Thursday, September 29, 2011

"You Will Not Arrive But Pass Through"

Seamus Heaney's "Postscript" (which appeared in my previous post) is paired in my mind with an earlier poem of his.  I think that I am fond of the two poems because they remind me of a long-ago autumn day -- clear, windy, and charmed -- spent driving along the west coast of the Isle of Skye.

It was one of those unwonted days (we all have them) when you realize at the time that you will never forget what passes.  This realization is accompanied (for me, at least) by a poignant pang.  At what?  You know: the relentless and remorseless march of time and all that.

But enough.  The day will never disappear.

                         The Peninsula

When you have nothing more to say, just drive
For a day all round the peninsula.
The sky is tall as over a runway,
The land without marks so you will not arrive

But pass through, though always skirting landfall.
At dusk, horizons drink down sea and hill,
The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable
And you're in the dark again.  Now recall

The glazed foreshore and silhouetted log,
That rock where breakers shredded into rags,
The leggy birds stilted on their own legs,
Islands riding themselves out into the fog

And drive back home, still with nothing to say
Except that now you will uncode all landscapes
By this:  things founded clean on their own shapes,
Water and ground in their extremity.

Seamus Heaney, Door into the Dark (Faber and Faber 1969).

       William Monk, "Sunburst Over the Mountains of Donegal" (c. 1906)


Mary F. C. Pratt said...

Whenever I see a poem by Seamus Heaney, I think "Oh. You can do THAT with words." This recalls for me a drive along the Dingle Peninsula. Thank you.

Stephen Pentz said...

Mary F. C. Pratt: thank you for stopping by again, and for your thoughts. A drive around the Dingle Peninsula sounds lovely! Thanks again.