Monday, October 3, 2011

"I Clutch The Memory Still, And I Have Measured Everything With It Since"

I recently posted Seamus Heaney's "The Peninsula," which ends with the following stanza:

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 (1969).

The idea that certain landscapes seen on certain days end up staying with us, and thereafter serve as a sort of reference point throughout our lives, is one that Derek Mahon has considered as well.  The following poem was first published in 1968.  Thus, it is not unlikely that Mahon and Heaney were separately writing along similar lines within a year or so of each other.

     Thinking of Inis Oirr in Cambridge, Mass.

A dream of limestone in sea-light
Where gulls have placed their perfect prints.
Reflection in that final sky
Shames vision into simple sight;
Into pure sense, experience.
Atlantic leagues away tonight,
Conceived beyond such innocence,
I clutch the memory still, and I
Have measured everything with it since.

Derek Mahon, Collected Poems (1999).  The poem first appeared in Mahon's Night-Crossing (1968) under the title "Recalling Aran." Inis Oirr (anglicized as "Inisheer") is one of the Aran Islands.

                                Richard Eurich, "Eddystone Light" (1974)


Clarissa Aykroyd said...

I just started looking through your blog and am enjoying it! I'm also an admirer of Mahon and Heaney, and wrote about Mahon's 'Courtyards in Delft' in a recent entry on my own blog:

It seems to me sometimes that there is a sort of universal poetic language or way of seeing through symbols. It seems like more than coincidence sometimes that different poets and poems can echo each other to such an extent.

Stephen Pentz said...

Ms. Aykroyd: thank you very much for visiting, and for your kind words. Thank you as well for linking to your post on 'Courtyards in Delft.' (I share your liking of 'The Chinese Restaurant in Portrush' and 'Kinsale' -- they are two of my favorite Mahon poems as well.)

I agree with your final thought. And the echo, as you know, takes place across languages and centuries.

Thank you again.