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Looking at the poems in Death of a Naturalist discuss how Heaney use’s language and poetic technique to explore the themes of childhood and loss of innocence.

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Introduction

Looking at the poems in Death of a Naturalist discuss how Heaney use's language and poetic technique to explore the themes of childhood and loss of innocence. "Death of a Naturalist" Seamus Heaney's first collection of poetry was published in 1966, while he was a lecturer at Queens University. It was immediately accepted as a unique and remarkable work of literature. Seamus Heaney was just twenty-seven years old. The work is considered with the loss of childhood innocence and the moment into adulthood and all that such a journey includes. The poem gives reason to the reader why the poet has become a writer, his admiration for his ancestors and the young Seamus Haney's view of nature. Poems in "Death of a Naturalist" are all concerned with the themes of childhood and loss of innocence. Heaney writes about many aspects of his life as a child including working with his father - "follower"- watching his father and grand father work - "Digging" - going "blackberry picking" and seeing kittens drown - "Early purges". Heaney's poems are centred around the rural Irish landscape of his childhood, and the time honoured traditions that are an everyday part of Irish peasant life. His poems often convey a feeling of guilt, because they are quite negative and dark, depicting his breaking of this tradition. ...read more.

Middle

He use's this technique a lot in his poems; it helps the reader to understand the poem and making you want to read on further. The theme of childhood in this poem is of Heaney taking his grandfather milk and watching them digging when he was at a younger age. But in "Blackberry-picking" this happy childish image is contrasted in the second verse by a more adult theme, where reality and depression take a more important place in the verse, as we can see with the alliteration of the "f" sounds in the words "fresh", "fungus", "fruit" and "fermented", creating a feeling of pressure that tells us of the intensity of Heaney's thoughts and that he is outraged that all his efforts have come to nothing. If we look at the second verse in more detail, we see that what causes all this horror and disappointment is the fungus, which can be used as a symbol for the beginning of adulthood throughout the journey of life and that this fungus has taken away his happiness like a spreading cancer, which links back to the guilt Heaney feels for leaving the country ways to become a writer. Another common technique he uses to portray the feeling of childhood in the first verse and of adulthood in the second is his use of senses. ...read more.

Conclusion

He is trying to feel like he wants Dan Taggart to kill things, but he actually doesn't, as he says: "Still living with false sentiments." He has changed, because if he is going to be a farmer, he has to learn to live with this. Death on a farm is a way of life: "But on well run-farms pests have to be kept down." The delayed fear mentioned in verse four when Heaney says: "Suddenly frightened" comes from childhood innocence, the fear of helplessness, of not being able to do anything. He has no energy, hanging around the yard with fading optimism. The appearance of the dead kittens: "Turn mealy and crisp as old summer dung..." symbolises Heaney's childhood innocence being destroyed. He again portrays childhood self-centredness, with the kittens dying and him moving on and forgetting about them. This poem has several things in common with "Blackberry Picking", one being that both poems start in childhood and end up with Heaney looking back at what happened. In the "Early Purges" Heaney is quite philosophical in the last verse: "'Prevention of cruelty' talk cuts ice in town Where they consider death unnatural...". The reason Heaney is now contemplating the killing of kittens is that, as a farmer, he is more immune to death, as he has been brainwashed by the Irish community that killing them is not cruel, but as an academic, he can question the ways of rural Ireland ...read more.

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