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Published on Sep 17, 2012
Sir Andrew Motion reads Seamus Heaney's poem 'Posterity' and reflects on what it could mean for us and our relation to the world.
In the sonnet, Posterity, by Seamus Heaney a wind is catches "the heart off guard and blow[s] it open." Sir Andrew Motion, former Poet Laureate describes this as the moment when "the speaker of the poem forgets himself and becomes open to the world in which he exists; the world of seen things, and of unseen things." So the poem addresses the problem at the centre of poetic and human experience: that "speech, the thing that makes us what we are and which is central to our humanity, is doomed always to do less than we want it to do." Thus the poem acts "to put us in our place, as humans; to put us in our place, in a way that only art can." Sir Andrew Motion sees this poem by Heaney as one of the great examples of what art can do to express the human condition.
This is an extract from the lecture 'Resetting the Human Compass: The Use and Value of the Arts' which was given as a part of the 2012 City of London Festival. The full hour-long lecture be accessed on the Gresham College website here: http://www.gresham.ac.uk/lectures-and...