Seamus Heaney

Bogland Requires Real Player.

Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. This poem was written in the 1960s and concerns the 'bog', one of the few words in the English language to come from Gaelic. This recording features in 'The Living Poet', a Radio 3 programme from 1980.

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening -
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encroaching horizon,

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

They've taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They'll never dig coal here,

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

Every layer they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Reproduced by permission of Faber & Faber on behalf of Seamus Heaney.