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Transcript of The Forge
All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil's short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immoveable: an altar
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and a flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.
The Forge, by Seamus Heaney, uses its symbolism, lamenting tone, and vivid imagery, to show that as times change so to do professions and as a result professions of the old days are forgotten and have nothing to offer in the advanced new world. As a result these people whose professions have become obsolete know nothing more than what they have spent their entire lives doing and so become like relics stuck in a museum gathering dust in a display case never serving their true purpose.
There are many cases in the poem where symbolism is used to show how the forger perceives his profession with admiration and devotion, creating a new perspective for the readers.
There is a lamenting tone throughout the poem which shows that the forger misses days of the past when he was needed, however he uses his one and only talent to survive in the ever-changing world.
Imagery is used within the poem to illustrate the scenes and sounds of the workplace and the forger's works of art, created using his tools and bare hands.
"old axles and iron hoops rusting;"
"recalls a clatter of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;"
The first quote shows that the forger is talented being able to craft axles and iron hoops.
However the reference to the rusting signifies that time has past.
In the second quote the forger peaks out to find a busy road full of traffic but recalls the days of his past when he was needed. In addition this shows how much time has passed (horses-cars). In other words his profession has become obsolete
"Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immoveable: an altar"
These lines both symbolize different things however at the same time show this profession a new light.
Unicorns symbolizes magic and purity.
An altar is a religious and holy reference.
"Where he expends himself in shape and music."
This quote symbolizes that the forger is devoted to his work.
In addition to this the labor is not referred to as work but instead shape and music representing himself as an artist.
"All I know is a door into the dark."
This first line introduces a negative "dark" environment in which the forger works.
This line also indicates that the forger has limited knowledge and/or may only know life inside the forge and be clueless about the outside.
"Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and a flick"
This line from the poem shows that the forger accepts defeat from the modern world and goes back in through the dark door to do the one and only thing he does best.
Imagery Showing Magic
The line "The unpredictable fantail of sparks" shows a vivid image of the anvil getting pounded and the sparks flying. This is similar to the explosion that occurs in fireworks and leaves an image of magic and beauty in the mind of the reader.
Images Creating Sound
"Or hiss when a new shoe toughens in water"
This line has an onomatopoeia in it which makes the toughening shoe even more vivid and surreal.
Images Portraying Masculinity
"Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,"
The line shows the forger as a masculine man who works with his hands and can be seen as hairy. It contributes to the character of the forger.