Thinking of Sweeney

One of my favorite poetic works is Seamus Heaney’s translation/version of the Buile Suibhne (Sweeney’s Frenzy) Sweeney Astray. In his introduction Heaney writes “…the literary imagination that fastened upon him as an image was clearly in the grip of a tension between the newly dominant Christian ethos and the older, recalcitrant Celtic temperament. The opening sections which recount the collision between the peremptory ecclesiastic and the sacral king, and the closing pages of uneasy reconciliation set in St. Moling’s monastery, are the most explicit treatment of this recurrent theme. This alone makes the work a significant one, but it does not exhaust its significance. Fore example, insofar as Sweeney is also a figure of the artist, displaced, guilty, assuaging himself by his utterance, it is possible to read the work as an aspect of the quarrel between free creative imagination and the constraints of religious, political, and domestic obligation.”

 

Ah, yes, the recalcitrant Celtic temperament. Suibhne who is traumatized in battle goes off into the woods, the archetypal outsider poet, where he lives like a bird, sharing in the beauty and joys and the terrors and discomforts of such a wild existence. Bright and dark is the wisdom of those who wander the liminal places of imagination, otherworld and wild earth. I’ve written about him before: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/sweeney-orpheus-rimbaud-accursedblessed-poets/

 

For the Catholic Church this is a day for St. Moling who gave Suibhne last rites. Some of us CRs instead honor Mad Sweeney now.

 

Here’s a poem from my book:

 

SUIBHNE AGAIN
I flew in nightdark
over city to a remnant beach
littered in driftwood
above which stood
eucalyptus
offering rest.
A proper lookout it was,
above that tangled spit
covered in berry brambles—
a forager’s paradise.

 https://www.createspace.com/4443944

If you know the East Bay (San Francisco Bay) maybe you can figure out this place.

 

 

 

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Goat Song: A Dithyramb

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Goats munching on ivy I have to call an epiphany,

a new understanding these happy workers

trimming the park’s verge, a goatsong

full of meanings, implicit and explicit, I will chant.

Who else but goats find ivy tasty, I think, as I see another

reach for a sprig of cypress needles.

I can only metaphorically eat such fodder myself,

such chthonic fare, but I reach for memory of You

in that colossal hall where You hold forth with the Queen of the Dead—

some say she is your mother, I would that she is one of Your mothers

for one womb only could not contain You and of course there was that

thigh pouch of your divine father too.

And let’s remember how Demeter hid her daughter

in a Sicilian cave to keep her virginal, yet the celestial dragon,

Zeus, coiled in and brought fruitfulness to her womb

in that dark recess of the earth. In stillness of deep caves

You who have known such suffering

 

Prepare and offer the cups of relief

 

How peaceful is the sleep in the house of Persephone

How restful are the beds of Persephone

How cool the ivy, that double spirited plant.

 

But Your epiphanies always recur:

The ivy and the vine are always with us, God of Nysa.

At Eleutherai you appeared as black goat, You of the black goatskin

they called you, Dionysos under the earth.

Goats were sacrificed to the Ecstatic Lord too, those tireless munchers

prizes for the best goat song. On this bright day of the sun,

the wine put aside, I am brought to mind of the chthonic always

ready to break forth like that seizure that occurred at Nysa long ago to

Demeter’s daughter; the tales, the epiphanies, the meanings, just keep looping

round and round like a May garland, like the growth of ivy and vine,

tendrils and tendrils, tendrils twining and reaching.

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A Gratitude Poem

Up and Down the Stairs of Time:

A Praise Poem

 

The lustre of flares in water,

The teeth of lions spread on the meadow;

A cauldron simmering and ever full;

A star bright night on mountain forest;

The mist plays at veiling the sea

But the waves still thunder.

Rain falls on a hot afternoon, amid bright flashes;

Cattle graze peacefully on the lush grass;

The grapes are pressed for next year’s vintage;

A sword flashes naked truth in its gleaming;

The acorns lie deep on the wood’s floor;

A beautifully crafted chain of words flows;

Sculptures perfectly formed, red lotus garlanded;

Ravens, oystercatchers, hummingbirds…

I sing your praises Shining Ones

On this pale shore, on this golden isle,

On this meandering pathway

Up and down the stairs of time.

 

Perhaps you can discern some of the Ones being thanked?