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Michael Longley

Introduction: A Case Study


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The Poetry Database: A Case Study (1)


Degrees of Intimacy: Michael Longley's poetic relationship with Homer [1]

Lorna Hardwick (2007)

One feature of modern responses to Homer is crossover between the categories of translation and rewriting; both involve readings and re-readings of Homer. Some responses not only follow Homer in transplanting epic techniques such as the simile but also integrate close translation into creative rewriting. Furthermore, rewriting crosses genres so that movements may be from epic to lyric or from epic to drama. Rewriting also leads tovarious kinds of public performance, from performance poetry based on the Homeric tradition to theatrical staging. [2]

One way of describing these rewritings is to see their relationship to Homer as palimpsestic, structures in which writing across the ancient text inscribes new texts in ways that partly obliterate, partly distort and partly reveal the underlying texts, in the process creating new patterns of perception and constructions of meaning. Another viewpoint uses the model of the hour-glass to suggest a different form of less obviously- layered temporal relationship, recognising that in oral traditions, in which Homer and Homeric responses are grounded, memories either cluster round early times that are perceived as foundational or around the recent past, with very little conscious attention to what went between. [3] Both lyric poetry and performance are strongly orientated towards the oral and this underlies part of their dialogical relationship with Homer, including the persistence of the formal characteristics of Homer into the modern rewritings. Nevertheless, these rewritings are also grounded in their own literary and theatrical traditions so it is important to consider various ways in which these traditions have contributed to shaping the creative activities of the modern practitioners as well as triggering some of the responses of modern audiences. Together these strands of creativity have repositioned Homer at the intersection of traditions.

I have chosen Michael Longley's work as the subject of this paper for several reasons. His poetry raises in a particularly acute way the nature and origins of a modern poet's relationship with Homer. These include the ‘external' aspects such as a poet's own classical education (or lack of it), the influence of directly mediating texts such as translations of Homer (whether or not they are regarded as ‘literary works' in their own right) and the influence of indirectly mediating texts, such as the works of other poets which also engage with classical material and embed it in their literary traditions. However, the poetic relationship with Homer also includes aspects which are ‘internal' to the new work, such as how Homeric episodes and poetics are embedded; how recognitions of Homeric allusions and their dynamics are triggered and communicated to readers who are not Homerists; how information is given within the poems and yet also makes room for the reader to actualise its meaning, for example through similes, the use of place, idiom and register. Most of all, perhaps, Longley's work creates a different perspective on the relationship between translation and new work by using close translation as a poetic device within his rewritings and by using Homeric images to trigger metapoetical reflections.

In addition to his use of Homer, Longley's work also has multiple engagements with Latin poetry. For example, in ‘A Poppy' (published in The Weather in Japan, 2000:30) he focuses on Homer's simile in Iliad V111 303 – 8 in which Gorgythion's death is imaged as the cutting down of a poppy. The passage was used by Virgil in Aeneid 1X, 436 ff. and in alluding to this Longley aligns himself with Virgil - ‘(an image Virgil steals – lasso papavera/Collo – and so do I). Elsewhere, Longley also aligns himself with Ovid, notably in his poem ‘Spiderwoman' with the opening line ‘Arachne starts with Ovid and finishes with me'. [4] Both these poems exemplify Longley's techniques of excerpting and close translation which are so important in his use of classical material. However, Homer remains a dominant figure with whom Longley does not directly compare himself (although he sometimes implicitly challenges the values expressed in Homer). Homer is pivotal in Longley's development of his conversations with classical texts.

