Sunday, 30 May 2010

Storm On The Island - Seamus Heaney

Heaney wrote this poem in 1966, about a clifftop cottage on an island off the Irish coast, and the elemental forces to which it is exposed. I always think the language perfectly reflects the subject, especially towards the end. The last two lines will resonate with anyone who has stoked the fire while the windows rattle. They are sometimes held up as meaning that the power of a storm lies in it's unpredictability, the fear of the unknown, but for me they have more to do with the notion that a storm makes you feel alive.  

Storm On The Island

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
The wizened earth has never troubled us
With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast: you know what I mean - leaves and branches
Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale
So that you can listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo.
We are bombarded by the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

Seamus Heaney
blog comments powered by Disqus