Seamus Heaney’s translation of a sonnet by Joachim du Bellay (1522–1560), one of the last poems he wrote before he died this past August, is timely in several senses. Du Bellay’s witty engagement with paradoxes about permanence and immanence, fixity and flux, raises questions not only about those great themes but, coincidentally, about the nature of literary fame. Du Bellay is hardly a household name, yet his impact on Spenser and Shakespeare, to name but two renowned poets, is absolutely crucial. Seamus Heaney’s translation of du Bellay’s sonnet is all the more poignant, of course, given the fact that, shortly after completing it, he would himself become a victim of what Shakespeare terms “devouring time.” In the face of this terrible loss, we may take some comfort in our profound sense that, like the Tiber, Seamus Heaney’s work will continue to be a constant in our lives. [End Page 6]
Paul Muldoon is Howard G. B. Clark ’21 Professor at Princeton University and Poetry Editor of the New Yorker. His most recent collections are Moy Sand and Gravel (2002), Horse Latitudes (2006), and Maggot (2010). His essays on Fernando Pessoa and Emily Dickinson have appeared in previous issues of NER.