At a Potato Digging

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At a Potato Digging
Themes: Nature, Death, Danger, Fear, Mankind being in charge.
Includes colours and smell
In four main parts:
1. Potato harvest
2. Description of the healthy potatoes
3. Potato Famine of the past and the death which it brought (1845-1850)
4. Back to the present digging - workers happily eating lunch, celebration,
thankful to gods
Language
Metaphor ­ `Labourers swarm behind stoop to fill' ­ dehumanising, idea of teamwork.
Juxtaposition ­ `Of fear and homage to the famine god' they worship the ground and the
potatoes that come from it as without it they would starve, just as people worship god to
help them through difficult times.
Simile ­ `like crows attacking crowblack fields' the image of birds likens the workers to
the common sight of birds following a plough around a field at harvest time to pick out all the
grubs that have been unearthed. Here it is the people, probably wearing black, picking up
the potatoes.
Personification ­ earth is personified as a mother, giving it caring and loving qualities
Alliteration split by the spade' the `s' sound to show the harsh cutting of the potatoes,
those that have opened up show their insides `white as cream' (simile) which makes the
insides sound good and pleasing as cream is something used as a treat on desserts.
Structure
A loose iambic metre which breaks down only in the poem's final line, where they appear
to be wasting food, now without fear, no longer caught in rhythm of death and destruction
The second section fewer rhymes in an irregular pattern. Lines and sections run into each
other, joy of potatoes being harvested
The third section uses rhyme in pairs. Sounds like historic poetic tale of what happened in
the past, light sound does not seem to fit the subject matter.
Enjambment suggests unending nature of the work
Repetition (oxymoron) of `live skulls, blind eyed' to link back to the second, but the link is
now that these are `balanced on wild higgledy skeletons', real people who lived in 1845,
when a huge potato famine hit Ireland, killing a vast number of people.

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The skeletons almost seem unreal, not human, as they have all the life taken from them as
they `scoured the land' looking for food, eating the `blighted' (diseased) potatoes and dying,
as a result of this.…read more

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