Lianne D Haymer                                                                                   16 January 2002

                                         “Mid Term Break” by Seamus Heaney

Seamus Heaney was born on April 13, 1939 to Patrick and Margaret Heaney, and was the eldest of nine children. They lived on a family farm in Mossbawn, County Derry in Northern Ireland. His work; which has won many prestigious awards, reflects his life, family, and culture during his childhood years and adult life, and sells by the tens of thousands. He is undoubtedly the most popular poet writing in English today.

The poem “Mid Term Break” is based on an experience, which Seamus Heaney went through as a child. He was taken from his class, and put in the schools sick bay to wait for his neighbours to arrive, as they were taking him home. The first stanza uses assonance and alliteration to emphasise the funeral sound of “counting the bells knelling classes to a close”. The word knelling (portent of doom), was used to describe how Seamus Heaney felt waiting, hearing each class come to a close, as the hours passed by; for him it was a daunting experience.

The poet chose the title for the poem, as it reflects his circumstances at the time of his brother’s death. The poem’s title is an allegory as the poem has two levels of meaning, which is not fully delivered until the last, one lined, stanza. The poet Seamus Heaney was away at school when he received the terrible news. He was taken from school in the middle of the term, not for a holiday as the title suggests, but to be with his family and attend his brother’s funeral. The title also expresses how unemotional he felt at the time; describing a break from school, he was in shock and could not accept his brother’s death. The poem also shocks the reader, as the initial interpretation of the title does not reflect what the poem is actually about, which is not fully delivered until the last, one lined stanza.

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When Seamus arrived home, in the second stanza, he discovered that his house was full of strangers, and his father was crying uncontrollably. The strangers in his home whispered of him, being “the eldest” child, and shook his hand as a mark of respect. They intended to show how sorry they were for what had happened, using euphemisms like “sorry for your trouble”. A funeral had been mentioned, but at this point, it was unclear who had died, as the text is so impersonal.

As a child, Seamus found his father’s reaction surprising, as he was such ...

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