Seamus Heaney

The Outlaw

Kelly’s kept an unlicensed bull, well away
From the road: you risked a fine but had to pay
The normal fee if cows were serviced there.
Once I dragged a nervous Friesian on a tether
Down a lane of alder, shaggy with catkin,
Down to the shed the bull was kept in.
I gave Old Kelly the clammy silver, though why
I could not guess. He grunted a curt ‘Go by.
Get up on that gate.’ And from my lofty station
I watched the businesslike conception.
The door, unbolted, whacked back against the wall.
The illegal sire fumbled from his stall
Unhurried as an old steam engine shunting.
He circled, snored, and nosed. No hectic panting,

Just the unfussy ease of a good tradesman;
Then an awkward, unexpected jump, and
His knobbled forelegs straddling her flank,
He slammed life home, impassive as a tank.
Dropping off like a tipped-up load of sand.
‘She’ll do,’ said Kelly and tapped his ash-plant
Across her hindquarters. ‘If not, bring her back.’
I walked ahead of her, the rope now slack
While Kelly whooped and prodded his outlaw
Who, in his own time, resumed the dark, the straw.