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Mint - Seamus Heaney
Transcript of Mint - Seamus Heaney
Transition between 2 sections (past/present)
The moment when Heaney links his past to his present and finds the connection between the Mint and the situation around him.
The sound of the scissors and the bright light and the potent smell of mint brings Heaney back to the present
Alliteration of "The snip of scissor blades"
Repeated alliteration in "Mornings when the mint"
Mia Harland and Thea Simpson
"The light of Sunday"
"My last things will be the first things slipping from me"
"Yet let all things go free that have survived"
"My last things will be first things slipping from me./ Yet let all things go free that have survived."
Strongest reference to religious themes in poem
Matthew 20:16 -
"So the last shall be first, and the first last"
could link to the religious differences of Loyalists and Nationalists
use of "will" instead of "shall" - achieves effect of making grand philosophical statement without sounding pretentious
more approachable to reader
"the light of Sunday"
first reference to theme of religion
"Yet let all things go free that have survived"
written in iambic pentameter
furthers rhythm/meter in poem
Began with a civil rights march in Londonderry on 5 October 1968
Goal of Protestant majority: remain part of the United Kingdom.
Goal of nationalists/republicans/Catholics: become part of the Republic of Ireland.
Battle of The Bogside:
August 12 1969- serious rioting in response to loyalist parade.
Sunday 30 January 1972- British troops fire on civil rights march after riot develops. 13 injured, 1 dead.
October 3- Bobby Sands and other hunger strikers die from starvation
"Troubles" Concluded with the Good Friday Agreement on 10 April 1998
In Seamus Heaney's "Mint", the poet's lingering memory of the mint plant pervades as the effects of "The Troubles" upon the Irish public are outlined.
"The Troubles" of Ireland
March 1 1981- Bobby Sands (then leader of IRA) begins hunger strike in Maze prisoners to protest the ending of special category status.
possible that this may have been a motivating factor for Heaney to write this poem
In a poem both reflective and driven, Heaney subtly sheds light upon the underlying problems of Irish society in a time of political unrest.
As the poem progresses, descriptions of what seems, at first glance, to be mint itself, are gradually made to represent a political ideology.
By keeping all notions associated with mint in close relation to memories of social and political unrest, Heaney interweaves the two and transitions easily from the literal to the metaphorical.
A brief outline of what is to be further explored in the presentation
Heaney uses elevated diction, as is commonly used in religious texts, but makes the his voice more amiable and approachable to the reader.
As for that being described, Heaney refers to "The Troubles", a period of time which drastically shaped Irish history (and that is a feature in many of his poems).
"Let the smells of mint go heady and defenseless"
from last line of previous sentence
worded in biblical way - call to action
"smells of mint"
- smell is linked to memories of being younger and without purpose
- correlates with memories
- the British are the "fence" surrounding the Irish, and here Heaney might be calling for the "de-fencing" of Ireland
-Basic Structure: Quatrains, each stanza ends with a full stop.
-Loose rhyme scheme: Perfect rhyme is frequent.
The loose rhyme scheme creates a meandering flow which is countered by the rigidity of the quatrains.
The result of the above combination is of an impression of purpose, as though some message is to be delivered by the poet, mixed with the drifting nature of fragments of memory.
-Poem is introduced as though to be based upon a lingering memory of youth.
-Past tense creates a feeling both of refection and purpose.
-Past tense further creates intrigue, which is in turn enforced by the ambiguous "it" and "we".
"Like inmates liberated in that yard"
- provides another notion of the Voice's new purpose
- double meaning
the prison yard for the inmates
the yard where the mint can be found
- rhymes perfectly with
-Stanza sets the scene for what is to come.
-Establishes a premonition of sorts.
-Heaney transitions from initial descriptions to a striking personal comment.
-The metaphor for the political ideal at the core of the poem now takes shape:
-The need for purpose is outlined.
-The growing strength and empowerment of this group is in turn illuminated.
"Like the disregarded ones we turned against/Because we'd failed them by our disregard.
"the disregarded ones"
- inmates are compared to mint as being forgotten
reflects remorse and guilt felt within Heaney's Voice
- perfect rhyme
Combination of the young and the naive with the firm and resolute:
-"Callow": soft "l" and "o" sounds highlight youth and innocence.
-"Tenacious": sharp consonants oppose this.
"The Maze" Prison (in Ireland) today
Final line increases the sense of purpose:
-As a greater human element is added to the poem, the suggestions of metaphor at the start are solidified.
-Sauntered implies a confidence, and rife furthers this notion by connoting a growth, or spread of ideas.
Thus, the last line rings with purpose, aided by the full stop.
Thus, Heaney completes the poem with a tone both passionate and solemn.
Each stanza in turn strengthens the reference to the political ideology, while furthering associations with mint.
The resulting effect of this on the reader is that of resonance; the close association of mint and politics heightens the overall experience of the poem as both a memory and a message.
A Note in Advance:
Seamus Heaney was born in Northern Ireland in 1939.
It is unsurprising, then, that many of his poems ring true to that undergone by the Irish during "The Troubles", as a large part of his life would inevitably have been characterized by them.
Another point worth mentioning is Heaney's love of nature, expressed in many of his poems both as the driving factor of the poem or a brief feature of it.
Many of Heaney's poems, as a result of the above, merge the political and the natural, "Mint" being among them.