The Scribes

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. Heaney’s voice is dominant in a poem set in a first millennium monastery where manuscripts are being copied and preserved thanks to the monumental efforts of monk-scribes. Allegorically the title alludes to a biblical grouping of people who set themselves up as judges, precursors perhaps of the […]