Seamus Heaney
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DUBLIN (AP) — To all lovers of the perfectly weighed word, Seamus Heaney offered hope on this side of the grave.

Heaney, 74, died Friday in a Dublin hospital some 18 years after he won the Nobel prize for literature and gained global recognition as Ireland's greatest poet since William Butler Yeats.

He left behind a half-century's body of work that sought to capture the essence of his experience: the sour smells and barren beauty of Irish landscapes, the haunting loss of loved ones and of memory itself, and the tormented soul of his native Northern Ireland.

As one of the world's premier classicists, he translated and interpreted ancient works of Athens and Rome for modern eyes and ears. A bear of a man with a signature mop of untamed silvery hair, he gave other writers and fans time, attention, advice — and left a legacy of one-on-one, life-changing moments encouraged by his self-deprecating, common-man touch.

"He was a wonderful nature poet, a love poet, and a war poet. He certainly addressed the darkness of what we call 'the troubles'," said Michael Longley, a Belfast poet and longtime Heaney confidant, who recalled chatting happily with Heaney over whiskey and pints of beer earlier this month at a western Irish literary festival.

"I told him I'd been re-reading his early works from the 1960s, and I just couldn't believe that as a young man he was capable of writing such miracles. He continued to write miracles throughout his life," Longley said. "He was a poet of extraordinary complexity and profundity, so it's surprising and remarkable that he also could be so popular. ... It's not popular, poetry. Seamus made it popular."

Heaney rarely turned down requests to speak, and kept globe-trotting to university lectures and cultural seminars despite a 2006 stroke that forced him, temporarily, to slow down. Audiences sought to hear his readings in person, delivered in his melodic baritone. He inspired respect and love.

"We cannot adequately express our profound sorrow at the loss of one of the world's greatest writers," said Heaney's London publisher, Faber & Faber. "His impact on literary culture is immeasurable. As his publisher we could not have been prouder to publish his poetry over nearly 50 years. He was nothing short of an inspiration to the company, and his friendship over many years is a great loss."

The eldest of nine children from a County Tyrone farming village, Heaney went to Catholic boarding school in Northern Ireland's second-largest city, Londonderry, a bitterly divided community that soon became the crucible of "the troubles," the quaint local euphemism for a four-decade conflict over the British territory that has claimed more than 3,700 lives.

His early work was rooted in vivid description of rural experience, such as in 1966's collection "Death of a Naturalist," when his poem "Digging" describes his father's labor cutting turf bricks from a bog — and concludes with his own decision to work with a pen, not a shovel.

"Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I'll dig with it."

As Northern Ireland's sectarian divisions exploded into civil war in the early 1970s, Heaney's writing grew more sociological and political as he dug into the slippery psychology of his homeland.

In 1972, the most deadly year of Northern Ireland's conflict, Heaney left his academic post in Queen's University in Belfast to settle in the Republic of Ireland. That year, he published "Wintering Out," a collection of poems that offered only oblique references to the bloodshed.

His follow-up 1975 collection, "North," offered much more direct commentary on the conflict. His poem "Whatever You Say Say Nothing" became a Northern Ireland catch phrase for the art of concealing one's loyalty — whether Irish Catholic or British Protestant — in response to strangers' probing questions.

His most quoted work may be from "The Cure at Troy," a 1991 adaptation of a Greek play by Sophocles set in the Trojan War. His version, rooted in Northern Ireland, sought to draw a line under a conflict that featured Irish Republican Army hunger strikes and the IRA killing of hundreds of police officers.

"A hunger-striker's father stands in the graveyard dumb. The police widow in veils faints at the funeral home. History says, Don't hope on this side of the grave. But then, once in a lifetime the longed for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme."

Scores of world leaders have borrowed those lines in their peacemaking speeches. John Hume, a Northern Ireland leader of the Irish nationalist side who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1998, said Heaney's work offered "a special channel for repudiating violence, injustice and prejudice, and urging us all to the better side of our human nature."

Heaney was the fourth Irishman to win the Nobel prize for literature, joining Yeats, Samuel Beckett and George Bernard Shaw.

Heaney's focus on the approaching inevitability of death was evident in his final collection of poems, "Human Chain," published in 2010. One stanza reflected on the recent death of a longtime friend:

"The door was open and the house was dark Wherefore I called his name, although I knew The answer this time would be silence."

In 2011, he donated the files of his life's work to the National Library of Ireland, including all written and typed manuscripts and revisions from 1963 to 2010, his scripts of university lectures, and his myriad projects translating the work of non-English poets from ancient Greece to modern Poland.

And in one of his final public appearances this month at an event celebrating Yeats, he initially described "Human Chain" as "my last book" — then, with a wry chuckle, switched his words to "my latest collection." While hundreds had brought copies of his works seeking his signature, he unusually declined.

