We must continue to celebrate the life of Seamus Heaney, who belongs to us all

A letter from Dr Gerald Morgan:
Letter to the editorLetter to the editor
Letter to the editor

(Re ‘Nationalists do not own the poet Seamus Heaney’, Ruth Dudley Edwards, December 22, see link below).

The function of a poet in the midst of sectarian conflict is not quite the same thing as a committed activist on one side or another of that conflict. It is surely to rise above that conflict with a vision of humanity that can transcend that conflict.

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Seamus Heaney graduated from Queen’s University, Belfast in 1961 with a degree in English Language and Literature. One of the fruits of that degree was his translation of ‘Beowulf’ that first appeared in 1999 and I recall sending my five Beowulf students up to UCD to listen to the great man armed with their edition of Klaeber (still the greatest edition of the poem and a monument to German scholarship).

In 1974 Alan Bliss, author ot ‘The Metre of Beowulf’ (Blackwell, 1962) became Professor of Old and Middle English at UCD. He was a declared supporter of Sinn Fein and was treated by us all with an awed and uncomprehending embarrassment.

In 1985 I had to send my brilliant English wife back to England with the children. It was time for me to step outside our English ghetto in Cabinteely and speak out. And I spoke out against the Anglo-Irish Agreement along with the Cruiser and Mary Robinson.

Within months I found myself in the jail in Godalming built for the Guildford bombers frightened for my life.

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We do not all have the physical courage of Shane Paul O’Doherty (English I, TCD).

We must continue to celebrate the life of Seamus Heaney. He belongs to us all.

Dr Gerald Morgan, Fellow Trinity College Dublin

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