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    Compare And Contrast Seamus Heaney’s Poems ‘Digging’ And ‘Follower’ Essay

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    Seamus Heaney’s poems, ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ portray to us the strong relationship between the father and son, as Heaney tends to look up to the elders in his family. Both poems create that pastoral type of atmosphere with the title, ‘Digging’ suggesting to us digging into the past. ‘Follower’ on the other hand gives us the image of the child’s view of farming of imitating his father’s actions. The poems suggest the perfection of Heaney’s father at manual labour, introducing someone for Heaney to look up to and admire. The poem ‘Follower’ illustrates to us the strength and skill, which is processed in Heaney’s father.

    The poem ‘Digging’ suggests to us the great amount of immense skill needed to master working in the fields of the countryside. Both ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ tell us stories, which are similar and different in many ways. This poem ‘Digging’ is quite similar to ‘Follower’ as it shows how young Heaney looked up to his elders but in this poem he looks up to both his father and grandfather. Heaney sees his grandfather as now old, “straining” to dig “flowerbeds”. The poet recalls to himself of his father digging “potato drills” and even earlier his grandfather digging peat.

    Heaney knows he can’t match “men like them with a spade,” knowing the pen is mightier for him, and he will dig into the past with it. Heaney also shows the skill and distinction needed in manual labour. The poet also illustrates to us their sense of work, as the father still digs in old age, and the grandfather, when working, would barely stop to drink. In the poem ‘Follower’ it shows the skill involved in country life including being an “expert,” “without breaking. ” This shows us what an accomplished farmer Heaney’s father is.

    It also shows us the country life, by illustrating how much skill goes into a seemingly ordinary task such as ploughing a field. “The sod rolled over without breaking” doesn’t only illustrate the skill in the country but the beauty as well. The idea of freshly ploughed soil, adds to the readers view of the country side as a beautiful place and so country life is also portrayed as something happy. ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ differ in their structures as ‘Digging’ consists of a much looser structure than Follower. The first stanza consists of two lines, the second stanza consists of three lines and the third stanza consists of four lines.

    So the lengths of the stanzas in ‘Digging’ vary quite a bit compared to the ‘Follower’. There is rhyme present in both poems but it is more frequent and powerful in Follower than Digging. Here’s the rhyme in ‘Digging’, “flowerbeds / away / drills / digging,” and here’s in ‘Follower’, “round / eye / ground / exactly. ” In ‘Digging’, the first two stanzas have powerful rhyme but for the rest of the poem it simply dies out. Some of the rhyme words used are, “sound / ground / down, suggesting strong rhyme. Generally the rhyme scheme used in ‘Follower’ is ABAB meaning the first line rhymes with the third.

    In ‘Digging’ the rhyme scheme in the beginning is AA BBB, but then the rhyme kind of dies out since not all the poem rhymes. Both ‘Follower’ and ‘Digging’ tend to use more of half rhyme rather than full rhyme, which doesn’t make it intrusively obvious. The rhyme in both poems tends to give us a sense of rhythm to the poem. In other words it also emphasises the rhyme words bringing to us the connection between the rhyme words. Heaney uses more rhyme in Follower than in Digging because it gives a natural feeling to the poem and also helps in emphasising the father’s skill.

    In ‘Digging’ there are some stressed and unstressed syllable words. Some of the stressed words are, “Between… finger… thumb / squat… pen rests… snug… gun. ” The words that are unstressed in that stanza are, “my… and… my / the… as a. ” In ‘Follower’ some of the stressed syllables are, “shoulders globed… full… sail… strung,” and some of the unstressed ones are, “His… like a. ” There are a variety of familiar poetic techniques used by Heaney in ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower. ‘

    In ‘Digging’, Heaney does use a great deal of onomatopoeia like, “rasping, gravelly, sloppily, squelch, slap. There is a great variety of onomatopoeia used in ‘Follower’ like, “clicking, pluck, yapping,” but there is more used in ‘Digging’ rather than Follower. Both ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ consist of simple and not complex language. Here are some examples from ‘Digging’, “my grandfather cut more turf in a day,” and this is from ‘Follower’, “I wanted to grow up and plough. ” This suggests to us the simplicity of language used by Heaney in both poems. Heaney tends to use simple language as there are a series of simple activities in the two poems.

    The context of the two poems is of childhood, which makes the simple language appropriate because it goes with the atmosphere of childhood, where children don’t understand very complex language. Both poems ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ also use a lot of technical and monosyllabic terms. In ‘Digging’ the description of digging Heaney gives consists of some technical terms like, “lug, shaft. ” Some of the monosyllabic terms Heaney uses are, “bog, sods, curt cuts. ” Some technical terms used in ‘Follower’ are, “hob-nailed, steel-pointed sock, mapping furrow,” and some monosyllabic terms are, “eye, wing, arm.

