85 Best Seamus Heaney Quotes and Poems on Death and Hope

Seamus Heaney, a Nobel laureate and renowned poet of the 20th century, was celebrated for his lyrical poetry that celebrated the everyday and brought to life the history of Ireland.

His upbringing in Northern Ireland heavily influenced his work, creating a bridge between his personal experiences and the universal, covering subjects like civil strife, cultural erosion and the complexities of political situations.

Heaney’s exploration of rural life and his articulation of the human spirit was praised for its vivid sensory imagery.


As an educator and a poet, he played a significant role in exploring the political unrest in Northern Ireland, balancing the role of a public spokesperson and a private poet.

Heaney was also an adept translator, breathing new life into the epic Anglo-Saxon poem, Beowulf.

His belief in the power of poetry as a source of hope and inner strength, especially in times of crisis, marked his influence on literature.

His popularity extended beyond academia, making him a beloved figure in the literary world.

Best Seamus Heaney Quotes


I credit poetry for making this space-walk possible. ~ Seamus Heaney.


All I know is a door into the dark. ~ Seamus Heaney.


In off the moors, down through the mist beams, god-cursed Grendel came greedily loping. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Without needing to be theoretically instructed, consciousness quickly realizes that it is the site of variously contending discourses. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The gift of writing is to be self-forgetful. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Hope for a great sea-change timid to rebuke and too petty to forgive. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine. ~ Seamus Heaney.

If poetry and the arts do anything, they can fortify your inner life, your inwardness. ~ Seamus Heaney.


I drink to keep body and soul apart. ~ Seamus Heaney.

As writers and readers, as sinners and citizens, our realism and our aesthetic sense make us wary of crediting the positive note. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Suspect too much sweet talk but never close your mind. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for. ~ Seamus Heaney.

It has as much to do with the energy released by linguistic fission and fusion, with the buoyancy generated by cadence and tone and rhyme and stanza, as it has to do with the poem’s concerns or the poet’s truthfulness. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Which would be better, what sticks or what falls through? Or does the choice itself create the value? ~ Seamus Heaney.

The next move is always the test. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I always had a superstitious fear of setting up a too well-designed writing place and then finding that the writing had absconded. ~ Seamus Heaney.


That was their way, their heathenish hope; deep in their hearts they remembered hell. ~ Seamus Heaney.

A populace that is chloroformed day and night by TV stations like Fox News could do with inoculation by poetry. Obviously, poetry can’t be administered like an injection, but it does constitute a boost to the capacity for discrimination and resistance. ~ Seamus Heaney.


In fact, in lyric poetry, truthfulness becomes recognizable as a ring of truth within the medium itself. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Sink every impulse like a bolt. Secure The bastion of sensation. Do not waver Into language. Do not waver in it. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The ‘voice of sanity’ is getting hoarse. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I might enjoy being an albatross, being able to glide for days and daydream for hundreds of miles along the thermals. And then being able to hang like an affliction round some people’s necks. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Over the waves, with the wind behind her and foam at her neck, she flew like a bird until her curved prow had covered the distance… ~ Seamus Heaney.


Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear. ~ Seamus Heaney.

The fact of the matter is that the most unexpected and miraculous thing in my life was the arrival in it of poetry itself – as a vocation and an elevation almost. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Whether it be a matter of personal relations within a marriage or political initiatives within a peace process, there is no sure-fire do-it-yourself kit. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Fate goes ever as fate must. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I am not a playwright. A playwright would take Antigone and hit it a few clouts and knock it out of shape and restructure it. My versioning was strictly verbal. ~ Seamus Heaney.


If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what’s said and what’s done. ~ Seamus Heaney.

You had to come back to learn how to lose yourself, to be pilot and stray-witch, Hansel and Gretel in one. ~ Seamus Heaney.


I’ve nothing against the Queen personally: I had lunch at the Palace once upon a time. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Top Seamus Heaney Quotes

But every now and then, just weighing in is what it must come down to, and without any self-exculpation or self-pity. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Yet there are times when a deeper need enters, when we want the poem to be not only pleasurably right but compellingly wise, not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a re-tuning of the world itself. ~ Seamus Heaney.


There is risk and truth to yourselves and the world before you. ~ Seamus Heaney.

The dotted line my father’s ashplant made On Sandymount Strand Is something else the tide won’t wash away. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Then as the years went on and my listening became more deliberate, I would climb up on an arm of our big sofa to get my ear closer to the wireless speaker. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The aim of poetry and the poet is finally to be of service, to ply the effort of the individual into the larger work of the community as a whole. ~ Seamus Heaney.

But even so, none of the news of these world-spasms entered me as terror. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The thing about writing is that if you have the impulse, you will find the time. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Wherever that man went, he went gratefully. ~ Seamus Heaney.

