Seamus Heaney


The Summer of Lost Rachel

The Summer of Lost Rachel - Euphemism, Summer should be fun positive, and warm

'potato crops are flowering' the crops are like a child, full of potential - new growth

"appear [...] and every berried briar"  lines 2 and 4 half rhyme - off beat

"showers plout down" - onomatopoeia

"waterlogged" - rain disappointed

"all confidence in summer's unstinging largesse broke down" promise of summer faded

"your whited face" - purity and innocence

"yearned to run the film back" longing to turn back time

"wheeling your bright rimmed bike" joy of childhood symbolises her innocence

"safe and sound as usual" - sibolence

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The Summer of Lost Rachel (cont.)

"But no." short sentence for impact, contrasting against the previous long ones

"let the downpours flood" symbolic of tears, water cleanses and renews

"the life you might have lead" wasted potential

Here is the acceptance of her death

The last stanza expresses how fom time to time, grief will emerge.

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The whole poem is a metaphor about relationships.

"careful" and "test" shows the uneasiness of getting to know a person

"secure all the ladders" - as you become more secure in the relationship 

"So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be, old bridges breaking between you and me, never fear" characterizes conflicts between the partners as a natural part of a long-term relationship

"we have built our wall" the bond the two have established will withstand any losses

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Ancestral Photograph

Picture is of a proud Irish man, "round and solid as a turnip" - similie

"two parts scorn, two parts dead pan" miserable looking

"girds him like a hoop" - similie

"my father's uncle, from whom he learnt the trade" (great uncle) the trade = selling livestock

"as if a bandage had been ripped from his skin" - similie

Heaney recalls memories of "herded cattle" and "won at arguing his own price on a crowd"

"Penned in the frame" reference to cattle pens

memory fades as he's "closing this chapter of our chronicle"

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Death of a Naturalist

'flax-dam festered' - assonance and alliteration, begins to create the atmosphere of decay

'Heavy headed' - assonance and alliteration - describes how the flax that had rotted, the heaviness is emphasised further in the third line, where the flax is 'weighted down by huge sods'

'Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun' - personification of the oppressiveness of the sun

'Bubbles gargled delicately' starts to create a gentler image, 'bluebottles wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell', a fascinating image combining different senses. 'dragonflies, spotted butterflies' hints at the beauty of the scene.

The poem then switches to an account of how Heaney collected frog spawn every spring, filling 'jampotfuls of the jellied specks'

"daddy frog" innocent and child-like language - there are four clauses each joined by 'and' in this sentence, just as though it were written by a child

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Death of a Naturalist (cont.)

The feeling of change is signalled by the opening phrase 'Then one hot day' - unpleasant imagery begins with fields described as 'rank with cowdung'

'The air was thick with a bass chorus'  sound filled the air

The frogs are described as 'gross-bellied', pictured with assonance in the phrase 'cocked on sods' their flabby necks are described as 'pulsed like sails'

'Poised like mud grenades', an image that echoes the war-like connotation of the word 'invaded' in line twenty-four

He personifies them as 'great slime kings' 'gathered there for vengeance' for stolen frogspawn. Heaney's final line expresses how far his imagination as a child took hold: 'if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it'. This is a nightmare image where the spawn becomes powerful and grabs the child, reversing the original roles.

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The Early Purges

"I was six when..." childhood memory

"soft paws scratching like mad...their tiny din" poignant sounds, heart rending

"Like wet gloves" - similie - soaked, tiny limbs like fingers on a wet glove

inhumanity is now seen as "false sentiment"

"now...I just shrug" Heaney loses his childish fears, learning to be pragmatic as "on well run farms pests have to be kept down"

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An Advancement of Learning

Memories, not nostalgic but fear

macabre imagery and an 'innocence to experience' approach on tackling fear

Heaney is walking the 'Embankment path' where he is trapped by two fears in the form of rats. The poem shows how his fears have been overcome where he can see the true threat of these weak creatures. He then goes on to cross 'the bridge' which is a metaphorical boundary of fears and memories. The poem really shows how this phobia of rats turns into a metaphorical milestone that has been overcome in his life.

Growing up elipses childhood fears

Realisation that rat is more scared of him

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A Constable Calls

A Constable Calls

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