    Another thing to notice is that some of the vocabulary used in ‘Digging’ is also used in ‘Follower’. These words from ‘Digging’, “shaft, sods, straining,” are used in ‘Follower’ as, “shafts, sod, strained. ” There is technical vocabulary used in both poems but there is more of it in ‘Follower’. In ‘Follower’ there also some specialised terms of from ploughing, “wing, sock, headrig,” and some active verbs like, “rolled, stumbled, tripping, yapping. ” Where as in ‘Digging’ there aren’t any specialised terms or active verbs, which makes it different from the ‘Follower’.

    In ‘Digging’ there are also a few colloquial phrases like, “By God, the old man could handle a spade. ” In ‘Follower’ as well are some colloquial phrases like, “mapping the furrow exactly. ” There is an extended metaphor of digging and roots, showing how the poet in writing is getting back to his own roots. ‘Follower’ is basically literal and metaphorical since it is about the son following the father.

    The son grows up but doesn’t really follow the father by working in the fields. There are a variety of metaphors used such as, “globed like a full sail. In ‘Follower’, Heaney makes a lot of nautical references such as the father’s shoulders like the billowing of a sail of a ship, and “sod” rolls over “without breaking. ” It is unfortunate that Heaney doesn’t use nautical references in ‘Digging’ because The title ‘Follower’ is literal and metaphorical, since it’s about the son following his father. The son also grows up but doesn’t quite follow his father’s field being a farmer. This is a similarity between the ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ as it is the same as ‘Follower’ except for the part that it refers to the father and grandfather.

    Follower’ clearly shows us Heaney imitates his father but in ‘Digging’ it isn’t quite the case. In ‘Follower’ it is clearly seen he wants to “grow up and plough / close one eye, stiffen my arm. ” In ‘Digging’ Heaney does imitate a bit of his father by, “scatter new potatoes… we picked / cool hardness in our hands. ” He tries to imitate his father in the not so highly skilled type of work. In Follower Heaney wants to grow up like his father but feels guilty of not being able to do so like, “I was a nuisance, tripping, falling. In ‘Digging’ Heaney does feel a bit guilty as he knows that digging isn’t for him as shown, “I’ve no spade to follow men like them // squat pen / I’ll dig with it. ”

    In both poems it is also shown the failures of the son not living up to his father’s examples, not continuing the family root, like “… old man could handle a spade / like his old man. ” This suggests that his grandfather and father dug, which has become like a family tradition, which is a metaphor as it is his family’s in touch with the land. In Follower as well the son failed to follow the father’s example, as said, “all I ever did was follow / nuisance, tripping. There is also a role reversal in Follower towards the end, when it isn’t Heaney letting his father down but is in fact his father, “my father… keeps stumbling / will not go away. ”

    That type of role reversal, where the father is growing old doesn’t happen in ‘Digging’ making it a difference between the two poems. One of the differences between ‘Digging’ and ‘Follower’ is the fact that ‘Follower’ uses a lot of figurative language like, “globed. ” In both poems the son shows a lot of aspiration in both poems, for example, “I ever did was follow / in his broad shadow round the farm,” and in ‘Digging’, “scatter new potatoes… e picked / loving… cool hardness in our hands. ”

    These examples from both poems tell us that he did show hope towards following his father’s life, but they simply couldn’t do it anymore. They claimed that they didn’t have the sort of talent their parents or grandfather did for this particular type of work. In ‘Follower’ you would find two word sentences where as in ‘Digging’ there none in sight. “An expert,” is the small phrase used Heaney which stands out due to being in the beginning of the second stanza and simply being only two words. The period after the two short words makes them stand out as something rather important.

    That two word sentence is like a subtitle gives us a hint of what the stanza is likely to be about. This one word sentence suggests to us that it is simply a fact Heaney grew up with and this idea of expertise makes it seem important. In the last sentence of the poem it begins with ‘But,’ which should really only ever be used in the middle of a sentence. The use of this word suggests to us how significant Heaney sees this word to be, showing us how big the change has been, between the time he let his father down and when his father let him down.

    In ‘Follower’ there is a pause between the ‘single pluck’ and the explanation of what is being plucked. That helps us at the idea that such a small movement could have such a dramatic effect ‘a single pluck // of reins, the sweating team turned around / and back into the land. ‘ His ‘eye’ at an end of a line helps us feel the intensity and power of the gaze being described. ‘Follower’ consists of six stanzas each consisting of about four lines. On the other hand ‘Digging’ consists of nine stanzas of each containing different numbers of lines.

    Follower’ for example with a consistent number of lines keeps the poem flowing and helps the rhythm of the poem. ‘Digging’ on the other hand doesn’t has a specific layout which disrupts the flow of the poem slightly, and it also makes it slightly harder to read as well. I can come to the conclusion that both poems clearly show a great deal of similarities and differences, and both well written pieces give us a strong sense of the pastoral side of the world. Not to forget it shows us the strongly linked relationship between the father and the son and they way the son looks up to his father as a role model.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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    Compare And Contrast Seamus Heaney’s Poems ‘Digging’ And ‘Follower’ Essay. (2017, Oct 17). Retrieved from

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