Storm on the Island - Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

Storm on the Island - Seamus Heaney (1939-2013)

CONTEXT

  • Heaney was an Irish poet in the 20th century.
  • He often wrote about the power of nature. However, this poem can also be seen as a comment on the civil war ravaging Ireland.
  • Stormont (see title!) was a place heavily involved in conflict.
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Lines 1 - 5

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,

Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.

This wizened earth has never troubled us

With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks

Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees

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Lines 6 - 10

Which might prove company when it blows full

Blast: you know what I mean - leaves and branches

Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale

So that you can listen to the thing you fear

Forgetting that it pummels your house too.

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Lines 11 - 15

But there are no trees, no natural shelter.

You might think that the sea is company,

Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs

But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits

The very windows, spits like a tame cat

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Lines 16 - 19 (end)

Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives

And strafes invisibly. Space is salvo.

We are bombarded by the empty air.

Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

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Key Quotes to Learn

"Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate" - preparing themselves, protecting themselves against nature with nature.

"spits like a tame cat/ Turned savage" - nature is unpredictable but can also be a provider. Enjambment emphasizes how the weather can change from nice to hell in a matter of seconds.

"Space is salvo./ We are bombarded by the empty air." - Strong references to war, shows that this could have been an underlying message about the civil war at the time.

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