On the anniversary of the death of Irish Republican, Bobby Sands in 1981, I found myself reading Seamus Heaney’s discussion on his own poem, ‘Requiem for the Croppies’ in an essay entitled ‘Feeling into Words’. He wrote the poem on the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising.
Requiem for the Croppies
The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley…
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp…
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching… on the hike…
We found new tactics happening each day:
We’d cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until… on Vinegar Hill… the final conclave.
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave.
They buried us without shroud or coffin
And in August… the barley grew up out of our grave.
As Seamus Heaney wrote himself, the image of resurrection begins and ends the poem. The barley seeds that the ‘croppies’ carried in their pockets for food, sprouted and grew from their graves.
Heaney uses these seeds as a metaphor. The seeds of rebellion being sown in 1798 and flowering during the Easter Rising of 1916 (‘Feeling Into Words’, S. Heaney, ‘Finders Keepers’, 2002).
Q ‘How with all this rage shall beauty hold a plea?’
A by offering, ‘befitting emblems of adversity’.