MOVING BACKWARDS TO REACH FORWARDS: SEAMUS HEANEY AND THE LIVING PAST
Keywords:Seamus Heaney, Northern Ireland, The Troubles, past, future, violece, sacrifice, mythology
violence and sectarianism, unfortunately, represent an encumbering yoke from which Northern Ireland has been struggling to liberate itself for the past fifty years (since the Troubles began in the late 60s). Seamus Heaney’s poetry is no exception. This paper focuses on some of his poems dealing with these issues, especially those written in the years following the first cease-fire in Northern Ireland (1994), which, by revisiting the past, foresaw a new future for Ireland. This move backwards to reach forwards is practised at different levels. Not only does Heaney look back in history (ancient Greece, for example) to rediscover new horizons to the impasse in Northern Ireland, but he also revisits his own poems and personal experiences, positing some sort of magic foreknowledge acquired in childhood which helps the adult poet to come to terms with his troublesome present, as well as to point towards “a new beginning” (Heaney 1996:69) in Irish history.
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