Monday, 10 January 2011

Death of a Naturalist

1 All year the flax-dam festered in the heartOf the townland; green and heavy headedFlax 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.
7 There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
10 In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring 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
15 The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
16 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 rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung 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
On sods; 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.
Lines 1-7
There is a mixture of positive and negative language used in the first 7 lines of the poem. The lines are very descriptive using positive adjectives such as "green", "delicately" and "wove." However, there are also negative descriptive words and phrases, for example, "All year the flax-dam festered," and "the punishing sun." Heaney also uses metaphors and an oxi-moron in the poem. The metaphor refers to the sound of the atmospere around the swamp as a "thich gauze." He uses an oxi-moron to describe the bubbles "gargling delicately." This gives the impression that the sound of the 'gargling' was not a distubring or offensive sound, but a reassuring background noise that is comforting to Heaney.

Lines 8-16

"Miss Walls would tell us how the daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog" - this gives an indication of Heaney's age in this poem. He is refering to a time when he was just a small child in primary school.
Also, there is another indication when he says: "But best of all was the warm thick slobber" - the kind of thing a child would love but an adult would find completely unappealing - for example, splashing in puddles, getting muddy etc...
Onomatopoeia is used in the poem as well, "slobber" - really gives the reader the imagery of the setting of the poem.
A simile is used to describe the frog spawn; "like clotted water."  - Imagery, as well as giving the reader an idea of the texture of it as well.
It is in this section of the poem where you know that his interest in nature has been brought up at school; learning about frogs and observing them. There is something really innocent about the tone of the first half of the poem.

In the second half of the poem, the tone of the peom completely changes and becomes quite aggressive. There are a lot of negative descriptive terms used, for example, "rank," "angry," "invaded."
The second stanza also talks about the change in season, going from hot, burning summer to the Autumn time when the weather is getting wetter and colder.
The frogs that were once harmless frogspawn and cute little tadpoles have transformed into big gross slimy frogs. The reader egts the impression that the poet was suprised by this- he didn't know/understand that they would change (another indication of his age). The way he describes the frogs in such a negative way shows that he is quite frightened of the frogs and he finds them disgusting; he says they are 'invading' and the sounds as they plop in the swampy water is like an ''obscene threat''.

In this poem, Heaney is describing a time when he felt really inspired and fascinated by something, and how quickly that was changed. The title: 'Death of a Naturalist'  is not refering to an actual death of a person, but a metaphor of the ''death'' of an idea. Maybe for a short while, Seamus Heaney was so fascinated in nature - the frogs in particular, that he describes himself as a ''Naturalist.'' The ''death'' is when he sees the frogs in there fully grown form and is suddenly put off the whole idea.  

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Storm on the Island

Key Themes:

- Natural Power
- Fear and Isolation
- People's relationship with nature

Key Techniques:

- Blank Verse (no rhyme)
- Enjambment (lines run over)
- Caesura (A delibarate break/pause in the line - semi colon or colon)
- Assonance - the repetition of a vowel sound - eg. roof, good
- Oxi moron
- Metaphors and Similes

Lines 1-5

- First line - ''we'' is repeated, letting the audience know he is not alone, set the tone as secure - comforting
- They prepare themselves for the storm by building strong, stable houses - squat, thick rock walls, rooves made with good slate - shows that they are prepared and able to withstand the storm.
- On line 1 there is an example of caesura, to make you pause.
- In line two, there is an example of assonance - ''roof'' and ''good''  - the repetition of a vowel sound.
- At the end of lines 1 and 2 there are end stops or breaks - they are commas or full stops. The rest of the verse uses enjambement - it flows. This is because the fist two lines of the poem are about how they have prepared for the storm; however, the rest of the poem is about the storm itself and its' effects.
- The poem only has one stanza - to give the impression that the storm is never ending , it's continuous. 
- In line 3, the word 'wizand' can mean old, shrivelled or wise/experianced - positive thing - they don't have to do anything with it as nothing grows on it ''the earth has never troubled us''

Lines 6 - 10

- There is an example of enjambement in lines 6 - 10, particularly effective use of enjambent is when caesura is used on line 7 - the line begins ''Blast:'' (caesura also used) - it is unexpected/sudden - like lightening or thunder for example.
- Line 7 - conversational tone - "you know what I mean" - addresses the reader/draws the reader in - to make the reader feel the same way - share, for reassurance. Seamus Heaney feels isolated/alone - he talks about the lack of trees etc, he is asking the reader for reassurance.
- Line 8 - ''Chorus''  - repeated - the storm keeps coming back.
- Line 10 - the wind is personified - "it pummels your house" - quite violent vocabulary used.
Lines 11 - 19

- Line 11 - ''No trees, no shelter'' - in list form to emphasis how alone he is - the repetion of the word ''No''
-  Lines 12 and 13, the sea is personified - ''the sea is company'' - the sound of it is reassuring to him. 
- "Exploding comfortably" - oxi-moron, comfortably could be used because the sea is a comfprtable distance away - he can hear it but it is not damaging towards him or the island.
- Line 15 ''Spits like a tame cat turned savage'' - simile - using emotion/aggression - creates imagery.
- Also, ''spits'' - use of onamaopoeia.
- Lines 17-18 - Language related to artillary/war - ''bombarded,'' ''strafes'' etc.
- Line 19 - ''Huge nothing that we fear'' - oxi moron. Also, the idea that you can't see the storm yet you still fear it.