.. for when you lose your happiness,
I always say, you lose your life.
.. Wordsworth dramatises the predicament
by recollecting the sense of alienation
and traitorous disaffection which he ex-
perienced in church during the prayers
for the success of the English armies.
No shock before or since, Wordsworth says,
no blow administered to what he calls his
moral nature equalled the disorienting
force of this sudden fissure that had o-
pened in his loyalties. And, of course,
the poem in which Wordsworth reports the
trauma is the very poem whose composition
was part of the process of healing the
trauma. 'The Prelude' is about a conscious-
articulating its conflict and crises. And
the same could be said of much poetry from
Northern Ireland. For the best efforts there
have been evident in writing that is a mode
of integration, of redistributing the whole
field of cultural and political force into
a tolerable order.
When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
We were eye-level with the white cups
Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.
Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
East and miles west beyond us, sagging
Under their burden of swallows.
We were small and thought we knew nothing
Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires
In the shiny pouches of raindrops,
Each one seeded full with the light
Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
So infinitesimally scaled
We could stream through the eye of a needle.
The Burial at Thebes
A Version of Sophocles' 'Antigone'
Speech of The Messenger
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004©
The Redress of Poetry
The Frontiers of Writing
November 23, 1993
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1995©
The Railway Children
Faber & Faber, 1985©