Longley has made lyric, rather than epic, a major medium for the reception and rewriting of Homer and in the process he has used Homer as a site for the reformulation of the relationships between translation and new work and between English and Irish literary traditions. Longley was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1939. His parents were English and had moved to the province from London in 1927. In 1958 Longley went to Trinity College Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, where he read Classics. He became a teacher in London, Dublin and then Belfast, where he was part of what has become known (sometimes controversially) as ‘The Group' of young poets, including Seamus Heaney and Derek Mahon. Then in 1970 Longley took a post with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, where he became Combined Arts Director, retiring in 1991. [5]

The main themes of his poetry are nature, war, peace, love and animals and his poems often revolve round overlaps and inversions in theme, place and chronology. These characteristics are particularly pronounced in his responses to classical poetry, especially Homeric epic. Longley's published collections of poetry in the last part of the twentieth-century and early twenty first all use Greek and Latin poetry to ground his own explorations of recognition and cultural memory. [6] He delights in transposing scenes, words and resonances from one historical and cultural context to another, often disrupting or inverting chronology to create a moment of insight that jolts the reader into an unexpected realignment of present, past and future. His transplantations of specific episodes, scenes and images from the Iliad and the Odyssey make Homer a present voice in a continuing conversation. They also involve the paradox of a simultaneous assertion of and challenge to Homeric authority in that the Homeric ‘past' is both worthy of and vulnerable to a sometimes ruthless scrutiny. Thus there is a metapoetics in which the sequence of testing, deception and recognition that characterizes the genre of the anagnorisis scene in classical poetry is both specifically and metaphorically deployed and subverted to turn the lens both on Homer and on the present. [7]

Longley's poetic response to Homer has used both the Odyssey and the Iliad to explore the relationship between domestic and public emotions, behaviour and values. He uses distinctive personal response as a catalyst for realigning apparently polarized positions, whether these are defined by time, place, language or socio-cultural situation. He himself is situated at the intersections between different literary and cultural traditions–he is a northern Irishman of English descent, brought up in a (mainly) Protestant Unionist tradition that has as one defining feature of its cultural memory the destruction of the Ulster Division of the British Army at the battle of the Somme in 1916. This sense is present in his poetry both in his references to the experiences of his father, who served in World War 1, and in his imaginative identification with the poetry of Wilfred Own, Isaac Rosenberg and especially Edward Thomas, all of whom were killed in the war. Longley's sensitivity to the impact of World War 1 on individuals and communities as well as in literature led him to explore analogies with the violence and pathos of the Troubles that re-emerged in the late 1960s in the Six Counties of Northern Ireland that were still part of the United Kingdom and divided from the Republic of Ireland. The analogies between WW1 and the modern conflict are actualized by Longley's engagement with the Greek material; it is a triangular relationship:

‘When I read a poem like ‘Dead Man's Dump' by Isaac Rosenberg, I feel as though it's the young Aeschylus or the young Sophocles walking on the muddy duckboards…I think that the poets here needed some kind of shape with which to deal with the emerging nightmare of the Troubles'. [8]

Longley's double perspectives on literary tradition and cultural memory have enabled him to work across nationalist and unionist traditions, while distancing him from both. [9] Longley developed this strategy in a series of poems published in his 1995 collection The Ghost Orchid, especially in ‘The Helmet', ‘The Parting' and ‘Ceasefire'. These poems draw on episodes in Homer's Iliad and explore the destructiveness of cultures that are based on emulation of ancestors' capacity for killing. The sequence culminates in recognition that the cycle of revenge can only be interrupted by acts of peace that are achieved by acting against the grain of dominant powers. The sonnet ‘Ceasefire' was written in 1994 at a time of possible suspension of violence in the north of Ireland and was published in The Irish Times only days after the Provisional IRA (Irish Republican Army) announced a truce. Longley's Priam echoes Homer's in the words

‘I get down on my knees and do what must be done

And kiss Achilles' hand, the killer of my son' [10]

The difference from Homer is that Longley inverts the sequence of the narrative, holding Priam's words back until the concluding couplet of the sonnet. In revealing only at that point the essential prerequisite to the recovery of Hector's body, he gives this act of reconciliation with an enemy its crucial role in the making of a modern truce (the provisionality of which, in modern Ireland, as in Homer, lurks beneath the scene.)

