Funeral Rites

A sequence of 3 poems; Heaney follows three lines associated with death and burial: natural causes; the result of sectarian strife; myth and legend. Ultimately the sequence seeks out a solution to the unbreakable cycle of murder and revenge. I The speaker describes one of a number of traditional Irish Catholic family funerals he has attended. These conferred a kind of manhood upon a young man not yet quite a ‘man’ as he shouldered the coffin both as physical weight and personal responsibility. He recalls the ceremonial: dead relations/ laid out in familiar rooms suddenly marred (tainted) by death; he picks out colours and textures: the pallor of dough-white hands; the glistening eyelids; the discernable changes that death visited on […]