So hope for a great sea-change On the far side of revenge. Believe that further shore Is reachable from here. Believe in miracles And cures and healing wells. ~ Seamus Heaney.

What do we say any more to conjure the salt of our earth? So much comes and is gone that should be crystal and kept, and amicable weathers that bring up the grain of things, their tang of season and store, are all the packing we’ll get. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I’m a firm believer in learning by heart. ~ Seamus Heaney.


My body was braille for the creeping influences. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Only the very stupid or the very deprived can any longer help knowing that the documents of civilization have been written in blood and tears, blood and tears no less real for being very remote. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Behavior that’s admired is the path to power among people everywhere. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Poetry is language in orbit. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Famous Seamus Heaney Quotes

I always believed that whatever had to be written would somehow get itself written. ~ Seamus Heaney.

A public expectation, it has to be said, not of poetry as such but of political positions variously approvable by mutually disapproving groups. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Memory has always been fundamental for me. In fact, remembering what I had forgotten is the way most of the poems get started. ~ Seamus Heaney.


I suppose I’m saying that defiance is actually part of the lyric job. ~ Seamus Heaney.

The completely solitary self: that’s where poetry comes from, and it gets isolated by crisis, and those crises are often very intimate also. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Believe that a further shore is reachable from here. ~ Seamus Heaney.

If self is a location, so is love. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Poetry is always slightly mysterious, and you wonder what is your relationship to it. ~ Seamus Heaney.

It is difficult at times to repress the thought that history is about as instructive as an abattoir. ~ Seamus Heaney.

We were small and thought we knew nothing Worth knowing. We thought words traveled the wires In the shiny pouches of raindrops, Each one seeded full with the light Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves So infinitesimally scaled We could stream through the eye of a needle. ~ Seamus Heaney.


I’ve always associated the moment of writing with a moment of lift, of joy, of unexpected reward. ~ Seamus Heaney.

The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast. You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. ~ Seamus Heaney.

To begin with, I wanted that truth to life to possess a concrete reliability, and rejoiced most when the poem seemed most direct, an upfront representation of the world it stood in for or stood up for or stood its ground against. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Don’t be surprised if I demur, for, be advised my passport’s green. ~ Seamus Heaney.

You carried your own burden and very soon your symptoms of creeping privilege disappeared. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Ultimate Seamus Heaney Quotes

Desmond O’Grady is one of the senior figures in Irish Literary life, exemplary in the way he has committed himself over the decades to the vocation of poetry and has lived selflessly for the art. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I shall gain glory or die. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Write whatever you like! ~ Seamus Heaney.

Loyalism, or Unionism, or Protestantism, or whatever you want to call it, in Northern Ireland – it operates not as a class system, but a caste system. ~ Seamus Heaney.

As writers and readers, as sinners and citizens, our realism and our aesthetic sense make us wary of crediting the positive note. The very gunfire braces us and the atrocious confers a worth upon the effort which it calls forth to confront it. ~ Seamus Heaney.

How perilous is it to choose not to love the life we’re shown? ~ Seamus Heaney.

Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Even if the last move did not succeed, the inner command says move again. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Let whoever can win glory before death. ~ Seamus Heaney.


The end of art is peace. ~ Seamus Heaney.

My point is there’s a hidden Scotland in anyone who speaks the Northern Ireland speech. It’s a terrific complicating factor, not just in Northern Ireland, but Ireland generally. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I have begun to think of life as a series of ripples widening out from an original center. ~ Seamus Heaney.

God is a foreman with certain definite views Who orders life in shifts of work and leisure. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Great Seamus Heaney Quotes

When I first encountered the name of the city of Stockholm, I little thought that I would ever visit it, never mind end up being welcomed to it as a guest of the Swedish Academy and the Nobel Foundation. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Poetry cannot afford to lose its fundamentally self-delighting inventiveness, its joy in being a process of language as well as a representation of things in the world. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Nowadays, what an award gives is a sense of solidarity with the poetry guild, as it were: sustenance coming from the assent of your peers on the judging panel. ~ Seamus Heaney.

I have always thought of poems as stepping stones in one’s own sense of oneself. ~ Seamus Heaney.


Walk on air against your better judgment. ~ Seamus Heaney.

The way we are living, timorous or bold, will have been our life. ~ Seamus Heaney.

It is always better to avenge dear ones than to indulge in mourning. For every one of us, living in this world means waiting for our end. Let whoever can win glory before death. When a warrior is gone, that will be his best and only bulwark. ~ Seamus Heaney.

Was music once a proof of God’s existence?
As long as it admits things beyond measure
That supposition stands. ~ Seamus Heaney.

At home in Ireland, there’s a habit of avoidance, an ironical attitude towards the authority figure. ~ Seamus Heaney.

So these were the 85 top Seamus Heaney quotes and poems on death, life and hope.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Bessel van der Kolk quotes and Alexander McQueen quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar