Poetry Sunday: Follower by Seamus Heaney

Memories. They stumble behind us and will not go away.

My father was a farmer and in his time he sometimes worked with a horse-plow, except in his case it was a mule-plow. As a child, I would sometimes follow behind him and so when I came across this poem last week, it brought back all those memories once again. I could smell the fresh-turned soil and the horsey smell of the mules and hear my father's voice as he directed them. I think I, too, must have been a nuisance as he tried to do his work, but he never complained.  

My father is gone now but he's always there just over my shoulder and will not go away.


by Seamus Heaney

My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horses strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hobnailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away


  1. That is a wonderful poem. There is something sad about it.

    Poems and fiction can trigger childhood memories in a special way.

  2. Miriam's Mennonite father tended the fields with horses but she was never allowed to follow. That privilege was reserved for the boys who were expected to learn the necessary skills. She had her own chores in the house,

    1. I was never bound by such rules - maybe because I was an only child.

  3. Oh, I love the twist at the end. I had a week filled with early life memories. Don't know why. Must have been something I read!

    1. Heaney was gifted at expressing so much with just a few words. And he surely did that in that last stanza.


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