Lightenings xii

  The title of the first section, ‘Lightenings’, arrived by accident, when I found a dictionary entry that gives it to mean ‘a flaring of the spirit at the moment before death’. And there were also the attendant meanings of being unburdened and being illuminated, all of which fitted what was going on as the first poems got written (DOD321). The message that emerges is that Heaney accepted the ‘attendant meanings’ readily enough but had greater difficulty coming to terms with a definition linking imminent death with a soaring of the spirit; he finds an example that encapsulated his dilemma but does not solve it. He is weighing the Catholic teachings to which he was exposed against the doubts generated […]