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Wintering Out - 1972 Introduction The first two collections of Heaney‟s work, Death of a Naturalist and Door into the Dark, deal with the strong theme of loss: • A lost time • A lost childhood • A lost intimacy with the natural world • Personal loss • Dying rural crafts • Loss of old language These considerations led him into exploration of the power of language. He began to write about the old Gaelic, Irish language which had been lost by English colonisation and supremacy. He thought about the Irish place names, defined by the English language, and part of every Irish person‟s cultural identity. Therefore in „Wintering Out‟‟ he: • Explores a sense of place – in the pronunciation of local names • Listens for the murmurings of ancient Gaelic tribes and hears Irish words and sounds in the Irish landscape • Returns to his fascination with history, and the cyclical nature of time, linking past troubles with present violence, showing how conflict rises again and again with the same tribal, primitive emotions • Furthers his fascination with the peat big and its preservative qualities which store layers of history – keeping history alive, just like Heaney‟s poetry does. • Explores a sense of insecurity and anxiety in close human relationships, particularly marriage – descriptions of what should be happy events are tinged with sadness, desperation, violence. Like the portrayals of childhood memories of nature in the first collection, hints of the troubles lies beneath the surface, in violent imagery. Heaney’s response to the situation in Ulster Heaney observed events with a sense of professional concern. He wrote occasional articles about life in Ulster for London- based magazines. In one he wrote: The atmosphere of the troubles has been growing. There have been stabbings, shootings and bomb throwings. A month ago it was still possible to say ‘hooliganism’, but with the shooting down of three youths on Sunday and the death of one of them, nobody can ignore the threat to public safety. On writing about ‘Requiem for the Croppies’, he observed: I did not realise at the time that the original heraldic murderous encounter between Protestant yeoman and Catholic rebel was to be initiated again in the summer of 1969, in Belfast, two months after the book was published. Here, he is referring to the sectarian violence, which broke out between Catholics and Protestants in August 1969, culminating in the deaths of two Catholics, shot by RUC policemen. It was then that British troops were sent in to keep the peace. He found the troubles increasingly hard to take and abandoned the North for life in the Irish Republic by July 1972. A sense of divided loyalty Heaney felt a profound sense of conflict and divided loyalty in response to the troubles, particularly in his attitude to England – the country that had brought Protestant Northern Ireland into being. Heaney owed a great debt to England: its lecturers had taught him, its publishers printed his poems and essays, he moved in literary circles. Moreover, ‘his life’ had been ‘nourished’ by the language, which he loved. An English poet, Gerald Manley Hopkins, had inspired him, he made his living by teaching English literature, his poetic concerns were those of his major English contemporaries. However, English was the language of a people who had conquered and colonised Ireland: to speak it was to acknowledge defeat. He also felt that the English invasion destroyed the Catholic people’s sense of ‘belonging to a place, an ancestry, a history, a culture’ by denying them access to their ancient Gaelic heritage. Heaney saw ‘knowing and belonging to a certain place and a certain mode of life’ as vital to one’s own identity and local identity. He worried how people could feel that sense of belonging and identity if they could not speak the language which had named and thus defined the villages and fields of their world. A sense of moral dilemma The Catholic in him felt resentment and bitterness; he had suffered discrimination himself. He felt cultural dislocation – English supremacy had cut him off from the Gaelic poetic tradition which should have been his birthright. In some ways, then, he found the ‘destructive elements…in the air’ of Belfast in 1972 ‘deeply exhilarating’, invigorated by the challenge to Protestant power. But the voices of education called him in a different direction. He had been brought up in, and now made his living promoting, a cultural system which advocated ‘humane love and reason’. Therefore, he also felt ‘pity and terror’ for the Catholics and the Protestants, whose lives were being ‘shattered’. He also felt a sense of guilt, because he was protected from the sufferings by a good job and a house in a relatively safe neighbourhood. He felt a sense of shame, as if the violence was happening elsewhere. Poetic response Just as Heaney felt equivocal (uncertain) in his response to the situation in Ulster, so Heaney the artist was reluctant to take up the position of ‘Poet of the Troubles’. He saw himself as a poet who ‘listened for poems’ and felt poems. He did not like the idea of producing instant, journalistic verse in a knee-jerk reaction to the latest political development. He had a strong and profound belief in the mystery of the poet’s craft and didn’t want it to be over simplified or stereotyped. However, he could not ignore the crisis in Ireland, and his third collection implicitly reacts to it, in a bleak and pessimistic tone. poems usually start with place or object first layer Water image written during washing away blood the Troubles 1968 purifying, uniting published 1972 source of inspiration violent images Wintering Out: (farming) to see through and survive a crisis digging into Irish language Ireland’s past to unite: for answers vowels = Irish slender verses consonants = Eng mound dwellers Irish heritage druids to unite: culture, myths literature: dinnseanchas Dinnseanchas Dinnshenchas Poems where the writer explores the linguistic elements and lore of a place name Writing in Preoccupations, Heaney had this to say about the placename poems of Wintering Out: 'Mossbawn was bordered by the townlands of Broagh and Anahorish, townlands that are forgotten Gaelic music in the throat, bruach and anach fhíor uisce, the riverbank and the place of clear water.' (Preoccupations, 36). The full content of the following essay can be found at: http://www.echeat.com/essay.php?t=27923 In the poems featured in „Wintering Out‟ Heaney uses several examples of a tradition known in Irish poetry as dinnshenchas. Through this Heaney explores the linguistic elements and lore of a place name. In the poem „Anahorish‟, Heaney explores the place name of where he went to school as a child. Heaney‟s analysis of the name‟s phonetics, „soft gradient / of consonant, vowel meadow‟ leads him to imagine the landscape to which the name was attached. He believes the rise and fall of the word over the consonants reflects the gradient of the land, rising and falling. This is further embellished upon throughout the poem „Gifts of Rain‟. Heaney analyses the phonetic sounds of the name of the local river „Moyola‟ , „the tawny guttural water, spells itself: Moyola‟. The name reflects the undulating notion of the water‟s movements. Heaney shows through his use of etymology his imagination in reflecting sounds with place names and imagining the histories that add to this. In connecting this with the political situation of Ireland, Heaney shows how by taking an elaborate concept behind a place name one can resolutely connect this to our lives today. In each of Heaney‟s poems is an underlying implication of Heaney‟s political views. In „Requiem for the Croppies‟ Heaney refers to the „barley grew up out of the grave‟ and in doing so reflects on how little the Irish in Ulster appreciate the martyrs who died for the cause. In the poems throughout „Wintering Out‟ Heaney embellishes this, particularly in „Gifts of Rain‟. At first read the poem regards a simple river akin to the poem „Broagh‟. However, in the line „I cock my ear / at an absence‟ Heaney refers to those who have died and have worked to uniting Ireland without violence. He asks for help