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Follower By Seamus Heaney

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Georgia Hudson

on 3 November 2013

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Transcript of Follower By Seamus Heaney

Stanzas 1, 2 and 3
Stanzas 4, 5 and 6
The stanza begins with 'My father', which immediately introduces the muse of the poem to the reader, and goes on to describe his work with the horse-plough.

In the second line of this stanza, Heaney uses the simile 'his shoulders globed like a full sail strung'. The use of the word 'globed' could suggest to the reader that Heaney's father means the whole world to him.. Alternatively, it could mean that his father has the 'weight of the world on his shoulders', an image often associated with stress and worry. There is also a reference to 'sail' in this line that links to the nautical theme throughout the poem.

The last line of the stanza is 'The horses strained at his clicking tongue', which could have been used to demonstrate the level of command Heaney's father has over the horses and leaves the reader wondering if he was as controlling with his son.
Stanza 2
This stanza begins by suggesting that he is an expert in his field - farming. There are lots of uses of agricultural jargon in the poem, especially in this stanza, which allude to the expertise Heaney may have picked up from his father. Examples of this are 'set the wing', the 'steel-pointed sock', and the reference to the Earth as the 'sod'.

It also seems that Heaney has admiration for his father and sees him as an 'expert'. Thsi suggests to the reader that the 'follower' of the poem's title is Heaney, following his father in awe of his work.

As well as this, this stanza has nautical terms in it, such as a 'headrig'. The use of this word may link to the rigging of a ship or suggest that Heaney's father was always the 'head' and leading the way.
Stanza 3
In stanza 3 there are more references to the technical side of farming and Heaney's father's work with the plough. Again, his skill and command of the horses is illustrated in this stanza.

The last line of this stanza is 'Mapping the furrow exactly'; the use of the word 'exactly' gives us the impression that Heaney's father knows exactly what he is doing on the farm. This indicates that he is confident in his work and therefore suggests that he has been doing it for a long time. All this adds to the impression that Heaney's father is an 'expert' in what he does.
About the Poet
Seamus Heaney was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on April 13th 1939 and was the eldest child of nine in his family. His father, as described in 'Follower', was a farmer and cattle dealer on the family farm, on which Heaney lived until the age of 12, when he went to boarding school in Derry. Heaney has won many awards for his poetry, including his first published book, 'Eleven Poems', of which 'Follower' was a feature. This poem was written in 1965, at which point Heaney's father, Patrick, would have been at a more dependent stage in his life than Heaney, despite not being at the end of his life (he died in 1986).
My father worked with a horse-plough,
His shoulders globed like a full sail strung
Between the shafts and the furrow.
The hoexpertrse strained at his clicking tongue.

An expert. He would set the wing
And fit the bright steel-pointed sock.
The sod rolled over without breaking.
At the headrig, with a single pluck

Of reins, the sweating team turned round
And back into the land. His eye
Narrowed and angled at the ground,
Mapping the furrow exactly.

I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,
Fell sometimes on the polished sod;
Sometimes he rode me on his back
Dipping and rising to his plod.

I wanted to grow up and plough,
To close one eye, stiffen my arm.
All I ever did was follow
In his broad shadow round the farm.

I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,
Yapping always. But today
It is my father who keeps stumbling
Behind me, and will not go away.

Stanza 4
The fourth stanza begins with the word 'stumbled', suggesting that the follower is struggling to keep up and maybe hinting that Heaney is unsure where he is going in life. The image of stumbling may be of particular significance as it is repeated later on in the poem.

The reference to 'hob-nailed wake' suggests Heaney is following in his father's footsteps; this could be a literal description but it might also be a metaphor for Heaney's life in general, suggesting that he feels like he lives in the shadow of his father.

Furthermore, the fact that he 'fell sometimes' suggests that Heaney doesn't possess the same skill as that which the poem describes his father as having. It's possible that farming is a family tradition and Heaney doesn't feel like he is as good as his father or is scared of letting him down.

The last two lines tell of how Heaney's father sometimes rode him on his back, which suggests a close father and son relationship. However, the choice of the words 'dipping and rising' could be another reference to the sea and a desire to get away.
Stanza 5
Stanza 6
This stanza starts much the same as the rest of the poem by saying how, as a young boy, Heaney was 'Yapping always.' This suggests that he was like a puppy and therefore highly dependent on their owner, suggesting Heaney was dependent on his father but excited to be around him.

However, the next line gives a completely contrasting image as Heaney says 'It is my father who keeps stumbling.'. This is a sudden role reversal as the poem is brought to present day, suggesting that his father is now dependent on his son instead. The poet says how his father is 'Behind me, and will not go away.' Heaney says this in a quite spiteful way, which suggests to the reader that he resents his father for not leaving him alone.

The poem has gone full circle in that all the way through the poem Heaney was the 'follower' of the title, dependent on his father, but now its his father who is dependent on him and the role of the follower has changed hands.
Follower is a poem by Seamus Heaney around the theme of parent child relationships. The title of the poem immediately poses the question of who is the follower. Following someone or something can be seen in both a positive or negative way - as an admirer or an annoyance that can't be shaken - so the title already has the reader wondering in which respect the word is meant. It begins by Heaney narrating his time as a child, following his father as he worked and admiring him, but the mood changes in the last stanza as he talks of how it is now his father who is the follower and his admiration for him has become irritation as Heaney's father has become dependent upon him. Throughout the poem are nautical references, which could have been used by Heaney to show how a ship appears to travel smoothly but there is a lot going on below deck. Alternatively, this may refer to the want to travel and a desire to be on the waves or out of Ireland (Heaney's homeland) or the poets personal ambition. On a ship you cannot just walk away; maybe this is how Heaney feels about his father - that he can't walk away from him as he wants to.
Stanza 1
From the first words in the fifth stanza, the reader can immediately see how desperate Heaney was to be like his father and grow up to farm. In the second line, he talks of imitating his father: 'To close one eye, stiffen my arm'; imitation is a way of showing your respect and admiration for a person and these feelings are shown here .

'All I ever did was follow' in the third line suggests how maybe Heaney's father didn't trust him to do any jobs however he still admired him enough to always follow. The use of 'shadow' alludes to his father not always acknowledging him; nevertheless he was still always there. This could also show that he didn't ever feel that he could fully live up to his father's 'broad shadow', linking back to the footsteps and how he may have felt inadequate compared to his father.
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