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1 September 2014
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Poetry - Study Ireland

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KS 3 / 4 BBC TV

War

Seamus Heaney says:

'...There is a brutality and a ruthlessness and a cruelty and casualness and abusiveness about 'slashed and dumped.'...in a sense you are administering the shock to yourself as well as hopefully to the world and the reader that this is what's being done...'dumped' is a brutal ending and is meant to be.'

'...It is very true to say that work done by writers is quite often an attempt to give solid expression to that which is bothering them...They feel they have got it right if they express the stress.'

The 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

Seamus Heaney was born in 1939. He was brought up on a farm near Bellaghy, County Derry. His first book, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966 and since then he has published poetry, criticism and translations which have established him as one of the leading poets of his generation. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 was published in 1998.

The Heaney poems on this site are The Perch, The Grauballe Man and Blackberry Picking.

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