to go back in time to hear advice from those who have made a difference in uniting Ireland „Soft voices of the dead are whispering by the shore‟. The use of the central imagery throughout the poem of water reflects the nature of being purged, to come out clean with a fresh beginning. Heaney‟s ability to be „firmly rooted in reality‟ is most clearly shown in each poem through his ability to connect everyday landscapes such as the „River Moyola‟ to the political situation in Ireland. This dinnseanchas poem named Ard Ruide (Ruide Headland) poetically describes the kingdoms of Ireland. Here is a translation: “Connacht in the west is the kingdom of learning, the seat of the greatest and wisest druids and magicians; the men of Connacht are famed for their eloquence, their handsomeness and their ability to pronounce true judgement. Ulster in the north is the seat of battle valour, of haughtiness, strife, boasting; the men of Ulster are the fiercest warriors of all Ireland, and the queens and goddesses of Ulster are associated with battle and death. Leinster, the eastern kingdom, is the seat of prosperity, hospitality, the importing of rich foreign wares like silk or wine; the men of Leinster are noble in speech and their women are exceptionally beautiful. Munster in the south is the kingdom of music and the arts, of harpers, of skilled ficheall players and of skilled horsemen. The fairs of Munster were the greatest in all Ireland. The last kingdom, Meath, is the kingdom of Kingship, of stewardship, of bounty in government; in Meath lies the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the High King of Ireland. Evidence for Heaney‟s ability to connect a place name and the political situation in Ireland is most identifiably showing „Broagh‟. Heaney connects both the linguistic etymology and the political views within the poem to give an underlying message only accessible by the Irish. In taking a simple concept such as a river the poem is taken at face value to be regarding a „riverbank‟. Heaney uses the word „Broagh‟ and compares this to the landscape of a riverbank. However, the poem title „Broagh‟ meaning riverbank is unable to be voiced by the English as is pronounced „bruach‟ in Irish, „ended almost suddenly / like the last gh the strangers found difficult to manage‟. In using words of an Irish only dialect such as „rigs‟ and „docken‟, Heaney isolates the English reader to unite Ireland through linguistics, “Broagh is a sound native to Ireland, common to unionist and Nationalist but unavailable to the English” (Heaney). In the question, Heaney‟s poetry is referred to as „vividly imaginative, whilst being firmly rooted in reality‟, a sentence of which is essential in understanding Heaney‟s poetry. Throughout each collection Heaney takes a central idea of „childhood‟ or „place names‟ and connects these through his own emotions to his strong feelings on the disastrous political situation in Ireland, „I am afraid‟. However, The strong emotions Heaney feels connected through a central face value theme is most strongly shown through Heaney‟s evocative imagery, metaphors and structure. Heaney‟s poetry endeavours to be „vivid‟ through using strong personal messages that relate to the reader but succeeds most readily by combining this with the subtlety of using a common theme. Anahorish My "place of clear water" ANAHORISH My "place of clear water," I of youth and inspiration the first hill in the world where springs washed into the shiny grass and darkened cobbles I of old age in the bed of the lane. Anahorish, soft gradient of consonant, vowel-meadow, English Irish after-image of lamps swung through the yards on winter evenings. With pails and barrows those mound-dwellers Old Celtic Irish go waist-deep in mist to break the light ice at wells and dunghills. Mound-dwellers and Mummers: Language and Community in Seamus Heaney's Wintering Out Author: Kennedy D.Source: Irish Studies Review Or… Hill of Tara – Celts believed that these were portals to the Otherworld where the gods lived and could pass through to visit mortals. The area surrounding the Hill of Tara is one of the most culturally and archaeologically significant in the world. Many monuments in the area predate the Egyptian pyramids. The chamber within Tara's Mound of the Hostages is perfectly aligned with the full moon of Lughnasa and the rising sun of Samhain and Imbolg. 9,000-year-old artefacts uncovered Hunting tools believed to be 9,000 years old have been uncovered during a road development in County Antrim. Blades and pottery unearthed during work on the new Toome Bypass reveal invaluable information about ancient man's life, according to archaeologists who have examined the artefacts. The find is the most significant discovery in the province since a 4,000-year-old grave was discovered during an excavation in the ruins of Newtownstewart Castle in County Tyrone in 1999. Medieval and Modern Ireland - by Richard Wall - 1988 - Literary Criticism; page 51 ff In his autobiographical prose of the late „70s, he makes it even more abundantly clear how deeply linked to the heart of his work were these almost numinous childhood encounters with wells and water: “To this day, green, wet corners, flooded wastes, soft rushy bottoms, any place with the invitation of watery ground and tundra vegetation, even glimpsed from a car or a train, possess an immediate and deeply peaceful attraction. It is as if I am betrothed to them, and I believe my betrothal happened one summer evening, thirty years ago, when another boy and myself stripped to the white country skin and bathed in a moss-hole, treading the liver-thick mud, unsettling a smoky muck off the bottom and coming out smeared and weedy and darkened. We dressed again and went home in our wet clothes, smelling of the ground and the standing pool, somehow initiated.” He describes vividly how the “shaft was sunk for the pump at the wellhead”, which came to symbolize so much for him: “I remember, too, men coming to sink the shaft of the pump and digging through that seam of sand down into the bronze riches of the gravel, that soon began to puddle with the spring water. That pump marked an original descent into earth, sand, gravel, water. It centred and staked the imagination made its foundation of the omphalos itself.” This wellhead while remaining mostly a hidden source for so much of Heaney‟s poetry is made visible in occasional glimpses always bringing a deep sense of rootedness and reassurance at various key points in his poetry. In the first of the dedicatory poems of North, significantly entitled, Sunlight, it‟s almost as though he needs to look at this well again and associate its water with light and love, before he dares to go down into the dark of that volume. There was a sunlit absence. The helmeted pump in the yard, heated its iron, water honeyed in the slung bucket It is a bucket of water from this well, stood in the scullery in Heaney‟s childhood, which becomes a symbol in his Nobel acceptance speech, both of the poetic imagination and of the soul of humankind: “Ahistorical, presexual, in suspension between the archaic and the modern, we were as susceptible and impressionable as the drinking water that stood in a bucket in our scullery: every time a passing train made the earth shake, the surface of that water used to ripple delicately, concentrically, and in utter silence.” Discuss Heaney‟s presentation of place in “Anahorish”. (Include discussion of Heaney‟s use of language, imagery, form and structure.) Provide a detailed and thorough analysis of the poem and don‟t be afraid to provide your own interpretation! The deadline is wc 4th Feb 2008. Please ensure you‟ve attached the Elit3 cover sheet and that you have self assessed your essay by ticking the matrix and commenting on your work. Look at the poem again. Have your ideas/ opinions changed? Try reading the poem aloud. Think about how, for Heaney, language and landscape are inseparable; they are of equal significance to him. The language is in the landscape and vice versa. How is this demonstrated in the poem you are analysing? Be prepared to take the class through your analysis; you are going to be asked to present your ideas! You‟ll then need to