THE Irish poet and Nobel laureate, Seamus Heaney, who died last
Friday, was "a man with a great generosity of spirit", whose
"poetry illuminated aspects of Irish life," the Archbishop of
Armagh, Dr Richard Clarke, said.
Heaney, who was raised a Roman Catholic, died in Dublin last
Friday, aged 74, after a short illness. His most recent collection,
Human Chain, was published after he suffered a stroke in
2006 (Books, 26
November 2010). It includes the poem "Miracle", about the
friends who carry in the paralytic man to be healed by Jesus.
Heaney's requiem mass took place on Monday at the Church of the
Sacred Heart, Donnybrook, in Dublin. The chief celebrant was Mgr
Brendan Devlin, a family friend. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant
clerics were present.
In a statement last Friday, Dr Clarke, who had heard Heaney give
a reading only two weeks earlier, said: "He was one of the greatest
poets writing in the English language of our time. A man with a
great generosity of spirit, his poetry illuminated aspects of Irish
life, North and South, which perhaps many of us would not have
understood without his writing."
The RC Archbishop of Dublin, the Most Revd Diarmuid Martin,
described Heaney as "a great man, yet always a man of kindness and
humility and a seeker of what is deepest in our common humanity.
Greatness and graciousness belonged together in him."
The Chaplain of Girton College, Cambridge, the Revd Dr Malcolm
Guite, who is a poet, wrote on his blog last Friday of a
"life-changing encounter" with Heaney in 2002. Heaney had asked him
"how poetry fitted with my vocation as priest, probed me about my
deepest things, and I found myself opening things I scarcely
admitted were there." He signed Dr Guite's copy of Open
Ground, adding the words: "To Malcolm, with high regard: 'Walk
on air against your better judgement.'"
Dr Guite wrote: "It was a moment of confirmation and release
into a new understanding of my vocation, and a new daring. That
phrase he quoted (from his Nobel Prize acceptance speech) has
become a kind of watchword, and the unexpected spacewalk of this
parish priest, the books, the songs, the poems, all owe something
to a gift of wings that day."