The mythical content of the North collection opens with a North African child-of-the- earth living in an ‘Irish’ habitat. Allegory is in the making: the confrontation between Antaeus and Hercules is announced; they will meet in combat in the final poem of Part I.  As the end of the story is already known we are reconciled to the inevitable defeat of Antaeus and whatever he stands for. Heaney himself  spelt out both the allegory and its irony: ‘elevation’ is impossible for Antaeus and, by extension, for Ireland’. A ‘giant’ figure from Greek/ North African mythology was invincible in combat as long as he retained contact with the earth that renewed his strength whenever he fell. Antaeus describes what makes his […]