Posted by: deirdrea | February 10, 2012

Signs and wonders

Golden Ship

A Golden Ship, 1st century BC, National Museum, Ireland

Hi, everybody!

I haven’t posted in a long, long time — I hope you haven’t missed me too much, but things have been a bit crazy of late.

This time, I’m posting an image from the National Museum of Ireland. This golden ship was probably a votive offering — and anyone who is a fan of Irish poetry may have seen it on a book cover  a few years back.

It illustrates a poem by Seamus Heaney, which I read at my mother’s funeral yesterday. The poem is from the anthology called Seeing Things. After the funeral, someone asked me what the poem meant, and I was just a bit taken aback. I’m not sure I know. But I do know that there are miracles, large and small, all around us, and that my mom was always ready to see them. And I know that this was one of her favorite poems (she had hundreds).

So I hope you enjoy it.

Lightenings viii

The annals say: when the monks of Clonmacnoise
Were all at prayers inside the oratory
A ship appeared above them in the air.

The anchor dragged along behind so deep
It hooked itself into the altar rails
And then, as the big hull rocked to a standstill,

A crewman shinned and grappled down the rope
And struggled to release it. But in vain.
‘This man can’t bear our life here and will drown,’

The abbot said, ‘unless we help him.’ So
They did, the freed ship sailed, and the man climbed back
Out of the marvellous as he had known it.

Seamus Heaney – Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney
From “Seeing Things”, 1991


  1. So sorry for your loss Deirdrea. Receive my condolences.
    I’ll try reading the poem again and see if it’s meaning comes to me.

  2. Thank you so much, Carsten.

    For me, the poem is about how the miraculous can break into everyday life, for those with the gift to see it. My mother definitely had that gift.

    But I’ve read a couple of other interpretations recently that are very interesting. There’s one in an online journal, , which discusses the monk’s creation of books as a “miracle.” I really like this idea!

    Thanks again, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

  3. Deirdrea, I am so sorry for you, that you have lost your mother. I know how hard it is, my own mother died in 2007 and I still think of her almost every day. It is a loss of love and true interest in one´s life, and also a loss of something in one self. I wish you all the best, and bright days to come.

  4. Thank you so much!

    It is very strange and difficult indeed — especially for my Dad. Thank you for your very kind and heartfelt response — and for your beautiful pictures.

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