ARC MAGAZINE --POEM OF THE WEEK
Death Of A Naturalist
All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied
Specks to range on window sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening dots burst, into nimble
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In the rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cow dung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
By Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney--A Farmer's Poet
Seamus Heaney was a poet with a farmer's heart like his background.When he died in 2013 his wife Marie was astonished --how that sad news flared up in the whole world.
Heaney's wife said "I was utterly taken aback by the response, his news of demise appeared along with Barack Obama and Syria above the fold on the front page of New York Times “.
That was a state funeral !
Seamus Heanney was born in 1939 in north Ireland in a big joint family. He was the eldest one of his nine brothers and sisters and father was of a rural background. His family owned a farm and cattle herding was a traditional occupation along with farming.
Ireland's main occupation is divided in two blocks . Cattle herding was prevalent as the main source of occupation in Ireland's Galeic past. After the Ulster industrial revolution scenario changed rapidly as big industries, corporates began to come into limelight. That was a perilous moment for small industries, farming and cattle herding. Heanney came at the crossing point of two changes and he experienced both changes and transformation that made an everlasting impact upon his mind. Though he left his birthplace and went to Belfast and America that departure always remained geographical not psychological. The Ireland of his childhood--cattles, hand shovels of farmers, clods of soil came frequently in his poems.
Though he wrote in traditional style, small details of his day to day mundane life always reflected in rhymes. His topics are wide--love poems, nature, friends, sex
civil strife etc. Most of his tools are figurative, filled with imagery, metaphor, repetition, assonance, alliteration, consonance.
His poem " Death of a naturalist" is my favourite one. It is written in two stanzas and the second one is volta. This poem is a metaphor of a growing child.
Flax are plants which are used for manufacturing linen. It is sown in spring and harvested in
the summer after it they are kept in a dam to expose its fibres. Fibres are used for cloth weaving. In this poem child is thinking about flax dames his teacher talks about sex not in direct way as frogs mummy and daddy ,breeding etc. In the second stanza-- adolescent eyes begin to perceive many nudities and sometimes he fears. This poem has magical metaphors like clotted water which brings a macabre image that makes us think about blood and vampires, brass corus, necks pulsed like sails, mud grenades etc. Swimming tadpoles are a transformative phase of a child. Jampotfuls of Jellies are his childhood reminisce when they would be kept on windowsill for sunlight. Here internal rhymes are used profusely.
This poem is one of my favorite one as it talks about change which is going on constantly from the atom to the whole universe.
Analysis done by Dr Pragya Suman