Writing of the “ancient feminine religion of Northern Europe,” Seamus Heaney identifies a difference between “masculine, active, hard, phallic” ways of working, thinking, and praying, and the “yielding, maternal” influence of the complex forms of Marian Christianity that have influenced his own poetry.1 “For Heaney,” Eamon Duffy has written, “Christianity without its Marian dimension is an arid, abstract thing.”2 Yet, our study has shown that even Mary’s maternal qualities are not exclusively yielding, although her unique suspectibility to poetic representation—more often than not, by male poets—reveals a creative submission to the forms and purposes of poetry that, paradoxically, give her a presence and a voice that affirm a host of roles and qualities, by no means restricted to gender stereotyping or other constraints, through the centuries:
Mary transcends the media, the temporal and regional restrictions, and human limitations that govern her image in any one era. The meaning of the icon outweighs the individual artist or epoch.3
KeywordsDust Europe Expense Sponge Ghost
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- 1.Seamus Heaney, Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968–1978 (Noonday Press, New York, 1981), p. 143.Google Scholar
© Barry Spurr 2007