The shows how Longley uses the lyric form to distil the telling image from Homer's much larger canvas. This is a characteristic that developed strongly in his work in the 1990s and he has acknowledged in an interview that ‘ the classics have left me with some images and themes and with a sense of syntactical possibilities [….] but it has taken me many years to pick up the resonances and implications'. [11]

In the same interview, he spoke of his love for the early Irish haiku-like lyrics–‘They remind us that miniature is not the same as minor'. [12] Longley's poetic practice in his development of lyric as a major focus for dialogue with Homer aligns with some of the recent emphases in Homer scholarship, which has analysed the affinities in register, form and metaphor between Greek lyric and the embedded simile in ancient epic. [13]

In The Ghost Orchid, Longley's fifteen line ‘sonnet' ‘The Camp - fires', exemplifies his capacity to situate and play with Homer as the nexus between different aspects of literary tradition and cultural memory. The poem recalls the episode in Iliad V111. 555–565. This occurs at the end of the genre scene in which Hector's Trojans prepare for the next day's battle with a communal feast and sacrifice and then settle down to await the dawn, surrounded by their horses–

All night crackling camp-fires boosted their morale

As they dozed in no man's land and the killing fields.

Shuffling next to the chariots, munching shiny oats

And barley, their horses waited for the sunrise. [14]

The simile in Homer likens the scene to the topography of the night sky. Longley's simile, which links the opening and closing lines quoted above, picks up both the visual and the psychological resonances. The choice of words like ‘no man's land' and ‘the killing fields' draws out the implications for later wars. In an implicit acknowledgement of Brian Friel's explorations in his play Translations of how language and place are conjoined as markers of identity, Longley gives precision to his psychological map with a simile that aligns Irish and Homeric insights –

all the stars are out

Lighting up hill-tops, glens, headlands, vantage

Points like Tonakeera and Allaran where the tide

Turns into Killary, where salmon run from the sea

Where the shepherd smiles on his luminous townland.

That many camp-fires sparkled in front of Ilium. [15]

Alongside the place names and the allusion to the homing instincts of the wild salmon is the Ulster-Scots word ‘glen'. Longley's sensibility expressed in the reference to ‘no-man's land' also embraces a literary tradition in English that deployed the sequence in Iliad V111 in a different context, invoking Homeric allusion to communicate and validate the experience of WW1 soldiers waiting for battle. For example, in his poem ‘Into Battle', written on 29 April 1915 shortly before his death in action on May 27, Julian Grenfell also drew on Iliad V111 562–565 for his image of how

In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours

Before the brazen frenzy starts,

The horses show him nobler powers [16]

Thus the cultural hinterland that Longley draws on for his visually and topographically charged poem is shaped by the dominant image and simile from Homer but marked also by mapping with Irish place names and with the echoes of the war poem in English literary tradition. Other variations on Longley's topos technique include the sonnet ‘War and Peace' in Snow Water (2004) in which, in an almost literal translation of Iliad XX11 145–156, Longley recalls the washing wells used by the Trojan women in peace time. This is another example of his triangular exploration of Homer, WW1 and modern events. He not only picks up the contrast to the blood and terror of war but also plays with the condensed images of Wilfred Owen's ‘Strange Meeting' in which the poet aspired to wash the blood from ‘clogged chariot wheels' with ‘water from sweet wells'. [17] There are further significant examples of use of Homer as the basis for variations in temporalities and metapoetical comment on mediating texts in Longley's poems ‘The Horses' and ‘A Poppy' in his 2000 collection The Weather in Japan. [18]

