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Sweeney Astray

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Joep Leerssen, “Wildness, Wilderness, and Ireland: Medieval and Early-Modern Patterns in the Demarcation of Civility”, Journal of the History of Ideas, vol. 56, no. 1, 1995, p. 27. Edel Bhreathnach, “Perceptions of Kingship in Early Medieval Irish Vernacular Literature”, in Lordship in Medieval Ireland: Image and Reality, Linda Doran, James Lyttleton (eds.), Dublin, Four Courts Press, 2007, p. 21.

Wood, adj., n.2, and adv.”, Oxford English Dictionary Online. Likewise, the Irish word geilt (used to describe Sweeney in the early manuscripts of the text) can either translate as terror, cowardice, frenzy, and fear or can refer to someone who dwells in the woods or deserts: a wild man or woman. See Feargal Ó Béarra, “ Buile Shuibhne: vox insaniae from Medieval Ireland”, in Mental Health, Spirituality, and Religion in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age, Albrecht Classen (ed.), Berlin, De Gruyter, 2014, p. 242-289 and particularly p. 263-269. Note that Ó Béarra lists as the third definition for the term geilt, based on the Dictionary of the Irish Language, “a crazy person living in the woods and supposed to be endowed with the power of levitation”. He highlights the absence of verifiable other source texts that substantiate such a definition, wondering “what other texts apart from Buile Shuibhne (if any) were excerpted to arrive at such a definition” ( ibid., p. 266). On Heaney and geilt, see Stephen Regan, “Seamus Heaney and the Making of Sweeney Astray”, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies, vol. 21, no. 2, 2015, p. 331-332. comedy, though there are a few quietly comic moments in ''Sweeney Astray.'' What Mr. Heaney offers as an alternative to Sweeney's pain is Mr. Heaney's own lyric gift, his inimitable music. If there is anything And it is a story poem. Many poets, impatient with the sometimes irritating machinery of narrative, would have cut the story and gone for the climactic lyrical moments. In his introduction Mr. Heaney admits he found himself faced with this temptation:

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This sends Sweeney racing off to hide from the hag and he travels all over Ireland and even to Scotland and Britain. He meets up with another madman on the run, this man from British foes. Sweeney proposes an alliance in their hiding. He and Alan had similar experiences of running into very difficult situations which made them outcasts. Alan soon goes off to his death and Sweeney moves on, trying to recover his life. Seamus Heaney on Mad Sweeney the king cursed by a saint and condemned to live as a bird until his death. Times Educational Supplement, November 7, 1997, p. 2; September 11, 1998, review of Opened Ground, p. 11.

Janet Timbie, “A Liturgical Procession in the Desert of Apa Shenoute”, in Pilgrimage and Holy Space in Late Antique Egypt, David Frankfurter (ed.), Boston, Brill, 1998, p. 420. This volume is handsome testimony to Heaney’s lifelong service to a noble art." —David Wheatley, The GuardianAB - Drawing on Jane Bennett’s theory of “crossings and enchantment”, this essay considers interspecies transformations in Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray (1983). As a bird-man, Mad King Sweeney discovers that the arboreal environment is a vibrantly interstitial space in which paganism and Christianity coexist. By negotiating this liminal space, he opens himself to forms of attachment and enchantment that radically ameliorate his accursed existence in the trees. Observer (London, England), March 23, 1997, p. 16; January 4, 1998, p. 15; September 6, 1998, review of Opened Ground, p. 17; November 7, 1999, p. 8; January 23, 2000, p. 11; September 10, 2000, p. 16; April 15, 2001, p. 15; April 7, 2002, p. 13. Astray,'' a complete translation of the medieval Irish work ''Buile Suibhne,'' shows that Seamus Heaney's imagination is continuing to deepen in intensity and range. The Cure at Troy: A Version of Sophocles'"Philoctetes" (drama; produced by Field Day Theatre Company in Dublin, Ireland, 1990), Farrar, Straus, 1991.

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