In what would turn out to be Seamus Heaney’s final collection, Human Chain (2010), the poet reflects on the preoccupations of a lifetime – lifelines connecting past and future, classical allusions and translations, the quotidian transformed into the timeless. A remarkable sequence entitled ‘Route 110’ plots the descent into the underworld from Virgil’s Aeneid Book VI against moments in the arc of the poet’s own life, from a 1950s Belfast bookshop to the birth of his first grandchild. There are newly minted versions of early Irish lyrics, and moving reflections on mortality and old age. The collection ends with a poem after the Italian poet Pascoli, its last line striking a poignant note: ‘The kite takes off, itself alone, a windfall.’

‘Human Chain [is] his best single volume for many years, and one that contains some of the best poems he has written’ Colm Tóibín, Guardian