My essay will compare the presentation of nature in Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist, Gillian Clarke’s A Difficult Birth, Easter 1998 as well as Patrolling Barnegat and Sonnet from the pre-1914 bank. Nature is a theme which can be represented in different ways. Poets choose nature as a theme in their poems for different reasons. Some choose nature as they see it as something beautiful where as others choose it due to its power to be cruel and destructive. Many poets use nature as a background to a human experience and is often used to represent emotions and events.
In Death of a Naturalist Seamus Heaney uses nature as theme to desribe his change of emotions. In A Difficult Birth Gillian Clarke uses nature as a theme to represent the Irish peace talks, an event which was occuring at Easter time in 1998. A number of pre-1914 poets also use nature to represent what their poem is about. In Patrolling Barnegat the poet Walt Whitman uses nature to show how destructive it can be through a storm and in Sonnet John Clare uses nature to describe the beatry of the countryside during the summer months.
The way in which the poets structure their poems relates to the use of nature in representing the emotions and events of the poems. For example, in Death of a Naturalist, the first stanza is about Heaney’s enjoyment at working with the frogspawn, but best of was the warm thick slobber. In contrast, the second stanza is about his change of perception of the frogs as he is now frightened of them, I sickened, turned and ran. Similarly, in A Difficult Birth each stanza shows a different stage of the birth and also peace process.
For example, in the third stanza, the lamb won’t come suggests that there are difficulties, then in the fourth stanza, the poet says we strain together and the lamb is born. This allows us to see the difficulties of this natural event and it gives us an idea of how hard the peace deal was the negotiate. As the structure changed being the stanza in this case, as does the situation. In Death of a Naturalist his situation changes from one stanza to another and the same occurs in A Difficult Birth.
Both of the pre-1914 poems also use structure in a way in which it relates to the theme of nature. Both poems are one large sentence with Patrolling Barnegat only using commas at the end of each line and Sonnet doesn’t use any punctuation at all. Although both are similar in this way of structuring I believe it is done for differing reasons in each of the poems. In Patrolling Barnegat the long sentence is put in place to create a sense that the storm is happening at the present time rather than writing about it in the past.
Where as in Sonnet, I believe this way of structuring has been put in place because it helps the poet create one image on the countryside rather than seperate images meshing together as one. Another way in which the structure is used in a way in which it relates to the theme of nature is the rhyme scheme. In Patrolling Barnegat, at the end of every line each word ends with -ing such as remitting, careering and slanting, I believe this is done to again emphasise that the event of the storm is happening as the poem is being written.
The rhyme scheme of Sonnet differs to that of Patrolling Barnegat. In Sonnet there is a simple rhyme scheme in which two lines have two endings which have the same sound and/or spelling. I believe Clare uses such a simple rhyme scheme because it is like a summery day in the countryside, uncomplicated and simple in it’s beauty. All four poets use language and imagery from nature to make the events and emotions within the poem seem more vivid.
In Death of a Naturalist, Heaney uses war-like language to desribe the situation he finds himself in with the frogs, he uses words such as Invaded and grenades to describe the frogs and their actions when the frogs enter the dam. He sees the frogs as being things terrifying like war, and uses this sort of language to desribe it. Patrolling Barnegat also uses miliatary words to describe the on going situation. Whitman uses words such as advancing to create the idea that the storm is like a battleground between the land and the sea. The people who are patrolling the beach are there to try and prevent the land from attack.
The same can be said about Gillian Clarke’s poem A Difficult Birth, this poem has language about the war which was happening in Northern Ireland such as since Easter 1916, exhausted, tamed by pain, showing how the war has effecteds the people of the country. The difference between the two poems of Heaney and Whitman compared the that of Clarke is that there seems to have been no resolution in Death of a Naturalist, Heaney still frightened of the frogs, and Patrolling Barnegat, the storm seems to be ongoing due to the -ing endings.
Where as in A Difficult Birth there was a resolution, peace, as shown metaphorically by the birth of the lamb, which represented the birth of peace. Each of the poets is trying to use the image of Nature to express different feelings and emit their different attitudes. Three of the poems being Death of a Naturalist, A Difficult Birth and Patrolling Barnegat all use nature to describe the fear they are feeling or other people are feeling.
In Death of a Naturalist Heaney shows fear as he is frightened by the frogs as shown by I sickened, turned, and ran, showing that he fears the frogs so much that he felt the need to run away. A Difficult Birth shows fear as the people of Northern Ireland feared the peace deal would never go through, this is shown in the poem metaphorically through the fear that the lamb would never be born, But the lamb won’t come. Fear is shown in Patrolling Barnegat as the people patrolling Barnegat fear that if the sea does “attack” then they will perish so they act cautiously.
As well as fear, three of the poems also contain happiness, these three poems being Sonnet, Death of a Naturalist and A Difficult Birth. Sonnet is a generally happy poem. John Clare seems to be happy due to it being summer and him being in the countryside. Death of a Naturalist begins with Seamus Heaney being happy workin with the frogspawn but then his perception changes where as in A Difficult Birth the poem begins in a worrying tone, but once the two lambs are borned meaning the peace deal has been signed then there is happiness.
In conclusion, all four of these poems are made to be more powerful through their use of nature. Natural images are used to help us imagine feelings and ideas more clearly, even if it is beyond our personal experiences. I find the use of nature to represent emotions particularly moving in A Difficult Birth as it enables the poet to desribe their emotions and feelings of at first worry and then relief and joy in a very well worked way.