Seamus Heaney Tribute to a Great Poet

The Tollund Man
By Seamus Heaney
Listen
I

Some day I will go to Aarhus
To see his peat-brown head,
The mild pods of his eye-lids,
His pointed skin cap.

In the flat country near by
Where they dug him out,
His last gruel of winter seeds
Caked in his stomach,

Naked except for
The cap, noose and girdle,
I will stand a long time.
Bridegroom to the goddess,

She tightened her torc on him
And opened her fen,
Those dark juices working
Him to a saint’s kept body,

Trove of the turfcutters’
Honeycombed workings.
Now his stained face
Reposes at Aarhus.

II

I could risk blasphemy,
Consecrate the cauldron bog
Our holy ground and pray
Him to make germinate

The scattered, ambushed
Flesh of labourers,
Stockinged corpses
Laid out in the farmyards,

Tell-tale skin and teeth
Flecking the sleepers
Of four young brothers, trailed
For miles along the lines.

III

Something of his sad freedom
As he rode the tumbril
Should come to me, driving,
Saying the names

Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard,

Watching the pointing hands
Of country people,
Not knowing their tongue.

Out here in Jutland
In the old man-killing parishes
I will feel lost,
Unhappy and at home.

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A Snippet from my Dystopian Novella

The 8th day of each month is B-day or Bachelor’s-day. Alcohol flows and men gather in the local bars to talk about the prime S spots to enter, sharing past experiences, good and bad, and making recommendations. “Stay away from Hazelnut Street—those broads got diseases, bad ones.” Or “Got a bad scratch from Ethel on Mulberry, think it was number 55.” Or “Huckleberry Drive, new one, number 22 or 23 can’t recall. Oh, boy she’s a hot one—teen. She likes it too, I’m telling you. The mother ain’t nothin’ to speak of but she’s okay for a quick hit.”

Most of the men who gather to talk publicly about B-day are illiterates assigned to lower paying sectors. The literates, grooming for higher echelon positions such as scribes or script writers, are just as immoral but more discreet; they enter the house in the evening, quietly. Or they make prior arrangements beforehand with the woman. The single women, lonely, seeking companionship, are accustomed to B-day and grow to enjoy it, looking forward to the 8th of the month, the day that single men visit them offering company and pleasure. Sometimes, on a rare occasion, it leads to an ongoing relationship. They prepare their daughters at a young age for B-day, so that they knew what to expect.

Other mothers are appalled by B-day and fight DEF, trying to get the age increased to at least 13- years; they argue that their daughters suffer physical and psychological trauma, withdrawing and refusing to eat. Some even commit suicide. Also, there is the increased risk of permanent damage which could effect their ability to procreate; after all, it is rarely pleasant for them. DEF Officials, in response, issued a warning that if a pre-teen was hesitant or appeared unready, the bachelor was to avoid any physical contact with her. Yet, the wording as it stands is ambiguous and full of loop holes.

Even though Lester was out of sight now, I continued to Read him: The blister on his hand finally healed and now it is becoming raw again. He worries excessively about infection. Medicine is scarce. Just last week a CO had to be removed because of a hand infection. Sure, it is laborious, the scribing all day; he’d be the first to admit it, if he could. He is translating the last page of Trainieren Sie Ihren Hund, a manual about training dogs. The books aren’t relevant as dogs and most domesticated animals had become extinct due to the virus that spread from the white dust. Others were killed for their meat. The few that roam the streets are ill and violent and orders are to shoot to kill. Only DEF Animal Exterminators are allowed to do the job. Citizens are not allowed to own guns or anything that could be construed as a weapon.

All for the best. After Esther, the guns were the biggest threat to survival.

The Man on the Dump–this one is a gem by Wallace Stevens

Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up.
The sun is a corbeil of flowers the moon Blanche
Places there, a bouquet. Ho-ho…The dump is full
Of images. Days pass like papers from a press.
The bouquets come here in the papers. So the sun,
And so the moon, both come, and the janitor’s poems
Of every day, the wrapper on the can of pears,
The cat in the paper-bag, the corset, the box
From Esthonia: the tiger chest, for tea.

The freshness of night has been fresh a long time.
The freshness of morning, the blowing of day, one says
That it puffs as Cornelius Nepos reads, it puffs
More than, less than or it puffs like this or that.
The green smacks in the eye, the dew in the green
Smacks like fresh water in a can, like the sea
On a cocoanut—how many men have copied dew
For buttons, how many women have covered themselves
With dew, dew dresses, stones and chains of dew, heads
Of the floweriest flowers dewed with the dewiest dew.
One grows to hate these things except on the dump.

Now in the time of spring (azaleas, trilliums,
Myrtle, viburnums, daffodils, blue phlox) ,
Between that disgust and this, between the things
That are on the dump (azaleas and so on)
And those that will be (azaleas and so on) ,
One feels the purifying change. One rejects
The trash.

That’s the moment when the moon creeps up
To the bubbling of bassoons. That’s the time
One looks at the elephant-colorings of tires.
Everything is shed; and the moon comes up as the moon
(All its images are in the dump) and you see
As a man (not like an image of a man) ,
You see the moon rise in the empty sky.

One sits and beats an old tin can, lard pail.
One beats and beats for that which one believes.
That’s what one wants to get near. Could it after all
Be merely oneself, as superior as the ear
To a crow’s voice? Did the nightingale torture the ear,
Pack the heart and scratch the mind? And does the ear
Solace itself in peevish birds? Is it peace,
Is it a philosopher’s honeymoon, one finds
On the dump? Is it to sit among mattresses of the dead,
Bottles, pots, shoes, and grass and murmur aptest eve:
Is it to hear the blatter of grackles and say
Invisible priest; is it to eject, to pull
The day to pieces and cry stanza my stone?
Where was it one first heard of the truth? The the.

Wallace Stevens (1942)

Great writing from my favorite moralist W.H. Auden

Canibal to his Audience (W.H. Auden, The Sea and the Mirror, 1944)

Yet, at this very moment when we do at last see ourselves as we are, neither cosy nor playful, but swaying out on the ultimate wind-whipped cornice that overhangs the unabiding void–we have never stood anywhere else,–when our reasons are silenced by the heavy huge derision,–there is nothing to say. There never has been,–and our wills chuck in their hands–There is no way out. There never was,–it is at this moment that for the first time in our lives we hear, not the sounds which, as born actors, we have hitherto condescended to use as an excellent vehicle for displaying our personalities and looks, but the real Word which is our only raison d’être. Not that we have improved; everything, the massacres, the whippings, the lies, the twaddle, and all their carbon copies are still present, more obviously than ever; nothing has been reconstructed; our shame, our fear, our incorrigible staginess, all wish and no resolve, are still, and more intensely than ever, all we have: only now it is not in spite of them but with them that we are blessed by that Wholly Other Life from which we are separated by an essential emphatic gulf of which our contrived fissures of mirror and proscenium arch–we understand them at last–are feebly figurative signs, so that all our meanings are reversed and it is precisely in its negative image of Judgment that we can positively envisage Mercy; it is just here, among the ruins and the bones, that we may rejoice in the perfected Work which is not ours. Its great coherences stand out through our secular blur in all their overwhelmingly righteous obligation; its voice speaks through our muffling banks of artificial flowers and unflinchingly delivers its authentic molar pardon; its spaces greet us with all their grand old prospect of wonder and width; the working charm is the full bloom of the unbothered state; the sounded note is the restored relation.