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Discusssome of the ways in which Seamus Heaney makes use of the past in his poetry

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Introduction

Discuss some of the ways in which Seamus Heaney makes use of the past in his poetry Seamus Heaney was born on 13th April 1939 on a farm called Mossbawn in Northern Ireland. He was the eldest of nine children, and was brought up as a Roman Catholic, which later, proved to be a popular topic in his poetry. Heaney's childhood was full of deaths from relatives and friends which give him a certain amount of understanding about death and corpses, a poem that shows this is 'The Tollund Man'. In his poetry, Seamus Heaney usually starts in the past tense, imagining that he is still in his childhood, and then suddenly, towards the end of the poem, turns to the present tense, and reflects how his childhood memories have affected him as an adult. 'Digging' is a perfect example of Heaney returning to his origins. Heaney evokes the rural landscape where he was raised and shows the care and skill of how his Father and ancestors farmed the land 'My father, digging'. In the poem there are many monosyllabic words such as 'bog', 'sods' and 'curt cuts', which is also alliteration and assonance. ...read more.

Middle

The way the teacher described how frogs reproduced is very patronizing, 'The daddy frog was called a bullfrog/And how he croaked...the mammy frog had hundreds of little eggs...this was frogspawn'. The teacher personifies the frogs by making it easier for the children to relate to them. However, this nice and simple version puts false images in the young Heaney's head, so when in the second stanza he sees the frogs in their natural habitat, he is unprepared. You can tell from his choice of wording that he is disgusted, 'rank', 'gross-bellied', 'cocked on sods', 'blunt heads farting' and 'slime kings' by using a lot of monosyllabic words which sound harsh and he uses many sensory images that make us imagine we are there with him. Neil Corcoran says that "The sheer noise Heaney manages to make out of English vowels is remarkable-a dissonant cacophony". Philip Holsbawn says "Heaney speaks...the snap, crackle and pop of diction". Heaney believes that the frogs wanted revenge for putting the 'jellied specks' on his 'window-sills at home' by saying 'I knew that if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it'. The poem is a story about the life cycle of frogs and the end of innocence. ...read more.

Conclusion

'She was a barked sappling' is a metaphor and 'oak-bone, brain-firkin' makes her body look like an old tree after coming out of the bog, and shows that she has organic qualities. 'Would have cast, I know, the stones of silence' is a biblical reference, "Let him who has no sin cast the first stone" -Jesus. 'Your muscles' webbing and all your numbered bones' is a very graphic image. 'Numbered bones' can also be linked with the Bible "They have numbered all my bones" -Jesus. And in the Roman Catholic religion they are used in worship. The windeby girl's punishment was tar and feathers 'tar-black face' for 'going with' British soldiers. The last stanza 'connived in civilised outrage, yet understand the exact and tribal, ultimate revenge' reveals that on the outside, Heaney would show shock and horror, but on the inside he would understand why they had to do it. On the whole, Seamus Heaney uses the past and his childhood in many of his poems to be able to see them in a different light and be able to understand different memories with maturity. Heaney uses a variety of different ways to include past in his poems, like the bog people, the conflicts in Northern Ireland and in his childhood, to attempt to understand present day sectarian conflict and to explore human cruelty. ...read more.

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