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Digging Questions and Answers

Digging Questions and Answers

 

BROAD QUESTIONS

1. Discuss the theme of the poem in the light of its title. Or, Explain the poetic style of Heaney in the poem.

The poem “Digging” is in Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poems called “Death of a Naturalist” (1996). This poem is the first of the collection; it is a free verse poem written in the first poem person narrative, with eight stanzas containing two couplets. The free structure of this poems allows him to freely express his respect of the Irish tradition as well as his pride and dignity towards his ancestors. The traditional act in agriculture (of the family) is highlighted through the poem “Digging”; and the theme of digging is related to both family and national pride. In this poem we find the single significant idea-the act of digging, the need and value of digging in human life and the recognition of a good digger. 

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Except the two opening lines, the rest twenty-eight lines are dedicated to explain the virtue of digging. The poem starts and ends with the same lines “between any finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests”, but the first stanza ends with “as snug as a gun” and the last stanza ends with “I’ll dig with it”. Thus the poet foregrounds the importance of the writer’s profession and craft by breathing new life into the clichÈd idiom “the poem is mightier than the sword”. The poet’s view is not clear enough at the beginning of the poem, when he talks about the pen, he wants to be a very revolutionary type of writer. The picture of the poet’s looking down the window at the work of digging (by his father) for making a flower-bed on stony soilground tends to make the readers assume a total contrast between son and father. At the same time, the poet affirms that he has decided to 1 choose his own career path, as a writer. It is also clear that Heaney feels confident that he is very skilled with a pen and demonstrates and proves that he is an accomplished poet by writing this very thought provoking poem. He knows that the bright spade will not fit his hands (as it did those of his grandfather and father),-his appropriate weapon is the pen. He admires his elder’s talent and power of cultivation; but as a poet he will expose the inner significance of life by digging with his pen; and on the basis of this standpoint the title of the poem is significant one.

The very title “Digging” is generally accepted as an act of hard work which requires talent and physical labour also; and against such literal digging with spade, Heaney sets an intellectual digging of a writer with his pen. The very term “Digging” awakens our curiosity for we want to know the reasons why he is digging and what he is digging for. If we go through the poem, the clear distinction is very prominent to us;

The poet’s father digging potato drills and grandfather cutting turf :

“By God, the old man could handle a spade.

Just like his old man.”

whereas, the poet draws the unity of the poem in such manner : “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it.”

The act of digging is associated more with the passing on of special values from generation to generation; and thus enabling the process of the historical past giving meaning to the present. Thus, the lyrical subjectivity of the poem is marked all through. The optimistic attitude is revealed here;-the poet draws the conclusion that whilst we must not forget our roots, we must pursue our own passions and dreams in life. The image is poetic rather than prosaic. Heaney recognizes that his skills with a pen is comparable to that of his forefathers with a spade; and he realizes at the same time that he can continue the love for skilled work with the land ‘digging’ through his writing. We may glorify this poem in this manner that a poignantly nostalgic appeal is mingled with the optimistic attitude to move the life forward in the midst of sordid reality.

2. Discuss the poem,”Digging” is a nostalgic poem.

Or,

Can the poem “Digging” be regarded as a confessional poem having its nostalgic tune?

The beautiful literary work “Digging” is an attempt to focus on the theme of nostalgic experience of Seamus Justin Heaney. He is regarded as a confessional poet who has drawn vivid pictures from his childhood days. This poem is a striking one in his responses to events in childhood. He seems to filter and retract his experiences more through the people he knew, and he seems to be more emotional in his responses than other confessional poets in English literature. 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. Experiences at this stage are raw, emotional, and inarticulate often only expressed through gestures and sounds. But the same experience takes on larger meanings after a few years when they are viewed objectively. Ruminating over the past events, putting the clock back, imagining with intensity and expressing them through a language which is provocative and beautiful suggestive and intriguing-this nostalgia for childhood is one of the characteristic qualities of confessional poetry. This strain of nostalgia, in confessional writers, is inevitable;-as such the poets are tempted, sometimes forced to look back on their past for recapturing happy moments.

