No, in addition to writing poetry Seamus Heaney was an accomplished translator, and also wrote plays and prose. His translation of the Old English Anglo-Saxon poem ‘Beowulf’ was an international bestseller. The work was widely praised for breathing new life into a well-known piece of literature, and for Heaney’s success in being able to incorporate Old English poetry elements in this modern translation.
Heaney also translated works from Middle Irish, including ‘Sweeney Astray’ and ‘The Midnight Verdict’. The Last Walk, a limited edition translation of Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli’s work, and Heaney’s translation of Virgil’s Aeneid Book VI were both published posthumously.
Heaney wrote two plays – The Cure at Troy (1990) and The Burial at Thebes (2004). The plays were adaptations of Sophocles’ ancient Greek dramas Philoctetes and Antigone, respectively. The Cure at Troy was written for the Field Day Theatre Company, which premiered the play at the Guildhall in Derry in 1990. The Burial at Thebes was first performed to mark the centenary of The Abbey Theatre in Dublin in 2004.
A renowned essayist, Heaney’s prose was published in three collections: Preoccupations: Selected Prose (1980), The Government of the Tongue (1988) and The Redress of Poetry (1995). The latter was a collection of lectures he gave between 1989 and 1994 while serving as the Oxford Professor of Poetry.
Dennis O’Driscoll’s 2008 book Stepping Stones is a collection of interviews with Heaney in which the poet recollects his life from his earliest childhood memories through to the stroke he suffered in 2006. With Heaney having never written an autobiography, Stepping Stones is the closest the poet came to writing a memoir.