Seamus Heaney 1939 - 2013How sad that Seamus Heaney has died at what is not a great age at all. He would have been such a wonderful, gracious, inspiring ninety-year-old.
Seamus Heaney introduces 'As The Team's Headbrass' with this passage, showing his characteristic
'every-dayness', erudition, wide-ranging sphere of reference and generosity.
Edward Thomas on the Lagans Road
On the grass-crowned road, the whip of daisy heads
On the toes of boots.
Behind the hedge
Eamon Murphy and Teresa Brennan -
Fully clothed, strong-arming each other -
Have sensed him and gone quiet. I keep on watching
As they rise and go.
And now the road is empty.
Nothing but air and light between their love-nest
And the bracken hillside where I lie alone.
Utter evening, as it was in the beginning,
Until the remembered come and go of lovers
Brings on his long-legged self on the Lagans Road -
Edward Thomas in his khaki tunic
Like one of the Evans brothers out of Leitrim,
Demobbed, 'not much changed', sandy moustached and freckled
From being, they said, with Monty in the desert.
'The Lagan's Road ran for about three quarters of a mile across an area of wetlands. It was one of those narrow country roads with weeds in the middle, grass verges and high hedges on either side, and all around it marsh and rushes and little shrubs and birch trees. For a minute or two every day, therefore you were in the wilderness...'
It must have known the road he knew first and earliest, as he describes going along it on his first day at school, minded by a neighbour's daughter, and hearing the shouts of children from half- a mile away.
The river Lagan is a tidal river west of Belfast.
As the Team's Head- Brass
The lovers disappeared into the wood.
I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm
That strewed the angle of the fallow, and
Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square
Of charlock. Every time the horses turned
Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned
Upon the handles to say or ask a word,
About the weather, next about the war.
Scraping the share he faced towards the wood,
And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed
The blizzard felled the elm whose crest
I sat in, by a woodpecker's round hole,
The ploughman said. 'When will they take it away? '
'When the war's over.' So the talk began –
One minute and an interval of ten,
A minute more and the same interval.
'Have you been out? ' 'No.' 'And don't want to, perhaps? '
'If I could only come back again, I should.
I could spare an arm, I shouldn't want to lose
A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so,
I should want nothing more...Have many gone
From here? ' 'Yes.' 'Many lost? ' 'Yes, a good few.
Only two teams work on the farm this year.
One of my mates is dead. The second day
In France they killed him. It was back in March,
The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if
He had stayed here we should have moved the tree.'
'And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another world.' 'Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all all might seem good.' Then
The lovers came out of the wood again:
The horses started and for the last time
I watched the clods crumble and topple over
After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.
Here's an extract from my novel: