The Old Icons

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. Representations of Irishmen of earlier times, each a political vignette, bringing with it the sad realisation that in Ireland ‘Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose’. The pictures have iconic status. Heaney’s voice is dominant. The speaker asks himself Why he has he clung onto three […]