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Digging’ and ‘Early Purges’

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Diverse cultures and Traditions in 20th Century poetry Introduction For the Diverse Cultures assignment, I have studied pieces by Seamus Heaney. These include 'Digging' and 'Early Purges'. All the poems relate back to his young life in Limavady in the County of Derry, Northern Ireland. When Heaney was young, he wanted to follow in his fathers and grandfathers footsteps of being farmers. Not just that, but being the eldest child in his family, he was expected to. Instead however, he turned his back on his family's great tradition, and decided to become a writer instead. As said, Heaney did want to become a farmer, this was expressed in the poem 'Follower', where he describes the way his father used to plough fields. The title itself shows there was once an ambition to follow. Furthermore, the pride that Heaney expresses in his family's age-old tradition is articulated in the poem 'Digging': "By God, the old man could handle a spade. ...read more.


There is no clearer depiction of an Irish, Catholic background than that found in 'Half-term break', where Heaney is taken from boarding school to find out his four-year-old brother is dead. The traditional 'wake' is described in this poem, something that is uniquely Irish. He says "old men standing up to shake my hand and tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'". I have a perfect picture of this in my head as I have been to a few wakes. I can even imagine the whispers circling the room in the colloquial, sharp, Derry accent. After reading through his poems that relate to farming, I get the feeling that he regretted not following the tradition which so many families in the area of rural Northern Ireland had. Although I cannot substantiate this statement with any apparent evidence I think he felt somewhat disloyal to his roots and to his father. The poem 'Digging', Heaney takes time to intricately describe the way his father digging and cutting turf. ...read more.


This is very graphic writing, and some could say, quite disturbing. I personally think it adds to the atmosphere of the poem. I think that the up until the final two verses, Heaney's outlook is that of a young boy, who doesn't understand why something so cruel should happen. Heaney then shows his maturity by showing his understanding that the kittens, or 'pests' as they and other such animals were collectively known, basically had to be removed. The language used by Heaney also expresses the fact that little was thought of these so-called nuisances. He says they are 'slung' and Dan Taggart describes them as 'scraggy wee shits'. This shows the way people who owned farms perceived the killings, which was a stark contrast to those in urban communities. 'Blackberry picking' is a poem about Heaney blackberry picking in the late August summer. Once again, Heaney vividly describes what happens, appealing to our senses. He talks about berries 'inking up' and describes the different colours and there texture. The overall look of the poem is he and his 'accomplices' hunting their 'treasure'. ...read more.

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