Faber published Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 in 1998. The next year, Faber published his translation of a third ancient text, the Scandinavian-set Old English epic poem Beowulf, as Beowulf: A New Translation. For the second time, one of his books won the Whitbread Poetry Award and the Whitbread Book of the Year Award.
In 2000, the University of Pennsylvania awarded Heaney an honorary doctorate and he gave the commencement speech. Two years later, Seamus & Marie Heaney spent a week in Grahamtown, South Africa when Rhodes University awarded him another honorary doctorate.
During that week, he delivered a public lecture, “The Gutteral Muse,” delivered the commencement speech and led a poetry reading in the cathedral. His trip marked the retirement of Professor Malvern van Wyk Smith after thirty-seven years at Rhodes University, seventeen of them as Head of the Department of English. Professor Wendy Jacobson planned the event. Rhodes University gave away pamphlets with the printed texts of Heaney’s speeches and sold recordings in CD format.
The poet Ciaran Gerard Carson, who joined the faculty of Queen’s University, Belfast in 1998, opened The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry in 2004. Carson became the first director.
Faber published Electric Light in 2001 and District and Circle in 2006, which won the T.S. Eliot Prize. In 2002, Faber published Heaney’s final essay collection, Finders Keepers: Selected Prose, 1971-2001.
He suffered a stroke in 2006, but recovered after a few weeks. In 2009, RTÉ produced a fifteen-album boxed set of Heaney reading his own poems. That same year, he won the David Cohen Prize for Literature.
He translated Robert Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid and Seven Fables from Middle Scottish (a form of the English language spoken in Lowland Scotland roughly from Late Medieval times to the early 18th Century). This book, a sequel to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde (much as Virgil’s Aeneid was a sequel to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey) was published in 2009.
On March 19, 2009, Seamus Heaney spoke at the memorial service for Paul Scofield (1922-2008) held in St. Margaret's Church in the grounds of Westminster Abbey. Paul Scofield is best remembered for his performance as St. Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons (1966), which garnered him a BAFTA and an Academy Award for Best Actor.
A stage actor, Scofield is also remembered for performances in two Shakespeare films. In Henry V (1989), which Kenneth Branagh directed and starred in as King Henry V, he played King Charles VI of France. In Hamlet (1990), which Franco Zeffirelli directed and Mel Gibson produced and starred in as Prince Hamlet, he played The Ghost (Hamlet’s father).
Scofield, who suffered from leukaemia, died on March 19, 2008 at the age of eighty-six. The Service of Thanksgiving drew family, friends, and famous colleagues, including Sir Ian McKellan.
The next year, Faber published Human Chain, his last poetry collection, which won the Forward Prize and the Irish Times Poetry Now Award. The next year, he donated his papers to the National Library of Ireland, as Lyndsey Telford reported in the Independent. He also contributed some translation of Old Irish marginalia for Songs of the Scribe, the seventh studio album of Irish traditionalist singer-composer Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, the Foras na Gaeilge Traditional Singer-in-Residence at The Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University, Belfast.
On May 18, 2011, Seamus Heaney helped Irish President Mary McAleese and her husband, Dr. Martin McAleese, greet Queen Elizabeth II and her consort Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, on a state visit to Dublin. This was the first time an English monarch had visited Ireland since 1911, meaning the first time since (most of) Ireland achieved independence after 753 years of conquest and colonization from the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169 to the withdrawal of British troops and paramilitary Black and Tans from the Irish Free State, and the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) disbanded, in 1922.
Last year, Canada’s Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award. On an annual basis, the Griffin Trust gives poetry prizes to two English-language poets, one Canadian and one foreign.