The embedded simile is also a distinctive aspect of Longley's response to the Odyssey. A significant example is his poem ‘A Bed of Leaves' (The Ghost Orchid, 1995, 33). This is a sonnet of thirteen lines plus a double edged enjambment set between the second and third lines. It draws on Homer's account at the end of Odyssey V of Odysseus' experiences in coming to land on the shores of the Phaiakians, aided by Athena following the wreck of his raft at the hands of Poseidon after he left the island of Calypso (Odyssey V, 382–493). Longley's response starts at Homer Odyssey V.475, in which Odysseus, having staggered ashore, decides that he must find a place to rest that is safe from the elements and from wild animals. Longley uses a short disrupted line combined with enjambment to begin his relocation of Odysseus' ‘domestication' of the wild landscape of Greece to that of rural Ireland:

And crawled under two bushes sprouting from one

stem (olive

And wild olive), a thatch so close neither gale-force winds

Nor sunlight nor cloudbursts could penetrate

The language at first contrasts with that of the epic tussle with the sea. Odysseus ‘snuggled' down and made ‘an eiderdown' of leaves. The vernacular takes over the scene: Longley's Odysseus ‘smoors' the fire and ‘hides a turf-sod in the bed of leaves to save an ember'. Longley picks up Homer's simile and sets it in the rhythm of Irish orality– ‘So was his body in the bed of leaves its own kindling'.

Longley's poem is both sensitive to Homer in its allusions and yet appropriative in its shifts of environment and language. He picks up Homer's foreshadowing of the image of Odysseus and Penelope's bed, carved in situ from an olive tree, the knowledge of which is the final confirmation of Odysseus' identity (Odyssey XX111. 190–204). Longley also uses the image of Odysseus' bed in the poem on the ‘Tree House' (Gorse Fires, 1991), which draws on the interplay of the crafts of carpenter, poet and lover, while in his 1994 poem ‘Baucis and Philemon' he also follows Ovid in playing with the image of a poor woman reviving the fire and represents a tree as the image of the mutual love of a man and wife. [19]

Robert Fitzgerald's translation of the passage from Homer's Odyssey puts it thus –

An old trunk of olive

Grew like a pillar on the building plot,

And I laid out our bedroom round that tree,

…………………………There's our sign! [20]

Longley tightens the focus of his poem in foreshadowing the domestic aspect of the return of Odysseus in Odyssey XX111 by alluding to the bed of leaves as a double bed, rather than picking up Homer's image in Odyssey V of one wide enough for two or three men. The relationship between the theme of longing and Odysseus' fragility, both environmentally and psychologically, is emphasised by re-iteration of the word ‘lonely' in the first line of the simile (doubling is a characteristic of Longley's poetry):

As when a lonely man on a lonely farm smoors the fire.

This both responds to the description in Homer of Odysseus' utter devastation and sense of vulnerability and also situates the poem in an unidealised rural Ireland. The subvertion of idealised pastoral is a feature of modern Irish poetry from Patrick Kavenagh's ‘The Great Hunger', written in 1942 to Seamus Heaney's ‘Mycenae Lookout' and ‘Bann Valley Eclogue', which follows Virgil's identification of the countryside as a place of devastation and civil conflict. [21]

Characteristically, Longley omits the divine agencies of Poseidon and Athena who brought about Odysseus' situation. The focus is directly on the miniature window into the man's experience; the scene is not part of a large narrative. Nevertheless, as is usually the case with Longley, there is a double perspective. Nature and the environment are both material and metaphorical. Nature both necessitates and facilitates the transition between fear and security, between exposure and shelter, between alienation and domestication.

Longley also uses the shipwreck sequence in another even shorter poem in The Ghost Orchid. ‘Homer's Octopus' meditates self-reflexively on poetry and its relationship to Homer. He refers to the vivid scene in Odyssey V. 432–435 in which the sea hurls Odysseus against the rocks and then tears him away, ripping the skin from his hands as they vainly clutch at the rocks. Fitzgerald (1996 [1961], 105) translates this as:

He gripped a rock-ledge with both hands in passing

and held on, groaning, as the surge went by,

to keep clear of its breaking. Then the backwash

hit him, ripping him under and far out.

