“CHORUS”

“Chorus” from the Seamus Heaney play “The Cure at Troy:”

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 further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
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.

This often quoted excerpt from a 1991 play by this Irish poet sounded to me vaguely familiar when I stumbled upon it recently. The play “The Cure at Troy” is Heaney’s retelling of Sophocles’ Philoctetes, the story of how Odysseus tricked Achilles’ son into joining the Greek forces at Troy towards the end of the Trojan War. A native of northern Ireland, poet Heaney (1939 – 2013) is said to have written “The Cure at Troy” as a parallel to the struggles that Northern Ireland has faced for self-determination.

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