Seamus Heaney's Portrayal of Pain and Suffering
Heaney, born 1939 was one of the nine children of Margaret and Patrick
Heaney who ran a family farm in Mossbawn, Northern Ireland. Heaney
enrolled at Queen's College in 1957 after attending his local town
school and opting not to follow in his fathers success of being a
farmer. He took up a position as a lecturer at St. Joseph's College,
Belfast 1963! He then went on to acheive a scholarship in English
Language and Literature, also devoting spare time to a poetry group.
His success in impressing fellow poets, subsequently lead to his
poetry being sent to England for publishing in 1964. The following
year, Heaney became married to Marie Delvin, who gave him his first
son Michael. Later, in 1965, 'Faber and Faber' published "Death of a
Naturalist" which earned Heaney such awards as the E.C Gregory Award
and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize!
" I sat all morning in the college sick bay". My first impressions of
this poem was that it was somehow related to a school atmosphere. In
seven brief stanzas, Heaney write about his younger brother's death,
and how he was taken from school to go to a mourning service.
" A four foot box, a foot for every year", indicates that the diceased
was only an infant! This was the last line in the poem and an obvious
clue to whom Heaney was referring. I think Heaney at the time was
confused about the situation and he talks of how people like "Big Jim
Evans" commented on the incident in which his brother was killed. "It
was a hard blow" is a reassuring fact, implied in effect that the
brother could not have helped himself any better than anyone else
could have in the same situation.
Heaney mentions a baby. He says that it "cooed and laughed". I think
this signifies innocense of how a baby would not be able to appreciate
its brother's death, but also that babies aren't expected to either.
It is oblivious to a baby as to what and why an occurance like this is
all around it. The baby is obviously the only being there who is not
expected to mourn.
Heaney's father, also, holds a similar state of mind like a baby in a
sense. He appears to be weak when he thinks about the death of such a
loved family member. However, the father unlike a baby is very
sorrowful and shows emotion. "He had always taken funerals in his
stride", makes me think that this must be the first life loss that has
been an upsetting shock to him.
" I saw him for the first time in six weeks. Paler now..." This was an
image that obviously layed within Heaney's memories, and he finally
had the chance to reveal it with expression. Seeing the dead body of
someone you love can be disturbing, but for Heaney he thought of it
differently as he described the atmosphere "candles soothed the
bedside". My thoughts of a room...