An octopus, when you drag one from his chamber,

comes up with suckers full of tiny stones:

Odysseus left the skin of his great hands

torn on that rock-ledge as the wave submerged him.


Richmond Lattimore's translation brings out more formally the structure of the simile in Homer –

As when an octopus is dragged away from its shelter

the thickly-clustered pebbles stick in the cups of the tentacles

so in contact with the rock the skin from his bold hands

was torn away. [22]

Longley catches elements of both, echoing Fitzgerald's ‘suckers full of tiny stones' and also signalling the simile. However, Longley's simile is a reflection on the after-life of poetry –

Poetry is like Homer's octopus

Yanked out of its hidey-hole, suckers

Full of tiny stones

Characteristically, Longley uses a colloquialism, ‘hidey-hole' and also both adds to and then qualifies the certainty of the simile:

‘except that the stones

Are precious stones or semi-precious stones.'

The musicalty of the imperfect cadence at the end emphasises the reflective mood.

Longley's separate responses to the sequence in Odyssey V show how the miniatures that he distils and reworks from Homer's epic scenes also exemplify his sense of what poetry is and what it can do. It is also the case that from Homeric scenes of extreme turbulence and suffering (both thatof Odysseus and of the octopus) Longley creates meditative and exploratory poems that draw back from final resolution. This awareness of how poetry can be both stimulated and repressed by violence is found in other aspects of his work, especially in his concern with the lasting effects of war on the individual and the community. These insights are developed in the poems about his father (such as his early poem ‘Wounds' and the later ‘The Front') as well as in terms of the impact of war as a stimulus to poetry in his exploration of the death of Edward Thomas, ‘Edward Thomas' Poem'. [23] In the Edward Thomas poem Longley describes the tactile impression made by Thomas' watch, stopped at the moment of death, on the poetry notebook kept in his breast pocket. The ‘origami quim' this created encapsulates the uneasy relationship between violence, pain and poetic fecundity. Of Thomas, Longley concluded –

The nature poet turned into a war poet as if

He could cure death with the rub of a dock leaf. [24]

Odysseus' traumatic experiences in Odyssey V have inspired other modern responses and analysis of these helps to throw into relief the distinctive aspects of Longley's approach. The most interesting of the other poetic responses are perhaps those of Ted Hughes, Peter Reading and Oliver Taplin. Reading 's ‘Idyllic' follows Homer closely in recreating the haven offered by the space under the two intertwined olive bushes. [25] It preserves the role of Athena in bringing sleep to ease exhaustion but the sequence is in parentheses between lines on the decanted port the poet carried in his rucksack and the sleeping pills saved up from prescriptions for ‘bogus insomnia'. The location is isolated and the poem ends menacingly with the ‘bray of the tumbril'.

Ted Hughes poem ‘The Storm' is sub-titled ‘from Homer, Odyssey, Book V' and dates from 1960, eventually being published in 2003 in his Collected Poems. [26] It was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in 1960 and then seems to have been lost for forty two years. It may be Hughes' earliest ‘translation'. It was commissioned by Anthony Thwaite and read for broadcast by Patrick Garland, possibly as part of a series for children arranged by Louis MacNeice (recollections vary). [27]

Hughes gives the whole sequence a direct narrative voice full of decisive verbs. It has a strong pulse and short similes are used to build up to the decisive moments of action–

Then as children

See their father's life coming clear of the grip of an evil

That has stretched and drained him with agony long and binding

And they rejoice that the gods have loosed him,

Odysseus exulted at his glimpse of the land and its trees.

Odysseus' introspection is rendered in direct speech and the narrative experience of pain is intense and direct –

Thickly as gravel crusting the suckers

Of some octopus plucked from its crevice

The rock tore flesh from his fingers

Hughes' treatment of the olive tree uses words sensuously to convey its shape and texture and the way in which he perceived it as being assaulted by the elements –

Neither the stroke of the naked sun

Nor wet sea-winds nor the needling rain could enter

Odysseus is described as ‘royal' with hints of the god-like and the seminal in a Promethean allusion added to the body/leaves/fire simile–

Then he stretched out his body and heaped leaves over

As one on a lonely farm and far from neighbours

Buries a live brand in black embers, preserving the seed of fire

Lest at need he be forced to go to find fire elsewhere

Odysseus hid under leaves.

