Haney was regarded by some, such as the American poet Robert Lowell, as “the greatest Irish poet since Yeats”, and the quality and quantity of his poetry certainly reflected this statement. Poems are born of disillusionment, and this is especially evident in the poetry of Seam’s Haney that deals with Iron age bog bodies as its focus.
Poems such as “Tolland Man” and “The Agreeable Man” use these bodies as metaphors to express the author’s skepticism that modern-day Irish society is any more “civilized” than its Iron Age equivalent. Haney shows us that violence is a recurring theme of the unman condition, and in this sense the study of ancient bog bodies has allowed him to become disillusioned with the notion that humanity and Irish society has progressed.
This critique of society is usually expressed by a comparison of the violence that created the bog body with corresponding aspect of modern Irish society, such as the poem “Punishment”, which contrasts an Iron age girl who was killed as a punishment for adultery with girls during “The Troubles” who were tarred and feathered for sleeping with British soldiers; and Bog queen, which contrasts an ancient sacrifice with modern-day sectarian violence. Yet Honey’s work is not all dark.
In the very same poems, Haney expressed his hope that the world will change, and that his poetry could be a means to that end. By antipathies with history we will be less likely to repeat its mistakes, and Haney saw his poetry as a tool to convey this emotion. Put simply, Haney hoped that his poetry would make the world a better place. Poems are born of disillusionment One Haney poem where the author’s disillusionment of Irish society shows is the bog poem “Tolland man”.
This poem begins with a description of the process that ransomed an ancient man into the eponymous bog body that was retrieved by turf cutters in Denmark thousands of years later and moved to a museum. At the time of writing, the body was believed to be a the victim of a ritualistic killing, as the ancient Danes believed that the earth goddess Unearths needed to be “fertilized” by a male sacrifice in order to produce good crops the next season. In this sense, the Tolland man is a “seed”, planted in the ground to rejuvenate the land, and this is an idea that Haney explores throughout the poem.
Lines such as “l could risk blasphemy/ Consecrate the cauldron bog/Our holy ground and pray/Him to make germinate”, mi the idea of sacrifice with Honey’s own Christian beliefs, and introduce the reader to the idea that Haney has also witnessed religiously motivated killings, namely the Irish civil war and “The Troubles”, which Haney has lived through and been affect by. This link is made more explicit in the next stanza, where Haney says “The scattered, ambushed/Flesh of laborers”, referring to victims of the Irish conflict.
By comparing the sacrifice in ancient Denmark to modern day Irish sectarian violence, Haney shows how he has become disillusioned with the idea that Irish society has progressed. This is further shown in the last stanza where Haney says that when h visits Tolland Man’s body in Denmark he will feel “l will feel lost,/Unhappy and at home. “, lost, because he is in a foreign country, unhappy because of the unpleasant way the Tolland man died, but at home, because unfortunately he knows the violence all too well.
Honey’s disillusionment with Irish society is also shown in the poem “Punishment”. This poem deals with another bog body, believed at the time of discovery to have en a young girl who was killed as a punishment for adultery. The poem describes the cruel way that the girl was punished and killed by using a nautical metaphor, such as referring to the “frail rigging” of her ribs, before comparing the girl’s plight t the modern day plight of girls in Ulster who were “tarred and feathered” for sleeping with British soldiers.
When Haney says through the poem that he casts the “stones of silence”, he is referring to the fact that if he had lived in those times, he would have felt sympathy for the “Little Adulteress” but would not have stepped in or voice his opinion at the proceedings. He knows this because in a similar situation, the tarring and feathering of Ulster girls, he was not brave enough to speak up. “Civilized” society often has a very hypocritical approach towards violence, and is quick to condemn the behavior of ancient people even though similar behavior happens in the modern world.
Many people would like to believe that if they were in a terrible situation where others were being humiliated or punished, such as the drowning of the ancient German girl, they would speak out, or do something to help. Haney himself held this view, but the tarring and feathering of the Ulster girls wowed him otherwise, and he expresses his disillusionment with the strength of hi character through his poetry. Ironically, in the process of making a poem about “the stones of silence”, he does speak out and is perhaps slightly relieved of his moral guilt.
The poem “Bog Queen” also deals with disillusionment through the examination of a bog body. Instead of explicitly explaining the nature of her death, Haney focuses o the state of her body as it lies in the ground and the chemical processes that have preserved it until the point it was finally found by turf cutters. Unlike most Haney poems, Haney takes the perspective of the “Bog Queen” in the poem instead of commenting as an external observer, and the repeated motif of “l lay waiting” throughout the poem suggests that the body knows that it will see the light again.
Haney describes all the damage on the body without shielding the reader from the reality of the violence, his descriptions of “hacked bone” make us realize that the damage to the body cannot be undone. In the last stanza, the “Bog Queen” rises from the ground like a zombie from a horror movie, and the cuts and scars only seem to trenched her. An extended metaphor runs through the poem, with the bog body constantly compared to the earth and the land. Her sash is compared to “a black glacier” and the lines “the nuzzle of fjords/at my thighs” make it seem like her legs are the hills.
In the context of the poem this metaphor serves as an imagery device, to help us understand the way the decomposition process has affected the body, but within the context of Honey’s other bog poems the body becomes a representation of the Irish land. For Haney, the people and the land of Ireland form an inseparable allegations, and he sees a “Scar” on the land as a “Scar” on the people, and vice versa. Haney does not show his own disillusionment in this poem, but rather the disillusionment of Irish society towards the British.
