Sandstone Keepsake

The poem should be read in the context of the Troubles in Ulster at a time of internment without trial, of H-Blocks at Long Kesh and hunger strikers. Heaney is holding a stone that he once picked up on the border separating Ulster from the Irish Republic. It comes to symbolise the speaker’s inner conflict in face of the whole swirl of events, feelings and insecurities to which both he and his native island are subjected, not least his sense of political restrictions imposed upon the north by the Brirish. He has kept the stone for a host of reasons: its reddish colouring (russet);its texture and fruit shape (solidified gourd);its geology of natural, local materials eroded by water: chalky …sedimentary. […]