Oliver Taplin's treatment is in The Wanderings of Odysseus, a work created for reading and movement in performance and not yet published as a whole. [28] In writing for performance, Taplin used the figure of the Narrator, alternating with the first person reflections of Odysseus. Taplin's text conveys the Octopus simile in unrhymed verse with the caesura marked visually on the page:

As clusters of stones stick tight on the tentacle-

Cups of an octopus that's been plucked out of its lair,

So Odysseus' skin clung stuck to the rock, scraped

From his strong grip. And the vast wave covered him.

In the olive tree sequence, Taplin follows closely the details in Homer and the tone–the heaps of leaves are ‘enough to cover two men, even three' and are not elided into a domestic allusion as in Longley's focalised narrative, which blended the poet's voice with that of the unnamed Odysseus. Taplin's treatment of the olive tree and Odysseus' shelter is communicated via the narrator and uses active semi-colloquial verbs–Odysseus ‘scrambled beneath a double bush'. However, Taplin combines this with an aural lilt, expressed through alliteration, repetition, word order and rhythm:–

‘The strongest gusts of winter wet couldn't penetrate there

nor the brightest beam of sunlight filter in

nor could showers soak through, so closely interleaved

they were together. Under here Odysseus hid.' (lines 478–481)

In Taplin (lines 488–491), the simile of the man on the remote farm keeps Homer's potency of the fire image and the practicalities necessitated by rural isolation (the log is buried beneath the ash ‘to conserve the seed of fire') but does not add the extra dimension of Promethean accretions to it as does Hughes (who went on to develop the Promethean resonances in his later work). [29] Taplin also retains Homer's sense of Odysseus' trials and tribulations and conveys the gentleness of Homer's picture of Athena's care in bringing about Odysseus' rest–‘sleep delicately closed his lids' (line 494).

Taplin's translation is that of a scholar who sets out to preserve and communicate the oral qualities of the Homeric poem as performance. In addition to its own poetic and dramatic qualities it thus provides a very good standpoint from which to assess how other modern poetic responses converge and diverge from Homer. In particular it highlights contrasts with Hughes, who additionally gives Odysseus both regal status and Promethean attributes. Taplin's translation also throws into relief the way in which Longley, although in many respects staying close to the Homer passage, also makes his refugee change the masculinist image of the bed of leaves in Homer by foreshadowing more specifically than in Homer the later significance of the olive tree- bed for Odysseus' reintegration in Ithaca. Longley's language also resonates with the undertones of Irish literary exploration of the ambivalences of rural life while Taplin sticks closer to the practicalities of peasant life in the Homeric simile. Longley's sharply observed handling of detail has affinities with other responses, especially that of the translator Fitzgerald, but he is alone in treating the stones in the octopus' tentacles as a metaphor in their own right and in relating this metapoetically to his own technique of extracting of very short passages from Homer for the creation of miniatures that manage to suggest the depth of themes that are explored more extensively in Homer's narrative canvas.

In this brief survey, I have only been able to touch on some aspects of Longley's relationship with Homer but I hope I have said enough to show its centrality to his work and to suggest that critical judgements about it require comparison both with (other) translations and with (other) poetic rewritings. Longley's ‘two bushes sprouting from one stem' and his ‘suckers full of tiny stones' are metaphors that help track poetic receptions of Homer and their implications for paradigms associated with temporality and translation.


[1] This paper developed through a series of discussions at seminars and conferences held in 2006 and 2007, especially at Haverford College, University College London, University College Dublin and at the conference on ‘Current Debates in Classical Reception Research' held at the Open University. I am extremely grateful to participants and discussants for their criticisms and suggestions.

