Seamus Heaney as a poet of Modern Ireland
Seamus Heaney epitomizes the dilemma of the modern poet. In his collection of essays ‘Preoccupations’ he embarks on a search for answers to some fundamental questions regarding a poet: How should a poet live and write? What is his relationship to his own voice, his own place, his literary heritage and his contemporary world? In ‘Preoccupations’ Heaney imagines ‘Digging’ itself as having been ‘dug up’, rather than written, observing that he has ‘come to realize that it was laid down in me years ago’. In this sense, the poetic act is one of ‘retrieval’-of recovering something that already exists-rather than of creating something entirely new from whole cloth. Plagued by the moral dilemma of sympathising with the school of thought that wanted to destroy the Protestant supremacy, and being a poet, he could not condone violence. This dilemma tore him apart and gave way to a sense of fragmented identity and an inevitable nihilism. It is this sense of the repetition of cycles rooted deep in the past that attracted Heaney to Glob’s book on The Bog People. What Glob offers is an image of a pre-Christian, northern European tribal society in which ritual violence is a necessary part of the structure of life. Most of the Iron-Age bodies recovered from the Jutland Bogs and documented by Glob had been the victims of ritual killings, many of them having served as human sacrifices to the Earth Goddess Nerthus. Heaney detected a kinship between the Pagan civilizations of Jutland and Ireland’s own Celtic traditions. Heaney in a conversation affirms “Irish Catholicism is continuous with something older than Christianity”. Heaney’s first extended attempt at conflating his understanding of Glob’s Jutland rituals with his own sense of mythic and modern history comes in the ‘ Tollund Man’. The Tollund Man is one of the recovered bodies by Glob in this book. He was a victim sacrificed to Nerthus, in the hope of securing a good crop from the...
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