Monday, March 16, 2009


my grandfather plowing
Howard County, Indiana
early 1930's


My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horses strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

Seamus Heaney

I admire the connection of the Irish and their land. "The only thing
worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for," as Gerald
O'Hara tells Scarlett in Gone With the Wind.
Heaney, born April 13, 1939, is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer
who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. He currently
lives in Dublin.
Portrait of Seamus Heaney by Edward McGuire, 1974.


  1. Good morning Willow. Thats a great poem and image combination. I loved the poem and was visualizing you as the youngster following, until I saw Seamus'name. Thank you for introducing me to him

  2. The book I am reading mentions Heaney. I have never read any of his work- until now. Thank you for the lovely photo and the poem.

  3. Great poem, Willow! Another good piece about the Irish and their land is a play called The Field which was made into a movie starring Richard Harris. My guess is that you have seen it, but your readers might anjoy it this week.

  4. Wonderful photo, and moving poem. I love the painting too.

  5. Enjoy....that is--if only I could type...

  6. Wonderful photo then poem then portrait of the poet. I liked the continuity.

    Ps: What an amazing kitchen window you have! I just did a post about them but had not seen yours til now.

  7. As a daughter of a mother who had Alzheimer's, I know about the parent following and falling. Touching.

  8. I liked the end of the poem where he says his Dad is the only one stumbling behind him. I kind of understand that feeling after trying to keep up with my daughters this weekend. Did they always walk so fast??

  9. So wonderful that you have photo records of your family...this one is a beauty of your grandfather and his horses...poem...strong and true.
    Any plans for Tuesday, St Patrick's Day?

  10. Lovely poem and pictures ~ Your blog is always a delight!

  11. a wonderful piece, willow! I really enjoyed it.

  12. My dearest and closest friend is Seamus' grand-nephew, who has inherited the literary talent as well as his facial features - a stunning family straight out the depths of Irish legend in the living. I always enjoy seeing reference to the great man himself, thank you :D

  13. I am an ardent admirer of Heaney, some of his poetry can move me to tears. I have a copy of "The Rattlebag" a poetry anthology that Heaney and Ted Hughs put together which I am sure you would like.

  14. I love Heaney. I am lucky to find his poems in The Guardian's Saturday Review as well as his essays on other poets and writers quite often. Thanks for another beautiful post. I love the way you write about your grandfather. And the photo you included is marvellous.

    Greetings from London.

  15. Great poem about the Irish, and it does seem that they are tied to the land. I think that is why during the potato famine it was so hard for them to leave.

    I have seen some beautiful pictures of Ireland and can see why they loved it so much. But I think most people are tied to the land of their country. They say that is because when we are gone, the land will always be there.

    I also wanted to ask if you are going to post the Homemade Chicken Soup recipe. I need to get to the store and buy some buttermilk to try the bread recipe. And yes it is so great to just put the ingredients in a machine and then a few hours later smell the bread baking. My old bread machine did not work that good, but this newer one works great. Thank you for the recipe.

    God bless.

  16. I'm a Heaney fan so thanks for this. Good pic of your grandpa

  17. What attracts me to Irish poetry is exactly their connection to the land. Two of my favorite Yeats poems are the "Song of Wondering Aengus" and "The Lake Isle of Innesfree".

    In his Anthology of Irish Verse, Padraic Colum says
    "Irish poetry begins with a dedication—a dedication of the race to the land. The myth of the invasion tells that the first act of the invaders was the invoking of the land of Ireland—its hills, its rivers, its forests, its cataracts. Amergin, the first poet, pronounced the invocation from one of their ships, thereby dedicating the Milesian race to the mysterious land. That dedication is in many poems made since Amergin’s time—the dedication of the poet to the land, of the race to the land."

  18. I was thinking the other day how important my little piece of Earth is to me and how easily the brute mentality of a government or an invader(same thing) can take it away in a flash. It's more than just a piece of Earth to me, it's my lifeline, I know every inch of my 6 acres. What gripes me is the section that I pay taxes on, but they score as 'right of way'. If you use it, you pay me to do so...right???