In the nostalgia poem “Digging”, Heaney is remembering his childhood:

“Under my window, a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground; My father, digging, I look down.”

and,

“Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low, comes up twenty years away Stooping in rhythm through potato drills

Where he was digging.”

such type of image recalls to (Heaney’s mind) his father’s earlier image as a digger of ‘potato drills’-twenty years back, his father would stoop ‘rhythmically’ and use his spade with a wonderful skill and timing. The poet shows his father-digging flower-beds on stony grounds. The father’s spade makes a ‘clean rasping sound’ as it ‘sinks into the gravelly ground’. In the process of the digging his father’s body bends forward, specially the hips and waist are strained. Thus, the very title ‘Digging’ is directed to the theme of the poem which usually interpreted as an act of hard work. Again, the poem describes his grandfather-the old man is cutting turf :

“By God, the old man could handle a spade.

eye Just like his old man. My grandfather cut more turf in a day.” Heaney registered the impression of his grandfather (in his mind’s forever:

“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.” Heaney, the boy noticed with admiration and astonishment how his grandfather would never care for giving himself enough time to enjoy his milk. The boy clearly recollects how his grandfather would work uninterruptedly and expertly, cutting and slicing the inner layers of soil in the poet, removing 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. Thus, the poet noted (in his boyhood) the sped, the sincerity and the amazing skill of the old man as a digger. This boyhood nostalgic memory beckons the image of ‘Wordsworthian style’ through its depiction

“The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.”

The poet’s pride and affection come out freely for his old father and old grandfather. Thus, Heaney reminisces his observation of childhood very lovingly and fascinatingly.

The poem “Digging” is a free verse poem written in first person narrative, with eight stanzas containing two couplets. This free structure of the poem allow the poet to freely exposes his respect of the Irish– tradition as well as his pride and dignity towards his ancestors. Heaney admires his elder’s power and talent of digging and draws inspiration from them. The act of digging is associated more with the passing on of special values from generation to generation. But he feels that he cannot follow their traditional digging, it will be a different kind of digging that he wants to devote himself to and with a different implement. The poet realizes that in choosing ‘the squat Pen’ over ‘the spade’ he is in fact digging up memories of his ancestors, and thus enabling the process of the historical past giving meaning to the present. The poet will be achieving the same objective by criticizing and destroying the harmful things in life. The theme of digging is related to both family and national pride and highlights the poet’s care and attraction for his root. He affirms that he has decided to choose his own career path as a writer. Heaney realizes that in choosing ‘the squat Pen’ over ‘the spade’ he is in fact digging up memories of his ancestors. For Heaney, it is his chosen calling as writer in which he finds solace, which enables him to transfer nostalgic memories onto paper. Ruminating over the past events (imagining with intensity, expressing them through a suggestive language), Heaney glorifies the childhood nostalgia which is one of the characteristic qualities of the confessional poem “Digging”.

3. Write a critical note on Heaney’s imagery with special reference to “Digging”.

Or, How do the images add to the beauty of the poem’s theme?

 

‘Imagery’ is a rather critical term covering those uses of language in a literary work that evoke sense-impressions by literal or figurative reference to perceptible or concrete objects, scenes, actions or states, as distinct from the language of abstract argument or exposition. Imagery constitutes the most important feature of Heaney’s style. Seamus Heaney brings in a host of dazzling images in his poem ‘Digging’ to illustrate the single point,-as a poet he will reveal the deeper significance of life by digging with his pen whereas his ancestors were engaged in digging with their masterly control of the spade to procure food and fuel. These images add to the beauty and super-excellences of the poem “Digging”– the need and value of digging in life, recognition and respect a digger deserves.

