The poet explains his absence from Glanmore as a classical Roman ‘lustrum’ ritual of spiritual cleansing … Heaney reflects on his return to the cottage.
His desire to be a poet turned him into a ‘word-burglar’, an accumulator of intellectual possessions from early on. He experienced the same intruder mentality (breaking and entering) on taking up the ownership of Glanmore.
The excitement of pilfering the word-hoard for poetic use (thrilled me) was stronger than any fear it generated (scared me). The same mix of feelings (still did) accompanied his upward-mobility (came into my own) and his slightly uncharactreristic acquisition of bricks and mortar (my own masquerade as a man of property).
Heaney’s instinctive first impulse was to trust in the honesty of his Irish neighbours: he regarded bolting the cottage (double-bar a door or lock a gate) or concealing what was inside (fitted blinds and curtains drawn over) as a step-too-far (too self-protective and uptight).
Re-entering the cottage after a ‘lustrum’ interval feels like criminal trespass (my own first breaker-in). His mission is to destroy an ancient ‘relic’ (saw up the old bed-frame) for sound practical reasons (the stair was much too narrow for it) … and yet it feels like a sin (bad action) with ominous consequences (so Greek with consequence, so dangerous).
Only proper behaviour (pure words and deeds) will create the memorial Glanmore deserves (secure the house).
- lustral: (from Latin lustrum) to do with purification; a ‘lustrum’ refers to the five-yearly purification of the Roman people at the time of the census; enacted via animal sacrifice;
- breaking and entering: burglary, unlawful entry into a building for the purposes of committing an offence;
- thrill: fill with excitement:
- masquerade: make-believe, pretence;
- impulse: instinct;
- double-bar: secure in two places;
- fitted: to fill a space exactly;
- blind: window screen;
- uptight: tense, anxious;
- breaker-in: burglar, raider;
- instruction: order, directive;
- bed-frame: base;
- Greek: reference to inevitable, disastrous outcomes in Greek tragedy;
- consequence: both outcome and importance
- pure words: straight, untainted;
- sonnet (8 + 6); volta after l.8 moves the poem from pre-lustral to post-lustral feelings;
- lines based on 10 syllables; very loose rhyme pattern;
- 4 sentence structure; frequent punctuation and few enjambed lines fragment the poem’s flow;
- 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 Glanmore sonnets: thirteen assonant strands are woven into the 7 texts; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text:
- 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;
- for example, the lines might interweave bilabial plosives [b][p], front-of-mouth sounds [f] [h] [y] [w] and sibilant variants [s] [z] [ts]; the sounds will be heard as the poem is read;
- a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section;