The father is, more than anything else, an energetic and skilled farmer. He is 'An expert' with the horse-plough and Heaney as a little boy would simply get in his father's way. The poem is full of admiration for his father's strength and skill with horses. At the end of the poem, however, we are moved to the present day and there is a change in roles; it is now Heaney's father who has become the child who gets in the way. His awareness of how the passing of time has brought about this change does not lessen the love and respect he feels, however.
Heaney remembers when he was a small boy, and in the poem he looks up to his father in a physical sense, because he is so much smaller than his father, but he also looks up to him in a metaphorical sense. This is made clear by the poet's careful choice of words. An example of this is in the lines: "His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly."
The choices of the verbs "Narrowed", "angled" and "Mapping" effectively suggest his father's skill and precision. We are also told that young Heaney "stumbled in his hob-nailed wake," which brings to our mind a picture of the ploughman's heavy boots, the carefully ploughed furrow and the child's clumsy enthusiasm. This idea is repeated in the lines:
" I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
These words, especially "Yapping" make us think of the boy as being like a young and excited puppy - enjoying playing at ploughing, but of no practical help. In fact, he was a hindrance to a busy farmer, but his father tolerates him.
His father's strength and power are also very effectively brought out in the simple, but effective simile:
"His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the...