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Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Haw Lantern (a Seamus Heaney poem)

this is an audio post - click to play


The Haw Lantern

The wintry haw is burning out of season,
crab of the thorn, a small light for small people,
wanting no more from them but that they keep
the wick of self-respect from dying out,
not having to blind them with illumination.

But sometimes when your breath plumes in the frost
it takes the roaming shape of Diogenes
with his lantern, seeking one just man;
so you end up scrutinized from behind the haw
he holds up at eye-level on its twig,
and you flinch before its bonded pith and stone,
its blood-prick that you wish would test and clear you,
its pecked-at ripeness that scans you, then moves on.

This is good shit, my friends. When the exhalation of breath metamorphoses into Diogenes, the poem itself changes shape, inverts, and at the same time turns you inside-out. And, where before you were looking coolly out at an abstraction, an idea of others, you are now looking inward.

At this link, apparently, is a version of the poem in process.

7 comments:

Brenda Schmidt said...

That's lovely, John. Great post.

Humble Servant said...

I like the poem a whole lot, but can you tell me what a haw lantern is? The link says haw is the hawthorn berry, and the poem certainly refers to shrubbery, but what is a haw lantern? An alternate definition says a haw is a covering of the eye (which fits lantern too), but I'm thinking there really might be a type of lantern called a haw, and are they really "made of pith and stone?"

Humble Servant said...

Oh yeah, FYI
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=331794

MackJohnny said...

I'm pretty sure the lantern is in fact the berry. I see it as a berry left on the bush in winter, a small red lamp in the gloaming.

A long time since I bin to the Dope; good to see that folks are still pounding away at Ezra. My membership expired, so I'll not be getting into it, but here's a couple links to do with Pound and the River Merchant's Wife:
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/m_r/pound/othertranslations.htm
http://www.pinyin.info/readings/texts/ezra_pound_chinese.html

Humble Servant said...

Kinda like "the holly bears the crown," huh? Does the hawthorn berry have a stone?

I think lapsed sdmb members can post free for 30 days if they start posting again, but no worries. The thread doesn't really add much to the one we did before; I just like rehashing stuff because it makes me rethink.

Sue said...

Shakespeare spells lantern,lanthorne. Was this a reference to ancient lanterns made from bunches of hawthorn possible burning? The moon in 'A midsummer Nights Dream' also carries a thornbush.A hawthorn?Why? Does anyone out there know?

Irina said...

Seamus Heaney’s poetry is astoundingly beautiful.
I read it differently though than John, not from the ‘outward & inward’ angle, but more from an allegory of seeing, and that of an illumination and (self) revelation (Ok, this last one resonate's with John's angle).

Some clues :
« To blind them with illumination », « scrutinized » , « at eye-level » « scans you » .
One of the major themes in Seamus Heaney’s (if not the most pervasive, in my view) is a continuous and cosmic allegory of seeing and of the poetic vision itself.

Some notes on at “eye-level” here -->Seamus Heaney’s poetry is astoundingly beautiful.
I read it differently though than John, not from the ‘outward & inward’ angle, but more from an allegory of seeing, and that of an illumination and (self) revelation (Ok, this last one to please John).

Some clues :
« To blind them with illumination », « scrutinized » , « at eye-level » « scans you » .
One of the major themes in Seamus Heaney’s (if not the most pervasive, in my view) is a continuous and cosmic allegory of seeing and of the poetic vision itself.

Some notes on at “eye-level” here
http://languagetrio.blogspot.com/2009/06/in-english-in-earshot-of.html