The First Flight

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. The poem comes closest yet to the language and events of Sweeney Astray. The speaker refers to their moment of transfiguration (Sweeney into a bird, Heaney into new determination) as more trance than bodily convulsion: more sleepwalk than spasm both locked into a period of social convulsion […]