In an extended metaphor Heaney draws a parallel between the act of faith required to board an aeroplane en route to the somewhere-new and the insecurities that newly-weds might harbour. The ‘flight’ is both plane journey and a personal escape into a new world.
Airborne, the watcher sees Below a bird’s-eye view of patchwork earth, dark hems of hedge. Landscape features recall the symbolic rituals of the recently celebrated wedding: the long grey tapes … that bind and loose used in the ceremony by the priest to unite the hands of bride and groom resemble the network of roads beneath that unite the Irish countryside in casual marriage.
The loss of familiar, Irish country-scape, small lough and farmhouse … our familiar landscape turns things upside-down: the sure green world goes topsy-turvy.
Just as alterations in the sound of the plane’s engine are worrying, unfamiliar shifts generate anxieties in newly-weds for which mutual reassurance is essential: engine noises change. You look at me.
The miraculous physics of air-flight introduces reasons for optimism: the thrust of jet engine and its force of fire are a metaphorical launch-pad for a positive young couple; the aerodynamics that enable the plane to hang … dependent on the invisible air are a means to moving ahead, not just to remain airborne but to bring us further; perceived danger, the water below, remains precisely where it is.
The view Ahead of us, a metaphor for the future, cannot conceal a shiver of underlying uncertainty: despite the small, still voice of calm to which they willingly listen: but yet we feel lost. There is potential turbulence along the flight-path-life-path: the sky’s a geyser now … air pockets jolt our fears.
At this stage in a flight, inexperienced air passengers cross their fingers in much the same way as slightly apprehensive newly-weds: Travellers at this point can only trust.
- as much a reference to the post-marital event as metaphor for the journey required and undertaken to achieve durable togetherness;
- 16 lines based on 10 syllables lines; 4 quatrains; a loose rhyme scheme abab cdcd etc
- Heaney’s use of 1st person plural pronouns we and us indicates a new togetherness and shared experience; the groom seeks to bolster his wife’s morale however much his own might be stuttering;
- rich and varied assonant effects: [ɜː] -work/earth/ -turvy/ further/ world; [e] hems of hedge; [ei] grey tapes;-scape/ change; [au] out/ our; [ɪ] slips/ wing-tip; [æ] hang, miraculous, above; [ʌ]us/ us/; [ai] sky/geyser;
- alliteration: force of fire;
- allophone sounds of [o]: pockets jolt/down we go
- geyser; a powerful natural phenomenon ejecting water into the air at unpredictable intervals;
- the spread of punctuation and enjambed lines acts as a pointer to the rhythms and the emphases recommended for oral delivery;
- all four elements are invoked to celebrate the unity and exhilaration of love and marriage (Michael Parker Seamus Heaney, The Making of a Poet p.72);
- experiences/ which involve risk and the overcoming of fear through trust (ibid p.73);