Heaney is survived by his wife, Marie, and children Christopher, Michael and Catherine. Funeral arrangements were not announced.

Online: Heaney archive,

SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press

Copyright © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Published in Boston Herald on Aug. 30, 2013.
Memories & Condolences
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50 entries
September 21, 2016
Valenda Newell
April 28, 2014
Dear Mrs. Heaney,
I am so sorry for the loss of your husband. Even though I did not know him personally I feel a great connection to Ireland through his poetry. I have declaimed two of his poems this year at school; "Digging" and "Exposure". I like these poems because they bring me back to Ireland, where both of my parents were born. Your husband was a great poet and will remain in Irish history forever. Seamus was an inspiration to me and many others. He will be missed very much by all people around the world.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.
My deepest sympathy,
Maggie O'Byrne
April 18, 2014
I was in Ireland during your passing, there is a poetry reading 24 April on Bainbridge Island WA, USA
where poets including myself explore the theme for National Poetry month: "Do not be afraid". You are an inspiration, always. God Bless you and your family.
Joanne Pramhus
March 30, 2014
Please accept my sincere condolences on the death of your dear love one. “And no resident will say: I am sick…” Isa 33. In this time of a loss of someone special in our lives be comforted to know God cares and will help us endure through his love with comfort and peace. We miss this talented person whom many no doubt respected and admired.
September 5, 2013
With deepest sympathy to the family during your time of sorrow. God is for us a refuge and strength. (Psalms 91:2) May you find the needed strength from God, family and friends.
September 5, 2013
May you find eternal peace and happiness in heaven. God bless.
Pat Fiorill
September 4, 2013
Homeless Adult Students in the East Bay spent 6 weeks reading "Beowulf" in your translation. I have not taught a more exciting class. At its end we read "Digging". Your words lifted them out of their fraught world and into yours. You are with us in all ways. Thank you, Seamus
George Davis
September 3, 2013
Ireland and the world is richer because of your words!
September 3, 2013
Deepest sympathy to the Heaney family. May he rest in peace.
Rita Fahy
September 3, 2013
Now, there's a poet. RIP
Peter McKenzie-Brown
September 3, 2013
Our deepest condolences to the Heaney family on the too soon loss of your beloved husband and father,Seamus Heaney .Our wonderful memories and our Catholic Faith can bring us hope of happy reunion one day.

I picture Seamus being greeted in heaven by the smile and open arms of Adele Dalsimer, Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Boston College Irish Studies Program.
They were the two most enthusiastic, joyful and kind people who for decades gave the Boston College community a greater understanding and appreciation of our Irish heritage in all its wonderful aspects. To a college founded to educate the sons of Irish immigrants they brought a knowledge of the greatness of the Irish people throughout the centuries and to the present day to life.

We wish to share with you the same empathy expressed in "A Brigid's Girdle-For Adele" at this very sad and difficult time.
With gratitude to all his family for sharing him with the world.
God Bless you always,
Nancy and Jack Joyce
Friends of Boston College Irish Studies
Nancy and Jack Joyce
September 3, 2013
I will always treasure an evening of poetry reading with Mr. Heaney in the 1980s at the University of South Carolina.
Mary Jane Burdette
September 3, 2013
The family have my deepest sympathy for their loss. May Mr. Heaney sleep in peace until our Father who is in the heavens says "Wake Up["
September 2, 2013
You belong to this green land, always, for this being, and before and after. And beyond immortality, are your poems, and love and passion for this land. May you rest in peace.
K Li
September 2, 2013
May the peace of God comfort the family.
Kathy Atlanta, GA
September 2, 2013
All I can think to sa at this loss is a quote from Emily Dickinson "Unable are the loved to die for love is immortality." Proud that he is one of my country man. An admirer --John P.
September 2, 2013
RIP Seamus Heaney!!
William O'Hearn
September 2, 2013
May you find comfort in Eccl. 9:5-6. Mr. Heaney is at peace and in no pain. Your family have my condolences.
September 2, 2013
Very sad to see a bright light gone out. But his poetry will never be diminished. His work has touched many including myself. I had the fortune to hear him performing the "poet and Piper" many years ago. In remembrance, below is a Chinese translation I made for his poem "Digging"







Qiling Xu
September 1, 2013
Green grass blue skies cool breezes
Ronald LaCanfora
September 1, 2013
Go with God

Let silence descend over
The bleeding cut of division.
Heaney is dead.
No more of his digging
The pen welded to his thought
Now come an understanding
Even Poets are not immortal.
Paper and Universe erode
What is left is a whisper
A something that was
The poetry of Irelands Poet.

