- Reading 'The Plague' last night reminded me of a poem my son studied at school last year for his GCSE exam. It is written by Seamus Heaney a contemporary Irish poet who uses lots of 'ratty words' to descibe the rat. The poem tells how the boy overcomes his fear of rats.
'An Advancement of Learning' by Seamus Heaney
I took the embankment path
(As always, deferring
The bridge). The river nosed past,
Pliable, oil-skinned, wearing
A transfer of gables and sky.
Hunched over the railing,
Well away from the road now, I
Considered the dirty-keeled swans.
Something slobbered curtly, close,
Smudging the silence: a rat
Slimed out of the water and
My throat sickened so quickly that
I turned down the path in cold sweat
But God, another was nimbling
Up the far bank, tracing its wet
Arcs on the stones. Incredibly then
I established a dreaded
Bridgehead. I turned to stare
With deliberate, thrilled care
At my hitherto snubbed rodent.
He clockworked aimlessly a while,
Stopped, back bunched and glistening,
Ears plastered down on his knobbed skull,
The tapered tail that followed him,
The raindrop eye, the old snout:
One by one I took all in.
He trained on me. I stared him out
Forgetting how I used to panic
When his grey brothers scraped and fed
Behind the hen-coop in our yard,
On ceiling boards above my bed.
This terror, cold, wet-furred, small-clawed,
Retreated up a pipe for sewage.
I stared a minute after him.
Then I walked on and crossed the bridge.
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