And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown, headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And find the heart unlatched and blow it open.
Perhaps its good to
analyse the poetry you node. But this is a poem beyond words - about where our experiences outrun our powers to describe them. Poetry can speak for itself, should not always need to be dismantled and examined and tinkered with - and I want this one have its own way. As Robert Waller said "Analysis destroys wholes. Some things, magic things, are meant to stay whole. If you look at their pieces, they go away."
So I will not tell about in medias res and eye rhymes. But I can offer you some thoughts , I can offer my experiences of its setting - the west coast of Ireland. God what a beautiful place! So many feelings from the few short times I have been there. The irresistible freshness of the Atlantic breeze, the rugged timeless barren, untamed land. So many images demanding to be retold - coming down to Ballyferriter and the landscape curled up at the edges, unfolding like a map under a butter sun, the Three Sisters, heads high, looking west forever ... and coming round Slea Head on a bright and windy day, and seeing Dead Man asleep on a glittering sea... and cycling through the uplands of Donegal, past countless little mountain lakes, endlessly refilled by an unrelenting, wonderful drizzle...and walking home by starlight on a little island in West Cork, the sounds of conversation carrying two miles from the mainland over still and silent water...and sailing into the ruins of a deserted village in a little cove on a tiny island, defended by a pair of regal goats...and the stone tower in Liscannor half-deconstructed, starkly black in silhouette against an evening sky...and being discovered swimming naked by three fishermen on a beach in
the back end of nowhere, leaving with a lobster for my trouble....and walking up a valley in the McGillicuddy Reeks, seemingly deserted, miles from anywhere, and havng tea with an old woman living alone at one end....
These are the places that rise up in my mind to greet Heaney's poem. For me. For you, maybe it's Nova Scotia, or Aomori or Oregon or your father, or something else entirely. You see, I can't tell you what it means - you have to tell me.
Number 69 on the list of 100 favourite irish poems