Personal Helicon

Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney was voted Ireland’s 40th favourite poem by readers of the Irish Times in 1999.

Ireland’s 100 favourite poems
Seamus Heaney

In the poem Heaney remembers back to the simpler and easier time of his childhood when just playing around at the well was enough to keep him happy.

Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling

Personal Helicon

As a child, they could not keep me from wells
And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.
I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells
Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.

One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.
I savoured the rich crash when a bucket
Plummeted down at the end of a rope.
So deep you saw no reflection in it.

A shallow one under a dry stone ditch
Fructified like any aquarium.
When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch
A white face hovered over the bottom.

Others had echoes, gave back your own call
With a clean new music in it. And one
Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall
Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.

Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,
To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring
Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme
To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.

Personal Helicon by Seamus Heaney. Image copyright Ireland Calling
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Seamus Heaney

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Ireland's 100 favourite poems

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