Heaney key points and quotes

Seamus Heaney                                                                           Key Points and Quotations


(1) Effective use of everyday language  –

               Reflects the simple lives of the people:  ‘She dusts the board with a goose’s wing.’ (Sunlight)

‘He leans out on the jamb.’  (The Forge.)

Accessible yet powerful:  ‘I will feel lost, Unhappy and at home.’ (The Tollund Man)

‘…the spud/ of the dynamo gleaming and cocked back.’ (ACC)

Evocative: ‘The heavy ledger.’

(2) Variety of poetic techniques used  –

                                           Assonance:’ water honeyed in the slung bucket’ (Sunlight.)

Alliteration: ‘his slightly sweating hair.’ (A Constable Calls)

Personification:  ‘She tightened her torc on him’ (The Tollund Man)



(3) Variation in tone and mood:                               

                                            Fearful : ‘Imagining the black hole in the barracks.’

‘A shadow bobbed…’ (ACC)

Comfort and safety: ‘broad-lapped with whitened nails.’

‘And here is love….’ (Sun)

Respect and admiration: ‘he expends himself in shape and music.’ (TF)


(4) Vivid detailed imagery

Precise: ‘…the polished holster/ With its buttoned flap, the braid cord/ Looped into the revolver butt.’  (ACC)

Richly sensuous :  ‘…her hands scuffled/over the bakeboard’ (Sun)

Graphic/disturbing:  ‘Tell-tale skin and teeth/ flecking the sleepers.’ (TTM)


COMPARATIVE –    Similes:

Striking ‘Horned as a unicorn.’ (TF)

Unusual/clever  ‘…the sun stood like a griddle cooling against the wall/ of each long afternoon.’

Innovative/complex: ‘here is love/ like a tinsmith’s scoop/ sunk past its gleam/ in the meal-bin.’


Metaphors:  original ‘water honeyed.’ ‘plague of heat’ (Sun)

Powerful ‘an altar’

‘anvil’      (TF)

Rich  ‘his peat-brown head’ (TTM)


(5) Density of poetry –

        ‘The Forge’ – superficially describes blacksmith but also craft of poet. ‘The unpredictable fantail of sparks’

‘The Tollund Man’ – connects 2,400 year old Danish bog body with sectarian atrocities in Northern Ireland


(6) Universality of themes   

     Memory and childhood – fears and anxieties (ACC) ‘I assumed/ Small guilts.’

security and love (Sun) ‘here is a space/ again’ ‘And here is love’

reverence and admiration (TF)

‘Where he expends himself in shape and music.’

Craft – ‘to beat real iron out.’ (TF)

‘her hands scuffled/ over the bake board.’ (Sun)


Changing World – ‘traffic is flashing in rows’ (TF)


Societal divisions and conflict – ‘the boot of the law. (ACC)

’The scattered, ambushed/ Flesh of labourers’ (TTM)


English@ Banagher College


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