Commenting on some poems by Edwin Muir, Seamus Heaney says:

They return us, a little too unscathed, to the mote-lit stillness of the cradle and the chant-filled circle of the prayers. 

Which he then concludes amounts to being returned to Eden. 

I like that beam-shaft of motes as signifying cradle-safe stillness. 

Source: Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers: Selected prose 1971-2001 (London: Faber and Faber, 2003), p. 249


  1. Adam Nicolson

    He means lit-mote doesn’t he? But ‘mote-lit stillness’ is instinctively better than ‘lit-mote stillness.’

    • beatriceotto

      You’re quite right Adam, the motes aren’t the ones lighting up the stillness, but it sounds perfect anyhow, perhaps because we’ve all seen motes dancing in the light of a sunbeam. All best, Beatrice

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