The Folk Singers

The poet delves into the Irish ‘underlay’ (the ‘something’ that makes Ireland magically special and unique for him) here elegizing a rural music genre eclipsed by modernism. Note that after 1957 Heaney lived independently in Belfast accommodation initially as an undergraduate student; this piece has a city provenance. The poet regrets the technological changes overtaking the ‘live’ folk-music beloved of his nation. He weaves the ‘new’ vocabulary of commercialised sound-production (‘turn-tables’ and ‘grooves’) into a lament. A wistful country boy in the city listens to music on a turn-table. He sums up his discomfort: vinyl records that enable him to play and replay the same track of well-known lyrics as he pleases (Re-turning time-turned words) have replaced ‘the real thing’ […]