complete your independent study of each poem („Bog Oak‟, „Anahorish‟, „Gifts of Rain‟, „Broagh‟ and „Oracle‟) at home. poem = Irish dinnseanchas/dindshenchas – exploring the place/landscape through the name PROGRESSION - becomes less comforting, reflecting change from childhood > adulthood from tranquil: “springs” “shiny” and young life (children) > mysterious: “mist” and death: “mound-dwellers” FORM/STRUCTURE One of long, slender (often 2-stressed lines) poems which dig deep into the past, like sinking a well. Note four quatrains – familiar pattern, expecting rhyme but subverted – no rhyme = freedom? But three sentences – again mis-match subverts familiar pattern . unsettling idea; three sections: childhood, growing up; past Anahorish – first school, beginning of inspiration > “springs” – Helicon and Muses; note enjambment > flowing ideas, flowing water MOOD and IMAGERY Warmth and happiness implying fondness of memories Images of light - “shiny” “lamps” “light” Images of comfort and safety – metaphor “bed” of lane But countered by negative images: “darkened” “winter evenings” “mist” “ice” LANGUAGE “my” – first person pronoun; owning his past; personal memory > “place of clear water” adj reminiscent of holy water – purity and innocence of young children “first hill in the world” adj where he experienced first conquest semantic field of landscape – “soft gradient/of consonant” “vowel meadow” – draws attention to name, adds emphasis, reader pictures name, hears sound, aids/enhances understanding; places named for a reason; H‟s interest in language and Irish heritage “meadow” noun also suggests freedom and links with enjambment and lack of rhyme – lack of restrictions and potential of children juxtaposition of “consonant” “vowel” = Heaney‟s life – Eng / Irish images darken as poem progresses – dispelling unconditional hope and happiness – only the artificial “lamps” to add light to the dark “winter evenings” and “ice” on the pail imprisoning the flowing “springs” of the beginning – darker view of world after witnessing conflicts in N Ireland subversion creates feeling that all is not as happy as first implied: four quatrains but only three sentences – underlying tension juxtaposition of Anahorish – primary school – with burial grounds - “mound dwellers” – sense of dissatisfaction at end – refs to “wells” (dark places) and “dunghills” (in contrast to the “first” hill) – desire to return to the beginning both of life and the poem to see “shiny grass” as opposed to “mist and ice” MESSAGE: Brutal – with maturity comes truth, shattering our innocent childhood fantasies. Introductions: “Anahorish” is a poem written by Heaney in 1972. 1972 was a significant time in Northern Irish history where the intense riots had started to die down, though deaths and riots were still apparent, the violence had started to die down. In “Anahorish” there seem to be key themes of place and identity. The theme of place is very obviously present in this poem and Heaney describes his memories of the place in Northern Ireland where he went to school. Seamus Heaney‟s poem “Anahorish” is an exploration of the place where as a child he went to school. The ideas of place and Irishness are themes present in this poem as Heaney constantly explores his identity. In conclusion, throughout the poem Heaney idolises the area in which he grew as a child; however he shows a more sinister side by describing the darkness of the area surrounding Anahorish. “Anahorish”, whilst a seemingly superficial description of Heaney‟s primary school, succeeds in expressing feelings about the influence of the English over Ireland. Through his own experience, Heaney depicts how his life in particular was affected by the Troubles as he ventures to explore his childhood. Many of his poems explore the past, such as “Broagh”, also titled after a place he knew. In each a contrast is shown between the “soft-gradient” that represents his home country and the harsher nature of England. Through use of form and imagery, the poem exudes a desire for freedom reflective of the author‟s own. In conclusion, I think that Heaney presents the place of Anahorish as tranquil and full of fond memories; yet it seems to have been tainted by the conflict between the Catholics and the protestants. In terms of Heaney‟s own place, there appears to be an internal struggle between his English upbringing and Irish heritage. „Bog Oak‟, „A New Song‟, „Gifts of Rain‟, „Broagh‟ and „Oracle‟ You will have a maximum of 20 minutes, working in your groups, to discuss your ideas about your chosen poem. Get a neat writer to be scribe, annotating your ideas on the A3 poem. These will form part of the display. Focus on: form structure and ideas/concepts/subtext imagery language Why do you think Heaney wrote these poems? Bog Oak F: slender quatrains – digging down into the past A carter's trophy split for rafters, lead back to no a cobwebbed, black, “oak groves”, no Druids long-seasoned rib cutters of mistletoe in the green clearings. under the first thatch. I might tarry Perhaps I just make out with the moustached Edmund Spenser, dead, the creel-fillers, dreaming sunlight, encroached upon by or eavesdrop on their hopeless wisdom geniuses who creep as a blow-down of smoke “out of every corner struggles over the half-door of the woodes and glennes” towards watercress and and mizzling rain carrion. blurs the far end of the cart track. The softening ruts From: Passage to the Center: Imagination and the Sacred in the Poetry of Seamus Heaney (Type in on Google) Edmund Spenser (c. 1552 – 1599) was an English poet. Spenser is a controversial figure due to his zeal for the destruction of Irish culture and colonisation of Ireland, yet he is one of the premier craftsmen of Modern English verse in its infancy. Complaining of the slippery nature of the nomadic native Irish, Spenser notes that: he is a flyinge enemye hidinge him self in woodes and bogges from whence he will not drawe forth but into some streighte passage or perilous forde wheare he knowes the Armie must nedes passe . . . These constantly moving rebellious Irish are represented as having posed a threat to English rule in Ireland because their location could not be pinpointed and because their knowledge of wilderness areas was superior to that of their colonial occupiers. These factors were considered to be major stumbling blocks in the way of English control of Ireland and various English administrators in Ireland, including Spenser, responded by setting out plans for control of both the countryside and the Irish who populated it. Written during Troubles; published 1972 By exploring past he hopes to find solution to Ireland‟s problems Trying to raise the dead to find benign spirits to counter the malevolent forces set free by violence of Oct 1968 Starts with item – piece of oak forming rafter of old thatched cottage Symbol of Ireland – split by Troubles Oak = old – most oak trees in Ireland cleared by English – none left. This has survived by being seasoned for a long time in peat bog which has preserved it = slice of old Ireland still surviving (NB Bogland poem p17-18) Symbol of Irish themselves? H thinks about troubles and looks to past – “moustached dead, creel-fillers” for solutions – “hopeless” wisdom suggests it will be ignored or that conflict is inevitable? Struggles to see them – through “smoke” and “mizzling rain” which “blurs” the past. Trying to look back even further to Celtic past and druids - the “oak groves” sacred to druids, the “cutters of mistletoe” - but fails: “no” repeated Only person he can make out is Spenser – Elizabethan English writer, one of colonists who took over Irish manors and land – who complained about dispossessed Irish trying to reclaim land, creeping out of the “woodes and glennes” towards only thing left them to survive by English: the “watercress and carrion”. Note that H refers to them as “geniuses” Broagh “Riverbank” BROAGH F: slender quatrains S: enjambment - flowing of water Riverbank, the long rigs ending in broad docken nouns: Irish dialect and a canopied pad down to the ford. negative lexis – representing the The garden mould English colonisation – they have bruised easily, the shower left their mark, have