Turpin Song

The poem is built around an emblematic eighteenth century horse-pistol that sat on a wall in the Heaney family home, long an object of both mystery and interest to Heaney and his siblings. Heaney recalls the weapon in great detail: the intricate decoration of its grip (brass inlay smooth in the stock); its primed state (hammers cocked like lugs); the patterning (mottled) of its twin barrels; the evidence of discharge (sooty nostrilled) and its angled readiness for a duel (levelled). Deliberately placed beyond reach of young curiosity (bracketed over the door) in an upstairs room, it was viewed as an imitation weapon with weight and mass (ghost  heft) that children’s itchy fingers longed to feeI and could imagine themselves handling […]