Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney Poems

Seamus Heaney is one of the best-loved poets of all time. After he passed away in 2013, the world went into grieving. During his lifetime, he was often referred to as the most famous living poet. Read more about Seamus Heaney.


by Seamus Heaney
Taken from Heaney's debut collection, 'Death of a Naturalist', 'Digging' is among his finest ever poems. The poem explores different forms of labour and examines how traditions remain resolutely the same even as the world changes around us. It is also firmly rooted in the Northern Irish landscape of Heaney's youth, that he would go on to render so iconically over the course of his poetic career.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away

Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.

Death of a Naturalist

by Seamus Heaney

‘Death of a Naturalist’ shows a child’s fascination of the countryside, followed by a sharp shock when he senses the dark side of nature.

The title poem from Heaney's debut collection, 'Death of a Naturalist' is one of the most effective depictions of lost innocence ever produced. The poet initially uses of nature as a source of wonder for the child, who yearns to discover more about the frogspawn as it develops. However, as time passes and the child grows older, they become increasingly disturbed by the processes of the natural world. The poem shows Heaney at his very best.

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

The Tollund Man

by Seamus Heaney
Heaney's 'The Tollund Man' demonstrates the poet's unparalleled ability to use history, even other nations' histories, to comment upon his contemporary experience of living on the island of Ireland. The titular Tollund Man is used to symbolically explore The Troubles which blighted Northern Ireland for much of Heaney's adult life. The poet appears to suggest that mankind will always find ways to inflict suffering onto others, regardless of the circumstances.

I could risk blasphemy,

Consecrate the cauldron bog

Our holy ground and pray

Him to make germinate

Personal Helicon

by Seamus Heaney

Heaney’s ‘Personal Helicon’ draws inspiration from his rural carefree childhood and intimate connection with nature.

Taken from his most famous collection, Death of a Naturalist, this poem also contains many of the themes that would go on to define Heaney's career, including a fascination with rural Ireland, the passage of time and the loss of childhood innocence.

As a child, they could not keep me from wells

And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.

I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells


by Seamus Heaney

‘Docker’ is a 1966 poem by Seamus Heaney which depicts the life of a dockworker in Belfast and explores his personal and religious sense of discord.

The poem, 'Docker', is typical of Heaney insofar as it it preoccupied with his native Northern Ireland, specifically the ordinary lives of its inhabitants. The sense of personal strife is entangled with religious discord in ways that are very specific to Ireland. However, the poem's setting is unusual for Heaney, who tended to write about rural places and issues. The decision to situate this poem in the Belfast docks sets it out as different to many of his works.

He sits, strong and blunt as a Celtic cross,

Clearly used to silence and an armchair:

Tonight the wife and children will be quiet

At slammed door and smoker's cough in the hall.

A Call

by Seamus Heaney

Then found myself listening to

The amplified grave ticking of hall clocks

Where the phone lay unattended in a calm

A Constable Calls

by Seamus Heaney

His bicycle stood at the window-sill,

The rubber cowl of a mud-splasher

Skirting the front mudguard,

Its fat black handlegrips

A Drink of Water

by Seamus Heaney

She came every morning to draw water

Like an old bat staggering up the field:

The pump's whooping cough, the bucket's clatter

And slow diminuendo as it filled,

Explore more poems from Seamus Heaney

Anything Can Happen

by Seamus Heaney

‘Anything Can Happen’ depicts a contemporary anxiety while referring to a mythological past. The poem has four quatrains with no fixed rhyme-scheme.

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter

Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head

Before he hurls the lightning? Well, just now

At a Potato Digging

by Seamus Heaney

‘At a Potato Digging’ written by Seamus Heaney. The poem consists of four sections that depict men’s relationship with the land.

A mechanical digger wrecks the drill,

Spins up a dark shower of roots and mould.

Labourers swarm in behind, stoop to fill

Wicker creels.  Fingers go dead in the cold.


by Seamus Heaney

In ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the speaker is recalling a recurring scene from his youth: each August, he would pick blackberries and relish in their sweet taste.

Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.


by Seamus Heaney

We have no prairies

To slice a big sun at evening--

Everywhere the eye concedes to

Encrouching horizon,


by Seamus Heaney

He would drink by himself

And raise a weathered thumb

Towards the high shelf,

Calling another rum


by Seamus Heaney

‘Clearances’ forms part of a series of sonnets in which Heaney examines his relationship with his mother, and focuses on her death.

A cobble thrown a hundred years ago

Keeps coming at me, the first stone

Aimed at a great-grandmother's turncoat brow.

The pony jerks and the riot's on.

District and Circle

by Seamus Heaney

‘District and Circle’, written by Seamus Heaney, depicts parts of a journey, or of several journeys, on the London Underground.

Again the growl

Of shutting doors, the jolt and one-off treble

Of iron on iron


by Seamus Heaney

‘Exposure’ by Seamus Heaney discusses the poet’s role in a society and how he might contribute helpfully to the discourse of the time. 

It is December in Wicklow:

Alders dripping, birches

Inheriting the last light,

The ash tree cold to look at.


by Seamus Heaney

‘Follower’ has many of the aspects which characterize the poems of Seamus Heaney. Having grown up in an area of Northern Ireland that greatly valued family, hard work, and farming, Heaney’s poems often reflect all of these values at once.

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.

Last Look

by Seamus Heaney

In ‘Last Look’ by Seamus Heaney the tale is told of an older man who is standing stationary and staring blankly toward a physical “field,”

We came upon him, stilled

and oblivious,

gazing into a field

of blossoming potatoes,

Man and Boy

by Seamus Heaney

My father is a barefoot boy with news,

Running at eye-level with weeds and stooks

On the afternoon of his own father’s death.

Mid-Term Break

by Seamus Heaney

‘Mid-Term Break’ by Seamus Heaney describes the emotional turmoil experienced by a speaker who has lost a loved one in a traumatic way. 

I sat all morning in the college sick bay

Counting bells knelling classes to a close.

At two o'clock our neighbours drove me home.

Out of the Bag

by Seamus Heaney

All of us came in Doctor Kerlin's bag.

He'd arrive with it, disappear to the room

And by the time he'd reappear to wash


by Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west

Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,

In September or October, when the wind


by Seamus Heaney

‘Punishment’ is featured in North, a poetry collection published in 1975. North seeks for images and symbols to convey violence and political conflicts.

I can feel the tug

of the halter at the nape

of her neck, the wind

on her naked front.

Storm on the Island

by Seamus Heaney

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,

Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.

This wizened earth has never troubled us

Summer 1969

by Seamus Heaney

While the Constabulary covered the mob

Firing into the Falls, I was suffering

Only the bullying sun of Madrid.

Each afternoon, in the casserole heat

We're glad you like visiting Poem Analysis...

We've got everything you need to master poetry

But, are you ready to take your learning

to the next level?