Requiem for Seamus Heaney

Today I heard the news that Seamus Heaney, the great and beloved Irish poet, has died.

English: Picture of the Irish poet and Nobel P...

Seamus Heaney (by Sean O’Connor, via Wikimedia Commons)

A great sadness caught at me and I wondered why. I’d never met him, though I admired him. And then I realised that his words had moved and delighted me so often that the loss of the wordsmith would inevitably touch me. He had opened much of himself to us, his readers, and we had taken him into ourselves.

So as a tribute to him, here’s one of Seamus Heaney’s poems, Requiem for the Croppies, written about the Irish Rebellion of 1798 from the point of view of a croppy, or rebel, like Nicholas Delaney and his comrades.

Requiem for the Croppies

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley –
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp –
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching –  on the hike –
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until, on Vinegar Hill, the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August the barley grew up out of our grave.

Here’s Seamus talking to Kirsty Wark about the poem and the background to it

And here’s a version set to backing music which you might recognise; it’s Boolavogue

This one is simple and the words speak for themselves


Finally, something Heaney said in 2004: “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”


Thank you, Seamus. Rest in peace.

About rebelhand

A Rebel Hand is: about Nicholas Delaney, Irish rebel of 1798, transported as a convict to New South Wales, roadbuilder, innkeeper and farmer. My great-great-great grandfather. Other ancestors transported to Australia, like Sarah Marshall, John Simpson and James Thomas Richards, pop up as well. This blog's also about the historical background to their lives, in England, Ireland, and Australia. My respectable Welsh ancestors sometimes get a look in.
This entry was posted in 1798, Ireland and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Requiem for Seamus Heaney

  1. Catherine says:

    Vale Seamus – A beautifully written tribute… thankyou Frances 😥


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