Death of a Naturalist: a Study of Seamus Heaney's First Book of Poems.

1487 Words Apr 14th, 2005 6 Pages
Death of a Naturalist: A study of Seamus Heaney's first book of poems.

Seamus Heaney, the famed Irish poet, was the product of two completely different social and psychological orders. Living on "a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry in Northern Ireland" (Nobel eMuseum), Seamus Heaney's childhood was spent primarily in the company of nature and the local wildlife. His father, a man by the name of Patrick Heaney, had a penchant for farming and working the land. Seamus' mother Margaret, in contrast, was a woman born into a family called McCann, who's major dealings were with business dealings, trade and "the modern world" (Nobel eMuseum). Patrick Heaney was a man of few words, and preferred the quiet life of a farmer to the
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In the second stanza, the influence is unmistakable as Heaney describes a situation in which two lovers are trying to conform to the traditions of courting, but are consumed by desire in an almost untamed and feral way: "A vacuum of need / Collapsed each hunting heart / But tremulously we held / As hawk and prey apart, / Preserved classic decorum, / Deployed our talk with art." (Heaney 33). The "hawk and prey" belong together, and while it is not exactly what one might call a symbiotic relationship, it is the way nature works and it is accepted as a sometimes harsh but absolutely essential part of life. There is a "vacuum of need" when couples cannot join together, and by associating the natural world with the longing for love and the freedom of expression that lovers yearn for, Heaney perfectly encapsulates the two wholly diverse sides of his nature.
Another example of a love theme being combined with the natural tendencies of Seamus' father, as well as the emotional and human side of his mother can be found in the poem Saint Francis and the Birds. This poem, consisting of four stanzas, tells the story of Francis "preaching love to the birds" (Heaney 42) and the effects that his words have on the winged creatures. Using three lines for each stanza and with only one line for the final stanza, Heaney keeps this poem clear and concise;

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