Death of a Naturalist - Heaney
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This poem is a fertile mixture of imagery, sounds and an impression created by nature on a person's mind. Heaney sensualises an outstanding feel of the physical wonders of nature. As he wanders along the pathways of salient discovery, Heaney's imagination bursts into life. This poem is actually very ironic, in its whole, as Heaney effectively carves a mountain out of a molehill of the episode about the frogs, a product of his enticing figments. In the first section of 'Death of a Naturalist', the child is entuned with the nature around him and vivid images of him revelling in the sensual pleasures of life are abundant. Bubbles 'gargling' on stagnant water and the 'warm thick slobber' of frogspawn fascinated him. The imagery here indicates that Heaney feels pride in being able to be so close-up to nature and his immersion with nature, without, in anyway, being fastidious about it. Heaney is at this stage of life, innocent and gullible. He imagines the opposing impulses of the bluebottles, which weave a 'strong gauze of sound around the smell' (in connection with the delicacy of the bubbles).
The death was intrinsically an accident and a rock in Heaney's path to discovery of nature. Nature had, by then turned out to be and creates a window, unwelcoming. In a way, Heaney's initial love of nature actually misguided him and conversely led him to rapidly retreat from natural pleasures. For, he was never the naturalist he thought himself to be. The sheer amount of sound or onomatopoeia employed by Heaney in 'Death of a Naturalist', eg 'slap', 'plop' and 'croaking' really resonate the alleyways of nature and later amalgamate into an extraordinary effect of the 'bass chorus'. Put simply, the effect is rapid and reflects the boy's rapid transformation of attitude. The frogs make all the noise because the boy is experiencing terror: questions arise about the sudden appearance of frogs. He has no unfettering confidence and doesn't find for himself any immunity from the threats posed by the frogs; whether his own simplistic thoughts which was the case before, or Ms Wall's reassurances. Sounds in the poem actually blow out of thin air, eg 'the air was thick with a bass chorus'; this gives the poem a true, contrasting texture of the frog's harmless intentions, while Heaney perceives their existence as harmful to himself and harmful disastrous for nature.
Heaney stereotypes the disgusting nature of frogs with their 'gross-bellied' appearance, which used in conjunction with other putrid imagery, makes the frogs seem repulsive and present nature as opposing to beautiful. In addition, the comparison of the arrival of the frogs with a military invasion really exposes Heaney's vulnerability at that time, contrasted by 'slime kings' which embodies the enemy a great power and ability. Nature was vast and Heaney had just got acquainted with it. Heaney has contrasted a simple natural process with his own imagination and actually indicated to us our own constant fears and interdependence on nature, on a large scale. We might ask ourselves: 'Are we arrogant?' Innumerable questions have pervaded Heaney's mind and he has just only transpired a small bit of this uncertainty. Nature is unfalteringly cruel and this feeling is cemented by the last phrase 'clutch it': something is always there generating a threat; it could be invisible but still behind. 1 Examine the use of poetic techniques in 'Death of a Naturalist' and show how they enhance the meaning. Hisham Hasan Y10-2
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