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These lectures were delivered by Seamus Heaney while he was Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. In the first of them, Heaney discusses and celebrates poetry’s special ability to redress spiritual balance and to function as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world. He proceeds to explore how this ‘redress’ manifests itself in a diverse range of poems and poets, including Christopher Marlowe’s ‘Hero and Leander’, ‘The Midnight Court’ by the eighteenth-century Irish poet Brian Merriman, John Clare’s vernacular writing and Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’. Several twentieth-century poets are also discussed – W. B. Yeats, Dylan Thomas, Elizabeth Bishop and others – and the whole book constitutes a vivid proof of the claim that ‘poetry is strong enough to help’.
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