from Route 110

Seamus Heaney

copyright ©2010 by Seamus Heaney


As one when the month is young sees a new moon
Fading into daytime, again it is her face
At the dormer window, her hurt still new.

My look behind me hurried as I unlock,
Switch on, rev up, pull out and drive away
In the car she’ll not have taken her eyes off,

The brakelights flicker-flushing at the corner
Like red lamps swung by RUC patrols
In the small hours on pre-Troubles roads

After dances, after our holdings on
And holdings back, the necking
And nay-saying age of impurity.

Notes on the Poem

We previously examined a section of Seamus Heaney's poem in episodes "Route 110" from his 2010 collection Human Chain, and were astonished at the effect of his simple and economical words. Let's look at another section of this same poem and marvel at what else he could capture in just a few brief stanzas. In section iii, Heaney succinctly created an unmistakable sense of motion and manic activity. Here in section viii, Heaney simultaneously depicts the strange intimacy of a sad, uncomfortable parting, while sweeping back and forth to echoes of near and ancient past. The opening line, taken from Virgil, refers to Trojan warrior Aeneas seeing but not being able to communicate with the ghost of his lover Dido, who committed suicide when she felt he had betrayed her. "Fading into daytime" takes the mythological reference straight into Heaney's narrator's immediate experience, where a current betrayal has left someone at the window, "her hurt still new." The narrator's departure is tense and furtive, as Heaney conveys in these terse lines: "My look behind me hurried as I unlock, Switch on, rev up, pull out and drive away" But the shame of whatever the narrator has done to precipitate this scene and its graceless exit blossoms, seguing from the "flicker-flushing" of his brakelights to the red lamps of the police patrol as perhaps a younger version of the narrator was feeling another type of guilt. While an older love is fading painfully before him, the narrator is reminded of younger loves and their different but equally distressing tribulations. Enjoy an in-depth consideration of this and all 12 sections of the poem "Route 110" here on former Modern Language teacher David Fawbert's blog.

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