Nov 212013
 

Afterthoughts

Finding the blend.

The most successful poets share much in common with the best chefs; the latters’ knowledge of the finest products supplemented by a talent that adds the individual flavours of spices, herbs and myriad ingredients in just the right amounts at just the right moment produces the unique, mouth-watering experiences capable of delighting and inspiring those who savour the result. The ‘knowledge’ is gleaned from experience and requires hard work; the ‘talent’ is a gift granted only to the very few.

In these respects Heaney is a craftsman pursuing a similar goal. In Station Island he is the ‘master-chef’.

A number of poems in the collection offer insights into the poetic process as Heaney experiences it.

Whatever the initial stages in the process, the moment a poem ‘comes on’ or ideas with a poetic charge emerge, the stages by which these are translated into poetic form involve a deliberate and sometimes lengthy process of composition and revision, selection and rejection that determines the ultimate structure, vocabulary, verse-form, imagery and potential for success of each poem.

At one stage or another the poet will settle on: the length of the poem and its internal structure; the nature of the verse (free or rhymed); the choice of individual words or phrases most fitting to carry ideas through, thanks to their meaning, implication or sound, and so on. Whilst this is a far from exhaustive list of considerations it does indicate that inspiration is not automatic and that spontaneity can only gain from being worked upon.

In addition to the depth and richness of his personal ‘word hoard’, his personal store of material, gleaned from scholarship and interest, plus a sensitivity and a discrimination born of wide reading of literature, Heaney has access to a rich vein of poetic devices accessible to and used by all poets; he will select from the list deliberately, adapting them to his own intentions, perhaps because he wants them to add something, or ring a change, or carry an image through, or provide an echo; his aim in brief: to turn ordinary language into something special, a recipe of ingredients into a culinary feast for the senses. There is an alphabetical list of such stylistic devices at the end of this volume; knowing them by name is useful but ‘spotting’ one is less valuable, perhaps, than appreciating what it brings to the poem.

The blending of these ingredients can be roughly translated as ‘style’, that is, the ‘mix’ favoured by Heaney in each poem to carry his message forward (v. footnotes that comment on this aspect).

Not least in these considerations is the question of resonance; the richness and variation of consonant and vowel sounds provide the poet with a musicality over and above the bare narrative. Heaney knows this and rings the changes within his poems.Broadly (though not uniquely) the two aspects that best resonate are assonance and alliteration. For questions of oral delivery, intonation and cadence see the relevant section below.

Providing a music pleasing to the ear.

Singing scored music brings an awareness of a code of letters, abbreviations and signs that can be placed above or below the notes to indicate or modify the ways in which a piece is performed. When the human voice becomes an instrument, then in terms of volume: f tells us to sing the next phrase loudly; ff to sing it very loudly; p softly; mp a little less softly; cresc (crescendo) tells us to sing the phrase increasingly loudly, and so on. Other words interpret the tempo:rallentando says gradually slow down the phrase’. Other signs tell us to emphasise a word or to pause for an instant. Others advise on the sound: sad or harsh, light or sweet or slowly dying away. Without expression marks the piece would be monotonous and boring.

The same code should be applied to a poem by its reader. After all poems are songs that, when read aloud, cry out for individual dynamics. Heaney actually uses specific musical terms in The Rain Stick published in The Spirit Level collection of 1996 (diminuendo, scales [un]diminished) but, of course, he does not provide coded recommendations alongside the text. Musicians do this but, apart from ictus accents and some aspects of sprung-verse, poets do not.

It is the words and phrases themselves and the way they are punctuated that invite variations of timbre, modulation and cadence and by reciting them with dynamics in mind the reader can turn each poem into a linguistic ‘event’! Heaney is a composer who uses words instead of notes.

Using assonance.

In North, the collection Heaney experiments with a variety of poetic forms and rhyme schemes; these are summarised below. Beyond these end-of-line rhymes he indulges in internal echoes of vowel sounds.

The poet places a rich variety of assonances in ostensibly random but in fact quite deliberate order, now juxtaposed, now separated by other figures. He is seeking to compose perfectly tuned phrases and wants his developing skill of playing with musicality of language and word order to generate beautifully turned passages. His thought processes and instinctive use of rhythm seem to go hand in hand, whether in phrases of bare simplicity or more complex ideas and emotions.

The English language with its complex spelling system offers assonant effects by creating words that sound remarkably similar even though their spelling is radically different: e.g. wood/ would

Equally, offering no assonant effect, some words with similar spelling sound very different: ought/ though/ through/ cough.

The present document uses standard Phonetic symbols alongside assonant sounds; theses are tabled below.

Standard English sounds and their phonetic symbols

Vowels

[ɪ] pit/ did

[e] press/ bed/ said

[æ] clap/ bad

[ɒ] tot /odd

[ʌ] cut/ love / must

[ʊ] foot /good/ pull

[i:] fleece/ please

[ei]  face/ cake/ break

[ai] price/ try/ trial

[ɔɪ] voice/ toy

[uː]  loose/ lose/ two

[əʊ]  moat/ show

[au] south /now

[ɪə] hear/ here

[eə] square/ pair

[ɑː] start/ rather

[ɔː] bought/ law

[ʊə] poor /jury

[ɜː] curse / flirt

[ə]about common

[i] happy radiate

[u]  you situation

Using alliteration.

Consonants differ according to where in the mouth they are formed: between the lips [p] [b] ; behind the teeth [t] [d]; velar or alveolar [[dʒ] [k]. Some, identically produced, are voiced [b], some are voiceless [p]. Some ‘plode’ in a single sound, others can be continuous, floating on air being exhaled [s] [w], some are nasal [m], [n], [ŋ] (as in ‘ring’ some involve friction [f], others are frictionless [w].

The poem can benefit from all of these ‘musical’ alternatives and Heaney knows it. He sprinkles his composition with alliterated consonants judged best suited to mood or melody. No poem seems bereft of this possibility, some are loaded; they may feature an interweave of sounds made in the same area of the mouth e.g. [s] [sh] [k] [tʃ] [dʒ] such that the resonance echoes and re-echoes with the tiniest of variations.

Heaney’s alliterations arrive in pairs or larger groupings. Alliteration and assonance can be used in tandem to create a different effect: The permutations are endless and Heaney rings the changes as each individual poem reveals on close examination.

Standard English sounds and their phonetic symbols

Consonants

[p] voiceless bi-labial plosive

[b] voiced bi-labial plosive

[t] voiceless alveolar plosive

[d] voiced alveolar plosive

[k] voiceless velar plosive

[g] voiced velar plosive

[tʃ] voiceless alveolar fricative as in church match

[dʒ] voiced alveolar fricative as in judge age

[f] voiceless labio-dental fricative

[v] voiced labio-dental fricative

[θ] voiceless dental fricative as in thin path

[ð] voiced dental fricative as in this other

[s] voiceless alveolar fricative

[z] voiced alveolar fricative

 

[ʃ] voiceless post-alveolar fricative as in ship sure

[ʒ] voiced post- alveolar fricative as in pleasure

[h] continuant

[m] bi-labial nasal

[n] alveolar nasal

[ŋ] palatal nasal as in ring/ anger

[l] alveolar approximant

[r] alveolar trill

[j] dental ‘y’ as in yet

 

  • Front-of-mouth sounds and their phonetic symbols:

voiceless bi-labial plosive [p] voiced bi-labial plosive [b]; voiceless labio-dental fricative [f] voiced labio-dental fricative [v]; bi-labial nasal [m]; bilabial continuant [w]

  • Behind-the-teeth sounds:

voiceless alveolar plosive [t] voiced alveolar plosive [d]; voiceless alveolar fricative as in church match[tʃ]; voiced alveolar fricative as in judge age [dʒ]; voiceless dental fricative [θ] as in thin path; voiced dental fricative as in this other [ð]; voiceless alveolar fricative [s] voiced alveolar fricative [z]; continuant [h] alveolar nasal [n] alveolar approximant [l]; alveolar trill [r]; dental ‘y’ [j] as in yet

  • Rear-of-mouthsounds:

voiceless velar plosive [k] voiced velar plosive [g]; voiceless post-alveolar fricative [ʃ] as in ship sure, voiced post- alveolar fricative [ʒ] as in pleasure; palatal nasal [ŋ] as in ring/ anger.

