Summer Home - Commentary

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Q) Write a commentary on ‘Summer Home’.

A) The poem ‘Summer Home’ by Seamus Heaney is an exposé of Heaney and his wife’s difficulties. From the foulness of the atmosphere, brought out by the larval mat, “possessed air” and the sour summer, to the metaphor of his wife’s breasts (“Stalactites in the cave’s old, dripping dark-”), Heaney attempts to show his love for his wife and how much he wants his marriage to work. The poem uses very sensual imagery of flowers and reference to the church in connection to marriage and sex. As well as the imagery, the structure is poem is inconsistent, ranging from couplets to quatrains and, in the second part, cinquain. Finally, there is also a sense of imperfection, which the author feels and can be seen in light with two of his famous poems – Blackberry-Picking and Death of a Naturalist.

The poem uses subtle metaphors to symbolise the hardships Heaney and his wife face in their marriage as can be seen in the first part, “wind off the dumps…fouled nest incubating somewhere?” Summer is not only a symbol of peace and prime of life but also of youth and love. Thus when Heaney says that “the summer gone sour”, it could suggest that the love they initially shared is now degrading. The flowers symbolise romance, and by describing them as ‘loosened flowers’, it could mean that the initial care and love is no longer strong. The flowers and the sex act are the “chrism” to heal and anoint the couple’s wounds. The word ‘taint’ means contaminated, and hence could suggest that their relationship is no longer composed of love but of lust. The difficulties between them are described as a ‘wound’, and hence to heal and anoint the ‘wound’ they have sex. Wounds leave scars and hence, arguments between them are inevitable. Heaney uses ‘cave’s old, dripping dark-’ to describe his wife’s womb, which may contain solutions to the difference between them. He also describes his wife’s breasts as ‘stoups’, thereby giving it a...
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