“All I Ever Did Was Follow in His Broad Shadow”: A Poem in Celebration of Fathers

Our students love to confide in us about special moments they have shared with their dads, stories full of affection and admiration. To honor the special bond between fathers and their young children, we hold a Fathers’ Workshop each year, a discussion of parenting from the dad’s point of view. Doug Lyons, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools and former head of Greenwich Country Day School, returns to lead the conversation.

This poem by Seamus Heaney captures the way children instinctively observe and emulate their dads. In honor of all the fathers in our school community, we share it here.



My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The horse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.