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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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Heaney and Hesiod

Heaney and Hesiod

(p.38) 4 Heaney and Hesiod
Seamus Heaney and the Classics

Rowena Fowler

Oxford University Press

Heaney acknowledges an affinity with the farmer-poet, the source of a literary tradition which is inspired but rooted: rural and provincial rather than courtly, urban, or cosmopolitan. Distinguishing between ‘rural’ and ‘pastoral’, he draws connections between Hesiod and Kavanagh, Burns and Clare, poets who influenced and authenticated his own style. I explore the relation of poetic vocation to agricultural labour, discussing the encounter with the Muses in the Theogony and the Works and Days and its resonances in Heaney’s writing from the early ‘Personal Helicon’ to Human Chain. Heaney (like Hesiod) returns most often to the ‘expert’ art of the ploughman; I show how the shape and achievement of the ploughed field mirror those of the poem. I conclude with Heaney’s recognition of Hesiod in the ‘Sonnets from Hellas’.

Keywords:   Heaney, Hesiod, farmer-poet, ploughing, poetry, Kavanagh

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