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Seamus Heaney's "Digging"

Poetry Explication

Jessica Hessel

on 26 February 2013

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Transcript of Seamus Heaney's "Digging"

Background Info New Criticism Breakdown 1 Breakdown 2 Wrap up Elements Born 1939 in Ireland
Won the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature
Digging published in 1986
Part of a collection of works titled "Death of a Naturalist" Free Verse
No rhythmic scheme or meter*
Allusion (1)
Mastery of the 5 senses
Metaphor Digging Begins in the present

Heaney "looks down" (line 5)

Father's flashback (line 6)

"By God..." (line 15) visit Heaney's memory of his grandfather

Reveals his own
clumsiness and
(line 20) "Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun" (lines 1-2)


"Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests,
I'll dig with it." (lines 30-32) Seamus Heaney is one of Ireland's most well-known & beloved poets

Exquisite use of imagery and the senses help the reader "be there" By: Seamus Heaney Digging is a catharsis for Heaney
Generational poem about his family's traditional means of life - farming
Feels inadequate when compared to his forefathers *Lines 4-5:
Dactylic Tetrameter Allusion Imagery 5 senses "Toner's bog" (line 18) In Ireland, in the absence of coal, peat is taken from the bogs and used to fuel fires (Clines, 1983) Consistent use of the farm and working with the land
Conflict: Manual labor versus the labor of writing “Between my finger and my thumb” (line 1);
“…a clean rasping sound” (line 3);
“coarse boot nestled” (line 10);
“Loving their cool hardness in our hands” (line 14);
“Nicking and slicing neatly” (line 22);
“The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap” (line 25);
and lastly, lines 30-32, repeating with the first two lines of the poem Metaphor Metaphor:
Spade = Pen
Full transcript