Former US president Bill Clinton praised Seamus Heaney as "our finest poet of the rhythms of ordinary lives" and a "powerful voice for peace" in a tribute tonight.
The farmer's son who went on to become a world renowned Nobel laureate died in hospital in Dublin aged 74.
Mr Clinton and his wife Hillary said they were saddened to learn of the death of their "friend".
The Clintons said:
Mr Clinton added:
ITV News Correspondent Neil Connery reports:
Heaney was remembered by friends, contemporaries, admirers and politicians as a humble, warm, funny and open man as tributes flowed in from around the world.
He is survived by his wife, Marie, and children, Christopher, Michael and Catherine Ann.
A funeral mass will take place on Monday at the Church of the Sacred Heart in Donnybrook, south Dublin followed by burial in his birthplace of Bellaghy, Co Derry.
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny said it would take Heaney himself to describe the depth of loss Ireland would feel over his death.
The 1995 Nobel prize-winner was born in April 1939, the eldest of nine children, on a small farm called Mossbawn near Bellaghy in Co Derry, Northern Ireland, and his upbringing often played out in the poetry he wrote in later years.
The citation for the award praised Heaney "for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past".
Tributes from across the spectrum were paid to the poet:
Ian Martin, a writer of The Thick Of It, said he will toast Heaney and "binge-read" his work tonight.
U2 frontman Bono descrobed Heaney as the "the quietest storm that ever blew into town" adding that he was a "great, great poet" who "changed my life."
Heaney's world renowned poetry first came to public attention in the mid-1960s with his first major collection, Death Of A Naturalist, published in 1966.
Among the other awards he received, a year after his Nobel win he was made a Commandeur de L'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French ministry of culture.