[2] For example, Derek Walcott, The Odyssey: A Stage Version, London, Faber, 1993; Peter Oswald, Odysseus, London, Oberon Books, 1999; David Farr, The Odyssey, staged in 2005.

[3] See for example Rosalind Thomas, ‘Herodotus History and the Floating Gap' in Nino Luraghi (ed.) The Historian's Craft in the Age of Herodotus, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001, ch 10. For other aspects of cross-genre receptions of ancient poetry and drama see Lorna Hardwick, Translating Words, Translating Cultures, London, Duckworth, 2000, ch. 8 and Reception Studies, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003. Since this discussion is concerned with cross-genre responses I shall not discuss Derek Walcott's long quasi-epic poem Omeros, London, Faber, 1990.

[4] M Longley, ‘Spiderwoman' in M Hofmann and James Lasdun, After Ovid: New Metamorphoses, London, Faber, 1994:146, discussed in detail in L Hardwick, ‘Is the ‘silken thread' worth more than ‘a fart in a bearskin'? or How Translation practice matters in poetry and drama' in SJ Harrison (ed.), Living Classics, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, pp.172-193.

[5] For discussion of Longley's life and career, see the introduction to Fran Brearton, Reading Michael Longley, Tarset, Bloodaxe Books, 2006 and for his early work, especially in relation to that of other poets in the north of Ireland, Heather Clark, The Ulster Renaissance: Poetry in Belfast 1962 – 1972, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2006.

[6] Michael Longley, Gorse Fires, London, 1991; The Ghost Orchid, London 1995; Broken Dishes, Belfast 1998; The Weather in Japan, London, 2000; Snow Water, London, 2004; Collected Poems, London, 2006.

[7] See further, L Hardwick, ‘Singing across the faultlines: cultural shifts in twentieth-century receptions of Homer' in (eds.) B Graziosi and E Greenwood, Homer in the Twentieth Century: Between World Literature and the Western Canon, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007, 47 - 71.

[8] F Brearton, ‘ ‘Walking forwards into the past': An Interview with Michael Longley', Irish Studies Review 18 (Spring 1997), 35 – 39.

[9] See Hardwick, 2007, for discussion of the gradual recognition of the iconic parallels, in different spheres of Irish culture, between the Easter Rising of 1916 and WW1, especially the battle of the Somme, and Longley's role in addressing these in his poetry.

[10]The Ghost Orchid, 1995, p 39 and Iliad 24. 505 – 506.

[11] Dermot Healy, ‘Interview with Michael Longley', Southern Review 31, 1995, 557 – 561.

[12] Ibid. p 560. The allusion covers Chopin, Sappho, Catullus.

[13] RP Martin, ‘Similes and Performance', in (eds) EJ Bakker and A Kahane, Written Voices, Spoken Signs: Performance, Tradition and the Epic Text, Cambridge, Harvard University press, 1997, 138 – 166, especially 166, and E J Bakker, Pointing at the Past: From Formula to Performance in Homeric Poetics, Cambirdge, Mass. and London, Harvard University Press, 2005, especially ch. 4,5,6 and 7.

[14] The Ghost Orchid, 1995, 37.

[15] Brian Friel, ‘Translations' in Selected Plays of Brian Friel, London, Faber, 1984 and for discussion Helen Lojak, ‘Brian Friel's sense of place' in (ed.) Shaun Richards, The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Irish Drama, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2004, 177–190. For discussion of Longley's use of the Homeric simile, see Oliver Taplin, ‘Some assimilations of the Homeric simile in later twentieth-century poetry' in (eds.) Graziosi and Greenwood, 2007, 177 - 190.

