Drifting Off

The Sweeney Redevivus poems are fascinating in terms of voicing. In his notes Heaney indicates that they are ‘voiced for Sweeney’ but this does not and cannot exclude the poet’s participation. Each poem resembles a piece of music with a background accompaniment and two voices that pick up the melody in turn or together; the mood of each piece varies as does its ensemble effect on the listener’s ear and the reader’s sensibility. Sections 40 and 49 of ‘Sweeney Astray’ celebrate flora and fauna. Heaney’s title offers multiple possibilities: floating on the wind; thinking about other things; falling asleep; losing track; losing concentration. The speaker responds to the characteristics of the various ornithological families that cross his flight path. Firstly […]