Seamus Heaney: Tribal Practises
Heaney has referred to ancient tribal practices as ‘providing imaginative parallels to modern Irish politics’.
Examine Punishment and at least two other poems in light of this statement.
Throughout both ‘North’ and ‘Wintering Out’ Heaney uses his chief poetic value as a ‘tribal poet’ to explore and reveal his feelings on Irish politics. The changing face of his tribal poetry strongly reflects Heaney’s shifting attitude to the solution of the problems in Ulster. Throughout ‘Door to the Dark’ Heaney searches for the ‘Irish myth’, a story which would take the Irish people away from the 400 year sacrificial fighting to remember a time when they were not haunted by ghosts of the past. Heaney believed that the Christian emblem of Christ’s crucifixion regarded since the beginning of the fighting as the dominant symbol of Christian Ireland would no longer suffice. Moreover, not only had Christianity failed to bring peace in Ireland but had turned neighbour against neighbour. Thus, Heaney believed that by searching further into the past “into the world older and darker and greener than the world of early Christian Ireland” could the poet hope to find “befitting emblems of adversity” capable of encompassing those violent pre-Christian forces which had for centuries brought suffering to his homelands. Written in 1969 Heaney found ‘The Bog People’ (written by P.V.Glob) which perfectly embraced the insignia for Ireland he desperately sought. The book referred to those who had been forgone including ‘The Tollund Man’ as being ritual sacrifices to ‘the mother goddess’. Heaney found the poetic metaphor he wanted in order to understand and thus to control his experience of the Ulster crisis in the potent faces of those sacrificed for a higher being. The image of the martyr of ‘The Tollund Man’ blended in the poet’s mind with “photographs of atrocities, past and present in the long rites of Irish and political struggles” and ‘the goddess of...
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