The poems “Storm on the Island” by Seamus Heaney and “Hurricane hits England” by Grace Nichols explore the force of nature. Seamus Heaney and Grace Nichols both had experiences of the power of Nature. There are many similarities and differences between the two poems which must now be examined.
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in County Derry, in Ireland, at the beginning of the Second World War. He was the eldest of nine children and spent his childhood growing up in the countryside of Mossbawn on his father’s fifty acre farm
Which shows he has much experience of nature’s power?
Grace Nichols background is more complicated, because it involves the poets own history of moving between cultures – Caribbean and English and the wider history of both cultures. Grace Nichols also grew up in a small country village but on the Atlantic coast of Guyana, in the Caribbean. In the 1970s, she moved to England, and now lives on the coast of Sussex.
We can tell in Seamus Heaney’s poem that he from Northern Ireland as he uses Northern Ireland dialect. He grew up in the countryside and there is countryside and animals in the poem. He has an understanding and fascination with nature from his childhood. Grace Nichols also uses her dialect in the poem which is a Caribbean dialect. This is shown when she addresses the Caribbean Gods in the poem. The poem is based on her move to England and her difficulty in settling in to this culture the poem is also based on real events when serious hurricanes hit England in the 1980’s.
The voice in both poems is written from a personal perspective. Grace Nichols voice is active and it is telling us how much the hurricane damaged and yet taught her a lesson personally, Seamus Heaney also talks about the destruction of the Island for example: ” Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees which might prove company when it blows full”. Both poems are very dramatic. They both emphasise the power of nature at its worst and how it affects them. The voice in both poems uses a conversational style which makes the reader more involved, as if Heaney wants to explain to the people what it is like to live on a remote and unprotected island. He wants the reader to understand the bleakness and fear its inhabitants feel.
The Techniques and themes of the poems also show that they are similar. In Seamus Heaney’s poem he uses Nature, Oxy Moran, Alliteration and Themes. Examples of alliteration is “while wind dives” and in Grace Nichols “the howling ship of the wind”. They both have examples of oxy Moran in Seamus Heaney’s it is “Fearful and reassuring” they show the two sides of mother nature/sea which is beautiful but dangerous. “Fearful and reassuring” (line 7) which is a paradox. The two poems are about power of nature. Nature is the biggest theme in the two plays.
The form of Heaney’s is blank verse and in both of them the rhythm goes well with the content because it’s slow to begin with but it speeds up near the end, to show the unpredictability of the storm and damage it could cause. In Grace Nichols poem certain line are on their own e.g. “O why is my heart unchained” one stanza is in third person narrative and the rest of her poem is written in first person. The use of the third person narration in the opening stanza emphasises the distance and isolation she feels from England and in Seamus Heaney’s the first person narration emphasises the sense of community.
The imagery is similar because it is mostly nature imagery. The imagery makes you feel as if you were there. The poets use a lot of violent imagery. In Grace Nichols,” Reaping havoc” and “what is the meaning of trees falling down like whales” emphasise the shear height and weight of the trees as they fall in the storm. The metaphor” As sweet mystery comes to break the frozen lake in me” emphasises that the storm has taught her a lesson and reassured her. That quote is symbolic in that the poet has been frozen away from her own country so that the arrival of the hurricane can help “break the ice” and allow her to live more comfortably in her new home.
In Seamus Heaney’ s poem he uses lots of imagery like he describes the island as “wizened” which first appears to be a complaint but however, ironically this turns out to be a blessing as the storm approaches “there are no stacks or stooks that can be lost”. There is a lot of violent imagery and animal imagery “spits like a tame cat” which is an animal simile that the storm is very vicious and it has lots of’s’ sounds suggesting the storm is evil or sinister. There is also military and war-like imagery such as “We are bombarded by the empty air” suggesting that the community has to fight the storm. The storm is not tangible or visible yet its destruction could be colossal. Lots of enjambment is also used to emphasise the continuity of the storm. In the two poems most of the imagery is violent.
The language in the two poems is very a like. They both describe the storms as dreadful and one of nature’s worst aspects.
At the start of Seamus Heaney’s poem the tone is very confident and he used repetition “We are prepared: we build our house squat”, but half way through the poem it changes to anxiety and fear and he still uses repetition “But there are no trees, no natural shelter”. The tone in Grace Nichols however is very curious at the start because she wonders how a hurricane came there. She fluctuates between a tone of happiness and relief as the storm reminds her of home and a tone of fear and confusion because of the damage it could cause and because its so out of place in England at the end of the poem the tone becomes one of acceptance plus relief as she realises that, the storm has taught her a lesson – England is no different than her home in the Caribbean.
The mood in Grace Nichols poem is one of anxiety as the hurricane gathers strength. There are changing moods in this poem. At the start the mood is very weary and conscious of what is going on. At the end of the poem the mood is happy and relaxed while in Seamus Heaney’s it is the opposite – the mood is relaxed at the start and then a mood of menace appears at the end. The mood is mostly scary and unpredictable just like the storm.
In Seamus Heaney’s poem and Grace Nichols poem there is no regular rhyme scheme which shows how unpredictable the storm is. In Grace Nichols the Rhythm at the start of the poem emphasises her wondering how there is a hurricane in England. The whole poem tends to have a musical rhythm which emphasises the Caribbean language that makes it more realistic, this rhythm makes the poem more conversational. The speed is fast which enhances the enjambment, However for the first line stanza the rhythm slows to emphasis her turmoil. The rhythm also slows in the final stanza to show her relief and happiness. Neither poem’s follows a regular rhyme emphasising the storm’s unpredictability which emphasises the iambic pentameter in Heaney’s poem.
In conclusion both poems are similar because they are both about nature’s power and the destruction it can cause. They are both also very similar because they show unpredictability of Mother Nature. They both use many similar poetic techniques but for different reasons. Essentially Nichols poem is more personal as it explains how the hurricane affected her emotionally. My favourite poem was Seamus Heaney’s because it had a lot better descriptions and I found it more interesting and exciting.