Seamus Heaney

Castledàwson, County Londonderry
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Requiem For The Croppies

Rating: 3.5

The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley...
No kitchens on the run, no striking camp...
We moved quick and sudden in our own country.
The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.
A people hardly marching... on the hike...
We found new tactics happening each day:
We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike
And stampede cattle into infantry,
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown.
Until... on Vinegar Hill... the final conclave.

Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.
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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Raymond Farrell 27 April 2015

The truth and sadness behind the history referred to here is captured well in this poem.

11 9 Reply
David Clinch 21 January 2017

This is the text, as written in Seamus Heaney's Door into the Dark Requiem for the Croppies The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley - No kitchens on the run, no striking camp - We moved quick and sudden in our own country. The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp. A people hardly marching - on the hike - We found new tactics happening each day: We'd cut through reins and rider with the pike And stampede cattle into infantry, Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown. Until, on Vinegar Hill, the fatal conclave. Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon. The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave. They buried us without shroud or coffin And in August the barley grew up out of the grave. Vinegar Hill, overlooking the town of Enniscorthy in County Wexford was the last great battle of the uUnited Irishmen on 22 June 1798. One of my own forbears Fr Tomás Clinse (Thomas Clinch) led the rearguard on the day, which successfully escorted the rebels and the camp followers off the hill in the face of the British artillery. He was pursued on horseback and was shot and died at Darby's Gap. Thomas Clinch was known as a 'Croppy Priest', as he fought alongside the croppy farmers who were inspired by the French Revolutionaries nine years earlier. He was suspended as a priest by the Catholic hierarchy allegedly for drunkenness, a reason which most likely hid the real reason of rising up against the occupiers. The Catholic Church was against rebellion and sought to do deals instead. Was it ever thus? At the bicentenary commemoration on 22 June 1998 in the Square at Enniscorthy I played on the uilleann pipes Boolavogue, The Boys of Wexford, Kelly the Boy from Killane and Roddy McCorley after reciting Seamus Heaney's Requiem for the Croppies with the pipe drones as background. It remains one of the great memories in my life.

6 0 Reply
Fionnuala Kenny. 01 September 2018

Go raibhmile maith agate. My great grandfather, Patrick Darcy of Ardamine, in the County of Wexford, died on Vinegar that day. It must have been a wonderful experience. Many thanks.

0 0 Reply
David Clinch 21 January 2017

The line should read: Until, on Vinegar Hill, the fatal conclave

3 1 Reply
Bill Wright 01 September 2016

I had never heard of Vinegar Hill until I read this excellent poem. I must do more research.

5 0 Reply
Ian Simmonds 18 March 2016

The cropped hair was a show of sympathy for those of the French Revolution. Gave rise to the folk song 'The Croppy Boy', which laments the execution of the rebels. This sonnet has, I think, one of the most striking images I have read in poetry: 'The hillside blushed, soaked in our broken wave' (l; 12) . The personification and pictorialism really give a sense both of the atrocity and shame committed on Vinegar Hill. The poems close signify the republican sympathies with the image of seasonal regeneration with a sense of political resurgence; strangely reminiscent of the close of Zola's 'Germinal'.

7 8 Reply
Susan Williams 22 February 2016

The croppies were called that because they wore their hair cropped—not wanting to be anything like the aristocracy who wore their hair long and foppish. They carried barley in their pockets. And in 1798 at Vinegar Hill, they were killed by British artillery.. The British buried the bodies in mass, shallow graves—but the seeds of rebellion were sown—and bore fruit when the barley in their pockets came up–nourished by their own bodies. Proving the revolutionary spirit could not be killed. [.https: //pulpteacher.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/a-quick-reading-of-seamus-heaneys-requiem-for-the-croppies/]

29 5 Reply