conquered gathering in your heelmark the country, but not the language was the black O noun: a sound like a in Broagh, military drum-beat; also its low tattoo a permanent mark among the windy boortrees and rhubarb-blades ended almost suddenly, like that last gh the strangers found English difficult to manage. The Gaelic word 'bruach' then, is translated here as 'riverbank', and it is typical of the Gaelic nominal paradigm of 'dinnseanchas, poems and tales which relate the original meanings of place names and constitute a form of mythological etymology' (Preoccupations, 131). Given the difficulty of the Gaelic phonetic system, British cartographers transliterated many such names into the British phonetic and graphological system; hence the transliteration from 'bruach' to 'broagh'. Mary Hamer makes this point in her study of the Ordinance Survey project in Ireland: In one sense, the famous ordinance survey project in Britain could make no intervention in the cognitive mapping processes of the Irish, for the Survey officers were not themselves creating a new environment, only recording a given one. But the very process of their record...involved some modification of that environment: ancient boundaries were not always left undisturbed, place-names were anglicized, either directly or more subtly by the attempt to arrive at spellings that looked acceptable to an English eye. So an official Ireland was produced, an English-speaking one, with its own ideology of Irish space. ('Putting Ireland on the Map', 188) 'Broagh' is, then, not a Gaelic word, but rather it is a transliteration of the Gaelic word 'bruach' by the very 'strangers' who are deemed to find it so 'difficult to manage'! The 'strangers' who found the original pronunciation 'difficult' have altered it, changing the phonetic area of difficulty into another sound that, almost by definition, they will be able to manage. Another dinnseanchas poem celebrating Irish identity yet vocabulary reflects poet‟s mixed racial heritage: Gaelic, Irish dialect, English; shape of word traced and commented on: ground and name become one Broagh: Gaelic word meaning “riverbank” – as in Anahorish, H explores sound of word and difficulty English have in pronouncing name of place they have colonised! (NB H‟s first language is English and poem written in English!) Positive picture at first: safe, protective: quatrains suggest comfort (or is this the order imposed on Ireland by the English?); enjambment suggests flow of river; adjective canopied pad suggests safety, protection; broad = open; docken used to heal nettle stings; Underlines how Irish have altered even the English tongue by ending first three lines with dialect words: rigs for ridges, docken for docks and pad for path - creates a sense of exclusivity; image of a natural, unmarked riverbank/territory; garden suggests Eden, mould is fertile soil, a paradise, until the English left their indelible heelmark on Ireland. (note pronoun your) Full stop at end of first stanza – change of mood – end of old Ireland? Rest is one sentence, unstopped and unstoppable – like H‟s angry thoughts about colonisation? or the march of invading armies? Positive > negative lexis: bruised, heelmark, black, tattoo (with military associations of drums, as well as those of an indelible mark), imprint of English colonisation? blades and ended: threatening; Image of black O – not only middle of name; reminiscent of a black hole – going into nothingness, entering the unknown, English entering what they don‟t know and should be wary; circle suggests endless cycle of violence? Colour images also progress: bright red of docken replaced by bruised > darker red/purple > black = threatening image Political message – Irish contempt for English invaders strangers who fail to dominate the Irish language; can‟t pronounce the name but try to take it as their own; NB reader also feels this contempt . Name and place are one – triumphant that English invaders can‟t manage name, like country. Oracle Standing alone, standing the passage of time, in a much, much shorter poem, you‟ll be glad to hear. It‟s a little poem called 'Oracle'. Memory of being secluded in a hollow tree; and I remember going into it quite often but I know from family lore that once upon a time I caused great panic by being lost in it. Panic of course is the fear associated with woods. So this was just associated with one tree in this case. My parents were in panic. So they were crying out and shouting out my name, Seamus. I use the word cuckoo here, 'a-hoo': looking for me all over the place. So I see it as the… I see in the poem itself as the little uvula in the throat of the tree. [laughter] This was in 1972 and I had the ambitions to be the voice of the district, so to speak… This was trying to make poetry as natural as the moss on the tree but of course, it is on the one hand natural. Remember Shakespeare - in one of my favourite quotations about poetry, Shakespeare has a poet in the play „Timon of Athens‟ and in the very first page - you don‟t have to look too far for this quotation if you want to look it up – the poet says, somebody says, What have you brought for Timon? What gift have you…And the poet says, A poem. And he describes his poem as 'a thing slipp‟d idly from me'. He said, 'Our poesy is as a gum/ which oozes from whence „tis nourish‟d: the fire i‟ the flint/ shows not till it be struck; our gentle flame/ provokes itself, and like the current flies/each bound it chafes'. So it was very easy for Shakespeare it seems. Listen (first) 8:28 Hide in the hollow trunk soft alliteration of the willow tree, its listening familiar, attendant spirit, often taking until, as usual, the animal form cuckoo your name across the fields. SF of speech You can hear them SF of hearing draw the poles of stiles I of nature as they approach calling you out: small mouth and ear in a woody cleft, lobe and larynx of the mossy places. Oracle – place where ancient Greeks consulted their gods for advice/prophecy (NB advice given was obscure/ambiguous) H in Wintering Out is listening for advice from past NB 14 lines = sonnet? expresses emotion, not necessarily love One stanza – simplicity of a child? Place of safety, protection, retreat, providing answers; sense of secrecy frictive “h” sounds in first line, breathy sound like whispering, afraid of being heard Imagines self as the priest/ spirit (familiar) of the willow tree oracle – in touch with living speech of natural landscape, trying to find pathways to recover that which is lost, listening until he is drawn away by voices from outside world Semantic field of speaking and hearing emphasises the interchange between boy and nature: listening familiar; cuckoo, hear, calling, mouth, ear, lobe, larynx : boy in tree becomes part of tree, at one with nature: the voice of nature? Sense of threat: cuckoo – lays eggs in other birds‟ nests, dispose of original eggs: English colonisation of Ireland? drawn poles of stiles – links to drawing a sword: danger threat – of bullies/of English? Gifts of Rain Cloudburst and steady downpour now F: free verse = falling rain for days. Still mammal, metaphor – man described as animal straw-footed on the mud, he begins to sense weather by his skin. A nimble snout of flood metaphor – water described as animal licks over stepping stones and goes uprooting. He fords his life by sounding. testing depth Soundings. listening Man – animal – nature described in terms of each other – part of a whole, interdependent II F: couplets – man‟s closeness to A man wading lost fields nature; water level rising breaks the pane of flood: a flower of mud- water blooms up to his reflection metaphors similes like a cut swaying its red spoors through a basin. His hands grub where the spade has uncastled sunken drills, an atlantis he depends on. So he is hooped to where he planted and sky and ground are running naturally among his arms that grope the cropping land. F: slender quatrains – water deepens III When rains were gathering arrives my need there would be an all-night for antediluvian lore. roaring off the ford. Soft voices of the dead their world-schooled ear are whispering by the shore could monitor the usual millrace that I would question