Poet to Blacksmith

  In search of perfection – Heaney offers his version of an 18th century Irish list of ‘instructions’ given by an agricultural labourer to his ‘spade-maker’ in the confidence that the latter can engineer the bespoke tool he requires to become a champion at what he does: a side-arm to take on the earth. The spade must meet the following criteria: fit-for-purpose (suitable for digging and grubbing), comfortable in his grip (right for the hand); when taking a break (pleasant to lean on); aesthetically pleasing (tastily finished); of flawless appearance (no trace of the hammer); with the necessary elastic qualities of purchase and spring that save it from snapping; perfectly engineered where wood meets metal: The shaft to be socketed […]