo dated 20/06/06 of Seamus Heaney who has died aged 74

PA

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Irish poet, Seamus Heaney as Irish President Mary McAleese, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Dr. Martin McAleese look on before a State Dinner at Dublin Castle, on May 18, 2011 in Dublin

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with Irish poet, Seamus Heaney as Irish President Mary McAleese, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and Dr. Martin McAleese look on before a State Dinner at Dublin Castle, on May 18, 2011 in Dublin

File photo dated 22/06/13 of Seamus Heaney reading a poem in front of a bust of Senator Ted Kennedy

File photo dated 22/06/13 of Seamus Heaney reading a poem in front of a bust of Senator Ted Kennedy

PA

Seamus Heaney (L) talks with Sir Ian McKellen after attending a memorial service for actor Paul Scofield on March 19, 2009 in London

Seamus Heaney (L) talks with Sir Ian McKellen after attending a memorial service for actor Paul Scofield on March 19, 2009 in London

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM: Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, pictured during his first-ever appearance to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he talked about his work.
Photograph Colin McPherson, 15/08/02.
Tel. +44 (0)1968 661644 or 07831 838717.

EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND, UNITED KINGDOM: Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney, pictured during his first-ever appearance to the Edinburgh International Book Festival, where he talked about his work. Photograph Colin McPherson, 15/08/02. Tel. +44 (0)1968 661644 or 07831 838717.

PACEMAKER BFST 27-01-04Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney guest speaker at the Holocaust Memorial  event in the Waterfront Hall.
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

PACEMAKER BFST 27-01-04Poet Laureate Seamus Heaney guest speaker at the Holocaust Memorial event in the Waterfront Hall. 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press 5/12/07  Seamus Heaney who is a past pupil at Annahorish Primary School in Toome
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press 5/12/07 Seamus Heaney who is a past pupil at Annahorish Primary School in Toome 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Seamus Heaney
Pic: Mark Condren
4/4/08

Seamus Heaney Pic: Mark Condren 4/4/08

NEWS 16/06/11
Bloomsday, synonymous with James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, is the most important honours day at University College Dublin (UCD), the alma mater of this great 20th century author. Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts at the university in 1902.
The UCD Ulysses Medal was awarded to Seamus Heaney. This is the highest honour that the university can bestow.
Picture by Shane O'Neill / Fennells.

NEWS 16/06/11 Bloomsday, synonymous with James Joyce and his novel Ulysses, is the most important honours day at University College Dublin (UCD), the alma mater of this great 20th century author. Joyce completed his Bachelor of Arts at the university in 1902. The UCD Ulysses Medal was awarded to Seamus Heaney. This is the highest honour that the university can bestow. Picture by Shane O'Neill / Fennells.

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin. 1995 Pic Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin. 1995 Pic Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin. 1995 Pic Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney at Sandymount in Dublin. 1995 Pic Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney(M) with Dunnes Stores Workers at a anti apartheid demo. 19/10/1985 Photo: Eamonn Farrell Photocall Ireland

File Pics Seamus Heaney Had Died Today. Irish Poet Seamus Heaney(M) with Dunnes Stores Workers at a anti apartheid demo. 19/10/1985 Photo: Eamonn Farrell Photocall Ireland

Photocall Ireland

Pacemaker Press Belfast.10/09/09
Poet Seamus Heaney unveils the key stone on the site of the new Lyric Theatre. Poet laureate Seamus Heaney at the unveiling ceremony of the Threshold Stone at the site of the new Lyric Theatre
Photo; Colm O'Reilly Pacemaker Press
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast.10/09/09 Poet Seamus Heaney unveils the key stone on the site of the new Lyric Theatre. Poet laureate Seamus Heaney at the unveiling ceremony of the Threshold Stone at the site of the new Lyric Theatre Photo; Colm O'Reilly Pacemaker Press 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Belfast - Archive
Field Day Theatre Company performing "The Cure at Troy" by Seamus Heaney, directed by Stephen Rea.
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Belfast - Archive Field Day Theatre Company performing "The Cure at Troy" by Seamus Heaney, directed by Stephen Rea. 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09
 
International Fund for Ireland

NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY
 
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09 International Fund for Ireland NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Darren Kidd_Press Eye

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09
 
International Fund for Ireland

NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY
 
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09 International Fund for Ireland NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Darren Kidd_Press Eye

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09
 
International Fund for Ireland

NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY
 
A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Mandatory Credit Darren Kidd/Presseye.com 02/04//09 International Fund for Ireland NEW SCULPTURE MARKS THE COMPLETION OF COMMUNITY REGENERATION SCHEME IN BELLAGHY A sculpture, which marks the completion of the Bellaghy Community Regeneration Improvement Special Programme, was unveiled today (Thursday 2nd April 2009) by the Nobel Prize winning poet Seamus Heaney.

Darren Kidd_Press Eye

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development. Picture By: Arthur Allison. 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development. Picture By: Arthur Allison. 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development.
Picture By: Arthur Allison.
30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Pacemaker Press Belfast 6-07-2010: A new £50m library at Queen's University was officially opened on Tuesday. The McClay Library was opened by the Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney. The Vice Chancellor of Queen's, Professor Peter Gregson said it marks the next step in the university's development. Picture By: Arthur Allison. 30/08/2013 Seamus Heaney passed away yesterday. He was a legendary Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer and recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature

Caption: ©Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland 10/09/2009. Mandatory Credit - Matt Mackey /  Presseye.com 

Poet Seamus Heaney at Lyric Threshold Stone unveiling at the widely recognised Lyric Theatre as the unveiling of the threshold stone highlights the progress that has been made with the construction of the new theatre which is scheduled for completion in early 2011.