confabulations, the race (and for my children‟s sake) slabbering past the gable, about crops rotted, river mud the Moyola harping on glazing the baked clay floor. its gravel beds: SF of speech all spouts by daylight brimmed with their own airs and overflowed each barrel in long tresses. I cock my ear at an absence – in the shared calling of blood IV F: tercets – water level going down The tawny guttural water spells itself: Moyola is its own score and consort, bedding the locale in the utterance, reed music, an old chanter breathing its mists through the vowels and history. A swollen river, a mating call of sound rises to pleasure me, Dives, see next hoarder of common ground. page Next page from: Broken English/Breaking English: A Study of Contemporary Poetries in… (Google it!) A parable told by Jesus: the rich Dives gives a feast, ignoring the poor Lazarus at his gate. Later Lazarus feasts in Paradise while Dives goes to Hell (Luke 16). About the flooding of the Moyola, the local river Focuses on the relationship between man and the natural world Boundaries of man and nature are merged, both seem to become part of one another in a strange dream-like pattern of language: A man wading lost fields who becomes hooped to where he planted/ and sky and ground are running naturally among his arms/ that grope the cropping land. Title suggests a positive sense: noun gift, much needed coming after drought, but rest of poem is not so positive! Central image of water: personification and bestialisation of images of water imply a sense of divine intervention? Water is purging Ireland of violence? Possibility of a pure (united) Ireland, clean, new beginning. Water is purging Ireland of violence, delving into buried history of Ireland, calling upon antediluvian lore and soft voices of dead for advice. NB allusions to lost city of Atlantis and the lost fields buried by water and sunken drills, as farmers grope the cropping land Free verse gives a sense of movement of swollen river; What is H writing about in the first stanza? Unclear: man or animal (such as an otter) blurs boundaries between man and nature: in such a storm man is reduced to the same level as the animals he tries to control. Still mammal – man/animal still, water moving – only just beginning to sense the weather or man a mammal still, a primitive creature? in contrast, water is like a creature (otter?) with a nimble snout, licking stones and uprooting metaphor: H‟s close affinity with nature disjointed structure of last three lines like stepping stones? emphasises idea of man pausing as he crosses verb fords – suggests a shallow place – present Irish concern themselves with modern history not delving deeper into past where H thinks the answers lie verb sounding – feeling carefully for deeper places – to avoid them noun Soundings – literal soundings - linguistic rather than nautical meaning Couplets: more formal, man‟s closeness to nature; man becomes a part of the land; boundaries broken; language flows; enjambment: one couplet > part of another just as man becomes part of nature Reversal: rain stopped, man moving water still; man disturbs nature, challenges it? by breaking pane (still surface of water) mud-water symbolises violence in Ireland, whist clean rain implies a purifying and the potential for a united Ireland without violence pun: pane also suggests pain (with breaking) Mud connected to blood of a cut washed in a sink – the man breaks the glass which causes the pain of a cut spilling blood into the water. symbol – hooped = circle = infinity – farmer hoped to surroundings, all elements combine through him and he is linked to every part of nature; Ireland is hooped in a vicious circle of violence unless someone takes the plunge to delve deeper into Irish history metaphor: grope the cropping land in a fertile embrace, – H scoops up language in much the same way; image of man raping the land? stepping over boundaries that nature has created? quatrains; almost every stanza running into the next – continual flowing movement of water personification: rain/river/shore - speaking to us, spirits of past people Boundaries between man and nature almost disappeared: semantic field of speech: confabulations, slabbering describe rainwater, emphasised by the Moyola harping on (personification: Irish harp; poet as a minstrel singing about Ireland?) and airs personification of tresses and bed – romantic, sexual? noun absence – of sound, of the Irish tongue? listening for voices from the past, advice shared calling of blood – sense of identity and community; language of people is same as language of land sibilance: soft voices of dead – looking for benign forces to counter violence, revealing secret to a united Ireland but unreachable But nouns of violence: cock, barrel, blood, dead – sense of threat triplets/tercets: common ground between 2 and 4 lines of previous stanzas: final part brings themes together enjambment: water flows through stanzas dinnseanchas – sound of river spells its name sensual: colour tawny, sound gutteral sibilance echoes sound of river semantic field of music: score, consort, reed music, chanter (melody pipe of bagpipe) references to old poets chanters telling of Irish (vowels) history through mists of time > extended metaphor: river has intercourse with earth: swollen, mating call, rises, pleasure me, seeking to find common ground to unite Ireland Dives – rich man who failed to take notice of plight of Lazarus (beggar at his gate) after death Lazarus went to heaven, Dives to Hell: dangers of wealth blinding men to needs of fellow men – English oppressors again? H embraces feelings and ideas that flow into his mind with the water which seems to blur accepted boundaries of past and future, A New Song I met a girl from Derrygarve And the name, a lost potent musk, Recalled the river's long swerve, A kingfisher's blue bolt at dusk And stepping stones like black molars Sunk in the ford, the shift glaze Of the whirlpool, the Moyola Pleasuring beneath the alder trees. And Derrygarve, I thought, was just: Vanished music, twilit water – A smooth libation of the past Poured by this chance vestal daughter. But now our river tongues must rise From licking deep in native haunts Irish voices To flood, with vowelling embrace, English words Demesnes staked out in consonants. SF of conflict And Castledawson we‟ll enlist And Upperlands, each planted bawn – Like bleaching greens resumed by grass – A vocable, as rath and bullaun. the bleaching greens H: “I think of the person and Irish pieties as vowels, and the literary awareness nourished by English consonants” Again celebrating place names. Song – poem has rhyme Advocating a resurgence of Irish language which will unite the Irish; starts benignly; ends more ambiguously with echoes of conflict: semantic field of battle : staked out, enlist, resumed Tone of first three stanzas is light and nostalgic, transports H back to childhood Imagery: Moyola is imagined as a mouth with stepping stones like black molars – simile gives river a voice (see Gifts of Rain) river tongues – Irish nation (NB black - negative lexis introduced) Sensual: smell – potent musk, sight – blue bolt, shifty glaze, twilit, touch – smooth, pleasuring, sound – music, vowelling (Irish) embrace = romantic, almost sexual Libation of the past – toast to old Ireland? religious lexis Adj: vestal suggests pure, virginal, untainted (NB link to water) Tone changes in fourth stanza: political, a need to retrieve what has been lost in Ireland: discourse marker/pivot but verb licking – wounds after battles with English? verb must = ambiguous: the rising up is inevitable or an encouragement? noun demesnes – English/Norman manors/estates along with English named places: Castledawson and Upperlands are to be overcome by flooding the conquered territory which has been staked out in consonants (English names) bawn = English word for fortified house or enclosure; but Gaelic for white > bleaching greens where Irish linen was laid out to bleach now re-conquered by nature: grass. English names, vocables, replaced with Gaelic H uses Gaelic words rath (hill-fort) bollaun (hollowed stone mortar) to reinforce sense of Irish culture which will be resumed and a new song