19 pages 38 minutes read

Seamus Heaney

Act of Union

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1975

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Related Poems

Orange Drums, Tyrone 1966” by Seamus Heaney (1975)

This poem amplifies just one word that occurs in “Act of Union”: “wardrum [sic].” Published in Heaney’s collection North, “Orange Drums, Tyrone 1966” is about those drums, as characterized by Heaney, during a Protestant loyalist parade in Tyrone—a county in Northern Ireland—in 1966. This was before the “Troubles” began, but tensions were rising. The poem pictures a single drummer on the parade, who plays a lambeg: a large drum. As the procession moves on, “the drums preside, like giant tumours [sic],” and to everyone who hears them they give out one message loud and clear: “No Pope.”

Punishment” by Seamus Heaney (1975)

“Punishment” was published in North. It explores the topic of revenge against those who offend the norms of a group. Much of the poem describes the well-preserved body of a young woman from about 2,000 years ago that was uncovered from a peat bog. The body had a halter around the neck and was weighed down by a stone. Perhaps she was punished for adultery, the speaker muses. He compares her to young Catholic women in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, who were punished for fraternizing with British soldiers.