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The Railway Children -- Seamus Heaney

Guest poem submitted by Tim Cooper:
(Poem #1547) The Railway Children
 When we climbed the slopes of the cutting
 We were eye-level with the white cups
 Of the telegraph poles and the sizzling wires.

 Like lovely freehand they curved for miles
 East and miles west beyond us, sagging
 Under their burden of swallows.

 We were small and thought we knew nothing
 Worth knowing. We thought words travelled the wires
 In the shiny pouches of raindrops,

 Each one seeded full with the light
 Of the sky, the gleam of the lines, and ourselves
 So infinitesimally scaled

 We could stream through the eye of a needle.
-- Seamus Heaney
Your villanelle by Heaney the other day made me think of this almost-sonnet.
The more I read it, the more I find in it. The title immediately makes you
think of the film and all those images of carefree childhood. The final line
perfectly balances the two long "ee" sounds around the long "eye". These
open vowel sounds, which here express freedom, and the religious image of
the eye of a needle (never exactly equated to the entrance to heaven in the
gospels, but the relationship is there to anyone raised in a christian
household) give an exhilarating ending.

If you now go back to the rest of the poem, you notice the bubbling sounds -
"cl - imbed", "sl - opes" "cu - ps", "lo-vely", "sw - allows" "words"
"worth". Indeed, all the stressed vowel sounds are short. And then there is
the open "a" of "scaled", right at the moment of epiphany, the first time
that vowel sound is stressed.



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