Whitby-sur-Moyola

The poem’s title is a deliberate conflation: two places miles apart in space and time. Whitby is a seaside town in north-east England and Moyola the river that flowed close to Heaney’s Northern Irish childhood home. The poem pays tribute to two men in one: the first a 7th century poet-herdsman, Caedmon, from Yorkshire whom Heaney has come to know through his studies; the second a yard-man known to Heaney from his farming background. The honesty, wisdom, judgment and compassion of the humble Irish countryman towards his beasts are gifts common to a historical figure regarded by many scholars as the father of English poetry. Now here is another example (too) of privileged contact (lucky to have known) in the […]