Wednesday 7 December 2016

Maurice Hayes: Heaney's insightful gift that just keeps on giving

Published 27/12/2011 | 05:00

Seamus Heaney
shows Taoiseach
Enda Kenny some
of the papers he has
gifted to the
National Library of
Ireland
Seamus Heaney shows Taoiseach Enda Kenny some of the papers he has gifted to the National Library of Ireland

The Gift of the Mage: the singular form loses perhaps some of the magic of the original, diminished further by a 15-minute journey from Sandymount to Merrion Square instead of a camel-trek across Persia from the outer reaches of the known world.

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There can have been few Christmas gifts more precious, more generous and indeed more essentially patriotic than Seamus Heaney's decision to present his papers to the National Library of Ireland. It was characteristic too that he should deliver the trove himself, packed in cardboard boxes, in the back of the family car, "No porters. No interpreter. No taxi".

Unlike the Magi in Eliot's luminous poem, he did not have trouble with camels, galled, sore-footed, refractory, or with fractious drivers fighting about liquor and women on the short journey through inner-city Dublin.

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