Storm on the island


'so as you can see'

  • embedded clause/aside/address
  • It sounds as if Heaney has created a spekaer that is explaining to us, almost showing us around.
  • This little clause is expecting that we are already visualising the place.
  • It sounds as if we are on a guided tour with Heaney, that he is introducing us to the island. I
  • Heaney is explaining and justifying the way the houses are built, the life on the island. He sounds like an insider, someone keen for us to understand. He thinks its great but heaney has given the speaker words to make the reader realise how oppressive and restrivtive the island actually is.
  • Heaney does it again later with “you know what I mean”, which is a sign of informality – I’m struggling for the precise term for it – more than a filler (like um, er) but not a hedge (which softens a direct statement) and seems to be there to invite our understanding, check that we have understood. These parenthetical statements are more conversational.
  • It’s a discourse marker, but it’s checking if we’re still engaged, if we still understand, even if we are not actively participating at that moment in time. It asks for our silent participation.
  • You can see four instances of this use of “you”, where we are invited into the poem. For me, it gives it a sense of being like a guided tour of a sort, explaining to us something that we wouldn’t understand unless we lived on the island.
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'leaves and can listen to the thing

  • For Heaney, the trees would provide a relief in that you could spend your time in the wind or a storm thinking about the trees, watching the wind in them, distracting you from thinking about how it is affecting your own home.
  • The personification of the wind itself, which “pummels” the houses, as well as the leaves and branches which “can raise a chorus in a gale” is also part of how Heaney, like Wordsworth in Stealing the Boat, brings nature to life and gives it a power beyond the natural.
  • The trees, branches and leaves which would be allies in the resistance against the wind and sea, however, do not exist. We realise how defenceless the islandes are.
  • There are no allies in this battle, nobody to support them.
  • The ‘But’ on line 11 marks a turning point, a change.
  • He has been distracted from thinking about the storm by imagining the trees, and how we look at trees in storms.
  • ironic, really, that he is distracted from thinking about the storm because he’s thinking about the wind in the trees.
  •  the semantic field related to the wind that Heaney uses, from ‘storm’ to ‘blows full blast’, ‘gale’.
  • The verb ‘pummels’ is in the present tense making it constant and immediate, reminding us that the storm is an ever-present concern on the island. It is a word which makes it sound like an unrelenting attack, something that doesn’t give in.
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'wind dives and strafes invisibly.Space is a salvo

  • The phrase “while wind dives/and strafes invisibly’ has echoes of Owen’s battle against the invisible forces at work in nature, made evident only in the snow flakes.
  • “Strafes” is a verb taken directly from a military vocabulary. To strafe means to attack ground troops from the air with machine-gun fire.
  • That’s such a precise use from Heaney here, where the wind takes on the qualities of a fighter plane – it makes a change from the fighter plane manufacturers naming their planes after weather phenomena (like the Hawker Hurricane, a popular fighter plane and the Hawker Typhoon) – as the wind dives in and attacks, just like a fighter plane would.
  • At this point, it is more than the sea, spitting like a cat, this is an assault.
  • When Heaney says “Space is a salvo” he continues this use of military vocabulary, as a salvo is also related to an attack, this time a persistent onslaught or a multi-weapon assault that happens all at the same time, a simultaneous attack if you like.
  • Finally, we have the word “bombarded” that completes the military images, creating a vision of a wind that acts like a fighter plane, a blitz on the island below.
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Semantic field of nature

  • island is made of 'rock'-means its permanent,strong.
  • However,this nature that seems quite powerful+protective is actually hostile. The earth is 'wizened'(shriveled up)-perhaps reflecting the people on it. Heaney then uses personificartion,earth might trouble other people but doesnt 'trouble us'. Implies taht the spekaer wants the earth just to be peaceful and at least it cant do any harm when its 'wizened'.
  • This is a depressing view of nature-that it needs to be tamed so much that they'd rather have it baren than fertile.
  • The islanders have  utterly destroyed a place that used to be so full of life,"no trees,no natural shelter"man is destroying his own environment.
  • Heaney could be suggesting that his countrymen have destroyed nature and could even go so far as to say this is nature's revenge-creating this conflict and this is far fetched because it is'nt nature thats atttacking them it's man's nature that has ruined this island and also ruining their own lives.
  • The speaker harks back to a time when nature and man were in harmony as nature was "company" but now "it blows full blast" and 'flung spray" as though nature in all its forms. is rejecting man being too destructive and unharmonious.
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  • Even the trees themselves are "raising a chorus" and protesting against the kind of landscape that man has created-(physical one without trees and the historical landscape of people at war with each other.) This reference to a "tragic chorus" is an allusion to greek tragedy in plays and their job was to warn audiences of the coming tragedies. Reflects Heaney's intentions as he is warning his fellow irish readers of the tragedy that is coming in the form of bombings and assassinations.
  • The animals of the natural world particularly domestic,"tame"ones like cats have turend against these people because they have damaged nature so much by their framing practices,by deforestation,by cutting into the rock.
  • War imagery also links to how nature is driving man out as a kind of punishment for what man has done to the island and what the irsh have done to Northern Ireland with the civil war.
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"WE just sit" "WE are bombarded""WE fear"

  • This society is acting as a series of individuals who arent there acting in the common good so the "WE" is just a group of disconnected people who connect themselves through violence not through improving their own lives and the lives of others. Heaney is asking people to work for the common good instead of working togther in attack of other.
  • Furtehrmore, warfare can only be a negation/an attack on other people's lives. In othe words,we attack people who we think are different from 'us'
  • The final 'we' reflects how this whole society is living in fear so there's an ultimate condemnation and attack on the politics of his own country where he's crying out for catholics and protestants to stop fighting each other and just recognise their similarities instead of their differences. He is against civil war in Northern Ireland.
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  • repetition of 'but' in lines 11+14 implies that the speaker ought to be able to see a different way of living but cant.
  • He challenges the reader 'you' to see the world like he does but we reject that view because of this horrible, hostile environment that's being described.
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