Seamus Heaney(1939-2013) is a renowned Irish writer. He bagged the Nobel prize for literature in 1995. American poet Robert Lowell calls Heaney ” the most important Irish poet after Yeats.”
He found subjects for his poetry from his surroundings. He was a great observer of nature and his poetry narrates the beauty of nature, specifically in Ireland.
Seamus Heaney in his poetry links history with the present to portray the ideas associated with his life. Some critics opine that Seamus Heaney’s poetry is a representation of Irish history.
He also uses poetic techniques like consonance, assonance, and alliteration. Digging is one of his most notable works. We can find alliteration in this poem also.
Digging is a simple poem with autobiographical characteristics and narrations. This poem also reminds the cultural and employment conflicts of a modern Irish man.
This poem narrates the writer’s search for identity. He depicts the challenges as a poet who is grown up in an agricultural family. In this poem, he admires his father and grandfather. He recognizes their physical work and compares it with his intellectual work.
In the first stanza, the writer narrates the setting, in which the poet is ready to pen his thoughts. Poet can hear the voice of spading created by his father as part of his digging.
The poet describes his father’s career as a farmer as at least twenty years old. Like most other cultivators, his father also had potatoes as the main crop.
The poet then welcomes the reader’s attention to the hard work carried by his father and grandfather. Heaney claims his grandfather was strong and he used cut turfs which need physical strength.
Heaney recollects about a day in which he ran to his grandfather with a bottle of milk and the grandfather drank it quickly and continued digging without sparing any minutes.
In the second last stanza, the poet confesses that he cannot spade-like his father or grandfather father. Yet the poet confirms that the living legacy of his family will always awaken his thoughts.
The Poet concludes that he is continuing digging differently. The poet believes that creating poetry is an act of digging where the poet uses a pen as a spade. The writer digs with the hope of finding fruitful thoughts. Balamani Amma’s offering is also a poem that dignifies poetry.
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Read the poem below.
Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests: snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: My father, digging. I look down Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft against the inside knee was levered firmly. He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep To scatter new potatoes that we picked Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots awaken in my head. But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.