Glanmore Revisited 6. Bedside Reading


Summertime in Glanmore –  from his early morning marital  bed (we) the poet is refreshed by a new optimism: open windows, brighter light (the whole place airier); a horizontal (eye level) view into the wind-stirred world outside, from distant big summer trees to little shoots of ivy around the window.

His power to control ivy (creeping in unless … trained out) extends to memories which time (trained so long now) has taught him to manage such that they crop up without taking over his agenda show their face and keep their distance.

He confesses to a troubling period of despondency (white-mouthed depression) figured as a dolphin, (swims out from its shadow) conveyed by its rueful (wet), inscrutable (unreadable), guileless (unfurtive) eyes.

His current bedside reading (I swim in Homer… Book Twenty-three) recounts the wait endured by Odysseus and Penelope before things fell back into place. The unique structure of their bed (one of its bedposts a living trunk … olive tree) provided proof of their love (their secret). Had his relationship with Marie ever required a badge of longevity, it is visible at the the window: ours could have been ivy for its enduring freshness (evergreen), thrill (atremble) and unstated permanence (unsaid).

  • airier: with more light, more space;
  • shoot: first visible growth of a plant;
  • ivy: invasive, evergreen climbing plant
  • train a pant: direct its growth; not allow it to follow its desired growth
  • depression: despondency, dejection;
  • unfurtive: blunt artless, without guile;
  • dolphins: marine mammals; mythological messengers sacred to the gods;
  • extract summary from Homer’s Odyssey Book 23: ‘Penelope remains in disbelief even when she comes downstairs and sees her husband with her own eyes. She remains wary, afraid that a god is playing a trick on her. She orders her maidservant to move her bridal bed, and Odysseus suddenly flares up at her that their bed is immovable, explaining how it is built from the trunk of an olive tree around which the house had been constructed. Hearing him recount these details, she knows that this man must be her husband.
  • atremble: (literary) trembling;


  • sonnet (8 + 6); volta after l.8 moves the poem from personal to relationship considerations;
  • lines based on 10 syllables; loose rhyme pattern more evident in the sextet;
  • 5 sentence structure; frequent enjambed lines in both octet and sextet determine the poem’s flow;
  • triple adjectives in the final line of both sections;
  • personification: memories show their faces;
  • comparison: depression/ dolphin;
  • 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;