June Poem ~ From The Cure At Troy by Seamus Heaney

Picking a poem to read to start each month’s presentation started in May, 2015 with Oleg Kagan’s pick – Robert Frost’s Asking for Roses. In June, Kim Zanti picked the verses below from The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney.


Human beings suffer

They torture one another,

They get hurt and get hard.

No poem or play or song

Can fully right a wrong

Inflicted and endured.


The innocent in gaols

Beat on their bars together.

A hunger-striker’s father

Stands in the graveyard dumb.

The police widow in veils

Faints at the funeral home.


History says, Don’t hope

On this side of the grave

But then, once in a lifetime

The longed-for tidal wave

Of justice can rise up,

And hope and history rhyme.


So hope for a great sea-change

On the far side of revenge.

Believe that a further shore

Is reachable from here.

Believe in miracles

And cures and healing wells.


Call miracle self-healing:

The utter, self-revealing

Double-take of feeling.

If there’s fire on the mountain

Or lightning and storm

And a god speaks from the sky


That means someone is hearing

The outcry and the birth-cry

Of new life at its term.


The Cure at Troy by Seamus Heaney is an adaptation, written in verse, of Sophocles’ play Philoctetes. It premiered in 409AD. Heaney’s verses were first performed in 1990 and published in 1991. Almost 1,600 years had passed. Sixteen centuries. Yet the story of the master Greek archer Philoctetes abandoned on a desert island by his fellow soldiers and countryman, then asked to return to fight in the Trojan War resonated with Heaney. He reflected in his verses the return of Nelson Mandela to his people, after 27 years in prison, to continue the fight against Apartheid.

Field Day, the publisher, writes on its website about Heaney’s adaptation, “[it] probes the conflict between personal integrity and political expediency. It explores the relationship between public and private morality. It examines the consequences of outrage and obligation.”

A poem for all times.

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