St. Kevin and The Blackbird
And then there was St. Kevin and the blackbird.
The saint is kneeling, arms stretched out, inside
His cell, but the cell is narrow, so
One turned-up palm is out the window, stiff
As a cross beam, when a blackbird lands
And lays in it and settles down to rest.
Kevin feels the warm eggs, the small breast, the tucked
Neat head and claws and, finding himself linked
Into the network of eternal life,
Is moved to pity: Now he must hold his hand
Like a branch out in the sun and rain for weeks
Until the young are hatched and fledged and flown.
And since the whole thing’s imagined anyhow,
Imagine being Kevin. Which is he?
Self-forgetful or in agony all the time
From the neck on out down through his hurting forearms?
Alone and mirrored clear in love’s deep river,
‘To labour and not to seek reward’, he prays,
A prayer his body makes entirely
For he has forgotten self, forgotten bird
And on the river bank forgotten the river’s name.
The bird could represent the restlessness of the spirit which it is so necessary to calm and hold still, if the mind and heart are to find peace.
Seamus Heaney, who passed away recently, is a much loved Irish poet who was inspired by his travels in County Wicklow to write this poem. The sculpture is on the grounds of the Hermitage Center along a walk called St. Kevin's Way.
This is a black bird I saw on my walk around the upper lake…have you ever seen such a beak? It is a Rook I learned but a black bird nonetheless.