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Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 28, 2005 01:16PM

Hi,

I'm having trouble understanding the fourth stanza of the poem - I am not sure to what "in the belly of stone ships" and "those hacked and glinting / in the gravel of thawed streams" refers to. Could stone ships be a reference to some kind of burial mounds ( or am I completly off)? Also, does "hacked and glinting" allude to archeological remains of the Viking era? I've posted the poem below.

Any help would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance,
Veronika

--

SEAMUS HEANEY:
North

I returned to a long strand,
the hammered shod of a bay,
and found only the secular
powers of the Atlantic thundering.

I faced the unmagical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland, and suddenly

those fabulous raiders,
those lying in Orkney and Dublin
measured against
their long swords rusting,

those in the solid
belly of stone ships,
those hacked and glinting
in the gravel of thawed streams

were ocean-deafened voices
warning me, lifted again
in violence and epiphany.
The longship's swimming tongue

was buoyant with hindsight -
it said Thor's hammer swung
to geography and trade,
thick-witted couplings and revenges,

the hatreds and behindbacks
of the althings, lies and women,
exhaustions nominated peace,
memory incubating the spilled blood.

It said, "Lie down
in the word-hoard, burrow
the coil and gleam
of your furrowed brain.

Compose in darkness.
Expect aurora borealis
in the long foray
but no cascade of light.

Keep you eye clear
as the bleb of the icicle,
trust the feel of what nubbed treasure
your hands have known."


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 28, 2005 01:34PM


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 28, 2005 02:03PM

Thanks, Johnny!

How about "hacked and glinting"?


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 28, 2005 08:38PM

My assumption is this refers to those not given a proper burial, but left in inaccesible waterways still with their armor or weapons


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 29, 2005 06:46PM

the hammered shod of a bay

Shod is a noun?

and found only the secular
powers

Can't be non-religious powers, so must be long-lasting?

I faced the unmagical
invitations

Unmagical? Besides not being a word that I have ever heard of, doesn't that mean every single concept in the world that is not magical? Pugnacious, possibly? I don't find that concept a bit magical. Maybe he means mundane?

the pathetic colonies

Must be a sad spectacle of some sort. Oddly, sympathetic appears unrelated.

I wouldn't have guessed the Wikipedia definition of stone ships from the context. Sounded more like petrified wood at the bottom of a body of water, as did the long swords, rusted, hacked with scars from battle and glinting there.

Behindbacks, althings and blebe are also obscure and (to me) detract from the enjoyment of reading the poem.





Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2005 06:02AM

Thank you, Johnny. You confirm my guesses.

Hugh, thank you for stopping by. Shod is primarily an adjective, but I don't see why it couldn't be used as a noun. However Heaney later in Opening Grounds changed it to "curve". I think "hammered shod of a bay" has a better, sharper, stronger ring to it than "hammered curve of a bay" - but it's not for me to decide.

I have no problem with "behindbacks, althings, blebs" - he does speak about digging deep into the word-hoard.

"Can't be non-religious powers, so must be long-lasting?"

Secular as opposed to the sacred - non religious is too narrow a description, but still closer I think than long-lasting.

"Unmagical? Besides not being a word that I have ever heard of, doesn't that mean every single concept in the world that is not magical? Pugnacious, possibly? I don't find that concept a bit magical. Maybe he means mundane?"

No, I don't think he means "pugnacious" by it. How many concepts of not magical are there? In my mind it's pretty simple - either it has a certain magic to it or it doesn't. Mundane is a bit of a stretch - but in the right direction. It also fits well with the "pathetic" colonies. So nothing for him to adimire there.

I would agree it is not the easiest poem I have ever read. But certainly an interesting one.

Since you are more of an expert on this, Hugh, would I be right to assume that the "meter" is a loose accentual one, of three or two beats per line?


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: August 30, 2005 07:40AM

Althing: The parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest assembly in Europe, first convened in 930.

Have you ever tried to to read the edda? I think he is referring to it or other nordic literature. He seems to be imitating the feel of nordic literature, which is often obscure and hard to read. And also includes creating new words:

[hem.passagen.se] />
but he doesn't seem to follow any nordic rules concerning alliteration and metre.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 30, 2005 06:49PM

Points taken, thanks! I shall have to attempt a re-reading, this time keeping my powder dry, my nose to the grindstone, and my eye clear as the bleb of the icicle.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Desi (Moderator)
Date: August 31, 2005 04:54AM

"my nose to the grindstone".... Are you feeling ok? You can't bleed all over emule, you know!

But seriously, I think I appreciate Seamus Heany, because I have been struggling through some of the same literature he has: beowulf, some old english and middle english poetry including some horrid translations.

It is the same with classical literature. I can just tell when someone is writing in a translationish style, and maybe because I have been translating myself so often from greek and latin, it doesn't seem to bother me anymore. Nonetheless, I really admire a translator who can make a piece of latin or greek sound like it has been written in english.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Chesil (192.168.128.---)
Date: August 31, 2005 09:05PM

Hugh Clary Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

Shod is a noun?

OED

1. A plate of iron fastened upon the heel of a shoe to protect it from wear; a heel-tip; more fully heel-shod.
c1840 in A. Trotter E. Galloway Sk. (1901) 102/1 There's a' things in the Jangle Box, Brass, airn, and tin, and shods o' shoon. 1912 A. McCormick Words from Wild Wood viii. 128 He had never seen heel shods like them.

Bleb was new to me, though I should have guessed, I suppose.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Veronika (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 02, 2005 06:42PM

Thanks, Johnny, Hugh, Desi, Chesil for shedding some light on it.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Avarine (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 09, 2006 03:42AM

Can someone explain the whole poem? what is Heaney alluding to? His context? Somehow it doesnt sound like he is talking about Ireland. Especially stanzas 6, 7, 8. This poem is so deep.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Hugh Clary (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 12, 2006 11:56AM

Irish poets are always talking about Ireland - that is a given. Well, that plus women and drinking and fighting, right.

I don't remember the link below being available the last time I looked at this poem, but it should be of value now:

[mural.uv.es]


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Linda (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 15, 2006 03:34PM

Somehow it doesnt sound like he is talking about Ireland.

He's talking about his viking ancestors. They founded Dublin and ruled Ireland, as well as northern England, the Western Isles and Iceland, with colonies in Greenland and America.

He looks at the sea and hears his poetic, heroic ancestors calling down the years to him, telling him to speak to his time and future.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/15/2006 03:38PM by Linda.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 15, 2006 03:38PM

Linda...as soon as you get on the forum...immediately log out, then log in, THEN everything will be fine


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: Linda (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 15, 2006 03:39PM

Thanks. I went on holiday and when I came back everything had changed.


Re: Query: Seamus Heaney's North
Posted by: JohnnySansCulo (192.168.128.---)
Date: September 15, 2006 04:05PM

Yes, it's your fault. Totally !




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