Picture by Matt Mackey/ Presseye.com.

Caption: ©Press Eye Ltd - Northern Ireland 10/09/2009. Mandatory Credit - Matt Mackey / Presseye.com Poet Seamus Heaney at Lyric Threshold Stone unveiling at the widely recognised Lyric Theatre as the unveiling of the threshold stone highlights the progress that has been made with the construction of the new theatre which is scheduled for completion in early 2011. Picture by Matt Mackey/ Presseye.com.

Seamus Heaney...Irish poet Seamus Heaney, 1995. (Photo by Steve Pyke/Getty Images)...Ent

Among many evenings spent in the company of Seamus Heaney, whether occasions of convivial chat over a pint or at events of more earnest literary import, one in particular stands out.

 It was in the late 1990s, the venue was an elegant upstairs room in Westland Row that belonged to the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and Seamus was reciting a poem from memory.

It wasn't one of his own, which he always recited affectingly in that lovely sonorous rural Derry brogue of his, but rather Keats' great 'Ode to Autumn'. He faltered once or twice during the recitation but, prompted by an encouraging audience (who had the text in their hands), he got through triumphantly to the end, which was accompanied by much applause.

It was typical of Seamus that, an hour after the formalities had ended, he was still there (accompanied, as always, by his beloved wife Marie), chatting, joking and listening to anybody, young or old, who wished to bend his ear. The poetry might sometimes have been starkly rigorous, even at times coolly distant, but the man himself was always entirely accessible, with an infectiously boyish openness to life and to the multitudes of people he met down through the decades (even if this openness was tempered by an innate reticence and reserve that had him silently evaluating, though seldom judging, those to whom he was talking).

His status that night as recently elevated grand old man of Irish poetry (he had become a Nobel laureate two years previously) seemed at odds with the person who, not yet 60 then, was bearing that heavy burden. Indeed, as he grew older his personality always seemed too young for his actual years.

Along with the openness, he was also a great encourager, especially to younger poets. Paul Muldoon has recalled sending early, unpublished poems to Seamus with the request that his famous elder tell him what was wrong with them. "Nothing," came the reply.

Soon after he won the Nobel award, I bumped into him one afternoon in South Anne Street and we repaired to Kehoe's pub, where he gently but insistently berated me for not fulfilling my promise as a young poet whom he had encouraged years earlier and whose verses he had published in a magazine he edited. "Put a book together", he advised and then replied with enthusiasm to the manuscript I sent him, even to the extent of lending his approving words to the resultant book's cover.

If he had ever needed such approval himself, it wasn't obvious because his first collection, 'Death of a Naturalist', published when he was 27, had an assurance suggesting a man who knew exactly what he wanted to say and how to say it.

It conjured up a rural world that was often harsh but that was filtered through an exact and exacting eye and a humane imagination -- not least in those poems that quickly became anthology pieces, such as 'Digging' and 'Follower'.

There were instant classics, too, in the second collection, 'Door Into the Dark' (1969), but already he was widening both his concerns and his range. These extended even further in subsequent volumes, where personal lyrics took second place to considerations of the roots and nature of Northern violence.

This led in some quarters to accusations of pro-republican bias, and indeed when some of his poems were included in the '1982 Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry', he shot off a squib: "My passport's green./No glass of ours was ever raised to toast the Queen". Yet in his poem, 'The Flight Path', he's asked by an IRA sympathiser "When, for f***'s sake, are you going to write/Something for us?", and he replies "If I do write something,/Whatever it is, I'll be writing for myself".

And so he always did, and in that inimitable poetic voice that snared a wide readership not normally available to poetry. Indeed, from the start, Heaney's immediate popular success overshadowed that of the other Irish poets of his generation, and that never changed in the decades that followed -- he has loomed over modern Irish poetry just as Patrick Kavanagh did a generation earlier and WB Yeats a generation before that.

The worry over the Nobel award was that the fame inevitably attendant on it would somehow come to affect the poetry that was yet to come -- that a kind of deadening self-consciousness would creep into its making -- but that was to underestimate both the man and the poet. The poems in 'The Spirit Level' (1996), had a bracing clarity and a thrilling passion, not least in the lovely final poem, 'Postscript', which concerns a drive along the coast of Clare, where:

big soft buffetings come at the car sideways

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Indeed, there's a sense in his later work of the poet becoming less guarded as he became older and began to consider the frailty, uncertainty and preciousness of life -- his feelings about which seemed to have become more intense after he suffered a stroke some years ago.

The guardedness, though, was still there in his 1996 poem, 'A Call', which describes a visit he pays a neighbour. While waiting for the man to appear at the open door, he hears the ticking of the hall clock and he gets lost in thoughts of time and mortality. The final line reads: "Next thing he spoke and I nearly said I loved him".

That "nearly", so characteristic of Seamus Heaney, makes the poem almost unbearably poignant, though "nearly" is not a word that will be used by anybody who knew and loved this great Irish poet.

Belfast Telegraph