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Digging by Seamus Heaney
Digging A poem by Seamus Heaney
In this poem 'Digging' by Seamus Heaney, there is an element of ambiguity. The author writes this poem about a Father 'digging potatoes' - this however, is only on the surface. Underlying the true intention or meaning of the poem reveals the great admiration and respect for how hardworking his Father and Grandfather was. All though this may just be a poem about 'digging potatoes'. The poet reveals the tremendous skill in digging and conveys certain artistry in this physical act. The poet also uses this poem to speak out against the past political situation of farming in Ireland.
He uses his words as a 'weapon' to speak out what he personally feels to be wrong.
The poem is written in free verse. Although the first two stanzas of the poem show the start of regularity and rhyme, this changes to the use of free verse continuing to the end of the poem. This form of free verse allows the poet a freedom for subtle rhythmic variety, for example using assonance. Or making words look like they rhyme. Which is shown quite regularly through this poem.
Free verse also complements the style of the poet 'connecting' with the reader in the way that it seems like the poet is writing directly to the reader. Making it a more 'in touch' and personal poem to subjects that we can relate to. In this case. Having a respect for your Father or your heritage.
The poems opening line, in a simple, complete one line statement, conveys the impression of the poet talking to us directly and also sets a 'snapshot' of time for the reader:
"Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests; snug as a gun"
This opening line focuses our attention to the fact that this is set in present time. It is as if the opening lines in the first stanza is creating the beginning of his memories being told by the poet.
When Seamus Heaney uses the word "gun" in relation to his "pen." The author uses this simile "gun" to express his relief that he can use his pen instead of a gun as a weapon. It shows a new belief that you do not have to use violence to achieve your goal.
Seamus Heaney is careful n choosing the word "gun" - almost a starting point in what else that he chooses to say as a "weapon" for the subjects raised in the rest of the poem.
Seamus Heaney is able to document time successfully. In the opening lines of the poem, it is as if he sets the beginning of his memory or starting to tell the 'story' of his father 'digging.'
He moves on to say: "Under my window, a clean rasping sound/When spade sinks into gravelly ground"
So we move on to the next stanza to his father digging. These lines are extremely effective in producing this image in ones mind using onomatopoeic words such as 'rasping' and 'gravelly' which depicts the image of the act of digging. This shows to be clever technique in the poem.
As mentioned, the ambiguity shown in this poem is particularly evident. The poet conveys one thing, but can be interpreted that he means something different. It could be a case of trying to disguise what is really trying to say.
In the second stanza of the poem he uses the word "gravelly" not only to create the image of digging, but can be seen as "symbolic." Seamus Heaney is alluding to the one crop law that was imposed on Ireland by England. The law later blamed for the famine that struck Ireland when the potato crop failed. Seamus Heaney shows the ground is 'grave like' because it was the physical cause for the famine. The soil retained too much water, resulting in the potato crop rotting. The message in just this word 'gravelly' is to the reader and the way that Seamus Heaney uses ambiguity, it is to educate the reader of the hardship that these farmers had to go through under the English oppressive rule. This is an example of how a pen can be a weapon.
In the third stanza where Heaney uses "twenty years" he is watching his Father digging in the flowerbeds, this brings back memories of his
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Seamus Heaney, Heaney, Death of a Naturalist, Poetry, North, digging by seamus heaney, digging potatoes, personal poem, squat pen, true intention, word gun, seamus heaney, physical act, assonance, free verse, opening lines, stanzas, political situation, regularity, ambiguity, artistry, simile, stanza, present time, admiration
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