Analysis of the Poem: “Digging”

Topics: Present tense, Grammatical tense, Poetry Pages: 2 (680 words) Published: May 12, 2013
In 1966, Seamus Heaney published his first collection of poems, called “Death of a Naturalist, which deals with the loss of childhood innocence and the following transitions into adulthood. In this collection of poems, we are shown his admiration for his ancestors, his own distorted view of nature and why he became a writer. ( and The first poem of that collection is “Digging”, which is the reconciliatory expression of an artist who will not follow in his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a common labourer. It concerns his admiration for his father’s and grandfather’s skill at digging. (

This poem is a free verse poem with eight stanzas containing two couplets. In addition, there is no consistent rhyme scheme, although it has some rhymes: “thumb” and “gun” (in the first two lines); “sound”, “ground” and “down” (in the second stanza); and “men like them” (line 28). Moreover, it is written in first person narrative; we can see that in the first line of the first stanza: “Between my finger and my thumb”. Related to the title, it is only when we have read the poem carefully when we realise that all the three generations are involved in digging: his grandfather dug turf, his father dug up potatoes, and he is digging up his memories and his past. So, the title is good and right, because reading it we can guess more or less about what we are going to be told in the poem; at least we can guess that the poem deals with digging. Now, we are going to analyses the tenses used by Heaney: the poem begins in the present tense as Seamus Heaney describes seeing his elderly father straining among the flowerbeds, then it goes into the past tense when he remembers his father and grandfather at work. The last two stanzas return to the present, when Heaney realises that his work is to write. Ant the end, in the final line,...
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