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Summarizing the Dedicatory Verse in Heaney's Wintering Out, his third published poetry collection, works better if you start from the end then go back to the beginning. The little destinies that are executed with competence (as a mechanical engineer or a railway porter are competent) and that are filled with coherent miseries (those agonies of life that one is fully sensible of yet helpless in the face of) are the insignificant lives we live in between eating and drinking.
... Competence with pain,
coherent miseries, a bite and sup,
we hug our little destiny again.
These lives, that we hug to ourselves dearly for all their insignificance, are contrasted to the lives of internees that are carried on just at the edge of our daily commutes. The nearness of such strangeness gives a movie-like effect to our glimpses of these counter-realities, these separate lives that we glimpse from the "motorway" as we drive by in the early, dew-covered morning under "white mist" on a "low ground."
white mist you get on a low ground
and it was déjà-vu, some film made
of Stalag 17, a bad dream with no sound.
In the distance, seen as we pass, are the gun rests of a pillared stockade that corrals the internees and tames them into quietude and submission. The crater of a fallen bomb gapes in "the fresh clay in the roadside" reminding us as we drive by (as though in a dream or a moment of "déjà-vu") of the reason for the "new camp for the internees"; of who the internees are; and of what "machine-gun posts" are for ...
machine-gun posts defined a real stockade.
[stockade: enclosure formed from upright wooden posts as a defense against attack or a means of confining.]
This deeply personal and introspective poem is a heartbreak of a witness to the conflict between daily, productive life and a conflict-torn life guarded by a stockade. It is dedicated to David Hammond, Heaney's long-time friend and noted filmmaker, and Michael Longley, a fellow Northern Irish poet of notable reputation himself and an equally long-time friend. Heaney, Hammond and Longley published a book of collected poems together called Ten Poems put out by Festival Publications in 1965.
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