Wednesday 22 November 2017

Christopher Howse: Why Seamus Heaney's last words weren't the last laugh

It was a brilliant stroke to leave last words that could only be taken as a serious poetic insight.

FINAL JOURNEY: Marie Heaney looks on as her husband's remains are placed in the hearse after the funeral Mass in Donnybrook, Dublin, last Monday. Photo: Frank McGrath
FINAL JOURNEY: Marie Heaney looks on as her husband's remains are placed in the hearse after the funeral Mass in Donnybrook, Dublin, last Monday. Photo: Frank McGrath

Christopher Howse

BECAUSE death is so serious, it tends to make us laugh.

It might seem unlikely that a tendency to gallows humour is a constant in the human outlook, but that's the evidence. Only when toothache could not be cured was it the object of laughter.

In the 19th Century, instead of sending saucy postcards of fat women and little men at the seaside, people would post what seem to us repellently alarming images of a gent with his swollen jaw wrapped up with a handkerchief or a funny old woman with a string tied to a troublesome incisor and a heavy door.

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