The Rescue


Nearly two decades have elapsed since Heaney published Somnambulist in Wintering Out. That very short poem was a ‘Wordsworthian’ dream of guilt and repentance closely following Summer Home in which Marie Heaney had been sorely tested by her husband. It demonstrated the poet’s use of a poetic dream to say ‘I am sorry’.

The Rescue, similar in brevity and style, exposes the inner recesses of the poet’s consciousness. In a dream sequence that takes place in an arctic wasteland  Heaney delivers his beloved from the snow. It demonstrated the poet’s use of a poetic dream to say ‘I love you’.

Somewhere in a dream (drifts of sleep) the speaker chances upon his beloved in life-threatening circumstances (Buried to your waist in snow); her plea for his support (You reached your arms out) awakens him to his warmest protective instincts: I came to/ Like water in a dream of thaw.

  • drift: movement from one state of consciousness to another;  accumulation of snow;
  • come to: awaken
  • thaw: water moving from frozen to liquid state as a result of warming;


  • 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: nine assonant strands are woven into a 4 line poem;
  • 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;
  • the lines interweave alveolar plosives [t] [d],velar plosive [k] sibilant variants [s] [z] and labio dental fricatives [f] [valveolar trill [r]
  • a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section;