 

 

 

Forms and Rhymes

Part One

The Underground

four quartets; a two-sentence structure; much use of enjambment, with sporadic use of comma echoes the rush of the two figures and occasional stutters; unrhymed;

ten assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text;

La Toilette

three quatrains; six sentence construct including questions; emphasis on shared experiences; no formal rhyme scheme but loose rhymes in the first six lines;

line length between 6 and 8 syllables;

eight principal assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text:

Sloe Gin

four quatrains; no rhyme scheme; 5 sentence construct; line length variable between 2 and 7 syllables;

sentences are fully enjambed, with the exception of the final one

ten principal assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Away from it All
seven quintets in a nine-sentence construct disrupted by 2 short questions triggered in an active mind;

line lengths vary from the initial 4-syllable line up to 10 syllables; enjambed lines follow the ebb and flow of the conversation;

eleven principal assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Chekhov on’ Sakhalin
seven quatrains; a loose rhyme pattern based on couplets;

ten-sentence construct; line length varies between 9 and 10 syllables; the interplay between enjambed lines and in-line punctuation makes for varied ebb and flow in oral delivery;

ten principal assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Sandstone Keepsake
six quatrains; line length based loosely on ten syllables; no rhyme scheme;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Shelf Life

1 Granite Chip

13 lines, a single followed by 3 quatrains; no formal rhyme scheme but loose rhymes in the quatrains aa/ bb etc; line length based on 10 syllables; 7-sentence construct, 4 in the last quatrain as the chip offers advice from different sources; alternation of punctuation and enjambment offers musical opportunities in oral delivery;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

2 Old Smoothing Iron

5 quatrains in 7 sentences; line length based on 7 syllables; Q1 and 2 totally enjambed; the later combination of enjambment and punctuation;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text
3 Old Pewter

3 quatrains in 2 complete sentences; a judicious mix of enjambment and punctuation establishes the dynamic of delivery;line lengths based on ten syllables; no rhyme pattern;

ten assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

4 Iron Spike

six quatrains; a 7-sentence construct including 3 questions; no rhyme scheme; line length between 6 and 8 syllables; a blend of enjambed and punctuated lines;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

5 Stone from Delphi

six lines as a single sentences split by a colon; 1 end-of-line rhyme but no more than a loose pattern; line length based on 10 syllables; a poem of 2 halves;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.
6 A Snowshoe

four quatrains; line length base around 10 syllables; a loose rhyme scheme aabb ccdd etc;

constructed in 5 sentences with a spread of punctuation and enjambed lines offering rhythmic potential;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

A Migration

thirteen sextets arranged into a 14 sentence construct; line length between 4 and 7 syllables; a pattern of loose rhymes now ll. 2 an 4. now 1 and 3 in later verses but no formal pattern; continuously enjambed lines;

Heaney weaves assonant strands into the text placing them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprising them at intervals or threading them through the text.

Last Look
an elegy in 4 sections of 12, 6 and 20 lines respectively; line length based between 4 and 7 syllables arranged within 7 sentences; much use made of enjambment to open up the rhythmic flow;whilst there is no formal rhyme scheme assonant echoes and some actual rhyme occur at intervals;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Remembering Malibu
thirteen couplets arranged in a five-sentence construct; line length between 6 and 10 syllables; no formal rhyme scheme but sporadic rhymes within couplets or on alternative lines; considerable use of enjambed lines and varied sometimes mid-line punctuation offers varied dynamic flow of recitation;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Making Strange

seven quatrains composed as five sentences; variable line length from 5 to 10 syllables;a balance of enjambed and punctuated lines; no rhyme scheme;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Birthplace
I
three triplets in three sentences; lines based on ten syllables;punctuated lines accompany the movement of the eye; enjambed lines open a flow of reaction to what is observed;a single rhyme but no scheme;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

II five triplets in a single sentence with numerous enjambed lines and almost uninterrupted flow; lines of 6 or 7 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

III six triplets; a 4-sentence construct; lines between 3 and 8 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Changes

thirteen couplets arranged in five sentences; lines of variable length up to 10 syllables; balanced use of enjambment and punctuation; limited rhyme and no formal scheme;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

An Ulster Twilight
nine quatrains; line length between 4 and 10 syllables; rhyme scheme aa/bb (tight, loose or assonant);six-sentence construct; considered use of enjambed lines provides ebb and flow in delivery;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

A Bat on the Road

an epigraph followed by eight triplets; variable line-length between 7 and 12 syllables; no rhyme scheme; composed in 12 sentences the rhythm comes to echo the erratic flight and search of the bat; both adjectives and verbs provide powerful description of bat behaviour;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

A Hazel Stick for Catherine Ann

twelve couplets assembled in 5 sentences; lines between 4 and 10 syllables; plentiful use made of enjambed lines and a legato feel;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

A Kite for Michael and Christopher
a five-section piece, stanzas of increasing length; lines variable between 4 and 10 syllables; six-sentence construct;

ten assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Railway Children

four triplets and a single line; length between 7 and 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme;

a four sentence construct with copious use of enjambed lines;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Sweetpea

an unusually formed sonnet using three half lines in its five sentence construct; free verse; wide variation in line-length;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them. through the text

An Aisling in the Burren
an octet and two quintets forming a four sentence structure; line length from 6 to 10 syllables; some loose rhymes initially but no formal scheme; more enjambed lines than punctuated ones, influencing rhythm potential in oral delivery;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Widgeon

eight lines split 3-2-3; a single sentence with 2 pauses marked by colons; lines between 5 and 7 syllables; a pattern of mainly assonant rhymes;twelve assonant strands are woven into this short text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals.Sheelagh na Gig

I a four sentence construct; five triplets; line length variable between 3 and 9 syllables; no rhyme pattern; a balance between enjambed and punctuated lines, the latter following stage-by-stage movement of the speaker’s eye;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

II a four sentence construct; five triplets; line length variable between 8 and 10 syllables; no rhyme pattern; enjambed lines are in the majority; mid-line punctuation creates breaks to vary the rhythm; commas are present as the speaker’s eye flits about,

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

III a three sentence construct; five triplets; line length variable between 4 and 9 syllables; no rhyme pattern beyond a strong assonant echo in the last five lines;a single enjambed line so very much an enumeration of features;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Loaning

I assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

II a single stanza of eleven lines in 4 sentences; line length between 8 and 11 syllables; unrhymed; multiple enjambed lines alongside in-line punctuation including an exclamation as part of direct speech;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.
III
3 stanzas of decreasing length; 17/18 lines of poetry in total composed in 7 sentences; the first 3 are short as they echo the instruction to listen; the fourth is a lyrical celebration; the fifth and sixth are located in the Dantean Underworld; the final one builds to a strident climax; the vocabulary reflects changes of location and mood; the blend of enjambed lines and other punctuation provides a pleasingly variable ebb and flow of delivery; a dramatic pause separates the 2 halves of stanza 2;

assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Sandpit

110 lines in two stanzas, the first a single sentence then 2 more in the final quartet;variable line length between 4 and 8 syllables; unrhymed;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text

