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Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary

 

Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary

WORD MEANING

Squat sit on heels; Snug-warm or cosy or comfortable; Raspingscraping (sound); Spade-Tool for digging; Gravelly-Stony soil; Straining rump-Toil-stressed hips; Stooping-leaning forward; Potato drills-Rows for cultivation of potato seeds; Coarse bootboot for rough use; Nestled-rested firmly; Lug-hard layer of soilground; Shaft-straight stem; Firmly-strongly; Rooted out-pulled out: Buried-put underground; Bright edge-sharp corners of the spade; Scatter-throw in various directions; Turf-short grass; Toner’s bog-North Ireland is full of bogs; Nicking and slicing-cutting small holes; Soggy-damp and heavy; Curt-rudely brief or accurate; I’ll dig with it-the poet’s pen will dig into the experience of life.

1. EXPLANATIONS

Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests; snug as a gun. Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground; My father, digging, I look down.

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These lines have been taken from the poem “Digging” by Seamus Heaney. Sitting at his writing desk, the poet looks out on his father digging the flowerbed on stony soil-ground. The pen is held in between his thumb and fingers. All that separates them is a single pane of glass; whilst seemingly insubstantial, this barrier between father and son is at the very heart of ‘digging’. Heaney shows his father, at present, digging flower-beds on ‘gravelly ground’. His father’s spade makes a clean rasping sound as it sinks into the hardish soil. The poet also basically wants to dig, but it must be done with a pen instead of a spade. The pen fits the finger-space of the poet perfectly and makes him feel powerful. The poet likes his pen to be a weapon with which he can. protect himself from criticisms about his choice of career (as a poet).

Literary Heaney’s position at the window is elevated but we also get the sense that Heaney somehow feels superior to manual work and that he is not comfortable with his feelings. This extract (of the poem) allows the poet to express his pride and dignity towards his ancestors as well as his respect of the Irish tradition of cultivation. The sense of nostalgia signifies and glorifies the act of ‘digging’;-the need and value of digging in human life and the recognition of a good digger, childhood is a fascinating experience for one and all, more so for a poet, as his experience as a child, is responsible for the later development in life. The image of ‘gun’ foregrounds the importance of the writer’s [profession and craft by breathing new life into the proverbial saying”the pen is mightier than Sword.” This image affirms that Heaney has decided to choose his own career path as a writer. It is his chosen path in which he finds solace. The onomatopoeic words-‘a clean rasping sound’-echoing the actual sound through its synthetic imagery of a high sound with a melodious tune.

2.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds Bends low, comes up twenty years away. Stooping in rhythm through potato drills Where he was digging. The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft. Against the inside knee was levered firmly.

These lines have been taken from the poem “Digging” by Seamus Heaney. Sitting at his writing desk, the poet looks out on his father digging the flowerbed on stony soil-ground. Here is the reference to the past when the poet’s father was twenty years younger. This extract presents us with a flash back to previous years before his father’s retirement from farming: “Bends low, comes up twenty years away”. We move effortlessly from flowerbed to potato drills allowing Heaney to describe his father’s skills. Here is the graphic picture of cultivation, rows of potato seeds are placed in a furrow-the new plants replacing the old ones. It also indicates that cultivating potato is the first distinguishing feature of Ireland. The paradoxical “coarse boot nestled” indicated the physicality of digging alongside the love for it. In the process of the digging his father’s body bends forward, specially the hips and waist are strained.

The extract (of the poem ‘Digging’) is an attempt to focus on the theme of nostalgic experience of Heaney who is regarded as a confessional poet drawing the vivid pictures from his childhood days. Through this image Heaney recalls to his father’s earlier image as a digger of ‘potato drills’-twenty years back his father would stoop ‘rhythmically’ and uses his spade with a wonderful skills and timing. Here, the very title ‘digging’ is directed to the theme of the poem which usually interpreted as an act of hard work; and against such literal digging with spade, Heaney sets an intellectual digging of a writer with his pen. Childhood is a fascinating experience for one and all, more so for a poet, as his experience as a child, is responsible for the later developments in life.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man. My grandfather cut more turf in a day Than any other man on Toner’s bog. Once I carried him milk in a bottle Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up To drink it, then fell to right away Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf. Digging The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap soggy peat, These lines have been taken from the poem “Digging” by Seamus Heaney. Sitting at his writing desk, the poet looks out on his father and grandfather (who were professional turf-cutter) digging the flowerbed on stony soil-ground. Heaney, the boy noticed with admiration and astonishment-how his grandfather would never care for giving himself enough time to enjoy his milk. Heaney uses a two-line stanza beginning with the exclamatory “By God” to take us back to his grandfather’s digging skills. The boy clearly recollects how his grandfather would work uninterruptedly and expertly, cutting and slicing the inner layers of soil in the peat, remaining muddy soil with the blade of his spade by expertly manoeuvring its handle to throw it behind his shoulder and reach the layer underneath, where he could gather good stuff for fuel. The “bottle corked sloppily with paper” reflects the poet’s clumsiness in practical matters but also a different use of paper to the one-he is really skilled at. The old man (his grandfather) is idealized and felt as an unbeatable leader in his own sphere.

The poet noted the speed, the sincerity and the amazing skill of the old man as a digger. This is a family proud of their achievements which are measured by a.spade and the ability to handle it. The exclamation and the conversational tone add a feeling of being with Heaney as he reminisces. The onomatopoeic word-‘the squelch and slap of soggy peat’ echoing the actual sound through its synthetic imagery of a high sound with a melodious tune. The image of ‘good turf’ refers to the solid waste which serves as good fuel.                            

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Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary

Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary Digging by Seamus Heaney Summary

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