A Poem for Hoping Against War:
The Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet Seamus Heaney died today. He was one of the last of a generation of poets whose fame exceeded the world of poetry or even literature. Even if you never heard of him, chances are that, if you have read it recently, you read his translation of Beowulf.

Back in 1991, Heaney published a version of Sophocles's play Philoctetes titled The Cure at Troy. It was a reaction to the conflict in Northern Ireland, still several years away from a peace settlement. In 1998, Robert Pinsky found that part of it resonated because of the war in Kosovo and, of course, the ever ongoing crises in the Middle East. Most recently, it was quoted, briefly, by Joe Biden at the funeral of a victim of the Boston Marathon bombing.

It's worth quoting again, at a bit more length, as we teeter into our next war and its tangle of possible outcomes:

Human beings suffer,
they torture one another,
they get hurt and get hard.
No poem or play or song
can fully right a wrong
inflicted or endured.

The innocent in gaols
beat on their bars together.
A hunger-striker's father
stands in the graveyard dumb.
The police widow in veils
faints at the funeral home.

History says, Don't hope
on this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetime
the longed for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.

Call the miracle self-healing:
The utter self-revealing
double-take of feeling.
If there's fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky

That means someone is hearing
the outcry and the birth-cry
of new life at its term.
It means once in a lifetime
That justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.