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Choose any two poems you feel have common theme (or themes). Write about them commenting fully on the ideas expressed and comparing and contrasting the poet's techniques.

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Introduction

Choose any two poems you feel have common theme (or themes). Write about them commenting fully on the ideas expressed and comparing and contrasting the poet's techniques. After reading and analysing numerous poems, I have chosen two examples of the famous Irish Poet, Seamus Heaney's work: 'Follower' and 'Mid-Term Break'. Both poems relate to the poet's past, and are certainly associated with a specific 'loss' of a loved one - one a literal loss, and the other a subconscious loss. 'Mid-Term Break', which I found to be a very touching and poignant poem, describes the loss of the poet's younger brother, Christopher when Heaney was a child, hence the poem is of a childhood tragedy as well as a loss. It's set in three places - the introduction is situated in the college sick bay; the main body of the poem is set in Heaney's brother's funeral, and the final setting is the small child's bedroom. The poet is awaiting his neighbours' car in the college sick bay, as they're going to escort him to the funeral. Evidence is given of 'death' in the second line: - "...Counting bells knelling classes to a close..." This metaphorical sentence creates a morbid atmosphere from the out-set, and the alliteration and hard consonants suggest that the 'wait' for his neighbours' car is excruciatingly long and daunting which underlines two things - childhood impatience and the fact that something is troubling him. 'Change' is sensed here also due to the fact that his neighbours are driving him home - as we know, the negative change is Christopher's death. Within the aspect of 'change', this is merely the 'tip of the iceberg', as many more unfamiliar experiences await him. The 'child's prospective' is cleverly brought into the second, third, fourth and fifth stanzas as a consequence of the poet's confusion and the contradictive scenes he witnesses as he walks into the family home. ...read more.

Middle

Interesting is the way the poet's attitude towards his brother's death changes: the whole thing confuses him in the first four stanzas, then he tumbles into a state of denial by the fifth stanza; by the sixth and seventh stanzas he accepts it at first, but once he sees his brother in his peaceful state, he doesn't see Christopher as being dead. The poet sees Christopher 'sleeping heavily', and indeed, it's a beautiful sight: - "...He lay in the four foot box as in his cot..." This simile confirms that Christopher remains the same for eternity in Seamus Heaney's view; he shall always remember his brother fast asleep, all snuggled up in a bed with snowdrops and candles filling the room, where nothing can harm him. A setting similar to some sort of Avalon is created here, which is the complete opposite of the confusing, unordinary and traumatic atmosphere created in the first stanzas. Despite being an intensely emotional poem throughout, the final single line is the poignant climax to 'Mid-Term Break'. The fact this line is alone and stands out from the rest suggests that this occurrence if one of the most significant in Seamus Heaney's life: - "A four foot box, a foot for every year." It's so simple, and yet extremely powerful, and conveys the sense of 'loss' in a very dramatic and compact sentence. This significant comparison presents the heart-rending idea that Christopher's short-lived life can be fitted into a box whose size accommodates for each year of his life. What's so distressing about this idea is that you can compare someone's life span to the size of his or her coffin; the poet underlines how tragically short his little brother's life was - you don't need a 77 foot long coffin for a 77 year old person, hence the fact that a coffin the size of Christopher's life exists poses the reader a very strong and interesting closing statement, and gives 'Mid-Term Break' a very memorable and somewhat disturbing ending. ...read more.

Conclusion

Seamus Heaney uses quite interesting techniques at the end of the lines of both poems. Considering the nature of a road accident, I should think that there's no time whatsoever to comprehend what's happening; due to the fact that the lines (and stanzas) in 'Mid-Term Break' roll into each other a very effective result is obtained e.g. "...By old men standing up to shake my hand And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'..." The 'non-stop' flow of the poem is recreating the road accident that killed Christopher, until the final two stanzas when the atmosphere of the poem calms down slightly. This technique can also be seen in 'Follower', displaying the poet's never-ending praise aimed at his father when a child, but a more intriguing and clever technique is used in this poem. The use of rhyme is extremely effective: some lines rhyme perfectly e.g. "...strung... ...tongue..." "...round... ...ground..." Others however, rhyme imperfectly e.g. "...plough... ...furrow..." "...eye... ...exactly..." The alternating rhyme pattern corresponds brilliantly to the surprising turn of events by the end of 'Follower', when the perfect hero turns into the imperfect nuisance. 'Two poignant poems based on Seamus Heaney's childhood' is a fair summary of 'Mid-Term Break' and 'Follower', both linked to a specific loss - one, the death of the poet's four year old brother in a road accident; the other, the loss of the poet's father to old age. Both poems show the poet's use of transforming a situation from bad to good: in 'Mid-Term Break', 'the room' is not a deathly enclosure with a 'corpse' within, but a scene of tranquillity soothed by candles, with a little boy 'wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple' peacefully travelling to Heaven; in 'Follower', the setting is not a boring day in the fields ploughing, it's a small boy's idolisation of his father and attempt to follow in his footsteps. Whatever differences exist between both poems, the message is one: Losing is one of the hardest things a human being can witness, but we all have to lose in the end. ...read more.

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