2 four stanzas of irregular length bonded to one another by half lines like brickwork;full lines of 7/8 syllables; unrhymed;a balance of enjambed lines and punctuation; 1 question;

ten assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

3 three stanzas of varying length connected by or featuring half lines;

8 sentences initially staccato short; a balance between enjambed lines and punctuation determines the shape and emphases of oral delivery;line length variable between 4 and 11 syllables; unrhymed apart from strong assonant echo on 4 separate lines;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

417 lines in a single stanza; line length variable between 6 and 10 syllables; unrhymed;

balance of enjambed lines and other punctuation, the first sentence split by a dash, a later colon introducing an enumeration;

up to eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The King of the Ditchbacks

1 six four-line stanzas constructed as 5 sentences;

line length between 2 and 8 syllables; unrhymed; plentiful use of enjambed lines;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

2 the music of what is a prose-poem; though the piece escapes some of the strictures of verse composition, twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

3 thirteen couplets arranged in 5 sentences; unrhymed; line length varies between 5 and 11 syllables; broad array of punctuation marks alongside plentiful use of enjambed lines so interesting dynamics for oral delivery; some direct speech;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

 

Part Two: Station Island

canto I 16 quintets; the piece constructed in 17 sentences (S below); no rhyme scheme;

line lengths based on 6/7 syllables; opportunity for plentiful use of enjambment;

some use of direct speech

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto II 23 triplets plus a single line; almost exclusively 10 syllable lines; 25 sentence structure: no formal rhyme scheme but an emerging pattern in first and third lines: some tight, some loose, some assonant echo; the last and anti penultimate lines given tight rhyme (trace … pace);

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto III eight quatrains (Q) based on lines of 10 syllables; nine sentence (S as below) construct, three in the first line; comprehensive use of enjambed lines; most other punctuation mid-line; no formal rhyme scheme but the emergence of loosely assonant patterns;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto IV 19 triplets and a single line in a 32 sentence construct; the grouping of sentences varies and with it the rhythm and flow, the longest 6 lines, others 2 or 3 to the triplet; the rhythm further influenced by plentiful use of enjambed lines;line length based largely around 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme but a rhyme links the final line with the second previous to it;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto V a 32-sentence construct arranged in 3 long sections of unequal length; 63 lines in all;

largely 10 syllable lines but many exceptions; no formal rhyme scheme but a number of paired rhymes at apparently random intervals; numerous short sentences and longer ones with enjambed lines help determine the ebb and flow of rhythm and oral delivery; some direct speech that mimics the characters speaking; a quotation borrowed from Hopkins;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto VI three sonnets; the first in 10 sentences; the second in four and the third in three;

line length from 7 to (predominantly) 10 syllables; consider the variable pace of the narrative: copious use of enjambed lines interspersed with short phrases with plentiful punctuation; the dynamic changes from legato to staccato;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto VII 27 triplets plus a single final line; 41 sentences of very variable length; flow and rhythm are dictated by degrees of punctuation and enjambed lines; line length based broadly around 9/ 10 syllables; a definite rhyme pattern based on aba cdc in each triplet plus the refinement of rhyming last and antepenultimate lines;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto VIII nearly eighty lines of poetry built into 7 sections (S) of irregular length; a 38 sentence construct;line length based upon 9/ 10 syllables; the single exception points the finger of guilt; following early free verse a clear rhyme pattern emerges, largely couplet based; variable sentence length, the interweaving of punctuated and enjambed phrases and later dialogue in imagined direct speech produce varying currents of flow and rhythm also affected by the emotions expressed

canto IX a sequence of 5 sonnets based on lines of 10 syllables with some exceptions;

enjambed lines contribute to the ebb and flow of the rhythm; variable rhyme pattern

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto X seven quatrains constructed in 12 sentences; sentences of 9/ 10 syllables;no formal scheme but a pattern of alternate-line pairs of loose rhymes emerges;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto XI seventeen triplets in an 18-sentence construct; variable line length dictated largely by the translation of the 16th century text; a faint pattern of rhymes emerges based on the echoing refrain that completes each stanza;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

canto XII thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Part Three: Sweeney Redivivus

The First Gloss

a single quatrain in 2 sentences; the first couplet based on 8 syllables, the second on 6; unrhymed; a double imperative;

even within the 24 words of this short piece seven assonant strands are woven into the text.

Sweeney Redivivus
a sonnet constructed in 4 sentences;lines of variable length; no rhyme scheme;the combination of punctuation and enjambed lines determines the flow and rhythm of oral delivery;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text’

Unwinding

4 triplets in a 3 sentence construct; line length variable between 6 and 10 syllables; considerable use of enjambment makes for uninterrupted flow; no rhyme scheme;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

In the Beech

22 lines of poetry in 6 stanzas of contrasting length; 11 sentence construct; line length between 6-11 syllables; unrhymed;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The First Kingdom
9 sentences grouped in 3 verses of varying length; line length between 5 and 10 syllables; no rhyme scheme; a balance between enjambed lines and other punctuation marks;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The First Flight
11 triplets built into 4 sentences; variable line length between 3 and 9 syllables; no rhyme scheme;the abundant use of enjambed lines often suggests the movements and tempo of bodies in flight;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Drifting Off
9 triplets in 6 sentences; variable line length between 3 and 10 syllables; unrhymed;copious use of enjambment that helps, as in music, to vary the tempi and mood associated with the various families of avian;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Alerted

4 quartets constructed in 2 sentences; unrhymed; generally 7 or 8 syllable lines;copious use of enjambment; few punctuation marks;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Cleric

9 triplets composed in 5 sentences; line length between 4 and 9 syllables;

no rhyme scheme but assonant repetitions create interesting line-end echoes in places; ample use of enjambment;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Hermit

4 triplets; lines between 6 and 8 syllables, unrhymeda single sentence; the hyphen is followed by a kind of pseudo-mathematical hypothesis;almost total use of enjambed lines;

seven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Master

7 sentences composed 5 stanzas of different length; line length between 5 and 7 syllables; unrhymed; considerable use made of enjambed lines;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Scribes

24 lines of poetry in 5 stanzas of varying length;line length between 6 and 10 syllables; unrhymed;the flow of latent animosity makes effective use of enjambed lines combined with full stops;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

A Waking Dream

six assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

In the Chestnut Tree
a sonnet, 7 couplets composed in 5 sentences, of which 3 in the final couplet; line length between 5 and 10 syllables; unrhymed;balance between enjambed lines and other punctuation marks; 2 questions;

nine assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Sweeney’s Returns
3 sextets; 4 complete sentences 2 of them divided by hyphen and colon;line length between 5 and 11 syllables; unrhymed;

eleven assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

Holly

8 couplets arranged in 5 sentences; line length between 7 and 9 syllables; unrhymed;

enjambed lines and full stops in tandem;

eight assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

An Artist

sonnet form; piece divided into 3 stanzas and composed as 6 sentences; line length between 6 and 10 syllables; unrhymed save 2 loose rhymes;enjambed lines and full stops work in tandem;

ten assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme, or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

The Old Icons
5 triplets preceded by a single line posing a question that is eventually answered;4 sentences containing a balance of enjambed line and variously positioned punctuation that choreograph the ebb and flow of oral delivery; line length of 10 and more syllables; unrhymed;

twelve assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

In Illo Tempore
5 triplets arranged in 7 sentences; line length between 6 and 11 syllables; unrhymed; the enjambed lines of the final sentence work to express the poet’s relative disbelief and his relief;

thirteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

On the Road

19 quartets forming 13 complete sentences; line length between 3 and 8 syllables; unrhymed; considerable use made of enjambed lines in a piece that contains quotation and a question;

fourteen assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhyme , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text.

