Sunday, September 07, 2008

In praise of ...



Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.

Under my window a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbed
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rotted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade,
Just like his old man.

My grandfather could cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up

To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, digging down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slap
Of soggy neat the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.

I'll dig with it.

Seamus Heaney


  1. I echo that sentiment. Thanks for sharing, this is a marvellous poem.

  2. I would rather be the one with the pen than the one with the spade any day.

    Shall I echo me too? Dare I? Yes.

  3. Jams, Chris, Janice, Ardent, jmb,

    so we are six. :)
    Seriously, I am very glad you like this poem, too. Sláinte.

  4. I love this poem too :-)

    Now we are seven ;-)

  5. Ha ha, Cherrypie. Welcome to the club. :)

    PS: In Germany you need seven people to found a club.

  6. I didn't know about the seven, but for some reasons that number feels right!

  7. You are a romanticus a la Goethe..))

  8. Cherrypie,
    the rule has only been implemented as otherwise whenever two Germans meet they would found a club. :)

    deep in my heart I seem to be one, and at times I would not - can't? :) - hide it.
    If at all, I do feel closer to Schiller, though.

    Thanks for sharing my delight ... like I do share your appreciation of Dylan Thomas.

  9. I have enjoyed both types of digging, though not for a long time. , .