TOPICS > Arts

The Cure At Troy

October 29, 1998 at 12:00 AM EST

TRANSCRIPT

ROBERT PINSKY, Poet Laureate:

The halting and imperfect struggle to negotiate a way out of violence in Ireland, more recently in the Middle East, and in Kosovo, has its tentative breakthroughs and rays of hope. That’s Seamus Heaney’s subject in the chorus at the end of “The Cure at Troy,” Heaney’s translation of “The Philoctetes,” by Sophocles. Here are the lines:

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 and 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 further shore
Is reachable from here.
Believe in miracle
And cures and healing wells.

Call 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.