Beacons at Bealtaine : by Seamus Heaney for a New Europe

Uisce: Water. And fionn:
the Water’s Clear.
But dip and find this Gaelic water Greek:
A phoenix flames upon fionn uisce
here.

Strangers were barbaroi to the Greek ear.
Now let the heirs of all who could not speak.
The language, whose ba-babbling was unclear,

Come with their gift of tongues past each frontier
And find the answering voices that they seek.
As fionn and uisce answer
phoenix here.

The May Day hills were burning, far and near,
When our land’s first footers beached boats in the creek.
In uisce, fionn, strange
words that soon grew clear;

So on a day when newcomers appear.
Let it be a homecoming and let us speak.
The unstrange word, as it behoves us here,
Move lips, move minds and make new meanings flare.
Like ancient beacons signalling, peak to peak,
From middle sea to north sea, shining clear.
As phoenix flame upon fionn uisce
here.

(Phoenix Park, May Day,
2004)

Heaney recites poem to mark EU enlargement
01/05/2004 – 6:09:06 PM

Award winning poet Seamus Heaney wrote Beacons at Bealtaine especially to mark the historic Day of Welcomes in Dublin.

He said May Day, known in Irish as Bealtaine, was traditionally a feast of fire.

Early Irish legend denotes that the country’s first magical inhabitants arrived on May Day, and that on the same day the Druids drove flocks out to pasture between two bonfires.

He took his inspiration for the poem from the name of Phoenix Park, where all 25 heads of state gathered for a flag raising ceremony.

“It is auspicious that we are celebrating in a park named after the mythic bird that represents the possibility of ongoing renewal,” he said.

“But there are those who say that the name Phoenix Park is derived from the Irish word, Fionn Uisce, meaning clear water and that’s a coincidence of language gave me the idea for this poem.

“It’s a poem to salute and celebrate a historic term in the age.”

Heaney, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1995, was born in Co. Derry.

He is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast, and has served on the Irish Ark Council.

He is currently a poet in residence at Harvard University, where he teaches for six weeks every two years.

Heaney read the poem during the ceremony at the president’s residence in the central Dublin park.

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