Look again at ‘At a Potato Digging’ by Seamus Heaney and at ‘A Sheep Fair’ by Thomas Hardy, which both deal with the theme of the hardship of rural life. With close reference to the ways each poet uses language, compare and contrast what the speakers in the poems say about rural life. You should include relevant contextual material. Which poem do you find more interesting? Give your reasons.
Seamus Heaney and Thomas Hardy both depict images of rural life as difficult and uncomfortable. In their poems ‘At a Potato Digging’ and ‘A Sheep Fair’ they describe different aspects of rural life; these were elements of life that would have been familiar to the poets and ones that they would have experienced. In their poetry Heaney and Hardy show an appreciation of rural life and the traditions and subsequent hardships that people would have dealt with as part of their lives. Heaney’s ‘At a Potato Digging’ describes the way in which the Irish people farmed the land and relied upon the earth for sustenance. Hardy’s ‘A Sheep Fair’ draws a picture of the animal fairs that would have been an integral part of the farming life and the British rural community. Both poets use language and techniques to show these events as, at times, unpleasant and difficult, experiences. In Heaney’s ‘At a Potato Digging’ the language sets up the close relationship between man and the earth and the cruel treatment man receives by the earth. The labourers are shown to work hard; the verb ‘swarm’ in the first stanza is used to show the frantic and busy nature of their work. This is followed by ‘ fingers go dead in the cold.’ This metaphor for the workers illustrates how cruel the labour and working conditions were. The simile used in the second stanza compares the labourers to ‘crows’ that are entrapped by the land- unable to escape; they must scavenge, like crows, for survival. Similarly ‘A Sheep Fair’ draws a picture of rural life as unpleasant and difficult. The repetition of...
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