Common Themes in Poetry
After reading and analysing numerous poems, I have chosen two examples
of the famous Irish Poet, Seamus Heaney's work: 'Follower' and
'Mid-Term Break'. Both poems relate to the poet's past, and are
certainly associated with a specific 'loss' of a loved one - one a
literal loss, and the other a subconscious loss.
'Mid-Term Break', which I found to be a very touching and poignant
poem, describes the loss of the poet's younger brother, Christopher
when Heaney was a child, hence the poem is of a childhood tragedy as
well as a loss. It's set in three places - the introduction is
situated in the college sick bay; the main body of the poem is set in
Heaney's brother's funeral, and the final setting is the small child's
bedroom. The poet is awaiting his neighbours' car in the college sick
bay, as they're going to escort him to the funeral. Evidence is given
of 'death' in the second line: -
"Counting bells knelling classes to a close"
This metaphorical sentence creates a morbid atmosphere from the
out-set, and the alliteration and hard consonants suggest that the
'wait' for his neighbours' car is excruciatingly long and daunting
which underlines two things - childhood impatience and the fact that
something is troubling him. 'Change' is sensed here also due to the
fact that his neighbours are driving him home - as we know, the
negative change is Christopher's death. Within the aspect of 'change',
this is merely the 'tip of the iceberg', as many more unfamiliar
experiences await him.
The 'child's prospective' is cleverly brought into the second, third,
fourth and fifth stanzas as a consequence of the poet's confusion and
the contradictive scenes he witnesses as he walks into the family
home. Firstly, he sees his father, a steady and strong figure breaking
down in the porch: -
"I met my father crying -
He had always taken funerals in his stride"
Heaney must've been confused with dread as to what was before him; if
his father, one of his childhood heroes was crying, what on Earth was
he himself going to do? Also, we acknowledge that this isn't just any
ordinary funeral - someone very dear has been lost, a small treasure;
a small treasure who's absence has caused the strongest of rocks to
crumble into an emotional state.
A double meaning is presented in the final line of the second stanza:
"Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow"
The 'hard blow' may be referring to the actual 'blow' that killed
Christopher (as he was killed by a car), or the fact that it's a 'hard
blow' to the family. Either way, one fact becomes apparent: the Heaney
family have the support and love of everyone around them, but that
doesn't counteract for the tragic loss of Christopher - it may help
clean the wound, but the scar will forever be visible. We also attain
the knowledge, due to his very 'personal' identity, that Big Jim Evans
is a family friend, and that he himself is shaken by the...