 

Themes and locations

 

The Underground

 

Underground and Underworld merge in a fusion of nightmare and reality.

An underground tunnel acts as a unifying factor for three strands. The first is from the past,the intimate recollection of a mad rush to get to a Promenade concert at the Albert Hall whilst the Heaneys were on honeymoon; the second and third provide imaginative associations (now) recalling a character from a German fairy-tale and the avoidance of the trap that an Orphic figure from classical mythology fell into; autobiographical content.

La Toilette

The early-morning embrace of a beloved one awakens associations with Catholic training and worship. Initial sensual contact focuses on the nightwear and body of a woman engaged in her ‘toilette’; autobiographical content.

 

Sloe Gin

A lyrical poetic toast to the sloe that drips with taste and sensation and to the woman who uses it to produce sloe gin. The poem describes the use of the fruit to create an enjoyable tipple; autobiographical content.

 

Away from it All

The poem has to be read in the context of the Troubles in Ulster, of internment without trial, the H-Blocks at Long Kesh and hunger strikers, the it All from which he seeks respite . Heaney, a poet in the public eye, has sympathies for causes, but is unsure what stance he ought to adopt.

The speaker and his anonymous friendsare enjoying a convivial session in a seafood restaurant somewhere on the Californian coast. A parallel is established between poet and the fate of the lobster they consume: neither can escape; they are both disabled in some respect by a band round pincer or tongue.

 

Chekhov on Sakhalin

The poem has to be read in the context of the Troubles in Ulster, of internment without trial, the H-Blocks at Long Kesh and hunger strikers. Heaney, a poet in the public eye, deplores repressive policies and has sympathies for causes; here he explores the reactions of the Russian author and physician Anton Chekhov, a fellow author faced with similar political circumstances. The narrative follows the Russian on his journey from Moscow to the Russian Far East.

 

Sandstone Keepsake

The beach at Inishowen where Heaney discovered the stone is on the Irish Free State side of the Foyle estuary; across the water, across the border, lies Magilligan Point, the site of an internment camp set up by the British in 1971; the stone is ‘an emblem of the poet’s division’ . It comes to symbolise the speaker’s inner conflict in face of the whole swirl of events, feelings and insecurities to which both he and his native land are subjected, not least his sense of political restrictions imposed upon the north.

Heaney is present.

Shelf Life

Memories are awakened by items that sit on ‘surfaces’ within Heaney’s private space. A second stone acts as a spur to a meditation in which Heaney paints a ‘wry self-portrait of the artists as a political outsider’.The poem includes Heaney’s inner feelings of guilt and anxiety as regards the poet’s status in the community;

1. Granite Chip

Heaney is sensitive to the messages a granite chip from the Martello tower near Dublin is transmitting; it spurs him towards the self-scrutiny he is committed to in this collection; the rebellious, non-conformist Joyce scolds Heaney indirectly for his feeble neutrality, his reluctance to offend by taking sides;

2. Old Smoothing iron

Heaney is shown a way to deal with his current misgivings as a poet. The piece returns to Mossbawn where routinely his mother and Aunt Mary undertook the ironing chore

3.Old Pewter

Heaney’s modest pewter item is the possession of a less privileged, less well educated class. Heaney reaches conclusions about life, about the soul, about moral sense indicating; there is no single way to unravel challenges; loving is a blend of furtiveness, guilt feelings, even slight dishonesty.

4. Iron Spike

A stray discovery breathes new shelf-life into a pioneering age that has outlived the pioneers themselves. Heaney is on his travels in north-east America.

5. The Stone from Delphi

The Delphic oracle was believed to have the power to foretell the future, to help those who made offerings to unravel and determine their future actions. Heaney seeks a means of finding an honourable way through and round the issues that assail him. Located in Greece.

6. A Snowshoe

Heaney sets out in some detail the challenges thrown up by the ‘writing’ process; he employs a device used by trappers that eases progress through the frozen wilderness. two rooms figure in the poem: the first a northern, arctic room; the second bearing an uncanny resemblance to his workroom and thereby his own domestic circumstances in Glanmore

 

A Migration

An all-female family group that has moved into Heaney’s neighbourhood for reasons of necessity; he follows/ reports on their fortunes; located around the Glanmore area south of Dublin’

 

Last Look

The poet takes his last sighting of a man taking his own last looks at the environment in which he has spent his life. The themes of old-age, irish society and folk-lore, modernity all figure. The couple out for a spin on the Donegal coast are most probably the poet and his wife

 

Remembering Malibu

An invitation to the Heaney family to visit an Irish friend and his wife at their home in Malibu in California around 1970 provides a context in which to assess old attachments; transition may be in the making in this tale of two oceans and two cultures with its clash between God and mammon; autobiographical

 

Making Strange

A second context in which to assess old attachments and consider conscious change; a tale of two men and two cultures, representatives of the old world and the new world, the primitive and the polished’ Heaney concludes he does not have to choose between them. When things are no longer the same as they were and when the voice of poetry wants to move on, not everything has to be sacrificed.

 

The Birthplace

Heaney pays his respects to the spirit of English novelist and poet Thomas Hardy at his home in Upper Bockhampton, Dorset, England.

 

I describes the home where Hardy lived and worked, reminiscent of the Heaney boyhood home at Mossbawn in Ulster

II recalls a visit he and his wife made where the ‘atmosphere’ that existed between them was akin to domestic relationships typically illustrated by Hardy in his novels

III the similarities between Bockhampton and Mossbawn/Glanmore lead Heaney to reflect on the twinnings of writers and their work ‘space’, living somewhere and belonging there.

 

Changes

A father and his child witness a special natural phenomenon; the experience provides him with an example of ‘change’ and with it a snippet of wisdom to be stored for the future. It illustrates also the potential gulf between desire and its fulfilment; located near a Heaney home when his daughter was young.

 

An Ulster Twilight

Located in the lost domain of Heaney’s childhood, recalling a festive time of year and reflecting in later life that the mystery of Christmas was something magical distinct from political differences; located in the heart of Heaney’s boyhood community

 

A Bat on the Road

the main ingredients of a bat’s existence, the absence of light/ enlightenment, the withdrawal from the light of day and isolation are equally the metaphorical embodiment of the struggle facing the creative spirit in search of the self. A poet is seeking a new direction. The imagined itinerary followed by the bat bears a close resemblance to suburban landscapes familiar to Heaney.

A Hazel Stick for Catherine Ann

A magic moment from family history: the father reminds the daughter of a stick he fashioned for her to carry and how something extraordinary can emanate from an ordinary event; autobiographical.

A Kite for Michael and Christopher

A second family grouping; initially a father with his own father then this same father with his sons. The poem fuses various themes: parenthood, the human condition, belief and doubt, the tethered spirit. It is about ‘sticking together’; the unfortunate fate of Ireland is also a matter of regret; autobiographical.

