English Lit - Digging

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Digging

Topic

  • The title is blunt. It is only when we have read the poem carefully that we realise that all three generation are involved in digging: his grandfather dug turf, his father dug up potatoes, Heaney is digging up his memories and his past.

Language

  • The poem begins in the present tense as Heaney describes seeing his elderly father straining among the flowerbeds, then goes into the past tense when he remembers his father and grandfather at work. The last two stanzas return to the present, when Heaney realises that his work is to write. The final line, however, is in the future tense, to emphasise Heaney's determination - 'I'll Dig'
  • His father was clearly skilled at his work. Heaney remembers him 'Stooping in rhythm through potato drills' and his boot and his knee fitted the spade perfectly. He uses technical terms (lug, shaft) to stress that the spade is a precise tool. 'By God the old man could handle a spade' is a simple, loving exclamation of pride.
  • He was also proud of his grandfather, who was so keen to work that he hardly stopped when Heaney brought him some milk. His work was

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