Seamus Heaney Poetry

Biography of the writer:

  • Eldest member of the family
  • Nine siblings
  • Father is a farmer
  • Father’s real commitment was to cattle-dealing
  • Uncle cared for him after the early death of his own parents
  • his parentage thus contains both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution
  • Heaney grew up as a country boy and attended the local primary school.
  • As a very young child, he watched American soldiers on manoeuvres in the local fields, in preparation for the Normandy invasion of 1944
  • Born in between war
  • 1995 won nobel prize

First poem (Vicky): digging


  • The world digging connects with the fact  that Seamus Heaney was raced in a farm.
  • They are digging the farm (literary) and he is digging inside (internal journey to be able to discover what he wants to do)

Tone: reflection, admiration, pride

Theme: family history, epiphany

Rite of passage:

  1. An attainable object of desire —> the pen
  2. Trespassing  the father figure authority —> he does not want to do what his father wants him to do
  3. A dare —> cut off rutes with the family
  4. Understand the mischief —> confess and tell the family he does not want to be a farmer
  5. Apologizing —> feeling sorry because of finishing the legacy

What the poem is about: the voice is going back in his history and watching the family work. He understands what his legacy is but he denies it since he did not want to follow what his grandfather and father do, he wants to be a writer and cut the roots of his legacy.

Epiphanic moment: he cannot work on on the land because he wants to be a writer  

Metaphor: ‘snug as a gun’ the gun wants to express that the pen is as dangerous as a weapon. He cannot write because he is eliminating the legacy as weapons eliminate life.

Seamus life: the poem connects to Seamus’s life since he is describing the moment he realized he did not want to continue working in the fields. He wanted to do what he was born to do, write. In the poem he exploits the moment of revelation he had, by digging with his pen inside him. He discovers what would make him happy and defies the family tradition and figure. His happiness is more important than what his family would think about him.

Second poem: Ignacio Death of a naturalist

The rite of passage in “Death of a Naturalist” is portrayed by the emphasis done Heaney on the loss of innocence the voice of the poem passes through after observing two frogs reproducing themselves. The object of desire in this case would be the wish to adquire more knowledge, in this case, by observing the frogs.

Third poem: Lola Personal Helicon 

  • The poem describes the voice’s childhood, in this case Heaney’s
  • We can appreciate the transition from his childhood to his adulthood
  • When he was young he was obsessed with wells, but now he no longer cares for childish obsessions. However, he expresses how the wells are a source of inspiration for his writing