    Beautiful poem...and photo.

  19. Nice poem, Willow. As one who has worked a plow( meaning me ), I like it that much more. Thanks for the intro to Seamus Heaney :)

  20. A perfect synthesis of image and poetry. I really enjoyed it.

  21. Thank you for posting this poem. It is very evocative. I am a big fan of Seamus Heaney.

    A good choice for St.Patrick's day tomorrow.

    x V.

  22. An avid, albeit recent, follower of yours, you never fail to fill my day.

  23. What a wonderful poem. Thank you for introducing Seamus Healey. I'll be seeking more of his words.

    I used to have a team of Percheron horses and the poem reminded me of driving and working with them. The harness, the smell of leather and the sweat of the horses; poetic inspiration to be certain.

    I never owned land until I was nearly 40. I'm conflicted about "ownership" of land philosophically, but like my own Irish ancestors, I'll defend my 40 acres against all those who threaten, but I'll also gladly share with those in need.

  24. OMG, I LOVE Seamus Heaney, Willow--he's one of my very favorite poets. I met him here in NC at Meredith College a few years ago when he came and read his poems in the ampitheatre there. He was so moving and lovely. This is such a beautiful photo of your grandfather!

  25. What a great poet Heaney is! Thank you for bringing this poem to my attention, so full of strength..and the photo also.. perfect!

  26. Hello Willow,what a great picture!The poem goes perfectly with it.Beautiful post.

  27. I love stories of our ancestors, most of all. If only they had had blogs!

  28. Have I got a film for you! Have you ever seen "The Field" with Richard Harris, Sean Bean, John Hurt and Brenda Fricker? If not, queue it up!


  29. Great ! photo !
    and thanks for the (much easier) ginger chicken recipe. Merci !!
    google to the rescue yet again

  30. Hello Willow,

    I, too, enjoyed all three elements in today's post.

  31. Oh, my gosh. I love old photos and that one is a wonderful. Thanks for sharing it. The poem is lovely, and both are a lasting tribute to your grandfather.

    How did he make out during the Depression?

  32. what a pic of your grand-dad !!

    i love it.
    i think that pic would make a great painting.


  33. FireLight and Kat, I am queing up "The Field"! I have seen it years ago and need to see it again. Thanks for the reminder!

  34. Susan, glad you found the recipe! It's so simple and really, really delicious. The longer the chicken marinates, the better.

  35. Willow...
    Loved the poem,I thought you had written it till I got to the end!
    My Willow Manor Copycat Bread Machine will be here Wednesday and I'm so excited about becoming a baking fool! Kat posted recipes too and I asked her if I can use them in my WMCBM ? HA!

  36. Beautiful poem. A tribute to the land and father...with a bit of sad commentary of aging too, I think. And the painting-love the style and composition. (It's a photo of a painting right?) Thanks for sharing, Willow.

  37. Hello,
    I just popped over from acornmoon.
    What an interesting photo and poem.

  38. i do our library displays and one i made sure to include this month was reserved for Irish: i put literature, on Ireland, foods, etc. i started out slow, but books are slowly circulating from it--this always makes me happy.

    the picture of your grandfather is priceless.

  39. I really loved this post and the "What it means to be Irish" lines from GWTW.

  40. Seamus Heaney -
    my favorite Irish!
    Thank you for the poem and the Edward McGuire portrait.

  41. Hi Willow,

    Found about your site from reading Vicki Lane's blog yesterday, I love being here and plan to drop in all the time.There is so much to enjoy that I am reading all the older bolgs.

    I had to go to google and learn about your Boleslawiec mug, now I have to order one to drink my coffee from. Would you please share with me what style and pattern you have. I have to order my mug on line and I would like to know if you can get three or four fingers in the handle, since you have a mug you would know.

    Thank you....

  42. I saw Seamus Heaney on TV last night (Sky Arts Book Show). He is a great poet, he read one of his poems.

  43. What a beautifully written poem-- so visceral in its words, & with a very haunting ending. I also like the photograph of your grandfather plowing.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)