 

The Railway Children

This touching poem portrays a world reduced to the dimensions of a child’s imagination. The speaker is one of a group of youngsters exploring the local railway line. The influence of the Catholicism on the young mind is stressed: knowing their place and obedience to Catholic precepts would secure them a place Kingdom of Heaven; set in a specific Heaney boyhood location

Sweetpea

Beauty is fragile but it has a way of surviving the clumsiness of the inexperienced young gardener; recognising one’s own shortcomings and seeking personal development is praiseworthy. It is a fact that Heaney did good turns for example helping his aunts in their gardens, the likely setting here.

An Aisling in the Burren

The road that their lives follow distances people from places to which they are emotionally attached. The aisling is a spiritual envoy sent to the Burren with urgent lessons to teach. Ostensibly to do with threats to the environment the message extends to Irish society suffering from the eternal cycle of sectarian revenge. The poem ios set in the Burren to which the Heaneys have returned.

Widgeon

The bird is an innocent victim of Man’s hunting instincts. Correspondences with the victims of contemporary sectarian violence emerge strongly and the poet raises a critical finger against injustice, his compassion evident in both literal and allegorical contexts.The poem recalls a personal experience.

 

Sheelagh na Gig

A three-poem sequence recalling the projecting Sheelag na Gig block, one of many, mounted beneath the eaves of 12th century Norman/ Romanesque church at Kilpeck near the city of Hereford in England; the sequence is set there.

I The positioning of the block is pinpointed; the Celtic/ Viking provenance of the effigy appears to strike a chord in Heaney’s heart; it is that of a pagan divinity, Earth-mother and trickster,

II The position of the Sheelagh’s hands recalls a snapshot from the speaker’s farming past, human hands holding open a grain bag; this gives rise to a further incident of a religious nature

III The piece returns to the original scene; the initial shock of her immodesty has diverted the observer’s attention away from six other allegorical representations equally worthy of note.

 

The Loaning

A sequence of three poems is inspired by a landscape very familiar to the poet: an Ulster lane and the natural features that run alongside it. The poems are unified by the sounds of nature and rural folk in one form or another and the focus of the sequence shifts between fiction and reality: an initial surreal animation, then a scene of Ulstermen accustomed to each other’s company and finally a lament for things lost or threatening both to the ear and the soul.

I The poem’s launch has the lilt of a folk-song about it;

II From a film-like animation of words as flying objects to a memory of human communication between ‘real’ country men with country manners and minimal rural speech

III The poem’s readers are urged to concentrate hard on a single sense and shut out the rest. What is revealed is that timeless Ulster country life has been forced into co-existence with the sounds of the twentieth century ‘progress’.

The Sandpit

Heaney’s title refers to a play area commonly provided by parents to entertain their youngsters. His four-poem sequence expands the idea to reveal the impact made on the impressionable young Heaney by the post WWII construction industry. The speaker, now an adult, provides retrospective insights and judgements; the child he was is omnipresent. The poem offers a further dimension: both poet and bricklayer respond to a need, constructing something that will survive them; the setting is not identified but towns close to his boyhood home underwent major post-war development.

1. 1946A 7 year old recalls the first spadeful of earth (and, with it, the symbolic impact) of a post-war building development on rural farmland. Minor obstacles were not allowed to stand in the way of huge post-war initiatives whether or not unwonted activity disturbed the balance of Nature:

2. The Demobbed Bricklayer

The anonymous precursor of a character appearing twenty years down the line in District and Circle. The Demobbed Bricklayer who makes exaggerated claims about his ‘military’ past picks up again his pre-war building skills.

3. The Sand Boom

Heaney is adept at titles. Here he uses an image from Economics that indicates a burst of prosperity generated by sudden demand. a 7 year old child recounts his close memories of building processes and applauds tha fact that Nature prevails over man’s efforts.

5. What the Brick Keeps

Heaney recites a host of indelible associations emanating from the sight of brickwork constructed more than sixty years before particularly the mark that his bricklayer/ hero has left on the estate he helped to build.

 

The King of the Ditchbacks

In his three poem sequence Heaney will translate himself into the Sweeney of Sweeny Astray and Sweeney Redevivus (Part 3). Prior to this he traces the circumstances of a remarkable relationship that developed between a twentieth century living poet and a 7th century character from Irish literature who has loomed large in his poetic consciousness for more than a decade. The setting is an unidentified stretch of outdoor Ulster environment. The sequence paints one stage in the process of change.

I A first contact is established with an otherworldly presence that has invaded the speaker’s space without permission.

II Heaney’s initial acquaintance through the medieval Irish poem Buile Suibhne; what attracted him to Sweeney, the challenges of translating the original work and his thirst to know more led to a growing resemblance between poet and legendary king..

III Heaney’s speaker is ‘called’ to submit himself in an initiation ritual that erases any remaining distinctions between himself and his subject. He takes the decision to proceed in his new guise and share the fate of the maddened exiled Sweeney, an outcast from his society destined to overfly his country transformed into a bird.

 

Part 2

canto I

The aftermath of a young man’s decision to ‘go with the spiritual flow’ and undertake the pilgrimage. The dissenting voice of Simon Sweeney pressures him in vain to abandon the pilgrimage and urges him to overcome the orthodoxy of his upbringing; Heaney has not yet arrived at Station Island.

 

canto II

Heaney’s self-scrutiny is pursued in his encounter with the ghost of William Carleton on the road to Lough Derg. Carleton, a 19th century figure who was Catholic and later Protestant and who wrote about the pilgrimage lays emphasis on politics and social turbulence.

 

canto III

The pilgrim is located in one of Station Island’s ‘beds’; he encounters the ghost of a seaside trinket that commemorates the death of a girl of whom Heaney was fond during his boyhood.

 

canto IV

On the island Heaney encounters the ghost of Terry Keenan whom he knew from childhood and who became a missionary father in the tropical rain forests. The certainty of his religious convictions conflicts with Heaney’s lapsing/ lapsed Catholicism. The piece reflects upon religious certainty and the status of the priesthood in Irish society. The irony is that Keenan’s vocation led indirectly to his death.

canto V

On the Island the poet encounters three figures of influence over his personal development: his Primary school head, an anonymous master and poet Patrick Kavanagh

 

canto VI

On the Island the pilgrim achieves sexual freedom. The happening is presented as a real event and not just the fantasy of a young Catholic adolescent male indulging in a brazen carnal act on a hallowed site. The poem’s third sonnet sets out the sexually frustrated adolescence that preceded it.

canto VII

On the island the pilgrim meets the ghost of William Strathearn, a pharmacist who was murdered in the small hours by 2 RUC men in the doorway of his shop. Heaney had known this victim sectarian atrocity in the Troubles when they were young men

 

canto VIII

On the Island Heaney meets two ghosts whose challenges provoke self-rebuke: Tom Delaney was an archaeologist friend who died at thirty-two and Colum McCartney, Heaney’s second cousin who wasmurdered in the Troubles; the latter is the most unrelenting in his criticism of all the ghosts, critical of Heaney’s absence when he was buried and for whitewashing his story in a poem.

canto IX

On the island Heaney meets a hunger-striker’s ghost guaranteeing him a restless night; the poem follows the pilgrim’s varying levels of wakefulness and his surreal dreams.

 

canto X

On the Island the ‘ghost’ of a drinking mug materialises and acts as a symbol of Heaney’s cultural origins to be cherished.

 

canto XI

On the Island Heaney is beginning the process of retrieval and the re-energising himself. He showcases his huge talent for translation in his version of a mystical medieval poem by San Juan de la Cruz (original date uncertain) that suggests that all obstacles can be overcome..

