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Consider some of the ways in which Heaney explores the continuity between past and present in his poetry.

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EN Essay Subject: Consider some of the ways in which Heaney explores the continuity between past and present in his poetry. Seamus Heaney, in his poetry, calls upon elements of past and present in which he explores certain continuity in different ways and to different effects, or at least, in most poems studied up to now. His work's main frame, confessional poetry, is one in which he makes allusions to his own personal experience, past or present, but he also evokes historical events and experiences, both of which are evidently subject to time. Yet, how does Heaney explore such an abstract, intangible theme, to what effect, and what does he get out of it? It can be argued that his main motivation in doing this is to satisfy his quest of understanding the present through a projection back into the past, back into himself, back into his nation, Ireland, the land, the bog, the turf, that is the very essence of origins and explanations. Ireland, for Seamus Heaney, only represents the mud, the turf, the water, literally, but not the people. This can be seen in some of his poem such as "Bog Queen", where the turf is a predominant aspect in this poem. Indeed, this "bog" is the very origin of the poem, through its formidable capacity of preservation, enabling it to conserve human bodies for centuries, allowing for its "hibernation". ...read more.


Logically, in relation with this theme, Heaney also creates a bond between past and present by varying the form of his poems for political purposes, mostly between Ireland and England. This is seen in "Requiem for the Croppies" where he criticises the English hostility during the rebellions of the United Irishmen in Wexford in 1798 and of the Easter Rising in 1916. He expresses his support to the rising through the unbalance brought by the sestet of five verses which gives the entire poem a rebellious aspect. Consequently, Heaney ensures a political point of view, one where he criticises the interference of England in Irish affairs, but also the continuation of a 400-year-old form of poetry, the sonnet. Such a continuity in Heaney's poems is not only seen in poems making allusions to history and Ireland, but also on more personally based ones, where the poet as an individual marks the relationship between past and present. In "Digging" for instance, Heaney recalls his father digging "just like his old man" and goes even back to remembering his grand-father who used to "cut more turf in a day / than any other man on Toner's bog" thus insisting on the continuity of a tradition of farming that has been passed from generations to generations. He decides to preserve this continuity but by following his on way, that is by digging with his pen, not into turf, but into his mind, himself and the past. ...read more.


It is interesting to note that the turning point in this poem, the boy not turning away but accepting the challenge "I turned to stare" is exactly in the central stanza and that everything after is overturned, his fear disappearing marked by a change in the rhyme scheme. The bridge that Heaney passes at the end of the poem, "Then I turned on and crossed the bridge" is the symbol of something you have achieved, the poet's passage of childhood to adulthood, of past to present, with an insistence on the continuity between the two, conveyed by the concrete image of the bridge. In conclusion, there are several various ways with which Seamus Heaney evokes the continuity between past and present in his poetry. Depending on what he wants to demonstrate, he considers different examples to explore such continuity: from his own personal experience to a more general Irish history, Heaney analyses a wide range of details. In his consideration of continuity between past and present, he works on different levels, diverging from ideas such as metaphors or other images, to crafts and workings such as the use of a particular form, or term. His enterprise of studying time is probably not coincidental, as time is by definition something ever existing, eternal, upon which everyone is subjected. Through it, Heaney makes an attempt to place Ireland and all Irishmen in a wider context. 1 1/2 Cedric CHAMOIN Tale S5 ...read more.

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