• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Write an essay on Heaney's poetry in the light of his statement that it represents a "search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament".

Extracts from this document...


Write an essay on Heaney's poetry in the light of his statement that it represents a "search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament". Seamus Heaney has identified the precise moment at which the process of writing poetry "moved from being simply a matter of achieving the satisfactory verbal icon to being a search for images and symbols adequate to our predicament."1 It was the "summer of 1969", when the "original heraldic murderous encounter between Protestant yeoman and Catholic rebel was...initiated again".2 Thus the predicament to which Heaney refers in his statement is specifically the resurrection of the sectarian violence that has plagued Northern Ireland for centuries. However, the poetry of Seamus Heaney is not exclusively concerned with the political climate of his birthplace: it is merely one of a number of concerns that informs his verse. The quest for symbols to communicate the crisis in Northern Ireland at that time forms only a part of the poet's repertoire, and is primarily manifested in the collection North, although it does also find expression in other collections. In both earlier in later work, Heaney conducts a search for adequate expression of other concerns, whether this expression is through the conceived symbol or by way of a more unobtrusive conversational style. 'Requiem for the Croppies' foreshadows Heaney's fascination with the perpetuation of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. The poem implies that the seeds of rebellion were sown in the uprising of the United Irishmen of 1798, and further rebellions will inevitably occur. The word "barley" links the first and last lines of the poem, forming a perpetual circle of nature, and of human nature predisposed to violence. With the 'troubles' in Northern Ireland at the forefront of Heaney's mind from 1969, his poetry became suffused with notions of violence, division and struggle, and the sacrifice of the individual for the benefit of some greater cause. ...read more.


The first volume of poems, Death of a Naturalist, takes a youthful perspective and marks the birth of Heaney's poetic art. Grounded in the experiences of childhood, the subject matter of these poems is limited to the immediate physical circumstances of the poet and his own selfish desires and emotions, with no awareness of anything outside himself or his environment. The title poem 'Death of a Naturalist' evokes a richly sensuous world, offering a wealth of exciting possibilities to the child. The child's viewpoint is created through enjambement, which replicates a child's ebullient speech, and by an immature vocabulary: "Miss Walls would tell us how / The daddy frog was called a bullfrog". It is an intensely evocative and descriptive poem, rich in detail and constantly appealing to the senses: "Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles / Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell." But this natural world offers not only imaginative possibilities, but untold terrors and the threat of violence. The reassuring maternal environment is at once transformed into one of disappointment and insecurities: "I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings / Were gathered there for vengeance." Heaney's early poems relate the search for an adequate voice, and 'Digging' forms the first stage in this search: "Finding a voice means that you can get your own feeling into your own words and that the words have a feel of you about them."10 Heaney, sitting inert at a window in an act of composition11, witnesses his father, and imaginatively his grandfather, engaged in creative physical labour. There is continuity across generations, but simultaneously the awareness that the link of rural, traditional labour binding the family has been broken. Rather than the literal act of digging, poetry takes on an excavating role and becomes "a dig for finds", an image that precedes the imaginative parallels of the archaeological digs in Jutland. Thus from the first poem in New Selected Poems, a sense of division is present. ...read more.


The various ghosts advise Heaney on his responsibilities with regard to morality and art17: What you do you must do on your own. The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night. Having departed from the social world at the start of the poem, he returns to it at the end with a new clarity. The ghosts of 'Station Island' have suggested the limits and impositions of religion and culture on the individual consciousness.18 The extended image adopted in 'Station Island', though ambitious, is too predictable and over-insistent. Nevertheless, the poem was a necessary one for Heaney to write in terms of artistic integrity. It demonstrates that, although North saw the achievement of Heaney's statement of intent - that is the discovery of "images and symbols adequate" to the predicament of political violence in Northern Ireland - the quest for the "satisfactory verbal icon" is nevertheless ongoing. This searching for satisfactory expression may not be successful, and the symbols and images employed may not be convincing, but what is more important than attainment is the constant searching and the intellectual probing that opens up a whole new imaginative dimension to the reader. The constant quest for expression is a persistent and stimulating feature of all Heaney's poetry. 2, 905 words. 1 Heaney, Seamus, Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978, Faber, London, p.56. 2 Preoccupations, p.56. 3 Preoccupations, p.57. 4 Preoccupations, p.54. 5 Preoccupations, p.54. 6 Preoccupations, p.56. 7 Preoccupations, p.132. 8 Preoccupations, p. 56. 9 Preoccupations, p. 36. 10 Heaney, Seamus, Preoccupations, p.43. 11 Corcoran, Neil, Seamus Heaney, Faber, London, 1986, p. 45. 12 Heaney, Seamus, Preoccupations, p.43. 13 Heaney, Seamus, Preoccupations, p.34. 14 Davis, Dick, 'Door into the Dark', in Curtis, Tony (ed.), The Art of Seamus Heaney, Mid Glamorgan, 1982, pps. 30-32. 15 Heaney, Seamus, Preoccupations, p.36. 16 Corcoran, Neil, Seamus Heaney, Faber, London, 1988, p. 157. 17 Corcoran, Neil, Seamus Heaney, p. 157. 18 Corcoran, Neil, Seamus Heaney, p. 157. LAURA HAWKINS POST-WAR POETRY ESSAY 2 1 ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Seamus Heaney section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Seamus Heaney essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Commentary on "Casualty" by Seamus Heaney.

    3 star(s)

    These lines transmit a very vivid image of fish swimming towards the attractiveness of warmer places to escape the cold of the Protestants. A feeling of warmth and comfort is them established about the atmosphere of the bar, the groggy, smoky atmosphere with the "blurred mesh and murmur", "gregarious smoke" that is so attractive to a drinker.

  2. A comparative study of "The Death of a naturalist" by Seamus Heaney and "The ...

    The quote in the poem, "Their blunt heads farting" What the author is trying to say is that the frog's heads had really bad odour, this is most probably why Heaney used this type of quote. The experience with the frogs has made Heaney feel much different, his view has totally changed.

  1. Critical Analysis of Poems by Seamus Heaney

    In the first it is describing how potatoes are gathered today: "A mechanical digger wrecks the drill" The second looks at the potato itself in more detail: "Flint-white purple.

  2. Background Material by Tony Harrison

    This adds to the bad memories of the two photo's I feel. We're told one photo is in colour, and one's not. This gives me the impression that one was taken full of life, and one was taken with the subject being not so full of life.

  1. "Both Seamus Heaney and Carol Anne Duffy explore childhood in their poems - What ...

    His poems are very simple and he makes "Mid-Term Break" as simple as he can get it. The last line of "Mid-Term Break" is very striking: "A four foot box, a foot for every year" It is so striking to us because of the finality of the statement.

  2. GCSE English Seamus Heaney - 'At a Potato Digging', 'Follower', 'Death ...

    As well as being a poem about the storm and its great power, it is also about the need to build firm foundations to withstand whatever problems we are made to face in our lives. �? �? �? �? �?

  1. Plath and Heaney - In this essay I will be looking at 3 poems, ...

    There is a change in the next stanza. Noisy crows, shattering the silence, invade the peacefulness of the country lane. 'Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks- Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.' The crows bring ugliness to the poem; their calls are loud and grating.

  2. Discuss the poems 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Personal Helicon' by Seamus Heaney

    The second to sound and sight and is portrayed using language like 'rich crash' and 'saw no reflection'. The third appeals to touch and sight and is portrayed using 'soft mulch' and 'a white' giving the impression of a cold colour also.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work