The Katabasis Motif in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney
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- Master theses 
In Greek mythology and in literature generally, descent into the Underworld, the world of the dead, is referred to as katabasis. The word is Greek in origin and translates as “going down”. Katabatic elements have been a part of storytelling from the oldest myths we know and to this day. Seamus Heaney has been a poet of attachments all his life – attachment to family and friends, his childhood’s home ground, his academic milieu, and his country. The Virgilian journey underground has been a constant presence in Seamus Heaney’s life and has enriched his poetry in many ways. I have looked at the katabasis motif in the many different shapes it assumes in Seamus Heaney’s work. There is the filial connection to the home ground as shown in “Digging” and the sacrificed “Tollund Man” in the peat-heavy soil of the bog in Jutland. I have examined a modern katabasis as described in “District and Circle” and an anabasis from the deep valley of an illness in “Chanson d’Aventure”. Translation as katabasis, and katabasis ending in the need for translation – “The Riverbank Field” and “Route 110” blend poetics and memories. In my comparison of the two versions of a part of Book VI of the Aeneid I find a poet reconciled with the different languages that are his inheritance. In his late poetry Heaney moves with ease across borders of time and space, the private and the public, myth and faith.