Tributes paid to ‘keeper of language’ Seamus Heaney
Poet's death has brought a 'great sorrow' to Ireland
Along with being a poet of immense stature, he was also a well-known public figure and a member of Aosdana since its foundation.
Heaney said writers had a detached attitude to the “forms of success that have failed spectacularly and disastrously.
“We have seen how little it profited so many men to gain the whole world.”
Seamus Heaney's Nobel lecture Crediting Poetry, Dec 7th 1995
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Former US president Bill Clinton described Heaney as “one of the world’s favourite poets” and joked that he even called his dog Seamus after Heaney.
“Your poetry has been a gift to the people of Ireland and to the world and a gift to me in difficult times,” Mr Clinton said.
Minister for the Arts Jimmy Deenihan praised Heaney for his work as a literary great but also for promoting Ireland. “He was just a very humble, modest man. He was very accessible,” he said. “Anywhere I have ever travelled in the world and you mention poetry and literature and the name of Seamus Heaney comes up immediately.”
Mr Deenihan recently joined Heaney at an event at the Irish Embassy in Paris where the poet gave readings to an audience of 1,000 invited guests. “He was a huge figure internationally, a great ambassador for literature obviously, but also for Ireland,” the Minister said.
Heaney donated his personal literary notes to the National Library of Ireland in December 2011, joining the ranks of James Joyce and fellow Nobel winner WB Yeats. During his literary career he held prestigious posts at Oxford University and at Harvard in the US.
Among the many honours Heaney received in his lifetime were the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, and the following year he was made a Commandeur de L’Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French ministry of culture.
His profile and the high regard he was held in was evidenced when he sat at the Queen’s table for a banquet on her state visit to the Republic in 2011, the first such trip for a ruling British monarch.
He was due to deliver a speech at the Linen Hall Library in Belfast next Tuesday and make an address next month at Amnesty International’s ambassador of conscience award, named after a poem he wrote for the organisation in 1985.
Those who knew him remarked on how he was renowned for always accepting invites to speak. Patrick Corrigan, the organisation’s Northern Ireland director, said he connected not just with people in Ireland but across the world.
“Through the beauty and elegance of his writing, Seamus Heaney reminded us of the bonds which unite and our duty to uphold the dignity of all,” he said. “Ireland has lost a legendary man of letters. The world has lost a towering giant of humanity.”
Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, said Heaney’s legacy would be as one of the finest Irish poets of all time. “His work reflected his deep love and knowledge of the Irish land and the Irish people. His poetry explained us to ourselves. In his work, the dignity and honour of the everyday lives of people came to life,” he said.
“Yet his poetry was also universal in nature, as can be seen by the wonderful tributes being paid to him by people across the globe today and by his incredible achievement in winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.”