Magdalena Kay at The Dublin Review of Books:
The Aeneid features a hero, Aeneas, who is renowned for his sense of duty and honour. Yet his emotions are human. His devotion to his father, Anchises, is an especially moving feature of this epic, one that surely attracted Heaney. His love for both parents permeates his work. Meanwhile, the talkative Anchises (quite different from the reticent Patrick Heaney) is in many ways the most interesting figure in Book VI. Does Heaney wish that his own father had spoken more, or that he could have had the same glorious vision of the future, of his children’s children and their accomplishments, that Anchises is given?
There is more to wonder about. Nearly every reviewer mentions the deaths of Heaney’s parents as a link to Book VI, in which Aeneas is able to meet with the dead, even to plan his future by conversing with them. But such singular deaths are here situated within a larger story. Book VI does not focus upon Aeneas’s grief, and is not primarily a poem of mourning. Indeed, this seems to be one of its most problematic features. Instead of dwelling on the pathos of death, it dramatises the journey that Aeneas takes, first onto the shore of Latium, then to find the golden bough, and most strikingly, down and through the various realms of the world below. It ends with a long list of the descendants of Anchises and their destinies. Aeneas’s reascent to the daylight realm is quick and straightforward. The reader is left with a sense of glory and drama to come. This is, of course, in keeping with the patriotic, pro-imperial tenor of the poem. The Aeneid is more political than personal.