Hermit Songs

Heaney dedicates his nine-poem sequence to long-time friend, American academic and author Helen Vendler. He celebrates those who have demonstrated resolute dedication to ‘books’ and scholarship,  who have shut themselves off to a greater or lesser degree from wider society. Some hermit-scholars are legendary and monastic, scribes of illuminated texts; other ‘greats’ are much more recent. With characteristic modesty, Heaney includes his own experiences as part of the chain. The introductory couplet sets out the price of scholarship: its scholar-scribe has shut himself away to follow the mechanics of medieval manuscript production with its ruled quires.  Secluded in his cell he cannot, however, shut out the external sounds of Nature’s joie-de-vivre: Above the ruled quires of my book I hear the […]