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Compare and contrast 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney.

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Introduction

Compare and contrast 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney. The poems 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Digging' have many similarities, and contrasts. Some of the reoccurring themes in the two poems include memories of childhood and changes in the life of the writer. There are contrasts too, in 'Death of a Naturalist'; the writer is concentrating on himself and his own experiences in life, rather than the experiences of others. In 'Digging', the opposite is true, as the writer concentrates mainly on the events in other people's lives, namely his father and grandfather. The endings of both the poems have a different feel to them. 'Digging' finishes in a much more positive tone than 'Death of a Naturalist', which ends on a lower note, of the writer realising his own cynicism. In spite of this, both poems have similar tones in their openings, creating opposing feelings when compared with their final stanzas. The poet, Seamus Heaney wrote these poems. He was born on April 13th 1939 and was the eldest of nine children. His parents, Margaret and Patrick Heaney brought Seamus and his siblings up on a farm thirty miles from Belfast in County Derry. Later in his life, he went to St Josephs College in Belfast and studied English and where he also earned a Teaching Certificate. Later in his life he became a lecturer at this college. There he joined a poetry workshop along with such writers as Derek Machon and Michael Longly. ...read more.

Middle

In the first stanza the boy is young and interested in the whole world around him, there is a charm in his naivety. In the second stanza however, he has lost all innocence, he has become cynical, scathing and sees the repugnant reality of nature. 'Digging' has random stanza length. The writer is writing about memories. It gives the impression he is writing spontaneously and from the heart. The memories creating a natural flow of reminiscences giving the impression of his memories writing the poem, rather than himself. However, in reality the words are well considered. 'Death of Naturalist' doesn't have a rhyming scheme. It is told in prose rather than verse. Its lack of structured rhyme accentuates the intricate imagery that the poem evokes. 'Digging' starts off with some evidence of a rhyming scheme as in 'Under the table a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground'. This rhyming scheme does not continue for the entirety of the poem. He wanted to give the impression that he was writing spontaneously as memories flooded into his head. A similarity between the structures of the two poems is the writer's use of enjambment. This is the continuation of a sentence from one line to another, without the use of any punctuation. In 'Death of Naturalist' and in 'Digging', it is used to help emphasise the fact that the writer wanted to create a dialogue with the reader that would read like a story, in a more narrative style. ...read more.

Conclusion

When we consider the poem in more detail, it illustrates a young writer's disillusionment; he feels he isn't worthy to follow in his predecessor's footsteps. However, Heaney in the final stanza, does seem to reconcile himself to the fact that his talents as a writer are worthy of credit from his family. In analysing both of these poems we can look at the similarities; they are both autobiographical, using childhood memories. They both encompass an affinity with nature and with life in the open air. I feel the similarities between the two poems are more pertinent than their differences. My opinion of 'Death of Naturalist' is that it is easy to relate to this poem as it is very much centred on growing up and the changes that humans go through in a lifetime, and how they view things differently as they mature. The use of language is evocative, colourful and full of the love of life as well as the subsequent disappointment as viewed by the poet, both as a boy and in his later years. 'Digging' in my opinion is an excellent poem, it has random stanza length which gives the idea of freedom. There is a rhythm in its style and it evokes a certain feeling of nostalgia that I find summons up images I can relate to. 'By God, the old man could handle a spade, Just like his old man', This line not only refers to the continuity of the family but also the pride and love felt between them. Both these poems use effective language and hold potent meaning throughout. Joe Ramage 11H 1 ...read more.

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