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"The Otter" by Seamus Heaney

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by

Kaity Shorb

on 3 February 2015

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Transcript of "The Otter" by Seamus Heaney

OTTER
By Seamus Heaney
Presentation by: Lydia Barr and Kaitlynn Shorb
THE
When you plunged
The
light

of Tuscany wavered
And
swung

th
rough
th
e pool
From top to bottom.
I loved your w
e
t h
e
ad and
s
mashing

crawl,
Your fine
s
wimmer'
s
back and
s
houlder
s
S
urfa
c
ing and
s
urfa
c
ing again
Thi
s
year and every year
s
ince
I sat
dry
-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the
grape
deep-
air
Thinned and disappointed
.
Thank God for the slow loadening,
When I hold you now
We are closed and deep
As the atmosphere on water
.
My two hands
are
plumbed
water.
You are my
palpable
,
lithe
Otter
of
memory
In the
pool of the moment
,
Turning to swim on your back,
Each
silent, thigh-shaking
kick
Re-tilting the
light
,
Heaving
cool
at your neck.
And suddenly
you're out
Back again, in
t
en
t
as ever,
Heavy and frisky
in your
freshened pelt
,
Printing the
stones.
When you plunged
The light of Tuscany wavered
And swung through the pool
From top to bottom.
Your fine swimmer's back and shoulders
Surfacing and surfacing again
I loved your wet head and smashing crawl,
I sat dry-throated on the warm stones.
You were beyond me.
The mellowed clarities, the grape deep-air
Thinned and disappointed.
Thank God for the slow loadening,
Turning to swim on your back,
Each silent, thigh-shaking kick
Re-tilting the light,
And suddenly you're out
Back again, intent as ever,
Heavy and frisky in your freshened pelt,
Printing the stones.
This year and every year since
My two hands are plumbed water.
When I hold you now
We are closed and deep
As the atmosphere on water.
In the pool of the moment,
Otter of memory
You are my palpable, lithe
No set rhythm, foot or meter.
Four-lines in seven stanzas (28 lines)

What's Happening: The persona used to watch and is now watching a woman swim, and compares her to an otter.

Unusual Diction:
loadening - carry or hold a large or excessive amount
plumbed - measure the depth of a body of water
lithe - thin, supple, and graceful
frisky - playful and full of energy
palpable - able to be felt
Literal Elements
Background on Heaney
Heaving cool at your neck.
born in 1939 - grew up on a farm in Northern Ireland
parents - Irish Catholic
attended boarding school, St. Josephs College of Belfast
1995 Nobel Prize for Literature
died summer of 2013 - last words were to wife "noli timere" = don't be afraid (quote from the book of Matthew)
commonly known for use of nature and animals
writes from his memories and past
Central Focus
In the lyrical poem "The Otter" by Seamus Heaney, the use of an extended metaphor and opposition expresses the importance of love and the freedom it can bring.
imagery
light-refers to the way water bends light
"become unsteady"
unclear who
onomatopoeia
otter?
woman?
persona observed this - uses "I"
tone shift - from past to present
opposition with "wet head," "pool"
he's disappointed too
imagery
a barrier between them - water and land
personification
slow development of relationship - "loaden" and "hold"
He's including himself
to measure the depth of water
opposition , (otter and lithe, palpable and memory)
metaphor- compares her to an otter
thin and graceful.
enjambment
opposition
light mentioned again
opposition
tone change
opposition to lithe
metaphor to otter
connects to the stones mentioned before
compares her to an artist
harsh "t"
"You were beyond me"



"I sat dry..."


"I sat... on the warm stones"

Past Present
"When I hold you now"
"You are... palpable"

"My hands are plumbed water"

"You're out... printing the stones."
Final Insights
After watching the woman in the past, the persona is finally able to be with her.
Their separation is only one "memory" in "the pool of the moment."
He compares her to a "otter," which is graceful, agile and beautiful in the water.
In this "pool of the moment," the two are unimpeded in their love, as an otter is free is the water.
simile - the way the atmosphere and water are close, so are they
finally united - speak as one
not far away anymore
INTERVIEWER: Do you have a special affection for Italy?

HEANEY: I do, yes. It's a place I feel I could live in-Tuscany, especially.
personification
"s" sound - lyrical, flows off tongue
vs cool water
Full transcript