Today marks six years since Ireland lost the great poet Seamus Heaney
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Today marks six years since Ireland lost the great poet Seamus Heaney

"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 died on this day in 2013.

The Nobel Prize winner penned love letters to his home country, and Ireland held him in the highest regard in turn.

His poems are still studied in Irish secondary schools, though learning them for the sake of repeating the words in order to win a college place does no favours to the late Mr Heaney or the students who end up viewing his masterpieces as a bother.

To remember the poet on this day, here are some of the late, great Seamus Heaney’s best words:

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Digging

(On his dream of becoming a poet rather than follow in his father’s footsteps)

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge

Through living roots awaken in my head.

But I've no spade to follow men like them.

 

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Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests.

I'll dig with it.

 

Sunlight

Now she dusts the board

with a goose’s wing,

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now sits, broad-lapped,

with whitened nails

and measling shins:

here is a space

again, the scone rising

to the tick of two clocks

 

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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

 

When all the others were away at Mass

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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

 

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Mid-Term Break

On learning of the death of his young brother from a car accident

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,

He lay in the four-foot box as in his cot.

No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

 

A four-foot box, a foot for every year.

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Gifts of 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

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breathing its mists

through vowels and history.