“Back in the heartland”: Seamus Heaney's “Route 110” sequence in Human Chain

Parker, Michael Richard (2013) “Back in the heartland”: Seamus Heaney's “Route 110” sequence in Human Chain. Irish Studies Review, 21 (4). pp. 374-386.

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Official URL: https://DOI.org/10.1080/09670882.2013.856171


This essay foregrounds the increasingly significant role translation has played in Seamus Heaney's compositional and creative practices since the 1970s, and how it functions as a means of displacement and route into imagined homecomings. It offers a detailed analysis of the sequence which occupies a central position within Human Chain, in which Heaney attends to and seeks to reconcile once more the different “voices of my education”, that of originary familial/parish culture of Mossbawn and Bellaghy, and that acquired at St Columb's College and Queen's University that furnished him with rich linguistic and cultural assets, but sentenced him also to a “migrant solitude” (“The Wanderer”, Stations). “Route 110” illustrates the enduring effects of both bequests, as Heaney takes scenes and motifs from Virgil's Aeneid, Book VI, which details Aeneas' experiences on his descent into the seventieth year, Heaney takes readers with him on a road back to pre-Troubles Northern Ireland in the mid-twentieth century, stopping off initially at Smithfield Market, Belfast, in order to pick up a “used copy” of the Virgil that will become his guide. What he subsequently assembles is an album of snapshots of his youth, part of his legacy to his newly-born granddaughter.

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