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Irish Poet Heaney's Last Words: A Text Message In Latin, Son Says At Funeral

posted 2 Sept 2013, 10:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 2 Sept 2013, 10:09 ]

Irish Nobel laureate and poet Seamus Heaney's last words to his wife were delivered in a text message in Latin: "Noli timere" ("don't be afraid"), his son Christopher tells mourners at his funeral.

DONNYBROOK, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (SEPTEMBER 2, 2013) (POOL) -  Ireland on Monday (September 2) mourned the 'keeper of language' Irish poet Seamus Heaney. Heaney, one of the world's best-known poets and winner of the 1995 Nobel Prize for literature, died on Friday (August 30) after a short illness at the age of 74.

The funeral service for the 74-year-old County Derry-born writer and academic was held at theChurch of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook.

As well as Seamus Heaney's wife Marie and family, the Irish President and Prime Minister attended the funeral mass.

Those who came to pay their last respects to the late poet included well-known faces from the world of politics, music and literature, such as Bono and Edge from Irish pop group U2.

In a moving and emotional speech Heaney's son Michael paid tribute to his father and revealed the last words, Heaney sent his wife Marie via text message:

"In a text message he wrote to my mother minutes before he passed away, in his beloved Latin, 'Noli timere', 'Don't be afraid'," he said.

Heaney's poems evoke an Irish country childhood, with images of potato diggers and peat bog cutters, and echo the deep political splits that have divided the island.

His works include the 1966 debut "Death of a Naturalist", "The Spirit Level", "District and Circle" and an acclaimed translation of the old English epic poem "Beowulf".

Heaney was a rarity among poets, having won acclaim from critics while producing best-sellers. Born on a farm in Mossbawn, County Londonderry in Northern Ireland in 1939, his poems nostalgically recall the sights and smells of a country childhood.

The weaving of rural roots and modern realism helped him to become the most acclaimed Irish poet since William Butler Yeats, who was awarded the Nobel prize in 1923. Heaney was born in the year that Yeats died, and died in Dublin near the house where Yeats was born.

A tousle-haired figure with a shy and subtle manner, he hated media hype and publishers' publicity caravans even as he became one of Ireland's most famous figures. It once took him three hours to walk down Dublin's main street, pursued by autograph hunters.

He found recognition in academic circles, becoming Professor of Poetry at Oxford University and lecturing at Harvard University, and won the Nobel prize for his "works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth".