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Seamus Heaney's Portrayal Of Pain and Suffering.

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Seamus Heaney's Portrayal Of Pain an Suffering Poems I studied: - The Early Purges Mid-Term Break Limbo Bye Child Digging Seamus Heaney was born on April 13th 1939. He lived on a fifty-acre farm called Mossbawn where his father worked. His father's farm was in County Derry, Northern Ireland. Heaney was the eldest, he had two sisters and six brothers, when he was twelve he was awarded a scholarship at a catholic boarding school, Heaney left his farm and took up his post. The school was forty miles away from his home and subsequently saw very little of his family, despite his families absence Heaney claims that they were required for his poetry. In the poems that I have studied, Heaney's portrayal of his painful infant years and his dreadful recollections are showed in a variety of ways. Heaney's memories and feelings are always used as a background to his poems. As he wrote these when he was an adult, he adds a more mature, destructive attitude, showing the comparison between a child's innocent view and a more developed account. The first poem I studied was 'The Early Purges' which is a reflection of Heaney's disturbing past. Heaney was exposed to, too much way to soon, consequently forcing him to grow up prematurely. The title is very thought provoking by itself, 'The Early Purges' if something is 'early' it has no time to prove itself and is still young and free from blame. 'Purges' (verb) means to get rid of an unclean or impure element. 'Purge' (noun) means a cleansing. So the title 'The Early Purges' is an oxymoron as the meanings of the words contradict each other. 'The Early Purges' could translate to 'The Young Traitors'. The poem starts: - ' I was six when I first saw kittens drown.' Which introduces you straight to the poems subject. This first gives the wrong implication to the reader as this tragedy is portrayed as an accident. ...read more.


The following line is written with so much passion and emotion, summing up the poem brilliantly. 'A four foot box, a foot for every year' As this poem was written in one single sitting, Seamus Heaney was able to channel emotions in to poem, instead of spreading it out. This way the poem gives more penetration to the readers mind. The third poem I studied is Limbo. The story in this poem makes the reader ask as many questions' as it answers. Heany writes this poem ehich reaches the readers heart. 'Fishermen at Ballyshannon Netted an infant last night' Once again like in many of Heaneys poems the first stanza introduce the subject ('Netted an Infant') and setting ('Ballyshannon'). The fisherman must have been distraught once they saw the baby in their nets. 'Along with the salmon' This explains what the fisherman where fishing for, but it is an unpleasant way of finding a body among a load of fish. 'An illegitimate spawning' This shows that the baby was not supposed to be their and one of the most extraordinary things you catch when you go fishing. 'A small one thrown back to the waters' 'A small one' obviously describes the baby, ' thrown back to the waters' can mean two things, either it means like a small fish you throw it back because it is too small or because when it was in its mothers womb it was in her waters. 'But I am sure as she stood in the shallows Ducking him tenderly' These lines show enjamberment and an oxymoron most of Heaneys poems show these elements repeatedly. The enjamberment is the three lines flowing into each other, and the oxymoron is 'Ducking him tenderly', how can you drown somebody tenderly? Could the 'she' be his mother? If so what has happened to the mother who makes such an unspeakably horrible choice to drown her newborn son? ...read more.


Heaney uses full and half-rhyme again in the second stanza to emphasize the spade sinking into the ground. The repetition of the long 'ou' sounds in: 'sound', 'ground', and 'down', create a sense of repetition of sound and movement, like the relentless action of digging. The poem appears to be written in a loose sense (structure), however, Heaney varies the length of lines to aid the meaning of his language. The first two lines are shorter than most at eight syllables each, this helps to strengthen the sense of compactness that Heaney is trying to create:- 'Between my finger and my thumb 8 syllables The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.' 8 syllables Shortening the syllable count of a line is used also to add further strength to it 'By God, the old man could handle a spade. 10 syllables Just like his old man.' 5 syllables The imagery that Heaney uses throughout the poem depicts the very vivid detail of the digging, and also, the remembrance detail from childhood memories. There is also alliteration of 'spade sinks' with the S's being onomatopoeic of the sound of the metal shovel sliding through the 'gravelly ground', his father 'Nicking and slicing' and 'heaving' of sods as Heaney writes 'going down and down', searching for the good turf in the same way that Heaney would be writing and writing in search of the good language and expression. The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap' Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head.' The tone of Heaney's language throughout the poem is conversational, and contains a number of day to day terms and expressions, such as: 'By God, the old man...' and '...then fell to right away'. The fact that this language has the essence of being the spoken dialect of Heaney, strengthens the idea that this is the metaphorical 'turf' of language that comes naturally to him. ...read more.

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