The Use of Language in the Work of Seamus Heaney

Essay by patsmithHigh School, 12th gradeA+, June 2004

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"The use of language in poetry, particulary that of poetic devices, is as important as the meanings conveyed by these." Respond to this statement.

I have chosen to take a contrary viewpoint to the comment. Enjoy :)

While the use of language is a significant part of all poetic works, it should not be said that this is more important than the actual message which these words convey. Rather, language is a receptacle for the themes and issues which the poet is attempting to portray to the reader. This is seen in much of Seamus Heaney's poetry, particularly in 'Death of a Naturalist' and 'Blackberry Picking', where Heaney's prolific use of figurative language communicates, and enhances, the meaning of the poems to the reader.

In 'Death of a Naturalist', Heaney writes about a young boy's experience with nature, and the results of this. After years of taking frogspawn from the "flax-dam", the persona has suddenly seen the frogs for what they are from an aesthetic perspective, and Heaney describes the frogs as a marauding, if not Biblical plague which has set out to seek revenge on the persona of the poem.

A very similar poem in theme and style to 'Blackberry Picking', 'Death of a Naturalist' starts off in analogous style, with a relatively long opening stanza which sets the scene for the rest of the poem, but is however drastically differing the its views. We see in the first stanza Heaney describe the pleasant aspects of this part of nature, and the discovery which surrounds it, but in the shorter second stanza, this changes radically to a vivid, unpleasant description of the frogs and the fear which this sparks in the persona.

We see an example of figurative language in the title...