Commentary on Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Dean
By Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney’s poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’ mainly focuses on Seamus’ experience of collecting and watching frogspawn as a child followed by his reaction on metamorphosis of the frogs from ‘jellies specks’ He loses his innocence. This poem’s title is an extended metaphor. The naturalist in Seamus dies as he experiences the transformation from a child to a man. It’s a comparison between the metamorphosis and the transformation of the tadpoles and the child into frogs and a man respectively.
Heaney's poem 'Death of a Naturalist' focuses on his experience of collecting and watching frogspawn as a child, and his reaction when the spawn turned into frogs.
In the first ten lines of the poem Heaney uses vivid imagery to describe the setting and its sights, smell and sounds. The phrase 'flax-dam festered' in the opening line combines assonance and alliteration, and begins to create the atmosphere of decay. 'Heavy headed' at the end of the second line again uses assonance and alliteration in one phrase to describe the flax that had rotted. The heaviness is emphasised further in the third line, where the flax is 'weighted down by huge sods'. The idea that hot weather has caused the decay is expressed in line four: 'Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun', a personification of the oppressiveness of the sun. A gentler image focusing on sound is created in 'Bubbles gargled delicately' in line five. The movement of flies is described with a metaphor: 'bluebottles / wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell', a fascinating image combining different senses. Line seven hints at the beauty of the scene with its 'dragonflies, spotted butterflies'.
In line eight Heaney makes the first mention of frogspawn with the metaphor 'warm thick slobber', which as a child was 'best of all' to him among the offerings of nature. In line nine he uses the simile 'grew like clotted water' to describe his impression of it. The poem then