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Most, if not all, of Heaney's poems in 'Wintering Out' describe Heaney's uncertainty towards religion and his home land, Northern Ireland - "The Tollund Man" and "Westering" best illustrate these uncertainties.

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Introduction

Haneesa Latif Choose two poems to illustrate Heaney's feelings of uncertainty. Most, if not all, of Heaney's poems in 'Wintering Out' describe Heaney's uncertainty towards religion and his home land, Northern Ireland. "The Tollund Man" and "Westering" best illustrate these uncertainties. "The Tollund Man" is about a body found in a bog that has been preserved for hundreds and thousands of years. The body was a sacrifice made to the Pagan Goddess of fertility, otherwise known as the earth. The tannic acid in the bog preserved the body, replacing the skin with a thick, brown, leather like layer. In this particular poem, Heaney looks beyond the body being preserved by the tannic acid and questions whether the Tollund Man was more than a man. We begin to realize Heaney's uncertainty towards the Christian religion. -..his peat-brown head, the mild pods of his eye-lids, His pointed skin cap. Here, he describes the Tollund Man's appearance. He goes on to describe how he feels the Tollund Man ended up in the bog. - Naked except for the cap, noose and girdled, I will Stand a long time. Bridegroom to the goddess, she Tightened her torc on him... He talks about the Tollund Man as a Pagan sacrifice. He goes into the Past to learn more about the Tollund Man. He feels the need to know more about the Tollund Man because he is his new inspiration. He even -..could risk blasphemy because he compares the Tollund Man with God. ...read more.

Middle

In summary, Heaney uses religious language and imagery and compares it with images of war. He takes us to the moments in time when these atrocities in the name of religion were being committed. He makes us feel the same as he does-how can these people call themselves Christians? They have lost their basic beliefs of love and forgiveness and made up their own rules, and in a sense, made up their own religion. They have the same beliefs but still feel bound to fight because they have different ways of practicing those beliefs. Heaney feels isolated from religion. However, the fact that all these atrocities are happening on his homeland make him feel further away from his country and makes him want to get away from there, which he talks about in "Westering". As he moves further away from religion and home, he moves closer towards the Tollund Man. He begins to talk about 'risking blasphemy' by replacing the Patron Saint of Northern Ireland with him. He even gives the Tollund Man a God-like status by using a capital H every time he talks about him, similar to when we write God. Heaney's uncertainty for religion is displayed throughout this poem. However, in "Westering" his need to get away from his homeland is shown even more, when he finally escapes Northern Ireland. - I sit under Rand McNally's 'Official Map of the Moon' Heaney is sitting in a pub called Rand McNally's, in California. ...read more.

Conclusion

He feels uncertain of his own homeland. He is not certain whether he feels at home there anymore and whether he is safer there. Once again, he is uncertain of religion. It is as thought the moon has replaced Christ. - ..the moon's stigmata He contrasts the moon with Christ. He is feeling far from religion and Northern Ireland. The only time, for him, that Northern Ireland will be peaceful, is when he imagines it in his mind. What will it take for religion to be followed and practiced properly? Heaney uses religious language to contrast his feelings of Christ with the moon. This creates certain imagery in our minds. We picture, the moon's stigmata-wounds. He also uses Irish language. He talks about Irish humour and the cottages and the moon. Once again, Heaney uses poetic techniques such as personification, metaphors, similes, onomatopoeia, alliteration. These techniques, once again, create imagery in our minds. They create a clearer picture for us as well as emphasize on his uncertainty. - From her bony shine (Personification) The structure of "Westering" is similar to that of "The Tollund Man". Each stanza has four lines each and the shape of the poem is tall and mainly thin. However, halfway through it broadens slightly before going thin again, like the crucifix does. Like "The Tollund Man", Heaney replaces Christ. He looks towards other forms of inspiration to help him get through the troubled times. He is uncertain of religion and home, once again. The only way he can do is run away, but wherever he runs he cannot help but think of Northern Ireland. He cannot get away from it. ...read more.

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