Version classiqueVersion mobile
OpenEdition Books

The Living Stream

 | 
Warwick Gould

Essays in Memory of A. Norman Jeffares 1920-2005

From the Window of the House

Seamus Heaney

Texte intégral

1‘YOU LIKED JEANNE’S painting of Glanmore, & when I came across a couple of old scraperboards of mine, I thought you might like to have them too... The landskip is what I saw from the sitting room window.’ So Derry wrote to me in December 2001, in a brief note accompanying copies of two pieces of his unexpected and finely executed art. ‘I blew them up to roughly A4 size.’ And then as a PS, ‘I see I did them in 1956—eheu, fugaces etc.’

2The briskness will be familiar to anyone who knew him, the kindness at once impulsive and decisive, the learning like a ball lightly batted and bounced at you over a net. I loved the way he made the land skip and the Horace bop, but chiefly I loved having those black and white images of the house and environs that meant so much to both of us.

3In 1972, when I had more or less decided to give up my lectureship in Queen’s University and go full time as a writer, Ann Saddlemyer wrote to Marie and me, suggesting that we could use Glanmore Cottage as an interim home. We didn’t know then that Ann had acquired the property from Derry’s mother, or that Derry and Jeanne had spent their honeymoon in the place decades earlier. At that stage, I had met Derry only once, but after the meeting had received another equally kind and impulsive note. That was in either 1968 or ’69, when I went for the first time to the W. B. Yeats International Summer School in Sligo. In those days I was beginning to receive the occasional literary fee from journals and for free-lance work with the BBC, but I was useless at keeping accounts and had got myself into a slight mess with the income tax people. I must have told Derry because soon after I returned to Belfast a letter arrived with a set of very practical instructions: get four or five big envelopes, and every time a cheque comes in (your salary chit included) or an expense is incurred—stationery, postage, meals bought for visiting writers or lecturers—drop the bill or the receipt into your ad hoc filing system. Simple. Or so he made it sound.

4As the years went on, Marie and I would become friends with Derry and Jeanne and get to visit them in their sea-bright, flowergirt house in Crail. And on one of those visits, the night before I was to be conferred with an honorary degree at Stirling, they presented us with the painting of Glanmore Cottage that Jeanne had done during their honeymoon there in the 1940s. Derry had been busy on that occasion also, fitting new panes in the back window of the living room, another ad hoc job that survived (his thumb marks still in the putty) until we renovated the place in 2002. So now, on the newly plastered wall of the hallway, Jeanne’s brightly coloured, thickly impasted image of the cottage enjoys pride of place—in the cottage. It is my equivalent, I tell visitors, of Joyce having on his wall a photograph of Cork framed in cork.

5The upstairs sitting room window where Derry incised and lined and scraped and cross hatched provided him with a view of walls and fields and farm buildings, but if he had shifted his chair a little to the left and gazed off a bit more to the right, he would have had a view of the open field and hilltop woodland that figure in the first sonnet I wrote in Glanmore in 1974 (which would end up as Sonnet III in the ‘Glanmore Sonnets’ sequence):

This evening the cuckoo and the corncrake
(So much, too much) consorted at twilight.
It was all crepuscular and iambic.
Out of the field a baby rabbit
Took his bearings, and I knew the deer
(I’ve seen them too from the window of the house,
Like connoisseurs, inquisitive of air)
Were careful under larch and May-green spruce.
I had said earlier, ‘I won’t relapse
From this strange loneliness I’ve brought us to.
Dorothy and William—’ She interrupts:
‘You’re not going to compare us two…?’
Outside a rustling and twig-combing breeze
Refreshes and relents. Is cadences.

6On the evening when I heard the cuckoo and the corncrake, I had just come back from Dove Cottage and couldn’t help making connections between our new experience of a full time writing life in Wicklow and the emotional security and creative confidence which the Wordsworths enjoyed when they first arrived in Cumberland. A ‘strange loneliness’ in our case, perhaps, but also, thanks to friends who had been friends indeed,

It was marvelous
And actual, I said out loud, ‘A haven.’
(Sonnet VII)

Acheter