If we study his imageries they are found to have some distinctive features. The poem starts and ends with the same lines-“Between my finger and my thumb

The squat pen rests”,

But the 1st stanza ends with-“snug as a gun”-and the last stanza ends with-“I’ll dig with it”. 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 the sword’,but it does not refer to any revolution here. This image affirms that Heaney has decided to choose his own career path as a writer. It is his chosen path (as a writer) in which he finds solace.

Again the image of the spade sinks into gravelly ground’ interprets the act of hard labour. The poet noted (in his boyhood) the sped, the sincerity and the amazing skill of the old man as a digger. This boyhood nostalgia is beckoned through imagery of”The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft. Against the inside knee was levered firmly.”

The onomatopoeic words ‘a clean rasping sound’, ‘spade sinking into gravelly ground’, ‘the squelch and slap of soggy peat’echoing the actual sound through its synesthetic imagery of a high sound with a melodious tune. The image of ‘good turf’ refers to the solid waste which serves as good fuel. The whole process of the digging operation is held up before our eyes through all these imageries. To secure the total appeal of his image, Heaney uses the simplest language and diction,-avoiding the conventional poetic approach. 

The imagery of this literary work ‘Digging’ thus comprises the set of images that it uses; these need not be merely mental ‘pictures’, but may appeal to senses other than sight. Images suggesting further meanings and associations in ways that go beyond the fairly simple identifications of metaphor and simile are often called symbols. Heaney (in his boyhood) noted the speed, the skill and the sincerity of the old man (of this grandfather) as a digger of peats: “For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap.

edge.” Every ‘curt’ cuts of his grandfather’s spade created a bright patch of admiration and glorification in the boy’s mind, the boy shows the dignity and amazing skills in cultivation of the Irish people who are providing tremendous labour to procure food and fuel for dragging their earthly life. Again, it is important to note that the boy (Heaney) “looks down” at his father’s “straining rump”. Literary his position at the window is elevated but we also get the sense that the poet somehow feels superior to manual work and that he is not comfortable with this feelings. The image of his father’s backside as a “rump”

Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an

“Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds

Bends low,”

aligns him with the natural world. The image of paradoxical “coarse boot nestled”:

“The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft.

Against the inside knee was levered firmly.”

I shows the physicality of digging alongside the love for it. Heaney also basically wants to dig, but it must be done with a pen instead of a spade; as a writer he resolves to dig the experiences of life emotionally and intellectually to gain the same result-‘something of real value’. ‘Digging’ is a symbol and the symbolical meaning of the title implies a two-fold operation-unhealthy accumulation of dirt and repairing the birth of fresh, new things in life. Through the symbolical title (“Digging”) of the poem Heaney recognizes that his skill with a pen is comparable to that of his fore-father with a spade; -he realizes that he can continue the love for skilled work with the land through his writing. Thus Heaney’s emphasis on imagery is tended to glorify the supposed concreteness of the literary work “Digging” by ignoring matters of structure, convention and abstract argument. 1

4. Write a critical appreciation of the poem “Digging”.

 

The poem “Digging” is in Seamus Heaney’s first collection of poems called “Death of a Naturalist” (1996). It is a free verse poem written in the first person narrative, with eight stanzas containing two couplets. The free structure of this poems allows him to freely express his respect of the Irish tradition as well as his pride and dignity towards his ancestors. The word ‘digging’ is not just hard labour, there is a remarkable degree of amazing skill and thoughtfulness associated with it. In the poem we find the single significant idea-the act of digging,the need and value of digging in human life and the recognition of a good digger. The act of digging is invested with dignity and is to be regarded as a positive contribution to the nourishment of healthy life. But the poet lacks this ‘traditional labour’ as a digger of land, and Heaney wants to serve humanity as a realistic voicing human emotions related to both family and national pride.

