An Old Refrain

Two poems akin to folk songs: the first celebrating the lush perennial vegetation growing in profusion along the byways of Heaney’s childhood; the second listing an array of images and sensations the poet associates with familiar dialect words. i The poem focuses on the vetch plant he knows from childhood as Robin-run-the-hedge. Its fading straggle/ Of Lincoln green is reminiscent of the legend of the eponymous Robin Hood, whose men ranged Sherwood forest dressed in their particular shade of colour. Heaney has observed how the plant’s runners and branched tendrils invade the undergrowth like English stitchwork/ Unravelling. For Heaney the vetch possesses the hey-nonny-no cheerfulness of the old refrain from English Elizabethan folk songs and midsummer night’s dreams. Back on the familiar territory of Wood Road he comments on […]