An Old Refrain

Musicality is clear from the title, both reference to the jingle of a Tudor song and the musical power that words possess or conjure up in the poetic imagination. Heaney picks up the refrain from a joyous Elizabethan madrigal of Shakespearean provenance sung by the choir of Pages in As You Like It. The refrain placed as a break between verses becomes a predictable repetition echoing a landscape that repeats itself seasonally. His two poems mimic folk songs: the first celebrating the lush perennial vegetation growing in profusion along the byways of Heaney’s childhood; the second listing an array of images and sensations the poet associates with familiar Irish labels for other hedgerow dwellers. i The vetch plant familiar to Heaney […]