7 of Seamus Heaney's most inspiring verses of poetry to celebrate 82 years since his birth
Life & Style

7 of Seamus Heaney's most inspiring verses of poetry to celebrate 82 years since his birth

"THE PRESENCE of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours from all over the world."

Such is the legacy given by President Michael D Higgins of the renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney, who was born on this day in 1939.

Born in Castledawson near Belfast on 13 April, Seamus Heaney would go on to be one of the most famous Irish poets in the world, with his words inspiring the public and famous figures alike-- not least US President Joe Biden, who has often spoken of his love for the poet.

The Nobel Prize winner penned love letters to his home country, and Ireland held him in the highest regard in turn, and his poems are still studied in Irish secondary schools and colleges.

To remember the poet on this day, here are some of the late, great Seamus Heaney’s most iconic lines of poetry.


The Cure at Troy

(On hope and resilience-- a poem President Biden has referenced multiple times)

"History says, don't hope

On this side of the grave.

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme."

Requiem for the Croppies

(On the failed Irish rebellion of  1798)

"Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.

The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.

They buried us without shroud or coffin

And in August... the barley grew up out of our grave."



(Exploring Ireland's past and present through its iconic peatlands)

"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."


Gifts of Rain

(A love letter to the Irish countryside in the rain)

"The tawny guttural water

spells itself: Moyola

is its own score and consort,

bedding the locale in the utterance,

reed music, an old chanter

breathing its mists

through vowels and history."

When all the others were away at Mass

(On spending a rare moment alone with his mother preparing dinner)

"So while the parish priest at her bedside

Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying

And some were responding and some crying

I remembered her head bent towards my head,

Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives –

Never closer the whole rest of our lives."


An Open Letter

(On being included in an anthology of British poets)

"Be advised my passport’s green.

No glass of ours was ever raised

To toast the Queen."


The Railway Children

"We were small and thought we knew nothing

Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires

In the shiny pouches of raindrops,

Each one seeded full with the light

Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves

So infinitesimally scaled

We could stream through the eye of a needle."