Wolfe Tone

Heaney voices his poem to the late 18th century Irish revolutionary whose tenacious personal ambitions for Ireland were scuppered amidst the political and religious storms of late 18th century Irish and European events. It contains elements of parable to do with the difficulty of uniting behind a single banner what are effectively two Irelands, as elusive in the 1790s as it is in the year Wolfe Tone was written. In the first panel of the triptych Tone’s shade adopts Heaney’s boating metaphor to appraise his performance: I ought to have stayed afloat, he suggests, but came to naught; I was at best a one-man operative (light as a skiff) nimble and agile in traffic (manoeuvrable) but let down by circumstances […]