At funeral services Monday in Dublin’s Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart for Nobel Laureate poet Seamus Heaney, who died August 30 in a Dublin hospital at the age of 74, Princeton University faculty member and prize-winning poet Paul Muldoon spoke of “the beauty of Seamus Heaney as a bard,” of his “unparalleled capacity to sweep all of us up in his arms,” and of how he “helped all of us develop our imaginative powers.”
The services were attended by government leaders from both parts of Ireland, poets, playwrights, and novelists, the rock band U2, and actor Stephen Rea, among many others. The burial took place in a country churchyard in the poet’s hometown, Bellaghy, in south Derry.
Mr. Muldoon, who met Seamus Heaney when he was 16 and the poet was 28, made special reference in his eulogy to Mr. Heaney’s family life, observing that “the Seamus Heaney who was renowned the world over was never a man who took himself too seriously, certainly not with his family and friends. He had, after all, a signal ability to make each of us feel connected not only to him but to one another.”
Seamus Heaney’s last words, to his wife, were “Don’t be afraid.”
Asked to recommend a poem to be reprinted here, Mr. Muldoon suggested “Follower,” which he called “a great poem for the occasion. We were meant to read together on September 14 in Manchester.” The event was the Conference of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry, which Mr. Muldoon will be attending. His eulogy is printed in full under “Seamus Heaney’s Beauty” on the New Yorker blog “Page Turner.”
My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.
An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck
Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.
I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.
I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.
I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.