Notes on ‘A Call’ by Seamus Heaney
* The word ‘call’ has both everyday and special associations. In this poem ‘call’ contains both casual and serious meanings.The call here is the phone call home but the speaker also meditates on the idea of a person being called home to God as in the medieval play ‘Everyman’. * The opening of the poem,it could be argued, isn’t poetry,it is ordinary,everyday speech.And yet the arrangement of the lines on the page and the overall rhythm create a musical flow. * Following this opening section the poem shifts to a silent description of the speaker imagining his father at work in the kitchen garden.The four simple monosyllabic words in line four, ’So I saw him’
lead us into a detailed description of his father.The speaker imagines his father weeding very actively and also imagines how his father feels about this.This mixture of happiness and sorrow is experienced by the weeder,according to the speaker,because he knows that some plants will live,some will not. * The poem then shifts, in the speaker’s imagination, from outdoors back indoors to the hall where he can hear, while he waits ‘The amplified ticking of hall clocks’
Clocks are familiar symbols of the passing of time,our growing old, our inevitable deaths. * The atmosphere in the poem’s third section is calm and beautiful.Everything is quiet except for the ticking of the clocks and the sun is catching the mirror and the swinging pendulums.This section ,like the previous one, ends with an ellipsis,the three dots create a silence,a sense of quiet meditation. It reveals a speaker becoming more reflective and allows the reader to follow in that same direction. * The speaker now thinks of Death.Death, in this instance, as portrayed in the medieval play ‘Everyman’.We do not know the day nor the hour but we know that death will come.The speaker’s idea of death is a summons,a call. Note the layout of the poem which slows down the poem’s movement.The final line is...
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