Friday, 6 September 2013

Day 413: The Ties of Love

 'Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable...'

I love this poem of Heaney's, illustrating the love between a father and son, through the simple silent act of tying a harvest bow. To Heaney, the bow is more than just a prop - it is a teller, a talisman, that throws light on the person who made it, as well as being an artifact of both memory and love.

The Harvest Bow - Seamus Heaney

As you plaited the harvest bow
You implicated the mellowed silence in you
In wheat that does not rust
But brightens as it tightens twist by twist
Into a knowable corona,
A throwaway love-knot of straw.

Hands that aged round ashplants and cane sticks
And lapped the spurs on a lifetime of game cocks
Harked to their gift and worked with fine intent
Until your fingers moved somnambulant:
I tell and finger it like braille,
Gleaning the unsaid off the palpable,

And if I spy into its golden loops
I see us walk between the railway slopes
Into an evening of long grass and midges,
Blue smoke straight up, old beds and ploughs in hedges,
An auction notice on an outhouse wall—
You with a harvest bow in your lapel,

Me with the fishing rod, already homesick
For the big lift of these evenings, as your stick
Whacking the tips off weeds and bushes
Beats out of time, and beats, but flushes
Nothing: that original townland
Still tongue-tied in the straw tied by your hand.

The end of art is peace
Could be the motto of this frail device
That I have pinned up on our deal dresser—
Like a drawn snare
Slipped lately by the spirit of the corn
Yet burnished by its passage, and still warm.


  1. "I see us walking between the railway slopes / into an evening of long grass and midges..."

    It's lines like that that make me love Heaney so much. So simple and elegant, and so vivid, too.

  2. Yep, he could create a scene in a few simple words. I love this poem, one of my favourites!


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