Casualty by Seamus Heaney Summary

Casualty by Seamus Heaney Summary




; 1. Fatal accident, injured party. 2. Worn by exposure to the weather. 3. Small edible black aromatic berries. 4. Portly, sturdy. 5. Discerning, modest or prudent. 6. Pantomime. 7. Waterproof hip boots worn by anglers. 8. Yatching cap, a cap with a flat circular top and a visor. 9. Charitable, pogey. 10. One whose earnings are the primary source of support for their dependents. 11. Expressionless, impassive. 12. Moving sideways, unobstrusing. 13. Quick to notice, keenly perceiving. 14. Difficult to understand, inexplicable. 15. Simple seat with a back or arms. 16. Tobacco plant (leaves are prepared for smoking or ingestion). 17. Jade, wad of chewable tobacco. 18. Temporary inactivity, break. 19. An amount of alcoholic drink gulped. 20. Suave, bland. 21. A quick throw, timid. 22. Disdainfulness, patronage. 23. Deception, an illusory feat. 24. Voracious snakelike marine or freshwater fishes. 25. Traditional knowledge. 26. Probationaries, tentative. 27. Doubtful, provisional. 28. An order that after a specific time certain activities (as being outside on the streets) are prohibited. 29. Place, Londonderry. 30. Name of a place. 31. Swampside (here, name of an area). 32. Nothing, a quantity of no importance. 33. Shivered, jerked quickly.


1.Naked, unpleasantly cold. 2. A loose-fitting white ecclesiastical vestment with wide sleeves. 3. A long cassock (black garment) with buttons down the front. 4. Large and important church, duomo. 5. A ceremony at which a dead person is buried or cremated. 6. Gown or narrow infant clothes. 7. Overlapping. 8. The act of making something tighter. 9. Positioned so as to be ready for confrontation or danger. 10. Scourges, menaces. 11. Undulated. 12. Breaking a law or rule. 13. Compunction, a feeling of deep regret. 14. Coalesced, amalgamated. 15. Cognizable, being known. 16. Trapped, in a position of

great difficulty. 17. Outstare, overcame or caused to waver or submit. 18. Momentary brightness, instant. 19. Had a drink. 20. Hazy, clouded. 21. Interlock, ensnarl. 22. Muttering, grumble. 23. Aimlessly wandering from place to place. 24. Instinctively or temperamentally seeking and enjoying the company of other smokers. 25. Blameworthy, censurable. 26. Guilt as an accomplice (confederate) in a crime or offence. 27. Doubtful, hypothetical. 28. Vex, baffle.


1. Becoming shallow gradually. 2. Whirring, making a soft swishing sound. 3. Accustomed, wonted. 4. Comfort, solace. 5. Dalliance, the deliberate act of delaying and playing instead of working. 6. Depended, Relied. 7. Murmuring while in a motion. 8. Slothful, slow to heal or develop. 9. A linear unit of measurement, sound. 10. Draw, catch. 11. At a steady pace or manner. 12. Disparage, Blame. 13. Resort, frequently visited place. 14. Someone who has returned from the dead, coming back. 15. Slowcoach, slogger, trudger.


The word ‘Casualty’ means an accident that causes someone to die. One such casualty is the ‘fisher man’ of the poem ‘Casualty’. The speaker of the poem desires to get away from the political violence that is tearing his countrymen apart. At his closing remarks, Heaney makes a sudden shift from speaking of the fisherman in the third person into the second person, so as to bring the subject nearer home and show the conjoining of their ambivalence. The speaker imagines the now “revenant” fisherman in his “proper haunt / Some where, well out, beyond”. Heaney questions the worth in pursuing a categorical imperative if the end result will so often become extremist: Thus, Heaney, departs from Yeats’ romanticised battle against the English through the arbitrary death portrayed here, in the poem.


