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Commentary on Seamus Heaney(TM)s Twice Shy

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Commentary on Seamus Heaney's Twice Shy Twice Shy by Seamus Heaney is a poetic story about a presumably young couple that take a walk by a calm river one spring evening. The couple, having been taught 'to wait' by their juvenilia, are highly excited and anxious as they spend time together on this romantic occasion. The poem consists of five stanzas, all of similar length with a regular rhyme scheme. The poet utilizes numerous poetic devices through the poem, such as similes, metaphors and his choice of words, in order to create a captivating tale from the poem's beginning to middle to end. The title of the poem appears to be the second half of the old saying, 'Once bitten, twice shy', and hints that the boy and the girl in the poem are being particularly careful of their behaviour thanks to some mistakes they have made in the past which they do not want to repeat. The setting is establish and the characters are introduced early in the opening stanza, showing Heaney's precise structuring of the poem, wasting no time to tell his tale. ...read more.


Traffic and the sky are personified as they both are 'tense' and 'holding their breath'. The objective of this is to create tension and let the reader relate these ideas to the couple holding back their emotions and almost cannot wait any longer to relase them. Traffic is a particularly distinctive simile as it relates to the boy and the girl waiting for a green light, some sort of sign indicating that they can proceed. Henaey then writes: 'Dusk hung like a backcloth That shook where a swan swam, Tremulous as a hawk Hanging deadly, calm' and here, the poet uses a backcloth, a swan and a hawk to further demonstrate the key sentiments the boy and the girl are feeling. The backcloth dramatizes the setting as it would on a stage, but also makes the characters more colourful in front of a shady background. The swan and the hawk are personified skilfully by Heaney to denote the gentleness and the calmness that the couple are presenting in front of each other, but also the anxiety and the fear they have in their minds. Heaney's fast-changing diction paints a vivid picture as he alternates from cadence to tremulousness using the words, 'tense', then 'hung', then 'shook', then 'swan', then 'hawk', then 'hanging', then 'deadly', lastly followed by 'calm'. ...read more.


This is also ironic. It is charming for the couple to be working so collaboratively together in order to prevent their relationship from going wrong. Lines 23 to 28 are, indeed, more pleasant-sounding than the earlier stanzas and perhaps this is alluding to how thrilled the couple were at the beginning of their 'embankment walk' but have come to calmly accept the fact that all they can and will do is share 'nervous childish talk'. Heaney carefully chooses to use the old proverb, 'still waters running deep', to conclusively condense the couple's patience and satisfied appearance, and the anxious, excited mood they are in as they walk. I found this poem to be very captivating thanks to Heaney's careful choice of words, use of similes and intended subject, that is, the feelings of adolescent affection. I think that this poem can relate to many people and not just teenagers, for it is a poem that does not take any particular perspective in terms of opinion or viewpoint. With the tranquillity in the first and last stanza, and the swift action and plentiful techniques to look out for in between, although a little short in my opinion, this poem was concise, relevant and an enjoyable read. IB English Michael Rivera U6 25th Sep. 2008 ...read more.

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