Death of naturalist - review

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Death of naturalist

This poem is a fertile mixture of imagery, sounds and an impression created by nature on people’s mind. Heaney sensualises an outstanding fear of the physical wonders of the world. He vividly describes his childhood experience that precipitates his change as a boy from the receptive and protected innocence of childhood to the fear and uncertainty of adolescence. As he wonders along the pathways of salient discovery, Heaney’s imagination bursts into life.

The title of the poem is amusingly ironic – by a naturalist we would normally think of someone with expert scientific knowledge of living things and ecology.

The poem ‘Death of a naturalist’ has quite a lot of emotional images because it’s the poet’s memory and he is reminiscing. There are a number of poetic devices to create an image. Firstly, the poet uses the metaphor ‘in the heart of the town land’ to add interest to the poem. He also uses languages like ‘sweltered’ and ‘punishing sun’ to convey to the reader the hot summers day Heaney remembers. Nature is also brought up in the poem by the metaphor ‘bluebottles.’ This creates a visual image of Heaney collecting frogspawn and also engages the reader. There is alliteration in the lines ‘On shelves at school, and wait and watch’ to create a calm and happy tone and a soft sound. Heaney also uses childish language, ‘mammy’ to create an image of innocence.

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In the second stanza the mood is dark and vile, conveyed by language like ‘gross,’ ‘rank’ and ‘vengeance.’ He create a tense image with the ‘bass chorus’ from the frogs. The necks of the frogs are described as ‘pulsed like sails’ and ‘blunt heads farting’ which coveys the terror and shows that the frogs Heaney once loved now wreak ‘vengeance’ on him. The frogs are described as ‘slime kings’ which once again brings out the dominance in nature. Heaney uses onomatopoeia in the words ‘slap’ and ‘plop’ to create an image on the readers mind.

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