Friday, 30 August 2013

Tribute to Seamus Heaney 1: Death of a Naturalist

Growing up in Northern Ireland part of of English Literature course was to study the works of Irish posts. Even then we had a living luminary that the world recognised who wrote sometimes about things so quintessentially about Ulster and in language that was so us (or our grandparents as some of us were urban youth) that it made us hunger for more.

Today we have learnt that the Nobel Laureate (1995) poet has passed away. As a tribute today I'll be publishing some of his works, some are the ones I learnt about in school, some are ones I came to love later. All are the essence of the man and his rural upbringing in Ulster.

Death of a Naturalist (1966)

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

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