‘Walk on air against your better judgment’: Heaney on life, poetry, God and Ireland

Some of the late Nobel Laureate’s best quotes

Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney was renowned for his way with words. Below are a small fraction of the quotes which made him popular around the world.

“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.” (This Week magazine, 2004)

“Walk on air against your better judgement.” (Nobel Lecture, 1995)

“If you have the words, there’s always a chance that you’ll find the way.”


“History says, don’t hope ....

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave.

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme” (The Cure at Troy, 1991)

“Anyone with gumption and a sharp mind will take the measure of two things: what’s said and what’s done.” (Beowulf: A New Verse Translation, 2001)

“I’m going to afford myself a year off.... and wait and see, and live in panic for the next poem.” (2010)

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

“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.” (The Redress of Poetry, 1990)

“Even if the hopes you started out with are dashed, hope has to be maintained.”