What are some Irish poems about bereavement?


Quick Answer

Some Irish poems about bereavement are "Mid-Term Break" by Seamus Heaney, "Ecce Puer" by James Joyce and "My Mother's Burial" by Sean O'Riordain. All three poems explore varying types of bereavement from different perspectives.

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Full Answer

Published in 1966, "Mid-Term Break" is a well-known poem from the award-winning poetry collection "Death of a Naturalist" by Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney. In this poem, Heaney writes of his experience with bereavement after the passing of his 4-year-old brother Christopher. He observes his parents' expressions of grief amidst friends' condolences, noting his father crying and his mother's "angry tearless sighs." Heaney also alludes to his own numb and awkward form of grieving, speaking of "counting bells" while waiting to attend the funeral and being "embarrassed" at receiving condolences.

"Ecce Puer" by Irish writer James Joyce is a 1932 poem that examines Joyce's bereavement against the context of a simultaneous celebratory occasion. In this poem, Joyce mourns his father's death while cherishing his son's birth. By simultaneously examining death and birth, Joyce contrasts bereavement with celebration, heightening the emotional intensity of each with lines such as "With joy and grief, my heart is torn." In the final stanza, Joyce confronts his guilt within his bereavement, concluding by sorrowfully asking his departed father's forgiveness for Joyce's absence at his father's deathbed.

Published in 1945, "My Mother's Burial" is a poem by 20th century Irish poet Sean O'Riordain. Focusing on O'Riordain's feelings of bereavement upon his mother's death, the poem examines O'Riordain's grief, sense of separation from his mother, and resentment towards others at the burial who do not seem to share his depth of bereavement. O'Riordain speaks of his "freshness of sorrow" and sense of loss, while wanting to "vanquish the spirit" of a less emotional attendee who is "brushing his knees."

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