Tag Archives: Heaney

From the Box: Seamus Heaney

(For an explanation of what ‘From the Box’ is about, click here)

I found this poem in Heaney’s ‘Opened Ground’ collection (though it’s originally from ‘The Haw Lantern’.) On the back of my edition there is this quote from the critic John Carey:

“More than any other poet since Wordsworth he can make us understand that the outside world is not outside, but what we are made of.”

I know it’s not exactly unexpected that Romanticism would make some kind of showing on this blog, but you have to admit that the whole romantic gang did a damn good job of finding strange and creative ways to talk about the “inner” (and yes, I guess my interpretation of what’s going on in the below poem might run the other way from Carey.)

Still, all that aside, this poem just hits me somewhere. Particularly the second half of the first verse.

Grotus and Coventina

Far from home Grotus dedicated an altar to Coventina                                                       Who holds in her right hand a waterweed                                                                                   And in her left a pitcher spilling out a river.                                                                               Anywhere Grotus looked at running water he felt at home                                                 And when he remembered the stone where he cut his name                                               Some dried-up course beneath his breastbone started                                                        Pouring and darkening- more or less the way                                                                          The thought of his stunted altar works on me.

Remember when our electric pump gave out,                                                                           Priming it with bucketfuls, our idiotic rage                                                                               And hangdog phone-calls to the farm next door                                                                       For somebody please to come and fix it?                                                                                    And when it began to hammer on again,                                                                                     Jubilation at the tap’s full force, the sheer                                                                                  Given fact of water, how you felt you’d never                                                                            Waste one drop but know its worth better always.                                                                 Do you think we could run through all that one more time?                                               I’ll be Grotus, you be Coventina.