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"The Past is another country and they do things differently there" an essay on Seamus Heaney and his work.

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Introduction

"The Past is another country and they do things differently there" an essay on Seamus Heaney and his work. Heaney was born on April 13 1939. He was the eldest of nine children. In modern day society it is common to have 2 or 3 children, and to have eight or nine children is considered very unusual. Heaney lived on the family farm, Mossbawn, about thirty miles northwest of Belfast, in County Derry. The majority of UK residents live in urban areas, and a small minority live in rural areas. It used to be more popular in the past to live in a rural area. People in rural areas live, and have lived, in a totally different culture to that of the people in urban, industrialized areas. Heaney is Irish, which is also another culture to that of the English, today. The conflict in Northern Ireland is almost always a backdrop to his work, stated or implicit. Heaney's Poems are based on real life experiences, which can be related to in only so many ways, because of the differences in lifestyle, culture etc. For example in 'Blackberry Picking', he is talking of picking berries as a boy, and then hoarding them until they rot. This may imply that he went berry picking just for the fun of it, but today it is unusual for children to go berry picking, let alone without an adult. The adult would have known to store the berries properly, but in Heaney's day berry picking was a ritual for children only. To my knowledge, the majority of Heaney's poems were written/ published between 1960 and 1990, though many of the poems refer to his childhood in the 1940's. Therefore, even though he is writing from a child's perspective, he has the understanding of an adult. He is also able to recall events in more detail. Many of the poems I have read are about his parents or major events in his childhood, e.g. ...read more.

Middle

ground...' and they show some assonance with the third line, 'down'. This helps to balance out the rhythm, and give emphasis. Heaney watches his father bend down into the flowerbeds and when his father comes up, Heaney is reminded about the days when he would watch his father straighten up amidst the potato plants. This is a memory from years ago, when Heaney was a boy 'twenty years away'. The expertise of his father even whilst just tending his flowers reminds Heaney of his father's precision and dedication when he used to dig in the potato drills. '... stooping low in rhythm...' was a phrase used by Heaney to describe his father's determination of keeping a steady pace. The '... coarse boot nestled...' I think this is an oxymoron due to the sharp contrast between 'coarse' and 'nestled'. 'Coarse' is a word associated with rough and not precise, whereas 'nestled' is associated with having care and being cosy. I think Heaney uses oxymoron's to emphasise certain points, often at the beginning, or end, of a stanza : I think in the case of this oxymoron, at the beginning of the stanza, he is emphasising the father's expertise and unity with the spade. In the next three lines Heaney talks about his father's spade and potatoes. There are four examples of alliteration, '... tall tops... buried... bright... potatoes... picked... hardness... hands...' Heaney is talking of his father's fluidity as he loosened the potatoes. Heaney uses the alliteration to help to demonstrate the fluidity of his father's movements whilst engaged in digging up his prized potatoes. The two words '... buried... bright...', in the same phrase are oxymoronic because they are sharply contrasted, 'buried' being a word associated largely with death burials and darkness, whereas, 'bright' is a word often associated with a bright future and light. In the phrase 'Buried the bright edge deep' Heaney may be referring to a bright future, or tradition, being buried. ...read more.

Conclusion

Though the poem starts off in an excitable mood for the children, at the end it is filled with sadness and gloom. He uses the process of picking the blackberries and then hoarding them until they rot away. At the start they are waiting in anticipation of the enjoyment, rather like people excited about going to college or university. Then they go and pick the berries and they are full of happiness at being able to pick these berries at long last, like people starting college who at last have the freedom of choice etc. And then the berries that they have hoarded start to rot and they are saddened, like college students who leave college and then look at their student loan and are shocked at how much they have spent and now owe. I have used the story of the student loan as an example, though I'm sure that Heaney had a specific story of his own in mind, maybe of the death of his childhood, his innocence, and his belief in an ideal world. The three poems I have commented on are very different yet they still have similarities. For example, two of the poems are written specifically about his childhood, and the third one links in. They tell of his loss of innocence, 'The Early Purges' tells us of his loss of sentimentality, loss of idealism as he grows up 'bloody pups', 'Blackberry Picking' tells us of his loss of optimism and idealism '... each year I hoped... knew they would not...' 'The past is another country and they do things differently there' This is a very true phrase. Heaney's has a very different past from us. Therefore, his poems even though some have been written fairly recently, can only be related to in context. People living an urban life and childhood, would have very different views on life and death, than Heaney does in his poems. The past is certainly another country, they didn't have the technology that we have today. And foreign countries also have different ways of living than we do. ...read more.

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