[16] J Grenfell, ‘Into Battle', in (eds.) D Hibberd and J Onions, Poetry of the Great War: An Anthology, New York, St Martin's Press, 1986, 100 – 101. For a detailed discussion of Grenfell's poem and its Homeric allusions, see Elizabeth Vandiver, ‘Homer in British World War One Poetry' in (eds) L Hardwick and CA Stray, A Companion to Classical Receptions, Oxford, Blackwell, 2008, 452 - 465. I am very grateful to Dr Vandiver for discussing her work with me in advance of publication and for allowing me to refer to her essay here.

[17] For detailed discussion of Owen's use of Homeric allusion, see Vandiver 2007.

[18]Which I have discussed in ‘Singing Across the Faultlines: Cultural Shifts in Twentieth-Century Receptions of Homer' in (eds) Barbara Graziosi and Emily Greenwood Homer in the Twentieth Century Between World Literature and the Western Canon Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007.

[19] ‘Baucis and Philemon' responded to Ovid's treatment of the myth in Metamorphoses 8. 612 – 724. It was first published in 1994 in Hofmann and Ladun (eds) and subsequently in The Ghost Orchid, 1995.

[20] Robert Fitzgerald (tr.), Homer: The Odyssey, London, Harvill Press, 1996 [1961], 447.

[21] ‘The Great Hunger' was first published in P. Kavanagh, A Soul for Sale, London, Macmillan, 1947 and collected in P. Kavanagh, Collected Poems, ed. Antionette Quinn, London, Allen Lane 2004 and Penguin Classics 2005, 63 – 90. Kavanagh's poems ‘Epic' and ‘On Looking into E.V. Rieu's Homer' explore affinities between the Iliad and Irish rural life - ‘…Homer's ghost came whispering to my mind./He said: I made the Iliad from such/A local row.', ‘Epic', Kavanagh 2005, 184. ‘Mycenae Lookout' is in S. Heaney, The Spirit Level, London, Faber, 1996, 29 - 37. ‘Bann Valley Eclogue' is in S. Heaney, Electric Light, London, Faber, 2001, 11 - 12. The diverse ways in which classical referents intersect in the Irish poetic tradition is discussed in Lorna Hardwick, ‘Fuzzy Connections: Classical Texts and Modern:Poetry' in J Parker and T Mathews (eds), Trauma, Tradition and Translation, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2011.

[22] R Lattimore, The Odyssey of Homer, New York, Harper and Row, 1965.

[23] ‘Wounds', An Exploded View, London, Gollanz, 1973; ‘The Front', Snow Water, 2004, 46; ‘Edward Thomas' Poem', ibid. 35.

[24] In ‘Interview', also in Snow Water, 2004, 43, Longley revisits the encounter between Achilles and Odysseus in the underworld and transposes Achilles' reflections as

‘Not even you can make me love death, Odysseus

I'd far rather clear out ditches on starvation

Wages for some nonentity of a smallholder

Than lord it over the debilitated dead'.

[25] P Reading, Last Poems, London, Chatto and Windus,1994, collected in P Reading, Collected Poems 1985 - 1996, vol. 2, Newcastle on Tyne, Bloodaxe Books, 1996.

[26] Ted Hughes, Collected Poems, ed. Paul Keegan, London, Faber, 2003, 93–96.

[27] The poem is the subject of extensive analysis and contextualisation within Hughes' work at that time: see the essay by Stuart Gillespie to be published in (ed.) R Rees, Ted Hughes and the Classics, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008. I am indebted to Dr Gillespie's discussion at the conference of the same name held in Edinburgh in December 2005.

[28] Extracts have been published in Dialogos 1, 1994 and in (ed.) G Steiner and A Dykman, Homer in English, London, Penguin, 1996, 339-341. I am very grateful to Professor Taplin for sending me unpublished parts of the text.

[29] See especially Prometheus on his Crag, 1973, 1979 and in Collected Poems, 2003, and the discussion by Vanda Zajko in (ed) R Rees, Ted Hughes and the Classics, 2009, pp. 100-119.