Seamus Heaney as an Archeologist

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Archeology in Seamus Heaney’s “The Tollund Man”, “Punishment”, and “Digging” Seamus Heaney is among Ireland’s most recognized and respected poets. Consequently, he won the Noble Prize for Literature in 1995. Heaney alludes to Irish politics in many of his poems but he does not make many active political statements. According to Michael Parker, author of Seamus Heaney: The Making of the Poet, Heaney instead is able to “insinuate through his descriptions of the land, the use of mythology and history, and the all-pervading religious atmosphere the images of prejudice, violence, and intolerance” (Parker). Heaney uses archeological symbols to show the “prejudice, violence and intolerance” of the Irish government in many of his poems. Three poems in which Heaney does this are: “The Tollund Man”, “Punishment” and “Digging”. Heaney’s inspiration for both “The Tollund Man” and “Punishment” came from a book he read in 1969 called The Bog People. As, Paul Williams of The Authors Den tells us, It was written by G.V. Glob, “an archeologist who had unearthed the preserved remains of several ritually slaughtered Iron Age Europeans” (Williams). In “Digging”, Heaney’s most anthologized poem, Heaney uses his pen to show us the internal struggle to choose between the war, and farming.

The first of these three poems to be published was “The Tollund Man” in 1972. “The Tollund Man” was written about four brothers whose near-perfect corpses were found by a turf-cutter as seen in these lines from Heaney, “Those dark juices working/Him to a saint's kept body, /Trove of the turfcutters'” (Heaney). The four brothers to have been ambushed for no apparent reason other than for sacrifice to a fertility goddess. Heaney compared this type of killing and sacrifice to the violent actions that had been going on in Northern Ireland. A great deal of violence was going on between the Protestant and Catholic citizens of Northern Ireland and Heaney used the case of The Tollund Man to...
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