Seamus Justin Heaney was born on April 13, 1939, on a farm in the Castledàwson, County Londonderry region of Northern Ireland, the first of nine children in a Catholic family. He received a scholarship to attend the boarding school St. Columb’s College in Derry and went on to Queens University in Belfast, studying English and graduating in 1961.
In 1953, Heaney’s second youngest brother Christopher was killed in a road accident, aged four. This tragic event is commemorated in one of his most famous poems, ‘Mid-Term Break’. After Christopher’s death, the family moved to a new farm, The Wood, outside the village of Bellaghy. Heaney was deeply influenced by the life of country, which later, found expression in his poetry. But then, as he grew up he also watched the industrial mushroom around him, and soon he saw the rural side of Ireland deplete.
- The impact of his surroundings and the details of his upbringing on his work are immense.
- Heaney was especially moved by artists who created poetry out of their local and native backgrounds
- Heaney’s work has always been most concerned with the past
- Heaney used his work to reflect upon problems. He is able to express an analysis towards the violent political struggles that plagued the country during Heaney’s young adulthood.
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Death of a Naturalist
Seamus Heaney portrays, in his poem, part of his history. In all of this poems, the writer shows his childhood in different scenarios (in my case, it was in farming).
In the four poems studied, the writer exprresses her process through rite of passage. In all of them, we can see how the poet suffered the lose of its innocence. For example, in the poem «The Death of Naturalist», it is shown how the poet’s perspective towards nature and society had changed as he grew older. In the other poems, the same occur. The writer is able to express how his mind developed and his innocence started to dissapear as he abandoned being a child.