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. A tale of two hollies, a ‘then’ and a ‘now’ that share a pagan symbol of Christmas-time. The outdoor landscape of an exiled Sweeney contrasts with the indoor comfort of Heaney’s living-room fireside. On the first occasion neither the weather nor the hollybush were of required standard: […]