Seamus Heaney, the Irish poet who won The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, died last week aged 74. His 1966 poems Death of a Naturalist give the essence of his early life tending the soil as a farmer’s son:

Between my fingers and my thumb, the squat pen rests

I’ll dig with it.

From then onwards he turned his art to the Irish landscape, its history and hardship.

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Waterlogged valleys across Ireland since the last ice-age have formed thousands of raised bogs across the country. For centuries the dead vegetation accumulated in these bogs as peat, and this poor fuel became the main source of energy for the people of Heaney’s beloved Ireland.

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Bogland 1969:

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening–
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encrouching 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.

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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.

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2 comments on “Bogland

  1. This is a very cool blog, right up my alley, so glad to find it!

  2. Reblogged this on Margaret Langstaff and commented:
    As an afterword and for deeper background (pardon the pun) to the previous post on Heaney…from a very interesting blog

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