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“My friends were wanting art to hold up at the moment when they were being most borne down upon. They had a stake in its worth being proved in extremis since they are a couple who have lived lives based on the humanist wager. They know not to expect uplift from art, but they also expect not to be let down by it. And it was because of this knowledge and their unreadiness to renege on it that I found myself saying, not for the first time, that in these extreme cases the challenge faced by the artist — and hopefully also by the policy-makers — is the one W. B. Yeats formulated so plainly in his introduction to A Vision: ‘to hold in a single thought reality and justice.’”

Seamus Heaney


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