Dedicated to the memory of Ted Hughes, the piece is concerned with two poets: their differing backgrounds, personalities and cultures, the respect felt, the reverence generated, the tributes due. Heaney acknowledges the ‘electrifying’ effect Hughes ’ work had on him, knows well his humble background, his modest fortune, his unfortunate private life and his dourness of personality. Heaney teases with his title: beyond the obvious reference to a boat’s rear end, ‘stern’ might also describe Hughes’ earthy dourness. Finally deliberately or otherwise the title contains the sonic echo of  Eliot’s ‘middle’ name  Stearns; Heaney has posed a question to Hughes about the time he met T.S. Eliot. Heaney quotes Hughes’ actual response (DOD p.406): like standing on a quay watching […]