Seamus Heaney was the lyrical Virgilian guide for a bewildered Irish generation.
A squeak of light. Ocean air looking to come inland, to test its influence on the salty farms waking. Mist lifts. The distance reappears; in an hour or so someone will say crystal clear even though there is no truth in it since even now the ground is clouding ions and atoms. The sun is up; day begins. Someone else says dry as dust but this is outside Dublin in summer and last night’s storm left clay and water mixed together. The afternoon is long and warm. The air is sweet; the branch of one tree angles to its own heavy fruit.
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, not to mention vehicles and animals—had all one fine day gone under? I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then. Surely a great city must have been missed? I miss our old city— white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting under fanlights and low skies to go home in it—Maybe what really happened is this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word to convey that what is gone is gone forever and never found it.
In those years I owned a blue plate, blue from the very edges to the centre ocean-blue, the sort of under-wave blue a mermaid could easily dive down into and enter. When I looked at the plate I saw the mouth of a harbour, an afternoon without a breath of air, the evening clear all the way to Howth and back, the sky a paler blue further to the south. Consider the kind of body that enters blueness, made out of dead-end myth and mischievous whispers of an old, borderless existence where the body's meaning was both more and less. Sea-trawler, land-siren: succubus to all the dreams land has of oce