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Irish Poem: Mossbawn: Sunlight by Seamus Heaney

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Back with a wonderful Irish poem. This week, it is a piece that resonates with the warmth and depth of Irish culture. The poem Mossbawn: Sunlight is a tribute to the simple, everyday moments that become cherished memories. It reflects the themes of home, family, and the connection to one’s roots, all of which are central to much of Heaney’s work. 

This poem is part of Heaney’s “North” collection, published in 1975. It’s a warm, evocative poem that captures the essence of his childhood home at Mossbawn. Heaney uses the imagery of his aunt baking in the kitchen, the warmth of the sunlight, and the domestic scenes of rural life in Ireland to create a deeply personal and comforting atmosphere. 

The collection features two other poems from my list of top Seamus Heaney poems, including Punishment and The Grauballe Man.

The collection is well worth a read as each poem in “North” is layered with Heaney’s typical depth and nuance, offering insights into both personal and collective experiences. Of course, they are also filled with the complex imagery that he seems to put together in each poem simply. 

Anyway, let’s get to the poem! If you enjoy it, be sure to hit that share button or join my weekly dose of Irish here(it’s my free email I send out every Friday featuring all things Irish. 

Mossbawn: Sunlight 

There was a sunlit absence.
The helmeted pump in the yard
heated its iron,
water honeyed

in the slung bucket
and the sun stood
like a griddle cooling
against the wall

of each long afternoon.
So, her hands scuffled
over the bakeboard,
the reddening stove

sent its plaque of heat
against her where she stood
in a floury apron
by the window.

Now she dusts the board
with a goose’s wing,
now sits, broad-lapped,
with whitened nails

and measling shins:
here is a space
again, the scone rising
to the tick of two clocks.

And here is love
like a tinsmith’s scoop
sunk past its gleam
in the meal-bin.

Short and sweet, it’s like a hot cup of tea with an old friend. It’s rich with the smells of baking bread and the kind of sunlight that only seems to shine in an Irish countryside kitchen. 

An image that I find describes this poem very well.

“Mossbawn: Sunlight” is a journey back in time to a place where the world’s hustle and bustle fades away, and all that’s left is the warmth of family and the simple joys of life. In just a few lines, Heaney captures the heart of Ireland – its warmth, its homeliness, and the unspoken love that binds us all. That’s the power of a good poem, and sure, Heaney’s the master of that craft.

Did you enjoy the poem? Comment below. 

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