This poem deals with the death of a young child, who is only 4 years old and how Heaney, as a child, reacts to this event.
In the opening stanza Heaney, as a child, is waiting in the sick bay at school to be taken home. There is asense of boredom as he counts the bells waiting for classes to end. It is as if he doesn’t really understand what is going on and would rather be in class.
The second stanza finds Heaney back at home, seeing his father crying, which is surprising as ‘he had always taken funerals in his stride’.
‘The baby cooed and laughed’ shows the lack of understanding, it seems it is the adults who are most upset and the baby, innocent of all knowledge, reacts normally, life goes on.
Heaney, too, is embarrassed by the way ‘old men’ come to shake his hand and say they are ‘sorry for my trouble’ showing his lack of comprehension.
There is a sense of quiet throughout, with ‘whispers’ ‘tearless…