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Seamus Heaney

By blackstarof06 Apr 07, 2011 1239 Words
The book "Open Ground", by Seamus Heaney, is a book of poems.  In the book, Heaney promotes a variety of different poems he has written.  From this rich variety of great poems, "Punishment" and "First Kingdom" will be analyzed on imagery, theme, and rhythm throughout this paper.  In both poems, Heaney uses words to portray great details and is very descriptive in his works.  When reading the poems, the reader will find that gaining a visual idea of the events of the poems will be easy, due to Heaney's use of delivery and description.  By using delivery and description, Heaney allows the reader to attain the feelings, theme, and rhythm of the poems.  In the first poem "Punishment" the diction of the play expresses the relationship of the speaker and the victim.  Heaney uses words such as nipples, beauty and, adulteress, who allows the reader to know that the speaker obviously cared for or has even had relations with the victim.  He also shows that he has both and intimate and as distanced feeling towards the victim and how her body is found. This is created through the diction of the poem and the enjambment of the stanzas.  The use of embjambment in this poem coincides with the diction as the line breaks and ceasura express the tone and rhythm of the play.

Heaney poetry consists of Anglo-Saxon ideals, not to mention Irish culture. His poems (Punishment and the First Kingdom) represent the perspective, which epitomizes the literature in Ireland. All of his works were written in sonnets and/or ballads. In Opened Ground, Heaney explains going to his Irish roots, however. In Punishment, it shows a rash side towards the female reader because the dialogue of the poem is vague and dark. Punishment, constructed with short rhythmic words and phrases throws itself back to be pondered, to be re-read each line, each word. On its face, it is a gruesome recitation of terse words and phrases, which come back, word by word. The poem is visual and the layers of meaning gleaned from its lines are vivid.

The First Kingdom, on the other hand, has longer words and a different feeling to it. It is almost humorous the way the meanings are revealed, line-by-line, “cows, milk, measurement” all these things come with social organization (Heaney 250). In a bizarre twist, the elements of the poem Punishment are from rules, of a society, imposed on an individual. The First Kingdom is constructed of longer lines, more syllables per word and has a calming effect. It is almost a series of prayers to its world of imagery. Where the poem Punishment is more of an example the impact that poem can have. The poem The First Kingdom has a funny feel to it. The words are longer and have alliteration and internal rhyme. The Queen Mother and “ the harp strings of milk” almost make you hear the sounds of milk hitting the pail as the cow is milked. “ The nobles lording over the hind parts of cattle were the cow herders guiding and herding the cattle(250). The poem is about the Irish, “pious exacting and demeaned.(250). Both of these come at you from different directions, the bog murder is ritual and the backward rote of names and mishaps in The First Kingdom has a curious lightness to it unlike the body in the bog. These two poems are meant to be read aloud, revealing their intricate rhythms. There are no end rhymes in either poem but there is poetry in their beats and rhythms, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5’I count out as each begins with 5 sounds or syllables. The imagery is haunting in Punishment,” shaved heads, numbered bones, tribal revenge” (112). The poem First Kingdom is more layered with sounds. The lines are longer and have internal symmetry, there are almost a conclusion to be had with each line. In Punishment, it appears that women were punished for adultery; the victim and the other sisters in this scene were tarred,”cauled in tar.” One woman was killed while the others were disgraced. Punishment was meant to be an example to others. The social organization of The First Kingdom also involves a society albeit one organized around agriculture and livestock, cows being milked and “units of measurement, by the cartful, barrowful and bucketful”(250). There is an inheritance implied by husbandry because it is not a one-time deal but instead is a series of tasks. The husbandry of the Irish is described as “pious and exacting and demeaned” a kind evaluation of the society. Theme is generally accepted as the general underlying meaning in poetry. In the poem Punishment Heaney the theme appears to be suffering. The poem was very difficult to understand what point of view Heaney was coming from. Poem is talking about a wife cheating on her husband. Heaney uses several means of expressing this theme of suffering, one of which is the detail that he uses in describing the body of the adulterer. He talks about how raw and naked she is, how her head has been shaved and how her ribs are easy to count as she floats there in the bog. He takes such care in explaining how she died and how he watched silently that he in turn shows his own suffering. The poem The First Kingdom by Seamus Heaney is literally about what he perceives the first kingdom to be, family. The first kingdom had all the best intentions it was first built by hard work and struggle. It seems as though over time it has had more than its share of miserable things happen to it to the point that the hard work is forgotten In lieu of “unfair dealings” and two-faced mentalities. This shows the struggle in the states for Irish American immigrants whose parents came to this country and worked hard to make a way for their families and the children who didn’t appreciate it and ruined the work of their parents “kingdom”. Found that the first stanza refers to the parents and their hard work , the second stanza refers to the next generation squandering it, and the third stanza refers to the narrator as he relates to the situation. Heaney seems to pull from his own life experiences in his writing. It can be said that his graphic use of imagery, theme and point of view all stem from his own personal experience. In the poems Punishment and The first Kingdom we see two rather different styles of his. In Punishment we have the graphic description of the death of a woman caught cheating on her husband, you almost feel the agony in the narrators voice as he describes her and how it had to be that way for both of their sakes. And in complete contrast we have the narration in The First Kingdom telling the story of the struggle to not lose yourself when you come to a new situation in life, like most second generation immigrants do. Heaney is a very versatile poet and he has found a way to make the reader feel the struggle and hardship that most immigrant families and individuals go through. Through rhythm, imagery, and theme you can see how Heaney conveys a message in his poems, even if the two poems are different the same formula exist.

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