Sunday, 5 October 2014

Day 808: Canal Calm

 Banks of a Canal, near Naples, c. 1872 by Gustave Caillebotte.
 Banks of a Canal - Gustave Caillebotte, 1872

A treat for today. Here is Seamus Heaney's last ever poem he wrote for inclusion in The National Gallery of Ireland's anthology of writers on paintings to celebrate its 150th anniversary, out tomorrow. (You can read more about the anthology 'Lines of Vision: Irish Writers on Art' here: )

Heaney's choice was Gustave Caillebotte's 'Banks of a Canal' (above) and the result is an evocative calm verse that features his trademark verbal sparkle and pious attention to landscape detail. I just love 'grassy zest of verges' , the declarative 'peaceable' and the surprising accuracy of 'coolth' (a pleasantly low temperature) - don't you? The entire poem is a meditation on calm, beautifully paced and worded, in typical Heaney style. Perfect for an ambling Sunday.

Banks of a Canal - Seamus Heaney 

Say ‘canal’ and there’s that final vowel
Towing silence with it, slowing time
To a walking pace, a path, a whitewashed gleam
Of dwellings at the skyline. World stands still.
The stunted concrete mocks the classical.
Water says, ‘My place here is in dream,
In quiet good standing. Like a sleeping stream,
Come rain or sullen shine I’m peaceable.’
Stretched to the horizon, placid ploughland,
The sky not truly bright or overcast:
I know that clay, the damp and dirt of it,
The coolth along the bank, the grassy zest
Of verges, the path not narrow but still straight
Where soul could mind itself or stray beyond.

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