Wintering Out - 1972 by ldd0229

VIEWS: 436 PAGES: 129

									Wintering Out - 1972
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
• 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
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:
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
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
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
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.
My "place of clear water"

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

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.
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

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”
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
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”
“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
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”
Brutal – with maturity comes truth, shattering our innocent
childhood fantasies.
      “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:
structure and ideas/concepts/subtext

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
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
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         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.
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
                                    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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
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
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.
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.
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
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.

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
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. *
 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
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
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.

To top