To George Seferis in the Underworld

  The epigraph is quoted from Roderick Beaton’s George Seferis, Waiting for the Angel. It sets off a number of lines of interest in Heaney: how a poet appears to observers, whether his thoughtfulnesses  and preoccupations are mistaken for absent-mindedness; how a poet retrieves information; the extraordinary associations that the ‘poet’ dreams up in response to objects (here Heaney responds to ‘spiky’ sharpness). One characteristic Heaney recognises he shares with Seferis is his reluctance to take political sides in public. The poem is addressed to Seferis. Heaney portrays Seferis standing in spiky asphodel which grows wild in Greece (the same immortal flower that grew in Elysium, the abode of the blessed after death in classical antiquity), a rightly appropriate setting […]