Advantages inspirational poet
Disadvantages political undertones
When analyzing the writings of Seamus Heaney, it is often important to take into account the situation of the poet himself to enable the reader to put his poetry into context. Heaney's poetry is particularly influenced by the history and politics of his home country Ireland and a strong theme of politics runs through the majority of his works. The extent to which this theme is exploited varies from the implicit 'Digging' to the explicitly political poems such as 'The Ministry Of Fear.'Heaney was raised within a family and culture that very much relied on the land, the significance of which is represented in 'At A Potato Digging' and 'Requiem For The Croppies.' In 'Digging', Heaney expresses the admiration he feels for both his father and grandfather; "By God, the old man could handle a spade! / Just like his old man." "But I've no spade to follow men like them." Confesses Heaney, almost with a sense of guilt. Instead Heaney proposes to 'dig' through his poetry, the 'squat pen' being a metaphor for the spade whilst digging represents change and revolution to what Heaney suggests is a politically unsound country. Through digging, Heaney hopes to regain the stability of both the soil and the politics of Northern Ireland.
'A New Song' further exploits the issues surrounding Irish politics concentrating particularly the loss of the culture and traditions of Ireland which has occurred since the English take-over of Northern Ireland. On meeting 'a girl from Derrygarve' the narrator recalls an idyllic, attractive scene evoked 'like a lost potent musk' by the town's name. A rural picture is created that, on a political level, is untainted by British influence. However the potent Derrygarve is now 'vanished music' as the Gaelic origins of the village have been lost and a new English place name instilled. The title 'A New Song' represents the change that the poet hopes can be achieved when 'our river tongues' will revolt and 'flood, with vowelling embrace' the suffocating presence of the English.
Again Heaney is using an extended metaphor in the form of an allegory, the river being a symbol of the Irish people whilst ‘tongues’ represents the Gaelic language itself. In this poem, like many others, Heaney addresses his status as a 'dual citizen' as he must illustrate the strong opinions he has of Gaelic heritage using the language of the oppressor. This enables the poet to have significant impact on an audience unfamiliar with the Irish language and Heaney’s upset at this is shown as he mourns the demise of the Gaelic language with the effective use of both imagery and metaphor.
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