The beautiful literary work “Digging” is an attempt to focus on the theme of nostalgic experience of Seamus Heaney. The poet is regarded as a confessional one who has drawn vivid pictures from his childhood days. The poem “Digging” is a striking one in his responses to events in childhood. Experiences at this stage are raw, emotional, and inarticulate often only expressed through gestures and sounds. But the same experience takes on larger meanings after a few years when they are viewed objectively. Heaney is remembering his childhood: “Under my window, a clean rasping sound,

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground; My father, digging, I look down.”

and,

“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 poet shows his father-digging flowerbeds on stony ground. He recalls to his father’s earlier as a digger of ‘potato drills’-twenty years back, his father would stoop ‘rhythmically’ and uses his spadė with a wonderful skill and timing. The father’s spade makes a ‘clean rasping sound’ as it ‘sinks into’ the ‘gravelly ground’. In the process of the digging his father’s body bends forward, specially the hips and waist are strained. Thus, the very title ‘Digging’ is directed to the theme of the poem which usually interpreted as an act of hard work. Again, we find the picture of his grandfather :

“By God, the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man My grandfather cut mote turf in a day.” The poet registered the impression of his grandfather (in his mind’s eye for ever :

“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,”) and the recognition and respect a digger deserves. The picture of the poet’s looking down the window at the work of a digging by his father for making a flowerbed on stony soil-ground tends to make the readers assume a total contrast between son and father. At the same time, Heaney affirms that he has decided to choose his own career path, as a writer. Except the two opening lines, the rest twenty-eight lines are dedicated to explain the virtue of digging. The poem starts and ends with the same lines “between my finder and my. thumb/The squat pen rests”, but the first stanza ends with “as snug as a gun” and the last stanza ends with “I’ll dig with it”. The poet admires his elder’s talent and power of cultivation, but as a poet he will expose the inner significance of life by digging with his pen. Heaney is very skilled with a pen and he proves that he is an accomplished poet by writing this very thought provoking poem, “Digging”. –

Image constitutes the most important feature of Heaney’s style. He brings in a host of dazzling images in his poem ‘Digging’ to illustrate the single point, as a poet he will reveal the deeper significance of life by digging with his pen whereas his ancestors were engaged in digging with their mastery control of the spade to procure food and fuel. The image of ‘gun’ (in the poem :

“Between my fingers and my thumb The squat pen rests; snug as a 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;’ – but it does not refer to any revolution here. It is his chosen path (as a writer) in which he finds solace. The image of ‘the spade sinks into gravelly ground” interprets the act of hard labour. The onomatopoetic words-‘a clean rasping sound’, ‘spade sinking into gravelly ground’, ‘the squelch and slap of soggy peat’-echoing the actual sound through its synesthetic imagery of a high sound having a melodious tune. The image of ‘good turf’ refers to the solid waste which serves as good fuel. The image of his father’s backside as a ‘rump’ aligns him with the natural world. The image of paradoxical ‘coarse boot nestled’ shows the physicality of digging alongside the love for it. Thus, Heaney’s emphasis on imagery is tended to glorify the supposed concreteness of the literary work “Digging” by ignoring matters of structure, abstract argument and convention.

The very term ‘Digging’ awakens our curiosity for we want to know the reasons why he is digging and what he is digging for. The act of digging is associated more with the passing on the special values from generation to generation; and thus enabling the process f the historical past giving meaning to the present. Thus the lyrical subjectivity of the poem is marked all through. The optimistic attitude is revealed her;-Heaney draws the conclusion that whilst we must not forget our roots, we must pursue our own passions and dreams in life, as life is not static-always moving forward in the midst of grim reality.

VERY SHORT QUESTIONS

1. What is the poem about?

Digging is a poem that is portraying the relationship between and poet and his father. The poem depicts the scenario where the poet remembers his father and forefathers, and the lineage he belongs from.

2. What is the reflection of the poem?

The poet reflects on his father, who used to plow potato drills, into which the seeds of the potatoes can be planted, but now, on the other hand, strives to dig flowerbeds in his own garden.

