Seamus Heaney


Light was calloused in the leaded panes of the college chapel 
and shafted into the terrazzo rink of the sanctuary. The duty 
priest tested his diction against pillar and plaster, we tested 
our elbows on the hard bevel of the benches or split the gold-barred 
thickness of our missals.   
        I could make a book of hours of those six years, a Flemish 
calendar of rite and pastime set on a walled hill. Look: there is 
a hillside cemetery behind us and across the river the plough 
going in a field and, in between, the gated town. Here, an 
obedient clerk kissing a bishop's ring, here a frieze of seasonal 
games, and here the assiduous illuminator himself, bowed to his 
desk in a corner.  
        In the study hall my hand was cold as a scribe's in winter. 
The supervisor rustled past, sibilant, vapouring into his breviary, 
his welted brogues unexpectedly secular under the soutane. Now 
I bisected the line AB, now found my foothold in a main verb 
in Livy. From my dormer after lights out I revised the constel
lations and in the morning broke the ice on an enamelled water-
jug with exhilarated self-regard.