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Linked Verses

by Seamus Heaney

If I wasn’t there
When Barney Devlin hammered
The midnight anvil
I still can hear it: twelve blows
Struck for the millennium.
His nephew heard it
In Edmonton, Alberta:
The cellular phone
Held high as a horse’s ear,
Barney smiling to himself.
Afterwards I thought
Church bels beyond the starres heard
And then imagined
Barney putting it to me:
“You’ll maybe write a poem.”
What I’ll do instead
Is quote those waterburning
Medieval smiths:
“Huf, puf! Lus, bus! Col!” Such noise
On nights heard no one never.
And Owen Rua
Asking Seamus MacGearailt
To forge him a spade
Clear-sheened, tapered and lightsome
And ringing true as a bell.


Seamus Heaney received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His most recent books are Electric Light (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001) and Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001 (FSG, 2002). Heaney has been a resident of Dublin since 1976 but since 1981 has spent part of each year teaching at Harvard University, where in 1984 he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. (5/03)

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