The Cleric

The Sweeney Redevivus poems are fascinating in terms of voicing. In his notes Heaney indicates that they are ‘voiced for Sweeney’ but this does not and cannot exclude the poet’s participation. Each poem resembles a piece of music with a background accompaniment and two voices that pick up the melody in turn or together; the mood of each piece varies as does its ensemble effect on the listener’s ear and the reader’s sensibility. Initially Sweeney’s is the dominant voice. His story and its aftermath are narrated in Sweeney Astray. Both poems focus on responses to the actions of a missionary priest, anonymous in this piece but identified as Ronan in Sweeney Astray. The advent of Christianity is portrayed in this […]