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Seamus Heaney : Digging

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Sarah Sweneya

on 11 February 2014

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Transcript of Seamus Heaney : Digging

Seamus Heaney : Digging
By God, he could dig just like his father.

My grandfather can cut a lot of grass a day, more than any other man. I gave him bottled milk. Covered with paper. He drank it and went back to work. And digging away.

The smell of the potato, the snap Of the peat. The cuts of an edge Living roots wake up in my head. I have tools to be like them.

Between my two fingers, The pen rests. And I dig with it.
About the Author:
"Seamus Justin Heaney was an Irish poet, playwright, translator and lecturer, and the recipient of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature. In the early 1960s he became a lecturer in Belfast after attending university there, and began to publish poetry. He lived in Sandymount, Dublin from 1972 until his death." Source- Poemhunter.com
The first stanza suggest the power he feels with the pen describing it as “snug as a gun.” The way it was expressed connotes that he may be fearful of using it.
The second stanza suggest that he is always surrounded and exposed to his fathers work…..he is constantly hearing the sound of him digging. He also uses the term "I look down" - which can suggest that the persona does not approve of his father's work.
The third stanza suggests that his father has been digging for 20 years in a constant routine. "comes up twenty years away" descibes the length of time his family has been doing the job.
The 4th stanza describes the power his father feels with digging using words such as “cool” to depict the satisfaction he receives from his job.
The 5th stanza emphasizes the family legacy of digging - by using the term "By God."
While the 6th is showing his grandfathers dedication to digging. When he brough him milk he drankt and began to work right away - suggests that everything they know is in the art of cultivating land.
In the 7th stanza the art of digging makes him realize that although he respects and admires his father and grandfather’s efforts. He feels that it isn’t the job for him.
In the last stanza he says that between his finger lay the pen and he takes the initiative to express his “digging” through writing.
The author is alluding to the Irish potato famine - he isnt talking directly about it but it helps to understand why potato farming was important to Irish culture.

The Irish Potato Famine occured during 1845-1849. It was a disease that destroyed the leaves and the roots of the potato. It was the worst famine to occur in Europe in the 19th century.
We believe that the tittle "Digging" refers to the search for something, to find the purpose.
Between my 2 fingers,
the pen rests, snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean sound When the spade sinks into the ground. I look down, my father’s digging.

Till he strains along his flowerbed Bends low, comes up twenty years Taking the potatoes out. Where he was digging.

The boot was on the lug, the shaft The inside knee was leveled firmly. He took out tall tops, and buried the edge deep. The potatoes that we picked, Loving their coolness in their hands.
in the beginning his attitude towards the pen is hesitant – in the sense of exercising the power that it holds. The next few stanzas show his admiration towards his father and grandfather and is absorbing the satisfaction that comes from digging. He is also torn between pursuing writing verses digging. In the end he comes to the realization that he is not like his family and his “digging” is in the form of writing. And apears to be in peace with his inner turmoil of deciding to farm verses writing.
In the beginning the persona begins by describing the position of the pen - he then shifts his focus and discusses his father's work. He continues also describing his grandfather's work. One can infer that he is in slight admiration of their work. Reading further you can see that he says "but I've no spade for men like them." - this shows a sudden shift in his emotions and thought process. The persona comes to the realization that he is not like his family and accepts his "fate" as a writer.
The theme of this poem encompassed the acceptance of ones fate and to break away from familail expectations . The persona is not set out to be a farmer and is in inner turmoil until he comes to the realization that his digging is in the form of writing.
I believe that the title "Digging" symbolizes his search for his true path - farming or writing.
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