The Great Blasket Island sits off the spectacular coast of County Kerry on the South West corner of Ireland. The Irish Government evacuated the last of its Gaelic-speaking residents in 1953. The evacuation resulted from a young man's death from meningitis which occurred during one of the many storms that cut it off from communication with the mainland.

Seamus Heaney won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995. This poem, The Given Note, was inspired by a tune called Port na bPucai, which translates as The Tune of the Ghosts (or Fairies.) The tune wrote itself, it is said; it came to a fiddler 'on loud weather,' it is said, who was wandering around the ruined village alone and at night.

Here I use a recording from the Co. Clare Fiddler, Martin Hayes, who recorded it with New York classical quartet, Brooklyn Rider. Seamus Heaney himself reads the poem, and Uilleann Piper Liam O'Flynn closes with his version of the tune.

The Given Note.

On the most westerly Blasket
In a dry-stone hut
He got this air out of the night.
Strange noises were heard
By others who followed, bits of a tune
Coming in on loud weather
Though nothing like melody.
He blamed their fingers and ear
As unpractised, their fiddling easy
For he had gone alone into the island
And brought back the whole thing.
The house throbbed like his full violin.
So wether he calls it spirit music
Or not, I don't care. He took it
Out of wind off mid-Atlantic.
Still he maintains, from nowhere.
It comes off the bow gravely,
Rephrases itself into the air.