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Seamus Heaney quotes (showing 1-30 of 61)

“If you have the words, there's always a chance that you'll find the way.”
Seamus Heaney, Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney
“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.”
Seamus Heaney
“It is always better
to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning.
For every one of us, living in this world
means waiting for our end. Let whoever can
win glory before death. When a warrior is gone,
that will be his best and only bulwark.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
“Walk on air against your better judgement.”
Seamus Heaney
“I can't think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people's understanding of what's going on in the world.”
Seamus Heaney
“Behaviour that's admired
is the path to power among people everywhere.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
“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
“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what's said and what's done.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
“The end of art is peace.”
Seamus Heaney
“If self is a location, so is love:
Bearings taken, markings, cardinal points,
Options, obstinacies, dug heels, and distance,
Here and there and now and then, a stance.”
Seamus Heaney, District and Circle
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.”
Seamus Heaney, Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996
“Now it’s high watermark
and floodtide in the heart
and time to go.
The sea-nymphs in the spray
will be the chorus now.
What’s left to say?

Suspect too much sweet-talk
but never close your mind.
It was a fortunate wind
that blew me here. I leave
half-ready to believe
that a crippled trust might walk

and the half-true rhyme is love.”
Seamus Heaney, The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles' Philoctetes
“All I know is a door into the dark”
Seamus Heaney
“I rhyme… to see myself, to set the darkness echoing.”
Seamus Heaney
“Sink every impulse like a bolt. Secure
The bastion of sensation. Do not waver
Into language. Do not waver in it.”
Seamus Heaney
“There is risk and truth to yourselves and the world before you. ”
Seamus Heaney
“The main thing is to write
for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust
that imagines its haven like your hands at night
dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here.”
Seamus Heaney, Station Island
“The aim of poetry and the poet is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual into the larger work of the community as a whole.”
Seamus Heaney
“So hope for a great sea-change
On the far side of revenge.
Believe that further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
And cures and healing wells.”
Seamus Heaney
“It is difficult at times to repress the thought that history is about as instructive as an abattoir; that Tacitus was right and that peace is merely the desolation left behind after the decisive operations of merciless power.”
Seamus Heaney, Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture
“I suppose I'm saying that defiance is actually part of the lyric job”
Seamus Heaney
“I shall gain glory or die.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
“A ring-whorled prow rode in the harbour,
ice-clad, outbound, a craft for a prince.
They stretched their beloved lord in his boat,
laid out by the mast, amidships,
the great ring-giver. Far fetched treasures
were piled upon him, and precious gear.
I have never heard before of a ship so well furbished
with battle tackle, bladed weapons
and coats of mail. The massed treasure
was loaded on top of him: it would travel far
on out into the ocean's sway.
They decked his body no less bountifully
with offerings than those first ones did
who cast him away when he was a child
and launched him alone over the waves.
And they set a gold standard up
high above his head and let him drift
to wind and tide, bewailing him
and mourning their loss. No man can tell,
no wise man in hall or weathered veteran
knows for certain who salvaged that load.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf: A New Verse Translation
“In off the moors, down through the mist beams, god-cursed Grendel came greedily loping.”
Seamus Heaney, Beowulf
“The dotted line my father's ashplant made
On Sandymount Strand
Is something else the tide won't wash away.”
Seamus Heaney
“Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.”
Seamus Heaney, Death of a Naturalist
“Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

-Blackberry picking”
Seamus Heaney
“History says, Don't hope/On this side of the grave/But then, once in a lifetime/The longest-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 in miracles....”
Seamus Heaney
“We want what the woman wanted in the prison queue in Leningrad, standing there with cold and whispering for fear, enduring the terror of Stalin's regime and asking the poet Anna Akhmatova if she could describe it all, if her art was equal to it.”
Seamus Heaney, Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture
“It is said that once upon a time St. Kevin was kneeling with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross in Glendalough. . . As Kevin knelt and prayed, a blackbird mistook his outstretched hand for some kind of roost and swooped down upon it, laid a clutch of eggs in it and proceeded to nest in it as if it were the branch of a tree. Then, overcome with pity and constrained by his faith to love all creatures great and small, Kevin stayed immobile for hours and days and nights and weeks, holding out his hand until the eggs hatched and the fledging grew wings, true to life if subversive of common sense, at the intersection of natural process and the glimpsed ideal, at one and the same time a signpost and a reminder. Manifesting that order of poetry where we can at last grow up to that which we stored up as we grew.”
Seamus Heaney, Crediting Poetry: The Nobel Lecture

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Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 Opened Ground
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