Glanmore Sonnets – 2


The relocated wordsmith checks that his word-hoard is operational: involuntary charges (sensings) arising from a store-house in the depths of his mind (mountings from the hiding places) in distinct meaningful shapes (words) that he can almost hold in his hand (entering almost the sense of touch), words with a creature instinct of their own (ferreting themselves) and a yearning to be released into the light (out of their dark hutch).

Heaney’s is not to reason why he possesses this gift, as he recalls from an insightful comment (‘these things are not secrets but mysteries’) offered by a creative spirit engaged in a parallel process (Oisin Kelly), an Irish sculptor he met once (years ago In Belfast) –  Kelly, too, (hankering after stone) knew when he had hit upon the material that best matched what he was trying to do (connived with the chisel), as if the properties of some stones were minded (the grain remembered) to help the stone-smith (what the mallet tapped to know).

Heaney’s flight to Co. Wicklow (I landed) has brought him the literal advantage of hedgerows, without the historical connotation of Protestant-only education once practised in the North (hedge-school of Glanmore). His appetite is buoyed by the cottage’s rural setting (backs of ditches) to sing out as loud as he pleases (raise a voice) using slow-moving  Irish antennae (off slug-horn) and laid-back Irish melodies (slow chanter).

His ideal poetic output will provide a quadruple bounty: getting started again (continue), maintaining quality (hold), banishing bad vibes (dispel) restoring his countryman’s calm (appease). From there a store of new poem seeds to be sown (vowels ploughed into other) in conducive soil (opened ground).

Once under way, he counts on the quality of what he composes (each verse returning) to become part of a self-renewing cycle (like the plough turned round).

  • sensing: a creative spirit’s intuitive awareness of or sensitivity to the presence or importance of something;
  • mount: rise from beneath
  • ferret: rummage, forage:
  • hutch: store room largely for rabbits;
  • secrets … mysteries: ostensible adaptation of Matthew 13:11; when the disciples asked Jesus why he spoke to the people in parables; the gist of His answer was that only certain ones would comprehend;
  • Oisín Kelly (17 May 1915 – 13 October 1981): Irish sculptor based in Dublin;
  • hanker after: yearn for;
  • connive: conspire, scheme:
  • chisel, mallet: two essential sculpting tools;
  • grain: crosswise pattern of constituent particles;
  • tap: strike with light blows;
  • hedge school: Heaney casts a stone at historical sectarianism: secret schools known as hedge schools (‘scoileanna scairte’) were set up from 1695 in acts of active disobedience of strict Protestant laws in Ireland which forbade Catholics from setting up schools or from sending their children abroad to school.
  • slug-horn: retractable tentacles sensitive to sense data;
  • chanter: pipe with holes that creates bagpipe melody;
  • dispel: chase away, banish
  • appease: soothe, placate;


  • MP (168) offers his own slant: Heaney restates his essentially religious, Jungian view of the act of creation, a view first articulated in ‘The Diviner’. The poet experiences initially stirrings somewhere in the ‘ dark hutch of the subconscious, ‘sensings’ which seek a shape, a form, achieve an incarnation in words. An impenetrable mystery, or conspiracy almost, lies behind the creation of any work of art, he suggests. The stone connives with the chisel, the wood-grain instructs the mallet. Finding himself now ‘in the hedge-school of Glanmore’, Heaney prays that his humble surroundings will tutor him in song, provide him with a poetic instrument that might ‘continue, hold, dispel, appease’ his epiphanies and fears.


  • sonnet in three sentences (including dash);
  • the octave concerns itself with the creative process in two separate media; interweaving of vocabulary pertinent to both; gerunds used as nouns; linguistic references become animate; direct reference to a friend from the past dipping into the metaphysical; personification – materials intercommunicate; Pasternak reference; comparison ploughing and wood-turning;
  • sestet describes Heaney’s arrival in Glanmore and aspirations; hint of sectarian history; poetic charges of Irishness triggered by creatures and musical instruments; quadruple verbs describe Heaney’s expectations; farm machinery and language items combine to form the narrative;
  • the relative balance between sentence length, punctuation marks and enjambed lines (this sonnet is heavily enjambed)determines the flow and rhythm within the oral delivery potential;
  • line length between 9-11 syllables; Heaney suggested the sonnets rhythms were iambically tight;
  • rhyme scheme abba cddc efef gg  often tenuous assonant echoes or alliterative effects that link final syllables;


  • Heaney is a meticulous craftsman using combinations of vowel and consonant to form a poem that is something to be listened to.
  • the music of the poem: fourteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text;
  • syllables without highlight are largely the unstressed sound as in common, little [ə]



  • alliterative effects allow pulses or beats, soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies; this is sonic engineering of the first order;
  • a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section;
  • the final four lines are rich in alveolar plosives [t] [d], alveolar [l] and nasals [n] [m]; there is a peppering of velar [k] [g] and sibilant [s] alongside front-of-mouth breathy [w], aspirate [h], labio-dental [f] [v] and bilabial [p] [b];

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