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With reference to at least two of Seamus Heaney's poems and his prose, examine the poet's fascination with childhood and with language.

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Introduction

With reference to at least two of Seamus Heaney's poems and his prose, examine the poet's fascination with childhood and with language. Despite coming from a rural background, where life was based on the strict routines of farming, Heaney's childhood was full of instances that, even though they may have been entirely coincidental, were either extraordinarily symbolic or archetypal of childhood itself. It was only until he grew up and was aware of this that he, almost inevitably, became fascinated with his early years. His rural upbringing, where he was close to the land, gave him an acute awareness of the tranquil, natural world. However, the 'Troubles' in Ireland during his youth contrasted with this because, in a way, they were a representation of human civilisation and conflicts that arise therein. The sheer range of Heaney's experiences affected him a great deal, and his way of conveying the emotions and thoughts of these experiences was through his "craft" of language, in which he finds so much meaning. ...read more.

Middle

He examines them, almost scientifically, in minute detail even to the point where he describes the actual mouth movements of the "Ulster accent" where the "tongue strikes the tangent of the consonant rather more than it rolls the circle of the vowel". This intense observation, and hence understanding, allows him to choose the words that most efficiently transmit his thoughts and emotions to those reading, or more importantly listening to, his poetry. Observation is a skill that Heaney acquired at a young age, and this is evident in the poetry his writes about his childhood. In poems such as 'Digging', he not only recorded events from his childhood visually but even recalls the "cold smell of potato mould". His description of a spade is of "the court cuts of an edge" which is not just onomatopoeic: there is an small example of mimesis where Heaney forces a pause between "court" and "cut", like the pause between the sound of a spade repeatedly entering soil. ...read more.

Conclusion

He develops the admiration by relating these past childhood memories to the present and endeavouring to "dig" with his pen and to "let down a shaft into real life" in honour of his ancestors digging with their spades. Whilst 'Digging' uses childhood almost as a device with which to explain a choice in Heaney's life, 'Death of a Naturalist' conveys an experience which itself changes his life. It is understandable that he would be fascinated by the wide range of choices and experiences available to a child, through his own youth. His detailed observations of language and his childhood inevitably led him to become fascinated with both through their similarities and contrasts. Heaney's childhood was an emotional development, as displayed in 'Death of a Naturalist' and language is a fundamental development of humans which separates them from the rest of nature. He, almost paradoxically, uses language to great effect whilst still remaining connected with the natural world via his family and his childhood. ...read more.

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