Poor Women in a City Church

A second vignette of Belfast life portrays the devotions of Catholic women in an unheated Belfast church. The poem forms a pictorial canvas recalling classical paintings of groups of worshippers in similar circumstances. Heaney focuses first on light-source and temperature effects: small wax candles melt to light, then on movement and reflections: shadows on smooth surfaces (flicker in marble); centred reflections on the curvature of shiny, metal surfaces (bright/ Asterisks).  The poetic eye moves on to discover the target of their piety in a ‘chapel’ devoted to Jesus’ mother (a revered Catholic figure beloved of women in particular); it comes to rest in front of the Virgin’s altar where the candles are buffeted by stronger draughts of air: Blue flames […]