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Compare the ways poets present suffering in At a Potato Digging and The Field Mouse.

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Introduction

Compare the ways poets present suffering in 'At a Potato Digging' and 'The Field Mouse'. In the two poems, AAPD by Seamus Heaney and TFM by Gillian Clarke are poems based around the concept of suffering. However AAPD is written about the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-50 and his own experience in Ireland whereas TFM is about Clarke's watching her grandson in a field, but from the perspective of a field mouse injured in harvest. Also the poem talks underneath, about the suffering in the Bosnian Civil War. The poems mutually begin with a similar feel to their starting lines, TFM giving a false illusion of relaxation and peace with its first word, "Summer," as this readies you for something with a bright tone. AAPD begins with the more honest line, "A mechanical digger wrecks the drill" which is the digger taking its toll on the land, feeding the Irish with plentiful potatoes. ...read more.

Middle

This merely shows suffering is so bad that Clarke is giving up faith already and just wants the suffering to be over. The mouse's pain quantity is shown as "it curls in agony big as itself" as this oxymoron insinuates the pain is as big as itself. This is clearly such a small size compared to the rest of the world, but the entire size of the mouse so becomes incredibly immense. After the death of the mouse, "the fields hurt". This personification of the fields created by the death of the mouse exposes us to the suffering brought by farm machinery and the suffering inflicted on innocent animals. Also it seems the pain of the animals and the field seems to have had an effect of the children as they "kneel in long grass starring at what we have crushed". Religious input, or lack of, is shown throughout both the poems. ...read more.

Conclusion

Clarke shows a reminder of the fragility of humans as she claims children have "bones as brittle as a mouse-ribs". This forces us to see how cruel it is to go to war and provoke suffering upon other people. I find both the poems equally effective for portraying suffering; however the language used in Heaney's poem entices me more as the double usage of the word crow in line 5, "crows attacking crow-black fields" links the people to the land. His descriptions of potatoes as "live skulls, blind-eyed" similarly link the potatoes to the people of Ireland and make their suffering, similarly to the state of the potatoes sound disgusting. The language chosen by Clarke in her poem similarly changes the sounds of the meadows where you'd expect to hear bird's song and bees to saying the air "hums with jets". Obviously the air being filled with war planes is not something you imagine you're reading into when reading the title, The Field Mouse. Both the poets manage to captivate the reader and force the images of suffering down their throats from the word go. ...read more.

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