 

canto XII

Clues from the text reveal the final ghost to be that of James Joyce, confirmed by Heaney in his notes. The pilgrim is on his way home and setting foot on dry land still full of the memories and echoes of his three-day pilgrimage and still beset by the host of personal questions and doubts that have remained unanswered. Joyce will tell Heaney that his anxieties serve no purpose.

 

Part 3 Sweeney Redevivus

The First Gloss

Heaney takes the first poetic step in the ‘change’ and revival process, the ‘lift-off’ promised by the new Heaney Sweeneyrelationship. This short, clever piece alludes to the poet’s principal weapon, the pen, that featured in the first poem of Death of a Naturalist written back in August 1964. The original ‘digging’ imagery is replaced by words used in the editing process. Sweeney Redivivus

Enter Sweeney the seventh century Irish king cursed by a bishop, changed into bird and exiled; he will become part of th Sweeney/Heaney hybrid. Old attachments and things tghings that stand in the way of personal development are like a ball of twine that needs to be unravelled.

Unwinding

A further stage in the process of untangling the twine-ball of old existence; the search for self-definition continues

In the Beech

The voice speaks from a treetop; he is looking down on Heaney’s pre D-Day world of the 1943-4. A young poet perches in the frontier tree between old rural ways and the modern military industrialism of wartime air-force bases;a poem about being on the frontier; the twin voice responds to the ‘what was’ and the ‘what is’. The ‘what-is’ is about post-war development and the onset of progress, a take-over with military precision and irresistible power by tanks and trains The First Kingdom

Heaney and Sweeney share a joint exile the first the result of a conscious decision to ‘clear the decks’ of what went before, the second imposed by a bishop’s curse. The speaker paints a caricature of the culture and hierarchies of Irish rural life at the root of his sense of alienation.

The First Flight

The poem comes closest yet to the language and events of Sweeney Astray. The speaker refers to their moment of transfiguration (Sweeney into a bird, Heaney into new determination); the culture and values with which Heaney was brought up come under scrutiny.

 Drifting Off

Heaney’s title offers multiple possibilities: floating on the wind; thinking about other things; falling asleep; losing track; losing concentration. The voice assesses the characteristics of the various ornithological families that cross his flight path and the responses they generate in him. in setting out the different human or poetic qualities amongst the birds in this fable Heaney may well have have people in mind whom he identifies with each breed;

Alerted

The speaker outlines a moment of enlightenment and the animal that awakened him to an alternative world to the one he has been brought up in. his early training was deliberately designed to foster orthodoxy, teach him his place in the order; the call of the vixen in heat leaves him transfixed; her driving forces have nothing to do with training; mating and survival are instinctive and irresistible to her.The Cleric

a missionary priest arrives. The advent of Christianity) is portrayed as a trampling invasion and appropriation of Irish people and land.

The Hermit

In contrast to the missionary figure of The Cleric (see previous poem) Heaney focuses attention on an equally emblematic figure of early Christian history. Hermits generally chose seclusion and ascetic self-sacrifice to the big-impact approach of ‘The Cleric’

The Master

The speaker pays tribute to an anonymous ‘master’ whose opinions are respected and valued and who is a giant against whom to measure his view of himself. He is in fact reworking the meal at which he met Czeslaw Milosz for the first time in California. The master is portrayed within a medieval frame; he is reclusive; getting to him is upwards and arduous for the pupil.The Scribes

Heaney’s own voice is dominant in a poem set in a first millennium monastery where manuscripts were copied and preserved thanks to the monumental efforts of monk-scribes. Allegorically the title alludes to a biblical grouping of people who set themselves up as judges, precursors perhaps of the group of literati surrounding Heaney in his Belfast days whom he judged to have reacted with unwarranted unkindness to his move to Irish Republic in 1972.A Waking Dream

Sharing Sweeney status changes everything. Old patterns will no longer work. The oxymoron of the title sets out the ease with which one forgets this new reality. An ‘old wives’ tale told that a bird could be caught by sprinkling salt on its tail, to the poet a means, perhaps, of capturing ideas with a poetic charge. Subconscious thoughts that leap from one scene to the next without apparent logic lay bare the erratic nature of poetic charges that flash across the poet’s consciousness’In the Chestnut Tree

An unseen observer looks down from the chestnut tree in which he has landed. The female figure who appears might have stepped straight out of a Renaissance painting, one seen by Heaney and reworked as a canvas in words.

Sweeney’s Returns

Heaney explores the emotional reactions of his exiled king whose voice is dominant in the poem. In Sweeney Astray exile has torn Sweeney away from his wife Eorann. The poem is heavy with sexual frustration. Despite the risk of breaking his ‘bail conditions’ and trying to manufacture a sighting of her, Sweeney’s sexual impulses drive him on.Holly

A tale of two hollies, a ‘then’ and a ‘now’ that share a pagan symbol of Christmas-time in common. The outdoor landscape of an exiled Sweeney contrasts with the indoor comfort of a living-room fireside.

An Artist

Heaney selects Paul Cézanne as his subject taking us to a Sweeney-like landscape in which the artist dwelt and worked. Just such a site exists in France’s Provence area: the Sainte-Victoire mountain, a bare, glistening monolith that dominates the countryside in which Cézanne executed many of his canvases. The artist is not named but Heaney provides a series of clues relating to artistic technique and local colour.

The Old Icons

Representations of Irishmen of earlier times, each a political vignette, bringing with it the sad realisation that in Ireland Plus ça change plus c’est la même chose’. The pictures have iconic status. Heaney’s voice is dominant.

In Illo Tempore

From his location on the Dublin sea-front a man shakes his head with disbelief at the success of a religious moulding procedure that shaped him as a youngster, once upon a time in illo tempore, and turned him out identical to countless others. This is an example of ‘hampering’ stuff that must be discarded in the search for renewal.

On the Road

Heaney is adept at titles. The speaker is on a literal journey behind the wheel of his car. At the same time, in this his ‘book of changes’ the poet is on his way, ‘on the road’ to where he wants to be, to what he wants to become. Escape and the desire for renewal leads into the realm of art in the shape of cave drawings. The old obedient conformity is suddenly shattered when in the poet’s imagination the deer inscribed on the wall suddenly comes to life shaking up what has been stale and debilitating.

Troubled times: major events 1975-1984

10 February The PIRA agreed on a ceasefire with the British government and the Northern Ireland Office
20 February A feud began between the Official IRA (OIRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA). The two groups assassinated a number of each other’s volunteers until the feud ended in June 1975
March A feud began between the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA), resulting in a number of assassinations
17 July Four British soldiers were killed by a PIRA remote-controlled bomb near Forkill, County Armagh. The attack was the first major breach of the February truce.[37]
31 July Miami Showband massacre – UVF volunteers (some of whom were also UDR soldiers) shot dead three members of an Irish showband at Buskhill, County Down
1 September Five Protestant civilians (all Orangemen) were killed and seven were wounded in a gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall near Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.[38] One of the Orangemen was an off-duty RUC officer, who returned fire.
2 October The UVF killed seven civilians in a series of attacks across Northern Ireland. Six were Catholic civilians and one was a Protestant civilian. Four UVF volunteers were also killed when their bomb prematurely exploded as they drove along a road in Farrenlester, near Coleraine.
22 November Drummuckavall Ambush – three British Army soldiers were killed and one captured when the PIRA attacked a watchtower in South Armagh.
25 November A loyalist gang nicknamed the “Shankill Butchers” undertook its first “cut-throat killing”. The gang was named for its late-night kidnapping, torture and murder (by throat slashing) of random Catholic civilians in Belfast.
5 December End of internment.
6 December Balcombe Street Siege – for six days, four PIRA volunteers held two hostages at an apartment in London, England.
19 December The Red Hand Commandos exploded a no-warning car bomb in Dundalk, killing two civilians and wounding twenty. Shortly after, the same group launched a gun and bomb attack across the border in Silverbridge. Two Catholic civilians and an English civilian were killed in that attack, while six others were wounded. There is evidence that RUC officers and UDR soldiers were involved in the attacks, which have been linked to the “Glenanne gang“.