At first the land, and thus the people, are dormant in the ground, perhaps believing that the conflict is over. They become rudely disillusioned from this idea when further atrocities are committed, as represented in the poem when the turf-cutter is bribed by a member of the British nobility to cut her hair, “a slimy birth-cord” out of the bog. This causes her to rise, threatened by the damage to her body. The cuts and scars on the body represent the crimes against the Irish people, and Haney wants to show us that Just as scars strengthen the bog queen, the Irish people will rise and be strengthened by the historical crimes against them.
It is important to note that Haney is not necessarily talking about a violent revolution, but a revitalization of Gaelic language and culture. In these poems, Haney expresses disillusionment towards different aspects of the violence in Ireland. In “Tolland Man” and “Punishment”, Haney deals with his own guillotines that Irish society has progressed beyond it’s “primitive” roots through the examination of ancient bog bodies. In “Bog Queen”, Haney uses a bog body to show Irish society’s disillusionment with the hope that there will be no more sectarian violence in Ireland.
Both kinds of disillusionment share the common theme of violence. Through his poems, Haney shares his belief that violence is an recurring aspect of the human condition from both his own view and the view of society. What did Haney hope to achieve in his poetry? As well as expressing disillusionment with the supposedly civilized nature of Irish society, Honey’s bog poems often convey a message of hope. This can be seen in the poem “Tolland Man”, where Haney aimed to convey a message of hope by bringing meaning to Irish tragedy.
As previously discussed, Haney compared an ancient sacrificed bog body to victims of modern Irish violence. In this poem, the similarity between the victims of the violence is used to express Honey’s disillusionment with Irish society, but the difference between the victims is used to convey the poet’s message of hope. Although in both cases innocent people were violently killed, the scattered, ambushed/Flesh of laborers” who died in the Irish conflict were killed in a random spontaneous bout of violence, as opposed to the Tolland Man, who was killed in the name of the “greater good”.
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As Haney say the understanding of his Iron Age contemporaries, the sacrifice Man germinated into spring, so the poem wants a similar FL violence in the present”. “The Tolland Man” is, in Honey’s w unintentional sacrifice of the victims of the Irish conflict will resolution” to Ireland. In this poem, Haney aims to convey h good can come from tragedy. A positive message for the future is also conveyed in the Poe This poem describes with vivid detail a bog body who has did omelet with “Slashed throat”.
This time the body in quests who lived around the same time as Julius Caesar. Throughout constantly compares the body with nature and the earth. His “bog oak” while his spine is referred to as “an eel arrested/u Though the tone of the piece, it is clear that Haney sees the and wondrous thing. “Who will say ‘corpse’/to his vivid cast? ‘ say ‘body/to his opaque repose? “. This balance between the body and the brutal reality is brought to a head near the en Haney proclaims that the “dying Gaul” is “hung in the scale atrocity’.
Honey’s aim in this poem was to communicate the hints can come from even the most dire circumstances. HTH further meaning when applied in the greater context of He Although no explicit link is made in this poem to the Irish trot with a poem such as “Tolland Man”, the way that the Grab beautiful in death is very similar to the way that the Tolland ground to rejuvenate the land. Both poems serve as a metal and convey Honey’s hope that those who died will bring ABA The Agreeable man, like the Tolland man, is also beautiful in cause.
This is a direct contrast to the victims of the Irish con deaths in the eyes of most. Through his poetry, Haney tries meaning” to the deaths of the modern Irish as the ancient b Many poets are very apolitical and lofty in their poems, but ability and responsibility to “pity the planet,” to be “not con used his poems as tools to change people’s understanding o this by showing the public that Irish death can also have “m Another poem where Haney shows his hope for the future “Punishment”.
In this poem, Haney shows the similarities b young girl for in ancient times for committing adultery and the “tarring and feathering” of modern day girls in Ulster for the “crime” of sleeping with British soldiers. He expresses his distaste with those who claim that modern day Ireland is any more civilized in the lines: “who would connive in civilized outrage yet understand the exact and tribal, intimate revenge. ” In this poem, Haney goes into vivid detail about the nature of the girl’s death.
We are not spared the brutal detail of the “frail rigging” of her ribs and the reality of her “drowned body’. These harsh realities, when compared to modern Ireland, help to make the public aware of the fact that brutality as severe as what was happening in ancient times is still happening in Ireland. By showing people the true nature of this conflict, Haney hopes to change society’s opinion of the violence. “l can’t think of a case where poems changed the world” says Haney, “but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world”.
Haney hopes that if people read his poems, they will understand the seriousness and brutality of the Irish conflict. Although they are dark in nature, Seam’s Haney used his bog poems to change people’s understanding of events, and to convey his hope for a better Ireland. “Punishment” achieves this by contrasting the killing of a young girl for in ancient mimes and the “tarring and feathering” of modern day girls in Ulster, in an attempt to make society realize the true nature of the Irish conflict. Tolland Man” and “The Agreeable Man” achieve this by showing Honey’s belief that the deaths of innocents in the Irish conflict should hold the same meaning and significance as the victims of ancient violence in Denmark did. All three pieces show Honey’s intention of making Ireland a better place by changing public perception of events. In conclusion, the bog poetry of Seam’s Haney shows his disillusionment with the civilized” nature of Irish society, while at the same time conveying a message of hope for the future of Ireland.
With this poetry, Haney wanted to change society view of the conflict in Ireland and show people its true nature. He believed that by doing this, the deaths of innocents would not have been in vain, because they would have helped him achieve his goal of changing this perception. Because his poems are born of disillusionment with society, they provide a platform for society to realize its own hypocrisy and progress beyond it, while at the same time providing “meaning” to mingled pointless deaths because they have helped achieve this goal.