The poem ‘Casualty’, written by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, is an elegy for a fisherman. It is strong in emotive language and possesses. a sensitivity that reaches down to the depth of feeling. The poem is written in three individual sections, each of which conveys a slightly different tone and mood, though each retains the vivid imagery and the lyrical warmth that is so typical of Heaney’s poems. The poem speaks mainly of a fisherman-cum-drinker whom the poet knew but who was killed in the pub in which he was drinking. The pub was bombed. Through his reflections about his feelings toward this man, Heaney also conveys some political views, subtly yet effectively, bringing forth the tension between the Irish Catholics and Protestants. This he achieves through the mockery of trivial concerns, especially in the first part. The primary part of the poem elicits the deep admiration that the poet felt towards the drinker. This feeling is conveyed by the warmth of the language used as well as by the slow, steady pace of the meter. The middle stanza almost shows how the coffins would monotonously float one after the other on a sea of people formed by the crowd. This creates a solemn feeling that is projected to the audience. The following section conveys the confinement of the Irish Catholics under Protestant power. The fisherman’s work is described in the final stanza as a constant rhythm. It can be felt that the poet had a great admiration for the fisherman’s work. The sense of freedom is further conveyed by the idea that the fishing is an escape from the city. Thus, the poet closes the stanza by trailing off, capturing a sense of unendingness, further suggesting that the fisherman is now out in his “proper haunt”, a place somewhere, “well out, beyond….. .”. The poem concludes with a triplet of lines that recall the past in the previous part of the poem. Clearly, the poet missed the fisherman’s companionship and presence. This three-part poem is highly emotive in the depiction of the loss of a much-admired companion. Moreover, through the vivid descriptions, the poet is now able to convey his political message – the tension hung between the Irish Protestants and Catholics can only lead to further pain. The poem is one of the longest from Seamus Heaney.




He-a person, probably a fisherman. N.B. The term is very discerning. Weathered thumb-worn out finger. High shelf-rack on the top. Rum-liquor. Blackcurrant-grape-flavoured rum. Without…… his voice-by just signalling. Quick stout-fast sturdyness. Discreet dumb-show-modest pantomime. Of pulling… get some liquor from the top-most shelf. At closing-time for closing the shop. In waders…..cap-clothing of the man. Showery dark-wet night. A dole-kept breadwinner-a recipient of unemployment benefits. A natural for work-an active fisherman. I loved-the poet liked. Surefooted but too sly-able to work but smart enough. His…….tact-his expressionless sideways movements. His fisherman’s-now the poet introduces the drinker’s profession. And turned observant back-his fast shining perceiving looks.

N.B. The lines convey a sense of aloneness, yet at the same time, suggests secrecy and the possible participation in something that is prohibited.

Incomprehensible to him- inexplicable to the fisherman. My other life-the poet’s other self. Sometimes……….meeting my eye-sitting on a high stool busy with his fishing weapon to chew a tobacco wad, unable to look to the poet. N.B. Avoiding the poet. In the pause-in the break time from drinking. Slug-after gulping alcohol. He mentioned poetry -he talked in rhymes. We would be on our own-they will gain senses afterwards. Politic-political. And shy of condescension-quick throw of patronage. Some trick-deception. To switch…….Provisionals-they converse either about fishes, horses or any tentative ideas.

N.B. This suggests the poet’s acquaintance with a fisherman. Tentative-doubtful. His turned……too-he was even informed from before. He was …….curfew-he became a casualty to the Protestants and Catholics’ tensional rage. Others obeyed-all other people were inside their houses due to the rules of curfew. After they shot-after the British Catholics shot down with their guns. The………Bogside

Nil-thirteen casualties at Derry, Paras but none at Bogside. That Wednesday-this all happened on a Wednesday. Everyone held.………. trembled-symbolic of how the whole town, not just the poet himself, holds the same breath and grieves together in the same way, for the victims killed as the result of the senseless and unnecessary violence.

N.B. The tension between the Irish protestants and Catholics was very violent.


