Ireland’s Favorite Poem

Over_the_sea_to_Skye^_-_geograph.org.uk_-_668916Irish culture may be linked to St. Patrick’s day, and the heavy beer drinking involved. But, the nation is also known for the many legendary writers that came from its rolling green hills.

James Joyce, William Butler Yeats and, most recently, Seamus Heaney all called Ireland their home.

This year, RTE, the national broadcaster, hosted a contest aimed at identifying the country’s most-loved poem written in the last century.

The winner is a sonnet by Seamus Heaney called “When all the others were away at Mass.” Below is the text:

In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984

When all the others were away at Mass
I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
They broke the silence, let fall one by one
Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
Cold comforts set between us, things to share
Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.

So while the parish priest at her bedside
Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
And some were responding and some crying
I remembered her head bent towards my head,
Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

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