1976

4–5 January Reavey and O’Dowd killings – the UVF shot dead six Catholic civilians in two co-ordinated attacks in County Armagh. An officer in the RUC Special Patrol Group took part in the killings, which have been linked to the “Glenanne gang“.

Kingsmill massacre – in retaliation, the South Armagh Republican Action Force shot dead ten Protestant civilians after stopping their minibus at Kingsmill, County Armagh.23 JanuaryThe PIRA truce of February 1975 was officially brought to an end.MarchEnd of Special Category Status for prisoners convicted of terrorist crimes.17 MarchFour Catholic civilians (including two children) were killed and twelve wounded when the UVF exploded a car bomb at Hillcrest Bar, Dungannon. The attack has been linked to the “Glenanne gang”.15 MayThe UVF launched gun and bomb attacks on two pubs in Charlemont, County Armagh, killing four Catholic civilians and wounding many more. A British Army UDR soldier was later convicted for taking part in the attacks.
The PIRA killed three RUC officers in County Fermanagh and one RUC officer in County Down.
5 JuneNine civilians were killed during separate attacks in and around Belfast. The UVF killed five civilians in a gun and bomb attack, the UDA/UFF assassinated a member of Sinn Féin, and two civilians were killed in a bombing by suspected republicans.2 JulySix civilians were killed in a UVF gun attack on Ramble Inn near Antrim, County Antrim. The pub was targeted because it was owned by Catholics. 21 JulyChristopher Ewart Biggs, the British Ambassador to Ireland, and his secretary Judith Cook, were assassinated by a bomb planted in Mr. Biggs’ car in Dublin.30 JulyFour Protestant civilians were shot dead at a pub off Milltown Road, Belfast. The attack was claimed by the Republican Action Force. 10 AugustA PIRA volunteer was shot dead by the British Army as he drove along a road in Belfast. His car then went out of control and killed three children. This incident sparked a series of “peace rallies” throughout the month. The group that organised the rallies became known as Peace People, and was led by Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams. Their rallies were the first (since the conflict began) where large numbers of Protestants and Catholics joined forces to campaign for peace.SeptemberBlanket protests began in the Maze prison, in protest at the end of special category status. The term ‘blanket protest’ comes from the protesters refusal to wear prison uniforms, instead wrapping blankets around themselves.

1977

11 December Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams received the Nobel Peace Prize.

1978

17 February La Mon restaurant bombing – eleven civilians and an RUC officer were killed and thirty wounded by a PIRA incendiary bomb at the La Mon Restaurant near Belfast.
17 June The PIRA killed an RUC officer and kidnapped another near Crossmaglen, County Armagh. The following day, loyalist paramilitaries kidnapped a Catholic priest and vowed to hold him hostage until the RUC officer was freed. However, they released the priest shortly thereafter. In December 1978 the kidnappers were charged both for the kidnapping and for the murder of a Catholic shopkeeper.
21 June The British Army shot dead three PIRA volunteers and a passing UVF volunteer at a postal depot on Ballysillan Road, Belfast. It is claimed that the PIRA volunteers were about to launch a bomb attack.[53]
21 September The PIRA exploded bombs at the RAF airfield near Eglinton, County Londonderry. The terminal building, two aircraft hangars and four planes were destroyed.
14–19 November The PIRA exploded over fifty bombs in towns across Northern Ireland, injuring thirty-seven people. Belfast, Londonderry/Derry, Armagh, Castlederg, Cookstown and Enniskillen were hardest hit.

1979

20 February Eleven loyalists known as the “Shankill Butchers” were sentenced to life in prison for nineteen murders. The gang was named for its late-night kidnapping, torture and murder (by throat slashing) of random Catholic civilians in Belfast.
22 March The PIRA assassinated Richard Sykes, the British ambassador to the Netherlands, in Den Haag. The group also exploded twenty-four bombs in various locations across Northern Ireland.
30 March The INLA assassinated Airey Neave, ConservativeMP and advisor to Margaret Thatcher. The INLA exploded a booby-trap bomb underneath his car as he left the House of Commons, London. If he had lived, he might have become Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, when the Conservatives won the United Kingdom general election two months later.
17 April Four RUC officers were killed by a PIRA van bomb in Bessbrook, County Armagh. The bomb was estimated at 1000 lb, believed to be the largest PIRA bomb used up to that point.
27 August Warrenpoint ambush – eighteen British Army soldiers were killed when the PIRA exploded two roadside bombs as a British convoy passed Narrow Water Castle near Warrenpoint. There was a brief exchange of fire, and the British Army shot dead a civilian. This was the British Army’s highest death toll from a single attack during the Troubles. On the same day, four people (including the Queen’s cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten) were killed by a PIRA bomb on board a boat near the coast of County Sligo.
September During a visit to the Republic of Ireland, Pope John Paul II appealed for an end to the violence in Northern Ireland.
16 December Four British Army soldiers were killed by a PIRA landmine near Dungannon, County Tyrone. Another British Army soldier was killed by a PIRA landmine near Forkill, County Armagh.

1980

17 January Dunmurry train explosion – a PIRA bomb prematurely detonated on a passenger train near Belfast, killing three and injuring five (including the bombers).
October Republican prisoners in the Maze began a hunger strike in protest against the end of special category status.
December Republican hunger strike called off.

1981

21 January Norman Stronge and his son James Stronge (both former UUP MPs) were assassinated by the IRA at their home Tynan Abbey, which was then burnt down.
1 March Republican prisoners in the Maze began a second hunger strike.
9 April Hunger striker Bobby Sands won a by-election to be elected as a Member of Parliament at Westminster. The law was later changed to prevent prisoners standing in elections.
5 May After 66 days on hunger strike, 26 year old Bobby Sands MP died in the Maze. Nine further hunger strikers died in the following 3 months.
19 May Five British Army soldiers were killed when their Saracen APC was ripped apart by a PIRA roadside bomb near Bessbrook, County Armagh.
10 June Eight PIRA prisoners escaped from Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast. Using handguns that had been smuggled into the prison, they took prison officers hostage and shot their way out of the building.
17 July Glasdrumman ambush – the PIRA attacked a British Army post in South Armagh, killing one soldier and injuring another.
1 September Northern Ireland’s first religiously integrated secondary school opened.
3 October Republican hunger strike ended.

1982

20 April The PIRA exploded bombs in Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Ballymena, Bessbrook and Magherafelt. Two civilians were killed and twelve were injured.[62]
20 July Hyde Park and Regent’s Park bombings – eleven British soldiers and seven military horses died in PIRA bomb attacks during military ceremonies in Regent’s Park and Hyde Park, London. Many spectators were badly injured.
6 December Droppin Well bombing – eleven British soldiers and six civilians were killed by an INLA time bomb at the Droppin’ Well Bar in Ballykelly, County Londonderry.

