Follower - Seamus Heaney Poem

OCR GCSE notes for Seamus Heaney's poem - Follower

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Content and Themes


Follower describes Heaney's childhood and how he idolised and admired his father. The poem is about how Heaney aspired to be like his father when he was older, however he was never able to become such highly skilled at farming due to his not particularly co-ordinated physical ability. His personal strengths were focused more on academic purposes rather then agriculture. At the end of the poem we see Heaney's father as a lot older and they had reversed roles so Heaney was looking after him now.


Childhood memories, reflection, admiration, disappointment

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Stanza 1 Analysis

"His shoulders globed like a full sail strung" - This sailing image suggests the broadness of Heaney's fathers shoulders. It also conveys the power of his father as he undertakes this challenging physical work

"The horses strained at his clicking tongue" -   Heaney descirbes how just a click from his fathers tongue can make the horse do as he wished; a small movement to harness power. This is similar to the passage focused on James in the bible about the power of the tongue, where the tongue is compared to a rudder that can steer a whole ship.

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Stanza 2 Analysis

"An expert" - Heaney describes his father as being incredibly skilled at his job and someone that he respects and aspires to be. The fact that he called him an 'expert' suggests that he believes his father is specialised in what he does and that he is unrivalled in his skill set. 

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Stanza 4 Analysis

"i stumbled", "fell sometimes" - This highlights how Heaney is unsuited to the profession as he is not physically very co-ordinated and could not ever be as skilled as his father. He is described as a clumsy presence on the farm. It portrays the differences between him and his father and the end of the family tradition of farming

"Sometimes he rode me on his back" - This conveys to the reader the tender relationship between father and son. Heaney's father carried him around the farm and the poet remembers affectionately.

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Stanza 5 Analysis

"I wanted to grow up and plough" - This indicates how Heaney wanted to carry out the family tradition of farming but he just wasn't able to. The fact that he 'wanted' to but couldn't suggests a feeling of disappointment.

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Stanza 6 Analysis

"I was a nuisance, tripping, falling/yapping always" - This conveys to the reader how Heaney felt as a child. However, his references to 'yapping' and 'nuisance' are most likely not true - especially as his father sometimes carried him on his back and seems to enjoy spending time with his son.

"My father who keeps stumbling" - Although, Heaney wasn't skilled in the art of farming, he did have his own area of expertise. As it is his father that is not stumbling behind him, it implies that he has the same respect and admiration for what his son excels at as when Heaney did for his father when he was stumbling behind him on the farm. It could also be due to the fact that his father is older now and is no longer able to work,

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