A day of cold-a cold, wintry day. Raw silence-empty silence. N.B. A painful emotion. Surplice-loose-fitting white vest. Soutanelong black garment. Surplice and soutane-reference to the garments worn by the church priest. N.B. The alliteration of the voiceless consonant ‘s’accentuating the rusting sounds of the wind and the town’s quiet grieving. Rained-on…….the door number of deceased float one after the other on a sea of people formed by the crowd. Cathedral-Church. Like blossoms…..water-metaphorical images of flowers and water. N.B. Comparing the odd movement of the many coffins through the doors of the cathedral to the gentle floating of blossoms on slow water. The common funeral-cremation ceremony for dead commoners. Unrolled – loosely worn. Swaddling band-narrow infantry clothes. Lapping – overlapping. Tightening-bound together. N.B. The use of the word ‘tightening’ depicts an image of a herd of animals being round up, and so, the Catholics, like the herd of animals, are bound together, powerless by the Protestants. Till we were braced-till we were made ready for danger. Bound like…..ring-further emphasizes the point of togetherness. N.B. The use of the word ‘brother’ conveys a common link between the people, the link of being of one religion and the word ‘ring’ conveys the image of a confining cage. N.B. The lines are creating a solemn feeling that is projected to the audience. But he-the fisherman. Would not be held-could not be kept at home. Own crowd-family members, friends, relatives. Threatsmenaces. Phoned-told about. Black flags-flags of the Protestants. Waved-undulated. I see…..offending place-as the fisherman-poet’s friend – went to the spot where riot was going on. Remorse-deep re gret. N.B. Regret on the part of the fisherman. Still knowable face-still recognizable face. N.B. As his body was blasted off, his face could still be recognized. Cornered outfaced stare-trapped, submissive look of the dead fisherman. Flash-instant.

N.B. Some of the emblematic statements in a pivotal work in the poem’s development.

…..nightly-every He had gone miles away-he had died. For he…… night he went to the pub to drink alcohol. Lure-allured. Warm lit-up places-warm, cozy places. N.B. To rescue from the cold hands of winter. Blurred mesh and murmur-hazy ensnarle and grumble. Drifting among glasses-aimlessly wandering among pubs. Gregarious smoke – temperamentally seeking accompaniments. N.B. The fisherman wanted not only alcohol but also human company to share his pains with others. Culpable-blameworthy. That last-the night before he died. Our tribe’s complicity-out patron’s guilt. ‘Now,……’-a question from the fisherman to the poet. Puzzle me-baffle me, make me confuse. The right……’t know the exact answer.

N.B. The fisherman’s question expediates how responsible was he for his death-the betrayal. The fisherman asks the poet, instead the poet asks the readers-a vital question-“how can our own people kill us?”


I missed his funeral-the poet could not attend the friend-fisherman’s cremation ceremony. Quiet walkers-quietly walking persons. Sideways talkers-silent gossipers. Shoaling-becoming shallow. Respectable…….hearse-notable whirring of the coffin-carriers. With the……consolation-with slow accustomed comfort. Dawdling-dallying. Cold sunshine-silent sunlight, no warmth. On the water-ref. to fisherman’s acquainted area. Banked under fog-relied on smog. N.B. Hopelessness. That morning on the day when he went with fisherman to his pond. The screw….white-the screw of the boat was slowly murmuring with a faded sound. It tasted…..him-the poet found joy of freedom with him. To get…..bottom-the fisherman’s work is described as a constant rhythm. Dispraise….rhythm-idea of fishing as an escape. N.B. It can be felt that the poet had a great admiration for the fisherman’s work. Working…….haunt-fisherman’s ghost. Not at the pub, his defiant rebellion is against the curfew. Somewhere ……. beyond-far away from the political conflicts and the tribal complicities on the land.

N.B. The poet ends the stanza by trailing off, capturing a sense of unendingness.

Dawn-sniffing revenant – early leave wake of a fisherman’s life, out early to get a good catch. Revenant-coming back, sniffing like a dog to search for the fish. Plodder……rain-refers to the man’s never-ending need to quench his alcohol addiction, no matter what is the time or the weather. Question me again-the poet missed the fisherman’s companionship and presence.

N.B. The poem concludes with a triplet of lines that reminisce the previous part of the poem. The last stanza is Heaney’s invitation to the fisherman’s ghost.


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