Act Of Union Seamus Heaney Analysis

1483 Words 6 Pages
Frances Gu
09.05.14

Stylistic uses of structure and language in “Act of Union” by Seamus Heaney to enhance a metaphorical relationship between Ireland and England A highly stylized element of Seamus Heaney’s poems is to never explicitly discuss political issues, but rather to allude to the past to understand the present. As a native from Northern Ireland, politics did, however, affect Heaney’s life inexorably as it did with many in the political and sectarian strife between Irish nationalists and British unionists during The Troubles in the 1970s. Though tension between the two sides did culminate and explode in the form of violence during this period of time, the underlying reasons for The Troubles may have had to do with the English invasion
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The title of the poem, “Act of Union,” has layers in meaning: it overtly refers to a historical moment in the past, the literal Acts of Union of the 1800s in which Ireland and England became one, as well as the metaphorical relationship between the two “lovers” of the poem. Furthermore, throughout the poem, Heaney uses dated words such as “ imperially” (15) and “colony” (17) to refer to England’s invasion of Ireland long ago, immediately setting the time and place for the poem. Heaney opens the poem with four lines of environmental description to set the mood. The opening of the poem, “To-night, a first movement, a pulse,” (1) is suspenseful because of the dashes in “To-night” and three apostrophes to break up the phrase. Heaney uses this type of punctuation to slow the overall pace of the poem in order to foreshadow an event that is about to take place. In the next few lines, Heaney describes “a bog-burst” (3), painting an image of energy that has exploded. Already, the mood is full of tension in order to provide a suitable atmosphere of the poem later …show more content…
The poem is mostly iambic except for lines that stress masculinity such as “Male” (16) and “conquest” (11). This structure emphasizes the power that England has wielded on Ireland. Ireland has been transformed into a bodiless and idealized figure confined in passivity. It should be noted that throughout the entirety of the poem, the female remains silent while the male speaker’s formalized, assertive tone is strengthened by rhythm in iambic pentameter. The transformation of the Irish land into “femininity” by the English colonizer took away the Irish people’s perception of national identity and left them voiceless. The main problem that the unification of Ireland and England brought about was not whether the act of union was violent, it was rather the sense of Irish identity has been lost. When a nation’s identity, language and culture are taken away, it is left silent, feeble and susceptible to pain much paralleling experience of a female that has been

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