1983

11 April In the first ‘supergrass’ trial, fourteen UVF volunteers were jailed for a total of two hundred years.
May New Ireland Forum set up.
13 July Four British Army (Ulster Defence Regiment) soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck a PIRA landmine near Ballygawley, County Tyrone.
5 August In another ‘supergrass’ trial, twenty-two PIRA volunteers were jailed for a total of over four thousand years. Eighteen would later have their convictions quashed.
25 September Maze Prison escape – thirty-eight Republican prisoners staged an elaborate escape from the Maze Prison in County Antrim.
5 November A series of bombs and shootings in Rasharkin, Belfast and Strabane, killing 2 police officers and injuring 49 people
17 December Harrods bombing – a PIRA car bomb killed six and injured ninety outside a department store in London. The PIRA Army Council claimed that it had not authorised the attack.

1984

21 February Two PIRA volunteers and a British soldier were killed during a shootout in Dunloy, County Antrim.
18 May Three British soldiers were killed by a PIRA landmine in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. Two RUC officers were killed by a PIRA landmine near Camlough, County Armagh.
12 October Brighton hotel bombing – the PIRA carried out a bomb attack on the Grand Hotel, Brighton, which was being used as a base for the Conservative Party Conference. Five people, including MP Sir Anthony Berry, were killed. Margaret and Denis Thatcher narrowly escaped injury.
December Ian Thain became the first British soldier to be convicted of murdering a civilian during the Troubles.

 

Stylistic devices

 

Translating ideas, notions, themes, that ‘something’ from the inner recess of the mind, into words involves first selection: words and phrases, the ‘mot juste’ and so on, then the weaving of these lexical items into the fabric of the piece. This weaving process is a means to multiple ends: flow, sound, rhythm, echo, emphasis and so on; part of the ‘fun’ is drafting and redrafting text to achieve maximum impact in the finished product.

Published poetry, though not perhaps written for the reader, is there for the enjoyment and can be an intellectual challenge as well as a pleasure. Part of that enjoyment can legitimately include analysis of the style of the piece. What follows is a list of devices open to writers as part of their technique.

Whilst there might be no intrinsic value in spotting a particular device and knowing it by name, nevertheless it is good training. It helps the reader to be inquisitive and begs the question as to why the writer chose that particular device and to what end. We cannot always tease out the poet’s real intention but it is well worth trying!

 

a figure of speech is a way of talking or writing by which you say what you don’t mean and yet mean what you say. For example, ‘He blows his own trumpet’. You don’t mean he has a trumpet but you do mean that he blows it. HUNT, Fresh Howlers (1930)

 

Antithesis: an arrangement of contrasted words in corresponding places in contiguous phrases, to express a contrast of ideas.

 

Chiasmus: the arrangement in parallel clauses of related terms in a reversed order, so AB BA as opposed to parallel order AB AB

 

Cliché: A phrase whose wording has become fixed, or almost fixed, as usage has given it a fixed meaning. Cliches commonly use a recognised literary device which eventually uses its power

 

Comparison: A statement that there is a likeness between things which can in fact be likened

 

Dual meaning: This when a word or phrase is used so as to be understood in two different meanings, both of which fit the sentence (e.g. a literal and a symbolic meaning), and in order that the two meanings may be related with each other

 

Enjambment: The continuation of a sentence, in verse, into the following line. Traditionally an enjambement is permissible if the break is at the normal break in the syntax or at a normal break between breath groups. This happens more routinely outside those conditions in free verse.

 

Enumeration: The arrangement of terms in succession, e.g. nouns in apposition, adverbs or adverbial phrases; economy of words is achieved. As a literary device enumerations can be used to add implications and rhythm to the subject matter, by grouping or gradation or even intentional iincoherency.

 

Euphemism: replacement of a distasteful by a more pleasant term, to refer to the same thing.

 

Free indirect speech: the expression of what is spoken or thought without introductory words such as He said, ‘…’ or He said that.. In narrative fis may be signalised by use of vocabulary appropriate to the character rather than the words of the author. Continuous fis becomes ‘interior monologue.

 

Hyperbole: the intentional use of an exaggerated term in place of the one more properly applicable, adding implications to the subject matter.

 

Inversion: The reversal of the normal order of the members of a sentence, perhaps to avoid ambiguity or to bring certain words into stressed or key position or to modify the rhythm.

 

Irony: The use of words containing a sufficient and apparently serious meaning in themselves, but conveying also, intentionally, to a more initiated person a further, generally opposed meaning; frequently the first meaning is laudatory or untenable

 

Litotes: intentional understatement inviting the reader to rectify. Frequently a negative expression.

 

Metaphor: an expression which refers to a thing or action by means of a term for a quite different thing or action, related to it, not by any likeness in fact but by an imagined analogy which the context allows.

A simile uses words like ‘like’ or ‘as…as’. Metaphors and similes have 2 terms: the thing meant and the thing ‘imported’ as a means of expressing, by analogy, what is meant.

Personifications are only 1 sort of metaphor.

This substitution of words has wide uses: ornament, implication, overtone. Its use may be regarded as a special means of revealing hidden truth.

Apart from enriching the thought by a device of form and enhancing the reader’s contact with the author, metaphors and similes may be significant or characteristic because of their reiterated suggestion of a writer’s preoccupations or his processes of thought.

 

Metonymy: the use of a word in place of another with which it is associated in meaning.

 

Objective-subjective: ‘objective’ – expressing reality as it is or attempting to do so; the reality of events or things is regarded as ‘external’. The reality may mental or emotional experience, examined rather than evoked. ‘Subjective’- expressing a version of reality in which it is modified by emotion or preconceived belief; or expressing conscious or subconscious experiences of states of mind

 

Oxymoron: the juxtaposition of contradictory or incongruous terms, understood as a paradox

 

Paradox: a statement or implication expressed so as to appear inconsistent with accepted belief, or absurd, or exaggerated, but intended to be realised by the reader as an acceptable or important truth, in some respect; often placed as a conclusion; in a paradox there is often a word which cries out for redefinition in order to provide thealternative meaning which the writer has prepared his reader to accept.

 

Pathetic fallacy: ascribing human traits or feelings to inanimate nature, corresponding with those being experienced by a character or ‘voice’.

 

Periphrasis: the expression of a meaning by more words than are strictly necessary or expected, so that additional implications are brought in.

 

Porte-manteau word: a deliberate mixture of 2 words into one retaining both meanings: ‘’a bestpectable gentleman’, respectable guy wearing glasses!

 

Preciosity: aiming at or affecting refinement or distinction in expression; avoiding vulgar phrases; visibly introducing greater care in expression; using this precision, formal arrangement of words, difficult combinations of ideas, allusions and puns in the hope of revealing truths not to be expressed in plain and simple terms; exaggerating this so that, for example an ‘armchair’ might become a ‘commodity for conversation’!

 

Repetition: expressing a meaning or an attitude by implication, through the deliberate use of a word or phrase a second time

 

Symbol: a term for an object representing, conventionally or traditionally, an abstraction.

 

Synecdoche: the use of a word denoting a ‘part’ in place of the word for the whole, so ‘100 sails’ meaning ‘100 ships’.

 

Synesthesia: the representation of a sensation or image belonging to one of the five senses by words proper to another (‘loud tie’; Disney’s ‘Fantasia’).

 

Zeugma: providing syntactical economy of words by using one word with dual possibility so that two meanings are taken separately – ‘he took his hat and his leave’.