Seamus Heaney

St Kevin and the Blackbird

Seamus Heaney

St Kevin and the Blackbird

Seamus Heaney

St Kevin and the Blackbird

And then there was St Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so

One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a crossbeam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to nest.

Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,

Is moved to pity: now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.


And since the whole thing's imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time

From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Are his fingers sleeping? Does he still feel his knees?
Or has the shut-eyed blank of underearth

Crept up through him? Is there distance in his head?
Alone and mirrored clear in love's deep river,
'To labour and not to seek reward,' he prays,

A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the riverbank forgotten the river's name.

from The Spirit Level (Faber, 1996), copyright © Seamus Heaney 1996, used by permission of the author and the publisher


Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney Reading from his Poems

1Death of a Naturalist

2Blackberry Picking

3Mid-term Break

4The Peninsula


6Anahorish 7Broagh

8The Tollund Man

9Mossbawn Sunlight

10The Grauballe Man




14Glanmore Sonnets: Dogger, Rockall, Malin...

15The Harvest Bow

16The Underground

17A Kite for Michael and Christopher

18The Railway Children

19Station Island, section 7

20The Haw Lantern

21Clearances: sonnets 2, 3, 5, 8


23Squarings: section 8

24Seeing Things

25The Skylight

26Two Lorries

27St Kevin and the Blackbird

28A Call



31Bann Valley Eclogue

32Electric Light

33The Blackbird of Glanmore

Books by Seamus Heaney