Feb 242012
 

A Hagging Match

 

How to say ‘I’m stuck on you’ in twenty words.

The are two protagonists, an I and a you; a ‘match’ is possible. The I is occupied indoors; the you is engaged out of doors. In the poetic mind sounds conjure up associations: the familiar sounds of axe thumps recall wave hits through/ a night ferry.

The source of the sound is straightforward enough: splitting firewood carried out by the un-named You. What follows is an expression of closeness and endearment. Any elusiveness is down to the subtleties of language: ‘she’ is a person Whom I cleave to. The verb is appropriate both to the ‘chopping’ theme and  the message about bonding. Heaney has a second verb up his sleeve hew to. Same meanings, same bond. The message to the lumberjack-wife is doubly clear … double ‘edged’ you might say!

  • Assessing a relationship in an unusual way; a brief poem with an elusive message. Just six lines using archaic language; teasing syntax; a single sentence split by a colon;
  • The poem also provides insights into the kinds of analogies that immediately suggest ‘poem-life’ to the poetic mind;
  • The title is derived from an Old English word ‘hag’: to chop, cut;
  • our subsequent identification of those involved is made easier by alternative meanings of match: a marriage or relationship; a similarity; a fitting-together; a reflection; a mirror image; a dead ringer.
  • Cleave: ‘split in two’; secondary meaning “to adhere,” O.E. clifian
  • Hew: O.E. heawan “to chop, hack, gash” Seemingly contradictory sense of “hold fast, stick to” (in phrase hew to) developed from hew to the line “stick to a course,” lit. “cut evenly with an axe or saw,” first recorded 1891.