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Seamus Heaneys the redress of poetry?


The subject that Seamus Heaney has treated, the redress of poetry, is not a new
subject. The nature and purpose of poetry has been a subject of practical importance to
everyone who has an interest in poetry. Heaney builds different assumptions for the
redress of poetry. The question is that whether, poetry is a useful activity in society;
whether poetry is an aesthetic or a pragmatic work.
There have been a lot of discussions whether poets and poetry are of any use in
the complexities and miseries of life or not some are of the view that the poets are
worthless people and some condemned them as idle people. As plato is among the
haters of poets and poetry. He had banished the poets from his Republic.
Aristotle was of the view that the poets are essential to keep balance in society
and they took us towards the ideal. There were others also who kept defending poetry
against all kinds of objections for instance, Sydney asserted that
The poet takes us to the ideal. So did Shelley support poetry because poetry
teaches the perfect. Oscar wild said that life should imitate art because art presents the
perfect. Arnoldwent to the extent of saying that all that now goes in the name of religion
or philosophy will be replaced by poetry. Sidney wrote in Apology for Poetry Poets
are the unacknowledged legislators of the World.
Heaney makes a fresh attempt to defend poetry in this age of science and
technology when everyone Is becoming a utilitarian and even education has been
commercialized. Poetry and Philosophy are now considered idle mental luxuries while
commerce, computer and business administration have been given the name of
education. Heaney starts his thesis by distinguishing two planes of existence. Here he
quotes George Herberts poem Pulley; which suggests that the mind and aspiration of
the human beings turned towards the heavenly inspite of all the pleasures and penalties
of being upon the earth. This can be done by poetic sixth sense which provides a
passage from the domain of the matter of fact; into the domain of the imagination. Here
Heaney also quotes the same explanation of religious experience by John Donne. Donne
says God throws down in order to rise up. It is a religious paradox that sin brings man
closer to God. This is how Heaney concludes that these paradoxes are captured only by
poetry.
Heaney is of the opinion that the world of reality and the world of imagination are
two different worlds but they depend upon each other and they reinforce each other and
this is the subject of his poem Squarings. From this story, Heaney concludes that there
are two worlds, our everyday world and the world of visionary crew. Heaney keeps
moving between the world of fact and the world of imagination. He quotes from Pinskey
to support his argument. Pinskey in Responsibilites of The Poet says that the poet
has a responsibility to answer. He is to answerthe question raised by life. Life raises
questions and poet gives answers.
Seamus Heaney defends poetry on the ground of utility also. He says poetry
focuses from delight to wisdom. He says the world of poetry is an answer to the world of
fact. Life creates anxieties; Poetry tries to relieve them. Life disturbs but poetry
consoles. It shows man the right path and poetry has a power of sustaining man in
difficulties. These are the pragmatic advantages of poetry. Heaney also defends poetry
on the level of its aesthetic utility. We get pleasure out of words. Man comes to wisdom
through delight, not to delight through wisdom. Man studies poetry to amuse himself and
to satisfy his soul but in this psychological state he gets wisdom as well. Thus, poetry is a
pleasurable study of life.
Poetry can very pleasantly and easily explore the subjects which are generally
denied by social, racial, sexual, and political prejudices and all this is done through the
linguisticmedium. But the poet has to take care that while discussing these issues poetry
should not be sacrificed, Heaney says that the poets should not narrow down their scope
by limiting poetry to certain dimensions of time and space. It should be free from any
restriction. Some demand that the poets should write against the common trend to shock
the minds of the people. They should write revolutionary poetry. But the impact of poetry
is not practical, it is psychological. Poetry does not force man to go and fight. But poetry
shows what is wrong and what is right. If poetry becomes practical, according to Heaney,
it will not remain poetry, it will become a propaganda. It is not the nature of poetry.
Prof. Ali Raza Fahad Dept. of English, Govt. Postgraduate College, Gojra

Heaney quotes Wallace Stevens in order to evaluate his argument. Wallace says! Poetry
creates an alternative world to the world of fact. Poetry suggests what life ought to be.
Poetry makes sketches and plans. It shows possibilities; it shows what is desirable.
Moreover, Poetry is about man. Poetry promotes, love of men. Poetry shows that all
men are human beings and they deserve sympathy. But politics tells us that some people
deserve sympathy and some deserve our wrath. Poetry speaks of love for all people:
Politics forces people to kill other people. In fact politics divides men. If poetry becomes
politics then it will not remain poetry, it will become a propaganda and in this way it will
divide humanity into friends and foes. For instance, the Irish men who were killed in the
rising of 1916 . But he is also sorry for the Englishmen who died in the fight. Talking
about the humanitarian zeal of poetry. Heaney says, that zeals considers both enemies
and friends as men. He does not discriminate between the Irish People and the English
people. Both were fighting for their ideals. That is exactly what poetry conveys to us,
everyman whether black or white; Irish or English has the same feeling, passions and
blood.
Heaney raises an interesting point here which is also shared by Edward Said in
Culture and Imperialism that the sensibility of the people of the colonies is coloured by
the sensibility of the imperial masters. As the Irish condemn the English but they use the
English medium. Imperialism has inculcated in their minds a culture that they tried to
reject. But this is also a very healthy experience. The Irish hate the English, still they love
Shakespeare and Keats.
To conclude, Heaney tries to demonstrate that poetry has a function in life, though
not ostentatious. The poet does nothing on purpose, but poetry is a medium which by its
very nature serves a purpose. This can be understood with reference to a statement by
Wordsworth that his poetry has a purpose. It is not meaningless activity. But this purpose
is not imposed upon poetry. Since Wordsworth lives a purposeful life, therefore whatever
he does has a purpose in it. Heaney believes that poetry cannot be subjected to any
particular direction and nor limited to any certain aspect of society. He emphasises that
poets should elevate their services onuniversal level and poetry should be above all
racial, social and political prejudices. This is how he evaluates brighter sides and aspects
of poetry in his essay Redress of Poetry

Prof. Ali Raza Fahad Dept. of English, Govt. Postgraduate College, Gojra