To see myself, to set the darkness echoing
Seamus Heaney 1939 – 2013
When Death of a Naturalist was published in 1966, the world knew it had just been exposed to one of the greatest writers of a generation. Since then, Seamus Heaney’s words have comforted, entertained, inspired; and tributes have been pouring in at news of the Nobel laureate’s death.
The greatness of Seamus Heaney is three fold: he was an exceptional poet and writer; a giant of human conscience; and a remarkable ambassador.
He’s being remembered as the ‘most important Irish poet since Yeats’ (fellow poet Robert Lowell).
Former US President Bill Clinton called him ‘one of the world’s favourite poets’ and thanked him for his ability to comfort through poetry which had been a ‘gift in difficult times’.
This isn’t surprising, as Heaney also worked with charitable organisations, including Amnesty International, where is was scheduled to speak next month. Patrick Corrigan, from Amnesty recognised the influence Heaney’s words had:
‘Through the beauty and elegance of his writing, Seamus Heaney reminded us of the bonds which unite and our duty to uphold the dignity of all. Ireland has lost a legendary man of letters. The world has lost a towering giant of humanity’
Heaney was renowned for acceptance of invitations to speak, using his voice to inspire and fuel change where it was needed. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
The following year he was made a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French ministry of culture, another prime example of the Irish-Franco relationship started by The Wild Geese in 1691.
Ireland’s Minister for the Arts, Jimmy Deenihan recognised this at an event at the Irish Embassy in Paris, where Heaney gave readings.
‘He was a huge figure internationally, a great ambassador for literature obviously, but also for Ireland’
Heaney was born on a small farm near Bellaghy in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland.
He is sure to be remembered for generations to come. His work has crossed every kind of border, just as The Wild Geese did, and his amazing personality always shone through.