Seamus Heaney was born in Mossbawn, Ireland on April 13, 1939. He received a degree in English from Queen's College in Belfast in 1961. After earning his teacher's certificate in English from St. Joseph's College in Belfast the following year, he took a position at the school as an English teacher. During his time as a teacher at St. Joseph's, he wrote and published work in the university magazine under the pen name Incertus. In 1966, he became an English literature lecturer at Queen's College in Belfast. His first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist, went on to receive the E.C. Gregory Award, the Cholmondeley Award, the Somerset Maugham Award, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. After the death of his parents, Heaney published the poetry volumes The Haw Lantern, which includes a sonnet sequence memorializing his mother, and Seeing Things, a collection containing numerous poems for his father. His other works included Field Work, Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996, and Human Chain. Heaney was a professor at Harvard from 1981 to 1997 and its Poet in Residence from 1988 to 2006. From 1989 to 1994 he was also the Professor of Poetry at Oxford and in 1996 was made a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres. Other awards that he received include the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), T. S. Eliot Prize (2006) and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). In 2012, he was awarded the Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust For Excellence In Poetry. His literary papers are held by the National Library of Ireland. He died following a short illness on August 30, 2013 at the age of 74. Heaney's last words were in a text to his wife Marie, "Noli timere", which means "Do not be afraid."
The Greek dramatist Sophocles, born to a wealthy family at Colonus, near Athens, was admired as a boy for his personal beauty and musical skill. He served faithfully as a treasurer and general for Athens when it was expanding its empire and influence. In the dramatic contests, he defeated Aeschylus in 468 b.c. for first prize in tragedy, wrote a poem to Herodotus (see Vol. 3), and led his chorus and actors in mourning for Euripides just a few months before his own death. He wrote approximately 123 plays, of which 7 tragedies are extant, as well as a fragment of his satiric play, Ichneutae (Hunters). His plays were produced in the following order: Ajax (c.450 b.c.), Antigone (441 b.c.), Oedipus Tyrannus (c.430 b.c.), Trachiniae (c.430 b.c.), Electra (between 418 and 410 b.c.), Philoctetes (409 b.c.), and Oedipus at Colonus (posthumously in 401 b.c.). With Sophocles, Greek tragedy reached its most characteristic form. He added a third actor, made each play independent---that is, not dependent on others in a trilogy---increased the numbers of the chorus, introduced the use of scenery, shifted the focus from religious to more philosophical issues, and brought language and characters, though still majestic, nearer to everyday life. His finely delineated characters are responsible for the tragedy that befalls them, and they accept it heroically. Aristotle (see Vols. 3, 4, and 5) states that Sophocles said he portrayed people as they ought to be; Euripides, as they are. His utter command of tragic speech in the simple grandeur of his choral odes, dialogues, and monologues encourages the English reader to compare him to Shakespeare (see Vol. 1).