sung. Read the rest here: http://books.google.c om/books?id=Yyedee CXBdMC&pg=PA164&l pg=PA164&dq=english +mound+dwellers+iris h+river+people&sourc e=web&ots=ujfxhOY WoM&sig=KB6BZG8o NPqxGZD8xJX- wrwJ7zU Explore Heaney‟s presentation of the Irish Language in „A New Song‟ (p27) In your response you should include discussion of: • thoughts and feelings shown; • use of form, language, imagery and structure Provide a detailed and thorough analysis of the poem and don‟t be afraid to provide your own interpretation! The deadline is _______________ 2008. Please ensure you‟ve attached the Elit3 cover sheet and that you have self assessed your essay by ticking the matrix and commenting on your work. The Other Side "The Other Side" an even earlier instance of poetry "being instrumental," as Heaney put it in "Frontiers of Writing" "in adjusting and correcting imbalances in the world, poetry as an intended intervention into the goings- on of society" is taken from Wintering Out (1972). Here a Protestant neighbour of the Heaney family is portrayed. When in the first section of the poem he stands on his bank of the stream dividing his property from theirs, he comments, using the kind of comparison that came naturally to Bible-reading Protestants of an earlier generation, "It's poor as Lazarus, that ground." Standing as he does "where his lea [meadow] sloped/ to meet our fallow" he evidently is, or chooses to be, unaware of the historical circumstances that gave the best land. "his promised furrows" to the British settler ancestors and left the poorer remnants, "our scraggy acres," to the native Irish. The language is purposely biblical--"a wake of pollen/ drifting to our bank, next season's tares" using the King James, version's word for "weeds." For the Catholic children, untutored in the Good Book, this is all exotic. The second section, quoted here in its entirety, shows neatly how stereotypically each community views the other's religious practices: For days we would rehearse each patriarchal dictum: Lazarus, the Pharaoh, Solomon and David and Goliath rolled magnificently, like loads of hay too big for our small lanes, or faltered on a rut– `Your side of the house, I believe, hardly rule by the Book at all.' His brain was a whitewashed kitchen hung with texts, swept tidy as the body o' the kirk. The Scottish word for church ("kirk") reminds us of the Protestant settlers' origins. A surprising and even tender moment arrives in the last section of the poem: "sometimes when the rosary was dragging/ mournfully on in the kitchen/ we would hear his step round the gable." The neighbour has dropped by for a visit, but he waits till after-dinner prayers have been said before he announces his presence: "'A right-looking night'/ he might say, 'I was dandering by/ and says I, I might as well call.'" The poem takes a turn here, because all these years later, the poet, a grown man now, eavesdrops on the eavesdropping neighbour in an imagined moment, where past and present meet: But now I stand behind him in the dark yard, in the moan of prayers. He puts a hand in a pocket or taps a little tune with the blackthorn shyly, as if he were party to lovemaking or a stranger's weeping. Should I slip away, I wonder, or go up and touch his shoulder and talk about the weather or the price of grass-seed? To use a word from the unlovely vocabulary of diplomacy, this is an imagined moment of normalization. The neighbour, in his plain, largely uncomprehending way, is reaching out to "the other side"; Heaney is wondering whether he could do the same. But should "normalization" occur, the two sides would hardly be discussing Irish history, with its disputed claims on the land, or the Good Friday Agreement which tries to reconcile those claims. As fellow tillers of the soil, their conversation would instead be of simple matters of common interest. Thigh deep in sedge and marigolds a neighbour laid his shadow on the stream, vouching 'It's poor as Lazarus, that ground,' (see Dives) and brushed away among the shaken leafage. I lay where his lea sloped Heaney‟s land to meet our fallow, neighbour‟s land nested in moss and rushes, religious references: my ear swallowing Protestants depicted as his fabulous, biblical dismissal, seeing things in black and that tongue of chosen people. white, they are the “chosen people” and When he would stand like that therefore deserve the on the other side, white-haired, swinging his blackthorn “Promised Land” at the marsh weeds, A parable told by Jesus: the rich he prophesised above our scraggy acres, Dives gives a feast, ignoring the then turned away poor Lazarus at his gate. Later towards his promised furrows Lazarus feasts in Paradise while on the hill, a wake of pollen Dives goes to Hell (Luke 16). drifting to our bank, next season's tares. II For days we would rehearse each patriarchal dictum: Lazarus, the Pharoah, Solomon and David and Goliath rolled magnificently, like loads of hay too big for our small lanes, or faltered on a rut - "Your side of the house, I believe, hardly rules by the book at all." His brain was a whitewashed kitchen hung with texts, swept tidy as the body o the kirk. III Then sometimes when the rosary was dragging mournfully on in the kitchen we would hear his step around the gable though not until after the litany would the knock come to the door and the casual whistle strike up on the doorstep. "A right-looking night," he might say, "I was dandering by and says I, I might as well call." But now I stand behind him in the dark yard, in the mourn of prayers. He puts his hand in a pocket or taps a little tune with the blackthorn shyly, as if he were party to lovemaking or a strangers weeping. Should I slip away, I wonder, or go up and touch his shoulder and talk about the weather or the price of grass-seed? Bog Poems Bog Poems In the 1950s Danish turf cutters dug up bodies. PV Glob wrote a book about the discoveries called „The Bog People‟. Heaney read this book and started to write a series of poems about the bog bodies. Grauballe Man: „…there is a brutality and a ruthlessness and a cruelty and a casualness and abusiveness about „slashed and dumped‟…in a sense you are administering the shock to yourself as well as hopefully to the world and the reader that this is being done…‟dumped‟ is a brutal ending and is meant to be‟. „…it is very true to say that the work done by writers is quite often an attempt to give solid expression to that which is bothering them…they feel they have got it right if they express the stress‟. Seamus Heaney Click below for more on bog bodies http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/bog/violence1.html Or look again at powerpoint entitled 7 Bog Bodies I II I could risk blasphemy, Some day I will go to Aarhus Consecrate the cauldron bog To see his peat-brown head, Our holy ground and pray The mild pods of his eye-lids, Him to make germinate His pointed skin cap. The scattered, ambushed In the flat country near by Flesh of labourers, Stockinged corpses Where they dug him out, Laid out in the farmyards, His last gruel of winter seeds Caked in his stomach, Tell-tale skin and teeth Flecking the sleepers Naked except for Of four young brothers, trailed The cap, noose and girdle, For miles along the lines. I will stand a long time. Bridegroom to the goddess, III Something of his sad freedom She tightened her torc on him As he rode the tumbril And opened her fen, Should come to me, driving, Those dark juices working Saying the names Him to a saint's kept body, Tollund, Grauballe, Nebelgard, Trove of the turfcutters' Watching the pointing hands Honeycombed workings. Of country people, Not knowing their tongue. Now his stained face Reposes at Aarhus. Out here in Jutland I of nature In the old man-killing parishes violent lexis I will feel lost, Religious lexis Unhappy and at home. The Tollund Man Find quotations to support each of the following statements: 1. The body has been perfectly preserved by the peat bog. 2. The body has become part of the earth. 3. The man was killed in rather gruesome circumstances. 4. The bog itself is described as the goddess; the killing is described as a ritual marriage. 