Belderg, a North Mayo poem by the late Séamus Heaney

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Belderg by Séamus Heaney

Belderg, North Mayo

Belderg, North Mayo

Belderg, or Belderrig, is a tiny village on the bogs of the north Mayo coast, known for the wonderful arachaeological work done in uncovering prehistoric field systems, most famously at Céide Fields. I go walking up there, loving the landscape between bog, cliffs and ocean blue.

Today, I’ve just heard of the passing of the great Irish poet, Séamus Heaney. I thought I’d share with you his beautiful poem to North Mayo and its bogs – Belderg.




‘They just keep turning up
And were thought of as foreign’-
One-eyed and benign,
They lie about his house,
Quernstones out of a bog.
To lift the lid of the peat
And find this pupil dreaming
Of neolithic wheat!
When he stripped off blanket bog
The soft-piled centuries
Fell open like a glib;
There were the first plough-marks,
The stone-age fields, the tomb
Corbelled, turfed and chambered,
Floored with dry turf-coomb.
A landscape fossilized,
Its stone wall patternings
Repeated before our eyes
In the stone walls of Mayo.
Before I turned to go
He talked about persistence,
A congruence of lives,
How stubbed and cleared of stones,
His home accrued growth rings
Of iron, flint and bronze.
So I talked of Mossbawn,
A bogland name ‘but Moss’?,
He crossed my old home’s music
With older strains of Norse.
I’d told how its foundation
Was mutable as sound
And how I could derive
A forked root from that ground,
Make bawn an English fort,
A planter’s walled-in mound.
Or else find sanctuary
And think of it as Irish,
Persistent if outworn.
‘But the Norse ring on your tree?’
I passed through the eye of the quern,
Grist to an ancient mill,
And in my mind’s eye saw,
A world-tree of balanced stones,
Querns piles like vertebrae,
The marrow crushed to grounds.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

Read about the late Séamus Heaney here.

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