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Death of a Naturalist

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by

Zora Williams

on 13 October 2014

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Transcript of Death of a Naturalist

Death of a Naturalist

All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart
of the townland;
green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Here, every spring, /
Miss Walls would tell us how/ the daddy frog was called a bull frog/ and how he croaked
Then one hot day,
The air was thick with a bass chorus./
Death
of a

Naturalist

By Zora Williams and Nancy Cedillo
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
There were dragon-flies spotted butterflies
but best of all was the warm thick slobber of frogspawn
Death of a Naturalist
that grew like clotted water in the shade of the banks.
I would fill jampots full of the jellied specks to range on the windowsill at home/
on shelves at school
and wait and watch until/ the fattening dots burst
into nimble- swimming tadpoles.
and how the mammy frog/ laid hundreds of little eggs and this was/ frogspawn
You could tell the weather by frogs too/
for they were yellow in the sun
and brown/ in the rain.
In the grass the angry frogs invaded the flax damn;
I ducked through the hedges/ to a course croaking that I had not heard/ before
when the fields were rank/ with cowdung
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked/ on sods;
Their loose necks pulsed like snails.
Some hopped: the slap and plop were obscene threats.
Some sat/ poised like mud grenades
Their blunt heads farting./
I sickened, turned, and ran.
The great slime kings/ were gathered there for vengence
and I knew/ That if i dipped my hand
The spawn would clutch it.
All the Year the flax dam festered in the heart
Of the townland; green and heavy headed
Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.



















Then
one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped:
The
slap
and
plop
were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads
farting
.
I sickened, turned and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengence and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the frogspawn would clutch it.
Central Focus:
In "Death of a Naturalist" Seamus Heaney employs opposition and a frogspawn metaphor to highlight the sudden "death" of innocence that ushers in a fearful and unanticipated transition into reality.
opposition
Naturalist: a student or expert in natural history;
an artist who uses naturalism in their work
Nature is a two-edged sword, a two-faced friend; brings life and death
Alliteration of "f"
physical and figurative festering of the "heart"
alliteration: personification
juxtaposition
Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles
Wove a strong gauze of s
ound
ar
ound
the smell.
There were dragon-
flies
, spotted butter
flies
But
best of all
was the
warm thick
slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every
spring
I would fill jampots full of jellied
Specks
to range on the window-sills at home,
On shelves at school, and wait and watch until
The fattening
dots
burst into nimble-
Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how
The daddy frog was called a bullfrog
And how he croaked and how the mammy frog
Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was
Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by the frogs too
For they were yellow in the sun and brown
In rain
metaphor-connects back to the wound
synesthesia
Blue flowers rot as they soak to be softened which leads to stench
flies
establishes the setting and the opposition of blue flowers and rotting (Death)
juxtaposition&simile
Tone Shift: from reminiscent and appreciative to fearful and startled; This is the Death of the Naturalist
connects back to the sweltering day of the frogspawn of his youth
angry instead of inviting
Similar to war zone now; aggressive nature of the frogs
Trying to escape this new sudden change
alliteration "c" adding harsh cacophony to the scene
synesthesia: air thick with a bass chorus; feel and sound
cocked like guns
harsh, explicit vocabulary signals the abrupt transition and understanding of the truth
onomatopoeia: cacophonous and menacing tone
prepped for combat: this is the death of the naturalist: almost a murder
frogspawn is now grown up just as he has
vengeance for stealing their young; for selfishly absorbing their habitat; for making them his recreation; for disrespecting
Frogspawn have matured from jellied slobber into Great Slime Kings
Iambic Pentameter with spondees
Seamus Heaney
ironic-childlike interest
the eggs-but to him they are nothing more than specks and dots
for his entertainment
foreshadowing
the stress switches from the second syllable to first syllable in line 21
enjambment
Grew up in a small Irish town
Oldest of 9 children
Grew up in the countryside of Ireland
American soldiers were stationed at an aerodrome near his house to prepare for Normandy in 1944 yet Heaney was between "history and ignorance" at this point in his life
Published "Death of a Naturalist" in 1966
Tries to portray the depth of nature using his rural childhood
His younger brother was killed at the age of four in a road traffic accident
His father was connected to the rural area of life while his mother was connected to the more modern economy
Even though Heaney moved away from his early homes, his poems still took place in a "country of the mind"
innocence-sex
beginning-innocence
Full transcript