Allan Reid -
HEANEY AND HARDY POETRY ANTHOLOGY - Context
Heaney – List E
Hardy – List F
· At A Potato Digging (Section 1)
· Last Look
· An Advancement in Learning
· The Old Workman
· Wagtail and Baby
· A Sheep Fair
· At Castle Boterel
· An August Midnight
· Overlooking the River Stour
List E – Seamus Heaney
- Taken from Heaney’s 1969 collection ‘Door into the Dark’.
- The collection, overall deals with vanishing trades and skills such as thatching, field-ditching and forging.
- Heaney adopts a metaphorical role of thatcher, similar to the persona of the Blacksmith he adopts in ‘The Forge’ – also in this collection.
- Greek Mythology – Midas; a King that had the power to turn anything or anyone he wanted into gold by the touch of a finger.
- Heaney uses his childhood memory from the 1940s and 50s of blackberry-picking to show how simplistic tasks such as this one can build hope up for it to disappoint almost overnight.
- The poem belongs to his collection of work, ‘Death of a Naturalist’ which overall depicts childhood experiences that influence the formulation of adult identities and rural life.
- Bluebeard – a fictional character from French folklore who was a violent nobleman who murdered his wives.
At A Potato Digging – Section 1
- Dates from the late 1960’s; taken from his ‘Death of a Naturalist’ anthology.
- Farming methods in the 1960’s still relied on the manual labour that existed in the 19th century. Many people depended upon a single crop: the potato.
- The Famine God – known as ‘Fear Gorta’ – was a phantom of hunger resembling an emaciated human. In fact, many believe he was a harbinger of famine, especially in the 1940s, and that his spirit originally rose from a patch of hungry grass.
- Taken from his 1984 collection of poems ‘Station Island’, which deals with the quest for self-identity.
- Heaney refers to local Irish people throughout much of his poetry such as ‘At a Potato Digging’, ‘The Other Side’ and of course, ‘Last Look’.
- The man in the poem is connected to Irish mythology; the legend of Niamh and Oisin…