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Seamus Heaney and the ClassicsBann Valley Muses$
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Stephen Harrison, Fiona Macintosh, and Helen Eastman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780198805656

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198805656.001.0001

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‘Weird Brightness’ and the Riverbank

‘Weird Brightness’ and the Riverbank

Seamus Heaney, Virgil, and the Need for Translation

(p.160) 11 ‘Weird Brightness’ and the Riverbank
Seamus Heaney and the Classics

Peter McDonald

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with a reading from a Virgilian perspective of the third section of the title poem from Heaney’s Seeing Things (1991): here, the poet gives an account of his own early memory of his father after an accident, coming back ‘undrowned’ from the river into which he had toppled on a cart. The chapter will examine in more detail a relevant passage from Heaney’s late translation of Aeneid VI (Virgil’s encounter with Charon). Next, section XI of the ‘Route 110’ sequence (in Human Chain (2010)) will be read in relation to the river motif, and there will be a discussion of Heaney’s term ‘translation’ in that poem, with consideration of its purchase of some fundamental aspects of his poetic theory and practice. The chapter will continue to a reading of an uncollected late piece, ‘The City’, in which Heaney reflects on (amongst other things) the differences between Virgilian and Homeric angles on poetry and suffering, and it will finish with an analysis of the first section (‘Sidhe’) of the Human Chain poem ‘Wraiths’, in order to focus on the poet’s reconciliation of both Virgilian and Irish elements of a metaphysical poetic.

Keywords:   Heaney, Virgil, Aeneid, river, suffering

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