Sunday, January 11, 2015


Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Against the backdrop of this week's horrendous massacres in France, and now the outpouring of more than one and a half million people of good will on the streets of Paris, I offer the hopeful words of the late Irish poet and playwright, Seamus Heaney:

                                         Human beings suffer.
                                         They torture one another.
                                         They get hurt and get hard.
                                         No poem or play or song
                                         Can fully right a wrong
                                         Inflicted and endured.

                                         The innocents in gaols
                                         Beat on their bars together.
                                         A hunger-striker's father
                                         Stands in the graveyard dumb.
                                         The police widow in veils
                                         Faints at the funeral home.

                                         History says, don't hope
                                         On this side of the grave.
                                         But then, once in a lifetime
                                         The longed-for tidal wave
                                         Of justice can rise up,
                                         And hope and history rhyme.

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

                                         Call miracle self-healing:
                                         The utter, self-revealing
                                         Double-take of feeling.
                                         If there's fire on the mountain
                                         Or lightning and storm
                                         And a god speaks from the sky

                                         That means someone is hearing
                                         The outcry and the birth-cry
                                         Of new life at its term.

                              From Seamus Heaney's The Cure at Troy


  1. That's a beautiful poem George, and so appropriate. Thank you for posting it.

    1. Glad you liked this piece, Dritanje. It helped to alleviate some of the despair I've been feeling recently about the unspeakable violence throughout the world. The idea that hope and history may rhyme someday is quite beautiful to contemplate.

  2. Such an appropriate poem, George. After the massacres, that outpouring of brotherly and sister love, that commitment to freedom and free speech, as people stood up to be counted — in solidarity and with idealism. Not demonstrations against this or that, not angry and violent, not political. We have to believe in a sea-change, in a future rhyme for hope and history, while at the same time righting social injustices and ridding ourselves of all ethnic and religious prejudices. A tall order looking at the state of the world at the moment, but we have to believe.

    1. Well said, Robert. Seeing people of good will gather by the millions in various places throughout Europe, but especially in Paris, lifted my spirits immensely. One of the great photos of the Paris gathering was the march with Hollande, Sarkozy, Merkel, Netanyahu, and Mahmoud Abbas locked in arms on the front line. Indeed, one has to hope for that tidal wave of justice that will rise up one day and cause hope and history to rhyme.

  3. Seamus Heaney says it all, doesn't he George. Like you I was much uplifted by that front row of marchers through the streets of Paris.

    1. Yes, Pat, I think Heaney is telling us what we all know at a visceral level, specifically, that cynicism and despair lead nowhere. With all of our disappointments, hope remains critical to positive change. As one who grew up in Mississippi and lived to see an African American elected President in two consecutive elections, I know that, in time, the greatest of obstacles can be overcome.