IT goes without saying that Seamus Heaney, who has died aged 74, was a great poet, the most recent Irish recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.
As personable in person as he was profound and passionate in print, he was a wonderful ambassador not only for literature but for Ireland.
Even in that island's most troubled times Heaney demonstrated that out of the violent and divisive darkness enlightenment must surely follow. When in 1994 the Provisional IRA called a ceasefire, he said that he felt 25 years younger.
It is perhaps also worth remembering that Heaney thought it a part of his calling to blow the trumpet for other poets, not the least of whom were Scottish.
For example, he translated Sorley MacLean's epic poem Hallaig and wrote memorably and insightfully on Burns, MacDiarmid, Edwin Muir, Norman MacCaig and others. It was MacCaig, Heaney recalled, who taught him the right way to pronounce Glenmorangie.
And it was of MacCaig whom Heaney said: "He means poetry to me." There will be many people today who feel those same words apply equally to Seamus Heaney.
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