A curious sense of loss occcur. The poem Digging. Gave rise to a long poem years ago.

Sorry I am to see you gone
maolcolum bascher
September 1, 2013
Alice Guckian Queen
September 1, 2013
Sincere sympathy to wife, family and many friends. Attend his poetry session in Cork city in 1970s. V. Fraser
September 1, 2013
Dear Heaney family we are sorry for your loss. May the comfort and strength only God can give be with you in the days ahead.
September 1, 2013
Melanie Wheaton family
August 31, 2013
Deora Dé
Bhí tú lách, an rud is tábhachtaí, is mhínigh tú áilleacht dúinn. Bhí focail beo id' rang is d'imríomar leo is bhlasamar a mbinneas. Thuig tú muintearas is chuir tú anam na nGael i bhfilíocht. Beidh mé féin agus an saol i gcónaí fíor-bhuíoch.
Sólás dúinn go léir.
Caitríona Weafer
August 31, 2013
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
irene rev.21:4
August 31, 2013
I am sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept my condolences and may the God of all comfort strengthen you.
August 31, 2013
A literary hero of mine! RIP!
August 31, 2013
One day God will take away sickness and death and we will all have the privilege to live happily and health forever. May that promise bring you comfort.(John 6:40)
August 31, 2013
My condolences to the family. John 5:28
August 31, 2013
Marie and family,sorry for your premature loss.Had a bit of a yarn with him at Battell Chapel Yale University some years ago.My mother came from Ballymackpeake Bellaghy.Spent more time with him than we should have,but we both enjoyed the moment..May he rest in peace.
Charlie O'Hagan and family
August 31, 2013
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
Matthew McGuire
August 31, 2013
Another star brightens the sky in heaven now. We thank Seamus Heaney, R.I.P for his legacy of poetry left to the world that so admired and honored him. May God grant him eternal rest. May God bless his loving wife and children.

May Ireland always pay tribute to his life, legacy of literature as the world paid tribute to him in his lifetime and now forever.

Jacqueline Collins Beusse
Jacqueline Collins Beusse
August 31, 2013
May your hearts soon be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times together as you celebrate a life well lived.
G. Freeman
August 31, 2013
With deepest sympathy to the Heaney family during your time of grief...God is for you a refuge and strength, A help that is there to be found during difficult times...May God provide you with peace and comfort to endure the days ahead...(Psalm 62:8).
August 31, 2013
So! A finer night I've yet to have: Seamus Heaney reading his work followed by a nice reception behind the stage and a glorious time at dinner in NightTown in Cleveland Heights as a small group of us gathered to welcome, entertain and schmooze with the Nobel Laureate himself! We did as we wished: told stories, sang ballads, drank whiskey and pints....and a fine time was had by all! I was so moved...our conversation is one I will hold in my heart all of my life....he spoke to me as if he were sitting in my dining room, asking to pass the easy, so grand....
Safe home Seamus Heaney, safe home.
eileen corrigan
August 31, 2013
I've always had a soft side for beautiful poetry although i'm more of an artist. May God be with you and your family.(Read John 5:25)
Solomon Y.
August 31, 2013
Dear Heaney Family,
I'm so sorry about the loss of your loved one. (Eccl. 9:11, 12). Always pray to the Hearer of Prayer. - Psalms 65:2; 83:18.
E Harris
August 31, 2013
To the family: May you rely on God to give you peace and comfort. .. Psalms 65:2
August 31, 2013
Ireland lost a giant but that giant's words will never be lost. How wonderful that we will always be able to read his poems and be inspired to not let the voice be silent. Even in the Troubles, he gave words to those who needed to remain safe: Whatever you say, say nothing. We lost his voice but not his lessons.
August 31, 2013
My deepest sympathies for the fam and friends.
August 31, 2013
August 30, 2013
God bless, and thank you, Seamus Heaney, for your poetry that is so intimate yet universally grounded in the earth we all share.
Tevis Jones
August 30, 2013
I am so sorry to hear of your loss. May you be comforted by the words at Jeremiah 29:11.
August 30, 2013
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
Bible Student
August 30, 2013
God Bless You Sweet Soul.
August 30, 2013
in God's care rest in peace
Dwayne Bickham
August 30, 2013
To the Jeanette family, I am truly sorry for your loss.
Ms. Alexander
August 30, 2013
So? I had the extraordinary pleasure of meeting Seamus at the Lenoir Rhyne University Visiting Writers Group; to have a photo with him; to hear him read "Digging" and explain his sentiments; to have a signed and autographed copy of BEOWULF where his inscription was brief,"So?" "So. The Spear-Danes in days gone by and the kings who ruled them had courage and greatness." A joyful time for me with such a gifted humble nice man. RIP.
Jack Curry
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