5. Heaney is fascinated and amazed by the Tollund Man, and recognises that if he saw the body, he would almost feel the need to pay tribute to him, or to worship him. 6. Heaney is able to relate to and empathise with the man. 7. He compares the sacrificial Iron Age killing with brutal sectarian violence dividing Northern Ireland at the time of writing. 8. Heaney suggests we should search for an alternative deity, to look for another religious symbol which could unite people and sow the seeds for peace. 9. He acknowledges own guilt and discomfort in suggesting the idea. Limbo The poem explores the religious and sexual repression caused by a dogmatic Catholic Church, whose beliefs in abortion and the value of female virginity before marriage has resulted in unmarried girls killing their new born infants. It is critical of these beliefs showing them to be archaic and in conflict with the Christian belief in love and forgiveness. The title refers to the Catholic doctrine of limbo being a place where unbaptised children go, which is neither heaven or hell. The existence of such a place seems unjust as the infants have done no wrong and the speaker questions its doctrinal existence as 'Even Christ's palm, inhealed/Smart and cannot fish here'. 'Limbo' recalls a specific incident in Ballyshannon where a dead infant is hauled in by fishermen. Fishermen at Ballyshannon Netted an infant last night Along with the salmon. An illegitimate spawning, A small one thrown back To the waters. But I'm sure As she stood in the shallows Ducking him tenderly Till the frozen knobs of her wrists Were dead as the gravel, He was a minnow with hooks Tearing her open. She waded in under The sign of the cross. SF of fishing He was hauled in with the fish. SF of religion Now limbo will be A cold glitter of souls Through some far briny zone. Even Christ's palms, unhealed, Smart and cannot fish there. The trope of fishing dominates the poem with the dead infant called a 'minnow', and refered to in the fishing parlance of 'A small one thrown away'. More importantly, the trope of fishing alludes to Christ, who was known as 'fisher of men', his disciples were fishermen and the orthodox symbol of Christianity is the fish. The speaker does not blame Christ for the death of the child, but the Catholic brand of Christianity that enforces laws that seem so uncompassionate and out of touch with the lives of women in contemporary society. The metaphor of the infant as a minnow ('He was a minnow with hooks/Tearing her open') reveals in the image of tearing and hooks the anguish and loss felt by the mother. The mother is driven to infanticide by the fear of social approbation and exclusion as she has sinned against the laws of the Church. The poem clearly reveals that it was not a cold-hearted act and now she must live with the murder of the child haunting her. The killing is shown ironically in the image of the Christian baptism: 'As she stood in the shallows/Ducking him tenderly'. Instead of being baptised into eternal life this passage under water brings death and a fate in limbo. The adverb 'tenderly' shows the love the mother has for her child and she will never forget this moment. The images of death and coldness also permeate the poem ('frozen knobs of her wrists', 'dead as gravel', 'cold glitter of souls') echoing the mother's psychological state as well as the last image of 'cold glitter of souls' being an indictment of the traditional beliefs in Christianity. The Christian iconography reappears throughout the poem in the image of the baptism, the Cross and the palms of Christ. Significantly it is the mother who is equated with Christ, 'She waded in under/the sign of her cross', and it seems she is the one who must suffer like Christ. Also the final lines show the palms of Christ 'unhealed', suggesting that such social attitudes are just as harmful as the driving of nails into his hands by his crucifiers, and that Christ would never endorse such beliefs; they merely leave old wounds unhealed. The poem quietly reproves the social and religious values in contemporary Irish society that result in the deaths of infants. The speakers sympathises with the suffering mother and though the murder of a child can never be supported the poem presents an insight into the circumstances that lead to such tragedy. Bye Child He was discovered in the henhouse where she had confined him. He was incapable of saying anything. Kevin Halfpenny, the Hen House boy of Ireland A mystery in a hen house Three schoolboys noticed some strange activity at one of two hen houses at Halfpenny's field at Crossgar. One boy, Desmond Bannon, who later gave evidence about his discovery, explained how when passing one of the hen houses he heard someone walking about inside. He went over for a closer look and after checking the door, which he found locked, went to look in through the window. The windows were covered on the inside by old sacks but as he was there someone lifted the covering and peered out. "I saw either a wee boy or a wee girl with long hair", he stated. "I could see down to its waist and it had no clothes on, as far as I could see. I asked what its name was, and got no answer. I asked again but got no reply." Repeat visits Desmond told the police that during the school holidays he went up to the hen houses again. This time he was accompanied by his friend. He said that once again the door was locked but when he knocked at the window the young child lifted up the sacking and put its hands up to the netting wire on the window. The children told how they next visited the hen house on two other occasions, each time with more friends, and on each occasion they saw the child, it was locked in the hen house. On the last occasion, which was about one month before the child was rescued, one of the boys, Sean McMullan told of knocking on the window. They could hear something shuffling inside then, before very long, someone came to the window and tried to lift up the bag that was covering it. The authorities free the Irish Chicken Boy The NSPCC and the police were notified. The child was named as Kevin Halfpenny, a seven- year old boy. He was immediately taken to the Nazareth Lodge Children's Home. While there he was examined by doctors who were horrified to find that he only weighed two stone. His height was a mere 30 inches high and it was claimed that he was suffering from rickets for at least five years due to continual denial of sunlight. When the lamp glowed, A yolk of light In their back window, The child in the outhouse Put his eye to a chink – Little henhouse boy, Sharp-faced as new moons Remembered, your photo still Glimpsed like a rodent On the floor of my mind, Little moon man, After those footsteps, silence Kennelled and faithful Vigils, solitudes, fasts, At the foot of the yard, Unchristened tears, Your frail shape, luminous, A puzzled love of the light. Weightless, is stirring the dust, But now you speak at last The cobwebs, old droppings With a remote mime Under the roosts Of something beyond patience, And dry smells from scraps Your gaping wordless proof She put through your trapdoor Of lunar distances Morning and evening. Travelled beyond love. Heaney explores his own Irish culture - one that purports to live as a community and in Christian benevolence - by revealing its dark underside. As in the poem 'Limbo' Heaney examines the effects of Catholic doctrine on unmarried mothers and illegitimate children. Instead of killing the child to escape social disapproval the mother in 'Bye-Child' hides him in a henhouse, feeding him scraps like an animal. The poem tells of the discovery of the young boy in the outhouse with the speaker recalling the photograph he saw of him in the newspaper. It focuses on this photograph trying to imagine him living in a henhouse, attracted by the light of the main house and the silence that he lived in. The dominant image in the poem is the moon and light. The boy is attracted to the light of the back window, with the light being seen in the metaphor of 'A yolk of light', capturing both the visual image of the lamp but more importantly associating it to the eggs of hens and the henhouse which has been his home since birth. The boy's face is described in the simile as 'Sharp-faced as new