Seamus Heaney Servant Boy

Mood, tone and structure notes

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
MOOD AND TONE: "comfortless enough".
The terse (concise, curt), concentrated lines evoke the feeling of a
cold, harsh, unwelcoming environment. This bleak atmosphere
is established immediately by the first two lines, "He is
wintering out / the backend of a bad year..."
Alliteration is used throughout the poem, with the repetition
of a harsh, jabbing 'b' sound. This hints at the underlying anger
that is revealed at the end, "resentful and impenitent" to
make itself felt early on.
The second stanza stands out as angry and brutal in tone; the
words are ugly, wounding:
"...a jobber among shadows.
Old workwhore, slave
reflecting the way the British regarded the Irish at that time,
as savages. Heaney contradicts this when he praises the boy
for exercising "patience" and keeping his "counsel".
Jan 286:26 PM

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
Mood and Tone: "...with a notion of survival in it."
The"warm eggs" is a more positive
final image, perhaps because eggs
nourish and are the beginning of new life
representing the power of Irish culture to
renew itself, and grow strong once more.…read more

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
Five quatrains He is wintering out gives us a
(fourline the backend of a bad year, portrait of
stanzas) made swinging a hurricanelamp the servant,
from three through some outhouse; at first from
a distance,
a jobber among shadows. then like a
Old workwhore, slave camera he
combines with
the plodding blood, who stepped fairhills pans in and
character of the under each bidder's eye addresses
words to him directly.…read more

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
IMAGERY & LANGUAGE the language is
assonance: short
alliteration: repetition of vowels sound angry visual, we can
'b' sounds: angry, He is wintering out picture the servant
jabbing. boy, the weather
the backend of a bad year, and the dark
swinging a hurricanelamp moving shadows
putting through some outhouse; immediately
himself out
for hire a jobber among shadows.…read more

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
Symbolic Meanings
"a jobber among shadows" could also refer to Heaney himself;
someone trying to find his identity as an Irish poet, who has been
educated in and loves the English language, in a country where his true
heritage the Irish language & culture had been suppressed.
"you draw me into/your trail." The trail is long and hard; Heaney
uses the word "straggle", which means an untidy group.…read more

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Servant Boy lesson.notebook February 02, 2012
"workwhore, slaveblood" are examples of kennings.
A kenning is a muchcompressed form of metaphor,
originally used in AngloSaxon and Norse poetry. In a
kenning, an object is described in a twoword phrase, such
as 'whaleroad' for 'sea'.
"haggard" is a Scandinavian word meaning 'stackyard'.
Heaney uses these language forms because they are
associated with the language of the invaders. They are
foreignsounding to the native Irish. This adds to the
sense of alienation in the poem.…read more

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'Servant Boy' by Seamus Heaney.…read more


mollie os

one of the best analysis' on here, so helpful! thankyou :-)


This was so so useful, thank you so much!!!


Excellent interpretive detail clearly presented!


This is really good ! Thank you :)

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