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    Themes in Death of a Naturalist Essay

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    The poems “Follower” and “Digging” show that although we might admire our parents’ qualities, we cannot always lead similar lives to theirs. In “Follower” Heaney demonstrates his profound regard towards his father’s work in the image “his eye narrowed and angled at the ground, mapping the furrow exactly” because it thoroughly describes how meticulous the father was at farming. Also, Heaney actually states that he desires to be as skilled and strong as his father, “I wanted to grow up and plough, to close one eye, stiffen my arm” but reveals frustration since he knows that he’s incapable.

    The line “all I ever did was follow” also reveals Heaney’s realization that he is incapable of being a farmer but can only follow his father. In addition, in the poem “Digging” images such as “nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods over his shoulder, going down and down” portray Heaney’s respect and admiration for his father’s hard labor, strength and endurance. Nevertheless, Heaney still is sure that he cannot be like his father although he admires him; he prefers to show the same qualities as him but in a different way.

    This idea is depicted in the lines “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them. Between my finger and my thumb the squat pen rests. I’ll dig with it. ” Heaney reveals another theme in both the poems “Death of a Naturalist” and “Blackberry-Picking” about growing up and maturing. He portrays an innocent attitude towards nature and vanishes as he becomes older as how a child’s positive, life in vibrant but intense images. Time and growing up changes a person’s approach to the environment and his innocence as a child is lost.

    In the first part of the poem “Death of a Naturalist” images like “bubbles gurgled delicately” and “best of all was the warm thick slobber of frogspawn that grew like clotted water” make us sense that the speaker feels thrilled, curious and delighted about his experience with collecting frogspawn. However, the image “angry frogs invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges to a coarse croaking that I had not heard before” in the second part of the poem, shows that the speaker is threatened and revolted by the experience; now he reacts with fear.

    Also when Heaney isolates the word “before” he is clearly stating that he never heard that certain sound of the frogs before; it was the first time he actually ever thought that the croaking was vulgar. In addition, the image “I sickened, turned and ran” reveals the speaker’s sense of danger as he tries to escape the frightening frogs. Likewise in “Blackberry-Picking” The speaker first pleasantly describes the berries, and this is revealed in the simile “and you ate that first one and its flesh was sweet like thickened wine”.

    But then the experience of collecting ripe and anticipation of eating is also destroyed since Heaney later describes how the berries as shown like “a rat gray fungus, glutting on our cache” and “the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour”. Heaney also emphasizes his disappointment and the short lived nature of pleasure in the lines “I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot”. Heaney is describing the ‘new’ world in the two poems in a constant tone of danger and disappointment.

    Even though the child speaking in the poems thinks the world around him has changed, it is actually the child’s attitude which has changed as he grows up, and this growth is an unavoidable reality. Finally, Heaney’s profound regard for nature is also depicted in some of his poems. For example, in the poem “Waterfall” the simile “water goes over like villains dropped screaming to justice” and the image “my eye rides over and downwards, falls with hurtling tons that slabber and spill” reveal the intensity and strength of the waterfall.

    Heaney vividly paints a dynamic and powerful scene of nature in these lines. In addition, Heaney also shows how nature creates marvelously and almost perfectly designed creatures in his poem “Trout”. The simile “from depths smooth-skinned as plums” suggests the smoothness of the trout. The line “picks off grass-seed and moths that vanish, torpedoed” describes how agile and powerful the trout is for it to survive.

    Furthermore, Heaney’s deep esteem for nature is portrayed in the poem “Lovers on Aran” in which romantically describes the land and the sea as two lovers. This idea is illustrated in the lines “the timeless waves, bright, sifting, broken glass, came dazzling around… to possess Aran” and “did sea define the land or land the sea? ” In conclusion, through his poems in Death of a Naturalist, Seamus Heaney is mostly concerned with communicating evocative memories of childhood, growing up and nature.

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    Themes in Death of a Naturalist Essay. (2017, Oct 17). Retrieved from

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