3. What was the poet’s grandfather?

The poet’s grandfather, as he recollects, used to be in the same venture, where he used to dig peat. And, now the son, and grandson, does not plow the earth; he writes.

4. How does the poet start the poem?

The poet starts his poem with the lines “a snug as a gun” which is a suggestive simile where the poet tries to give a declarative sentence, where he argues with the long established proverb, “a ne is mightier” than the sword, simultaneously showing the readers his views on choosing a different life, a new life; where he doesn’t follow his father or his grandfather, but chooses to bleed out his emotions with his “squat pen” rather than a spade.

5. How the poet illustrates?

The poet shows a picturesque description how he still follows the path of his father and forefathers with his ‘squat pen’ and digs just like them.

 

6. How is the contradiction portrayed?

But instead of digging out potato drills and peat, he digs out his emotions, his deepest darkest secrets, the lives of his father and his grandfather, and most importantly, he digs out the country that is embedded in his heart; Ireland.

7. What contradiction does the poet wants to show?

In this poem, Seamus Heaney shows a contrast between the art of writing with his long family lineage of being close to the earth.

8. Where is the poet at the beginning of the poem?

At the beginning of the poem, the speaker is sitting at his desk with a pen that is resting in his hand. He compares the pen with the use of simile.

9. What is his diversion?

Suddenly he is diverted by the continuous sound of digging outside by his father. His father is digging potato field with the help of spades.

10. Where does he travel back?

He travels back to his past with the imagination and finds his grandfather digging for peat. Ultimately, the speaker comes back to the present being ready for the writing.

11. What is the repetition in the poem?

In the first couplet and last tercets of the poem, the speaker repeats the same line “between my finger and my thumb/ The squat pen rests.’ Using this refrain, he implies the message that he has been digging with the pen which is as powerful as the gun.

12. What happens as he digs into his memory?

As he digs into the memory, he finds the tradition of digging in both father and grandfather. Then he is digging into the memory as symbolized by ‘bog‘. Then, this bog is the symbol of personal memory where he digs to identify the personal history.

13. What does the poet proudly declare?

He proudly declares that his father was the digger who followed the tradition of digging from his father when father dug for the potato drills, grandfather dug for the turf.

14. What is the common in the contradiction?

Whatever the reason is, they were digging for their survival. His father and grandfather is the simple digger. They have not done anything great, but he finds greatness in the trifling family history.

15. How is digging lovely to the poet?

It is his root, which may be ugly, but it is always lovely. The change might have come in the nature of digging, but the tradition of digging has continued.

16. How is digging different from his ancestors?

The digging of his parents differs from the digging of a son.

17. Why is the digging connected to the generations’ in spite of contradictions?

When the son digs, he digs for history in which he is proud. He finds rhythm in his personal history. What is personal that is political. So, he wants to celebrate the root consciousness by exploring into the personal history, which for him is as important as the Irish history.

18. Why is the poet digging now?

Now, the speaker digs for his identity. His going for family history means that he has gone for his root or origin. His digging can thus be seen with root-consciousness in mind. The speaker listens to the rhythm of the sound produced by the digging of his father and grandfather.

19. In what state does he find his family?

He finds his family history sweet, musical and melodious. He comes from a long line of diggers, and he seems pretty proud.

20. How does the poet compare his digging to his ancestors?

Heaney is aware by the end of the poem with the fact that his skill of digging with a pen is as powerful as his forefathers’ act of digging for the survival.

21. Is the mode of digging same?

Though the mode of digging is absolutely different from that of his ancestors, he is giving continuation to the tradition of digging, but with a pen.

22. What makes him proud at the end of the poem?

His ancestors used manual force to dig; now he is using his intellectual force to dig. When he says, ‘I’ll dig’ in the end of the poetry, he is sure with his writing career and proud enough for his selection.

****************B.D***********************

Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers Digging Questions and Answers

 

 

 

 

 

 

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