Excerpt from ‘From the Canton of Expectation’ by Seamus Heaney


Today at lunch I paged through an anthology of Seamus Heaney’s works from the university library. This is part of one of the best poems I came across called ‘From the Canton of Expectation’. I love the imagery of the children discarding their history for the modern fast life, only to wish or hope for it back. I am, and have been, all the people in this story at one moment or another.


Books open in the newly wired kitchens.
Young heads that might have dozed a life away
against the flanks of milking cows were busy
paving and pencilling their first causeways
across the prescribed texts. The paving stones
of quadrangles came next and a grammar
of imperatives, the new age of demands.
They would banish the conditional for ever,
this generation born impervious to
the triumph in our cries of de profundis.
Our faith in winning by enduring most
they made anathema, intelligences
brightened and unmannerly as crowbars.

I yearn for hammerblows on clinkered planks,
the uncompromised report of driven thole-pins,
to know there is one among us who never swerved
from all his instincts told him was right action
who stood his ground in the indicative,
whose boat will lift when the cloudburst happens.