(Mark Brown’s article appeared in the Guardian, 10/25.)
Heaney was invited by the poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, to contribute to a memorial anthology marking the centenary of the outbreak of the first world war. She asked poets to respond to poetry, letters and diary entries from the time.
Heaney chose Edward Thomas's great poem, As The Team's Head Brass, which he wrote in 1916 shortly before he asked to be posted to the front – a decision that led to his death at Arras the following year.
In response Heaney wrote In a Field (see below), completed in June, two months before his own death and now published for the first time.