Pilgrimpace's Blog


… Holy Week … .
April 11, 2017, 5:21 pm
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this morning they were queuing up to get into St Bede’s for Mass

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In amongst all the pain and joy of Holy Week I am reflecting on the union and unity of it all.

Reading Seamus Heaney

So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that a farther shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells.

 

 

Suspect too much sweet talk

But never close your mind.

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turn to the light
June 17, 2016, 1:19 pm
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I went away to the Birmingham Clergy Conference with the Orlando atrocity on my mind. I came back from it to the appalling news of the murder of Jo Cox.  I continue to be deeply concerned about the state of our common life and culture as fear, hatred and aggression come to the fore.  This seems a time for reflection, a time for turning to the light, to love, of forming right, just and loving ways of living.

This morning I turned to Seamus Heaney’s North and see some clues for all this in Funeral Rites:

220px-NorthHeaney

I shouldered a kind of manhood
stepping in to lift the coffins
of dead relations.
They had been laid out

in tainted rooms,
their eyelids glistening,
their dough-white hands
shackled in rosary beads.

Their puffed knuckles
had unwrinkled, the nails
were darkened, the wrists
obediently sloped.

The dulse-brown shroud,
the quilted satin cribs:
I knelt courteously
admiting it all

as wax melted down
and veined the candles,
the flames hovering
to the women hovering
behind me.
And always, in a corner,
the coffin lid,
its nail-heads dressed

with little gleaming crosses.
Dear soapstone masks,
kissing their igloo brows
had to suffice

before the nails were sunk
and the black glacier
of each funeral
pushed away.

II

Now as news comes in
of each neighbourly murder
we pine for ceremony,
customary rhythms:

the temperate footsteps
of a cortège, winding past
each blinded home.
I would restore

the great chambers of Boyne,
prepare a sepulchre
under the cupmarked stones.
Out of side-streets and bye-roads

purring family cars
nose into line,
the whole country tunes
to the muffled drumming

of ten thousand engines.
Somnambulant women,
left behind, move
through emptied kitchens

imagining our slow triumph
towards the mounds.
Quiet as a serpent
in its grassy boulevard

the procession drags its tail
out of the Gap of the North
as its head already enters
the megalithic doorway.

III

When they have put the stone
back in its mouth
we will drive north again
past Strang and Carling fjords

the cud of memory
allayed for once, arbitration
of the feud placated,
imagining those under the hill

disposed like Gunnar
who lay beautiful
inside his burial mound,
though dead by violence

and unavenged.
men said that he was chanting
verses about honour
and that four lights burned

in corners of the chamber:
which opened then, as he turned
with a joyful face
to look at the moon.



north
April 13, 2016, 8:45 pm
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This reflection on Seamus Heaney’s North by Robert McCrum in The Guardian is worth reading.  Got me thinking about urgency, the big themes that matter, making a difference, laughing, reticence.

 



seamus heaney
August 30, 2013, 4:35 pm
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The poet Seamus Heaney has died (obituary here).  I wanted to post something about the current – terrible – situation in Syria.  As so often, poetry speaks into the disasters of human living.   This extract from Heaney’s The Cure at Troy gives me something to live out of:

Human beings suffer,
They torture one another,
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

The innocent in gaols
Beat on their bars together.
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.

So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term.

It means once in a lifetime

That justice can rise up

And hope and history rhyme.



hope and history
June 19, 2012, 7:19 pm
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I’m indebted to Andrew Teal for posting this today.  I have never been convinced by Seamus Heaney before, but this combination of him with Sophocles is incredible.  I will look again.

Human beings suffer.
They torture one another.
They get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
Can fully right a wrong
Inflicted and endured.

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.

(Seamus Heaney, from ‘The Cure at Troy’ (1990), Voices from Lemnos, IV (Chorus). In Opened Ground. Poems 1966-1996 (London: 1998, Faber & Faber, 330-331).