moons/Remembered', called 'Little moon man' and is associated with the moon in the frail shape of his body being 'luminous' and weightless'. On one level the associations with the moon illustrate the boy's condition - he is separated from the social world, a world of love and language, as if he was as cut off from society as being on the moon. The final stanza echoes this distance, showing how his treatment, never taught to speak or communicate, reveals the great distance (from her to the moon - 'Of lunar distance/Travelled beyond love) between the way the child should have been nurtured and his animal-like state in the henhouse. The child is also connection with light throughout the poem: he is attracted to light of house, he is called a moon man, the moon being a source of light in the darkness, he is luminous again reflecting light and is described having a 'A puzzled love of the light'. In the end the boy does emerge from the darkness of his isolation into the light. He is now recognised and is shown to 'speak' without language for the first time. This light is in contrast to the images of dryness and waste (dust,'old droppings', 'dry smells from scraps') as well as the animal images which reveal the way the boy has been treated because of fear of social approbation. Explore Heaney‟s presentation of religion in “Limbo” and in one other poem of your choice. (Include discussion of attitudes and feelings shown and use of language, imagery and structure.) Explore how Heaney writes about suffering in “Bye-Child” and in one other poem of your choice. (Include discussion of Heaney‟s use of language, form and structure.) Wedding Day Wedding Day I am afraid. Sound has stopped in the day And the images reel over And over. Why all those tears, The wild grief on his face Outside the taxi? The sap Of mourning rises In our waving guests. You sing behind the tall cake Like a deserted bride Who persists, demented, And goes through the ritual. When I went to the gents There was a skewered heart And a legend of love. Let me Sleep on your breast to the airport. Summer Home Discuss Heaney‟s presentation of a relationship in „Summer Home‟. In your response you should include discussion of his creation of characters in a particular setting and the use of imagery, form and structure. * Westering I sit under Rand McNally's "Official Map of the Moon" - The colour of frogskin, Its enlarged pores held Open and one called We drove by, "Pitiscus" at eye level - A dwindling interruption Recalling the last night As clappers smacked In Donegal, my shadow On a bare altar Neat upon the whitewash And congregations bent From her bony shine, To the studded crucifix. The cobbles of the yard What nails dropped out that hour? Lit pale as eggs. Roads unreeled, unreeled Summer had been a free fall Falling light as casts Ending there, Laid down The empty amphitheatre On shining waters. Of the west. Good Friday Under the moon's stigmata We had started out Six thousand miles away, Past shopblinds drawn on the afternoon, I imagine untroubled dust, Cars stilled outside still churches, A loosening gravity, Bikes tilting to a wall; Christ weighing by his hands. Catholic church altar Catholic church altar on Good Friday GOOD-FRIDAY, 1613, RIDING WESTWARD. by John Donne LET man's soul be a sphere, and then, in this, Th' intelligence that moves, devotion is ; And as the other spheres, by being grown Subject to foreign motion, lose their own, And being by others hurried every day, Scarce in a year their natural form obey ; Pleasure or business, so, our souls admit For their first mover, and are whirl'd by it. Hence is't, that I am carried towards the west, This day, when my soul's form bends to the East. There I should see a Sun by rising set, And by that setting endless day beget. But that Christ on His cross did rise and fall, Sin had eternally benighted all. Yet dare I almost be glad, I do not see That spectacle of too much weight for me. Who sees Gods face, that is self-life, must die ; What a death were it then to see God die ? It made His own lieutenant, Nature, shrink, It made His footstool crack, and the sun wink. Could I behold those hands, which span the poles And tune all spheres at once, pierced with those holes ? Could I behold that endless height, which is Zenith to us and our antipodes, Humbled below us ? or that blood, which is The seat of all our soul's, if not of His, Made dirt of dust, or that flesh which was worn By God for His apparel, ragg'd and torn ? If on these things I durst not look, durst I On His distressed Mother cast mine eye, Who was God's partner here, and furnish'd thus Half of that sacrifice which ransom'd us ? Though these things as I ride be from mine eye, They're present yet unto my memory, For that looks towards them ; and Thou look'st towards me, O Saviour, as Thou hang'st upon the tree. I turn my back to thee but to receive Corrections till Thy mercies bid Thee leave. O think me worth Thine anger, punish me, Burn off my rust, and my deformity ; Restore Thine image, so much, by Thy grace, That Thou mayst know me, and I'll turn my face. Sometime on April 2, 1613, John Donne was riding from London westward to Exeter, evidently to Sir Edward Harbert in Wales. Early 17th-century England was almost uniformly Christian. The Church of England, led by James I, set aside Good Friday, the day of Christ's crucifixion, to remember its saviour's suffering and death. Christians withdrew from worldly affairs that day, just as they had abstained from meat during the period of Lent, which would end on Easter Sunday, two days later, when Christ's resurrection was commemorated. By taking on human form, and by innocently dying a terrible death on the cross, God's son was believed to have paid for the sins of all mankind and so to have released Adam and Eve, and their offspring through the ages, from God's punishment, which was life itself after expulsion from Eden, lingering into death and eternal damnation in hell. By believing in Christ, his followers obtained salvation. As a sign of their redemption, they partook weekly of the Mass or communion, where the priest fed the faithful with bread and wine, symbolically Christ's flesh and blood, shed on the Friday that they, for that reason, called Good. Easter Friday church services poignantly recalled, through readings from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, and in the act of communion itself, the agony and purpose of Christ's death. It satisfied God's justice by sacrificing his only begotten son in order to redeem his creation. Donne's brief title bespeaks the poet's shame and guilt for being on the road, instead of in church, on that particular Good Friday. He need not say more. To ride westward, in Donne's times, implied a journey to Tyburn, in London's western suburbs, where thieves and murderers were hanged publicly (OED, adv, 2). Going westward also meant seeking wealth in the new world, the Americas. Traditionally, because the sun set in the west, it was associated with dying. A poem with this title draws attention to itself. In 21 couplets, Donne writes an apologia for the faithless act his title documents. He gives five arguments, first blaming fallen Nature generally (1-14). His riding, he says, follows the influence of the stars, which (from any observer's perspective) move uniformly across the sky every night from east to west, from where Christ the Son of God took on humanity, from where he died on the cross at Golgotha near Jerusalem. Second, citing the Bible, Donne explains that looking on God, face to face, is death to any creature (15-28). He averts his eyes because he dares not look. Out of pity, third, Donne says he cannot bear to witness Christ's mother Mary's sufferings (29-32). Fourth, Donne affirms that he observes the sufferings of Christ and Mary in his mind's eye, in "memory" (33-35), as he should. Last, he explains that, by turning his back on Christ, he also submits himself to deserved "Corrections" (35-40), to a scourging. The poem's final couplet moves all responsibility to a God who, if he punished Donne as he should, would discover that he, unashamed, willingly turning his face to his creator.
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