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How Seamus Heaney Evokes the Sensations and Emotions of Childhood by Comparing any Three of his Poems.

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Introduction

28 September 2003 How Seamus Heaney Evokes the Sensations and Emotions of Childhood by Comparing any Three of his Poems I am going to compare "Churning Day", "An Advancement of Learning" and Mid-Term Break". The topics I am going to cover are Heaney's use of senses, the changes of mood, how he conveys emotions, his subject matters and the structure of his poems. First I am going to look at Heaney's use of the senses, which he does with great effect making you feel as if you are in the poem. In "Churning Day", Heaney uses a lot of onomatopoeia, even the title is onomatopoeia, 'Churning'. 'Plumping' (Line 7) is also using onomatopoeia to give you a sort of snug feeling. 'The plash and gurgle' (Line 33) and 'pat and slap' (Line 34) is Heaney's other use of onomatopoeia in "Churning Day". These make you imagine more than the other two in my opinion that you are actually there while the churning is going on. It is obviously a very noisy business and I think Heaney conveys that fact to us well. In contrast, "Mid-Term Break" contains only one usage of onomatopoeia, 'the baby cooed and laughed', and this is to convey the baby's ignorance, the onomatopoeia makes it seem more immediate. It is a very emotional poem with a sombre mood, so there is unlikely to be much sound apart from the occasional cry. The baby is a slight relief in the sadness of the rest of the poem. In "An Advancement of Learning", Heaney uses onomatopoeia to describe the rat in much deeper detail. 'Something slobbered', Heaney's first encounter with the rat is by sound. 'Slobbered' shows that the rat is wet (to slobber is to be wet with saliva), it also shows that it is something which Heaney doesn't like, it is not a flattering word at all. Heaney's other use of onomatopoeia is to show us how he developed his fear of rats 'scraped...on ceiling boards above my bed'. ...read more.

Middle

In the final stanza the rhythm slows with the use of phrases like 'gravid ease' until it finishes with 'plash and gurgle', 'pat and slap', 'small spades' and 'wet lumps'. To conclude it is a slow rhythmic poem reflecting the slowness of the butter making process, the much slower pace of life in general. Heaney is harking back in this poem to how things used to be. The care and work that went into making butter for the family and the sounds, smells and feelings this evoked. He is looking back to a happier time with his family and a sense of regret over how the pace of life has changed. In "An Advancement of Learning", Heaney changes the mood quite a lot as it is a fast moving incident, unlike the other two poems. The first two stanzas are a bit of an introduction to Heaney's daily routine at this time - we know it is his daily routine as he tells us in an aside '(As always deferring the bridge)'. He considers his surroundings in detail: 'I considered the dirty-keeled swans'. The first major mood change comes at the start of the third stanza, Heaney picks up the rhythm with frequent comma use to change the mood: 'Something slobbered curtly, close, smudging the silence'. We now know that Heaney has started the main topic of the poem, this thing that is 'smudging the silence', Heaney uses synaesthesia to make it sound pretty vile. The next mood change is at the end of this very long sentence. Heaney incredibly turns to face the rat at the start of this battle between him and the rat. We know that it is a battle because Heaney starts using military terms like 'Bridgehead' (Line 18), 'trained' (Line 28) and finally 'retreated' (Line 34). Heaney marks the mood changes with these military terms: 'He trained on me. ...read more.

Conclusion

The poem is all fact, so we cannot see any of his views on what was happening. In "Mid-Term Break", Heaney writes as if he were still a child, he spends most of the poem confused like a child as to what is happening. Only in the last line is he really looking back as an adult at how terrible a thing it was to have happened. In "An Advancement of Learning", Heaney jumps between the two a lot more. In stanza 1, he writes as if he were a child. But in stanza 8, he is a child remembering how things were when he was an even younger child. In stanza 9, he first puts himself in the position of the rat, and then he suddenly seems to leap to adulthood. Heaney seems mainly to be a child in the three poems. For structure, in "Churning Day", Heaney splits the poem up into 4 different stanzas, with each stanza describing a different aspect of the day. Generally he uses around ten syllables per line. In "Mid-Term Break", Heaney has eight stanzas of three lines each. His lines are of ten, eleven or twelve syllables each. He tends to use about five strong stresses per line. In "An Advancement of Learning", Heaney has nine stanzas of four lines each, using seven, eight or nine syllables in a line. There does not seem to be much of a pattern to Heaney's structure in the poems. To conclude, Heaney evokes the sensations of childhood by using senses to help us clarify what is happening. He uses emotional vocabulary and exclamations to evoke the emotions of childhood. Heaney writes the poems as if he were a child. "Mid-Term Break" was very different from the other two poems because it is written mainly with cold, hard fact and emotional vocabulary rather than using the senses, similes or metaphors excessively. Heaney achieves the aim in his poetry of giving the reader a clearer idea of what is happening by using the senses, rhythm, emotional vocabulary and looking at his childhood through a child's eyes. ...read more.

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