English Literature


For some context on Seamus Heaney, see the Context section of Storm on the Island

The Poem


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Perch on their water-perch hung in the clear Bann RiverNear the clay bank in alder-dapple and waver,Perch we called 'grunts', little flood-slubs, runty and ready,I saw and I see in the river's glorified bodyThat is passable through, but they're bluntly holding the pass,Under the water-roof, over the bottom, adoze,Guzzling the current, against it, all muscle and slurIn the finland of perch, the fenland of alder, on airThat is water, on carpets of Bann stream, on holdIn the everything flows and steady go of the world.


Percha common spiny-finned freshwater fish
Bann River (line 1)the River Bann in Northern Ireland, famous for course fishing
slubs (line 3)lumps in skeins of wool, yarn or thread
runty (line 3)small and thick-set
fenland (line 8)marshy shallows along the edge of the river

The poem describes perch apparently 'perching' in the river, just as they did when Heaney was a boy. They seem to stay still and are apparently unchanging, in contrast to the fast-moving world.

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