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GCSE English Seamus Heaney - 'At a Potato Digging', 'Follower', 'Death of a Naturalist', 'Mid-Term Break', 'Digging', And 'Storm on the Island' Poems

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Introduction

�? �? �? �? �? �? �? Seamus Heaney - 'At a Potato Digging' The poem deals with two different potato harvests. One is the harvest from the present day that goes successfully and which delivers a rich crop. The second potato harvest looks back to the famine of 1845 when the crop failed and many people starved. Whilst the famine is no longer a threat, its ongoing fear remains and this can be seen in the use of religious language throughout the poem. For example, the bowed heads of the potato pickers suggest the desire to respect the gods and show them respect. The poem begins with Heaney describing workers in a potato field in Ireland. They follow a machine that turns up the crop and they put these into a basket and then store them. The second section of the poem involves the healthy potatoes being described. The third section writes about the famine of the past. Fungus destroyed the entire crop of potatoes and this happened for three consecutive years. Ireland was devastated and there were many deaths with people being forced to flee Ireland. In the final section of the poem, Heaney returns to the first section of the poem - Ireland in the 1960s at lunchtime. The workers sit happily, with food to eat. The rhythm of the poem changes in the third section of the poem. This is well suited to the changing subject matter of this part of the poem. Connections are established between each of the sections - the potatoes that are compared to skulls in section two, link to the literal skeletons of section three. The use of religious imagery in the poem is a means of helping the reader to understand the importance of the potato harvest to the people of Ireland. �? �? �? �? �? �? Even in the parts of the poem that deal with the present when food is plentiful, there are suggestions of the past famine. ...read more.

Middle

Finally, there is the metaphor of the 'great slime kings'. Childhood - The poem refers to a specific incident, but can be seen as metaphorical for the way in which children grow up. The narrator learns a lesson that innocent and unthreatening experiences can actually be quite the opposite. Death / Loss - Whilst there is no literal death in this poem, it does deal with the metaphorical death of the child's innocent view of the natural world. Nature - The attitude of the narrator to the natural world is crucial to the poem. Nature is not a benign force and should not be taken for granted. Sonnet (Clare) - This poem shares the childish delight that is seen in nature in the first part of 'D of a N', but in Clare's poem, this in not misplaced. Patrolling Barnegat - The power of nature comes across very clearly in this poem by Whitman and it would also link to another Heaney poem - 'Storm on the Island'. The Field Mouse - Clarke's poem involves the children coming to understand the violent side to the natural world and there is an even clearer link to the world beyond. �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? �? Seamus Heaney - 'Mid-Term Break' In 1951, Seamus Heaney was 12 years of age and he went to St. Columbs College in Derry where he was a boarding pupil. Whilst attending the college, Heaney's younger brother Christopher was killed in a road accident and this poem involves the poet recalling the events that happened to him after this. The poem begins with the narrator recalling being a child in the college sick bay - he was not ill and had been taken there as something had happened. A neighbour then arrived and took the poet home, where it becomes clear that something terrible has happened. ...read more.

Conclusion

The poem is a metaphor. We must be prepared to withstand the perils of life and only by being prepared and willing to face out these problems can we do this successfully. �? �? �? There is a conversational feel to the poem and this comes from the language choices and the use of conversational phrases such as 'you know what I mean'. A number of the language choices in the poem relate to warfare - 'salvo', 'bombarded' and 'exploding'. These suggest the power and destructive nature of the storm, as well as providing a link to the political troubles of Ireland. The image of the tame cat is an effective one in indicating the point that we can quickly move from feelings of safety to being in a position where we are vulnerable. �? �? �? �? �? Nature - Nature in the poem is clearly something that is of great power and strength. The simile that compares the storm to a tame cat turned savage indicates the danger of taking the natural world for granted and failing to show it an appropriate level of respect. Violence - Linked closely to the previous theme is that of violence and suffering. The people who live on the island are vulnerable to the storm and there is the interesting and ambiguous final line. Why is it 'strange' that we fear 'nothing' and is Heaney indicating that we are right or wrong to have these feelings of fear. October / The Field-Moue - Both of these poems by Clarke have nature and the natural world as a key theme. Patrolling Barnegat - The most obviously linked poem, as it is another that deal with a storm and indicates the great power of the natural world. In this respect, it would also be possible to link the poem to The Eagle. Sonnet (Clare) - Another poem that is about the natural world, but in this poem nature is benign and does not present any kind of threat. ...read more.

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