Ancestral Photograph - Seamus Heaney.
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Ancestral Photograph - Seamus Heaney 1. The poet, Seamus Heaney, is describing his great-uncle from an old photograph that has been on the wall for decades. He is in a pensive mood, thinking about his family's history and his own involvement in it. 2. The picture created of the man is not an attractive one. The opening sentence to the poem, "Jaws puff round and solid as a turnip" makes it seem as if the face is completely smooth, without any interesting features - just like a "turnip". "Jaws puff round" gives the reader an impression that the great-uncle's face is bloated and flabby. The next sentence in the first stanza, "Dead eyes are statue's" suggests that the man is lifeless and that he has a blank expression on his face. The reader also gets the impression that Seamus Heaney's great-uncle is rather unpleasant from the words: "the upper lip bullies the heavy mouth down to a droop". "Droop" might suggest that he is possibly unhappy.
The word "fall" could mean when the family name dies out, or troubles or tensions within the family. This word could also relate to his Seamus Heaney's other poem "Digging", where he discusses his feelings of how he is different to all his ancestors. The "fall" in this case could mean how the farming skills have not been passed on from his father to son - like it has been from generation to generation in the past within his family. 4. Heaney remembers herding the cattle into pens or restraining them against a wall. At this time, cattle were sold at market and his father would tell the cattlemen his price and settle a deal. "My father won at arguing" suggests that Heaney's father knows what he is doing and is very good at his job. Heaney uses many verbs in this stanza which illustrates and reflects the vivacity of the busy cattle markets. The alternative to a written contract of purchase accepted by the cattlemen was "a round of drinks to clinch the bargain".
"And watched you sadden when the fairs were stopped. No room for dealers if the farmers shopped like housewives at an auction ring." Heaney points out that this new way of selling cattle is relatively effeminate. "Your stick was parked behind the door and stands there still." He is sad because things will never be the same again. This is achieved by declaring to his father: "Closing this chapter of our chronicle, I take your uncle's portrait to the attic." This suggests that his great-uncle no longer belongs to this time - he fits in with the past. 8. Through this poem, Heaney is showing us that sometimes in life you are bound to be disappointed. This is because life changes. Just like fashion, life evolves as time goes by. And sometimes, we like it the way it used to be before. Similar to Heaney's family, things change through generations. His ancestors were farmers; breaking the tradition, Heaney is a poet. Heaney tells us that however hard it may be, you have to live with the times; what belongs to the past should stay there. "Closing this chapter of our chronicle", a fresh one opens for the future. Ronak Punjabi 10N
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