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Digging. by Seamus Heaney. Link to Bitesize video on slide 4. Themes/ideas Man’s relationship with nature Parent/Child relationship Nature. Key terms: Metaphor Symbolism Onomatopoeia Enjambment Alliteration Sibilance Repetition. The poem. 5. 10. 15.

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Digging l.jpg

Digging

by Seamus Heaney

F/H

Link to Bitesize video on slide 4


The poem l.jpg

Themes/ideas

Man’s relationship with nature

Parent/Child relationship

Nature

Key terms:

Metaphor

Symbolism

Onomatopoeia

Enjambment

Alliteration

Sibilance

Repetition

The poem

F/H


Slide3 l.jpg

5

10

15

Nine stanzas of varying length; this could reflect the unpredictable nature of memories as the come back to the poet

Heaney sees his father, an old man, digging the flowerbeds. He remembers how his younger, stronger father used to dig in the potato fields when Heaney was a child - and how his grandfather, before that, was an expert turf digger.

20

25

30

F/H


Slide4 l.jpg

Physical digging of the father and grandfather

Heaney’s ‘digging’ into the past (memories)

There is more than one possible meaning to this title. What are they?

Digging

Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.Under my window a clean rasping soundWhen the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My father, digging. I look downTill his straining rump among the flowerbedsBends low, comes up twenty years awayStooping in rhythm through potato drillsWhere he was digging.The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaftAgainst the inside knee was levered firmly.He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deepTo scatter new potatoes that we pickedLoving their cool hardness in our hands.

Heaney mixes tenses to emphasise the act of remembering

Present tense, immediacy

5

Enjambment between stanza 1 and 2 shows his mind ‘running’ into the memory

This stanza marks the start of his reminiscence and he describes it visually, mixing tenses

10

Past tense until the last two stanzas as Heaney ‘digs’ back into the memory

Sibilant ‘s’ sounds suggest the slicing of the spade whilst the alliterative ‘g’s suggest the resistance of the ground

F/H


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Heaney describes his holding of the pen in similar detail to his father holding the shovel. Why?

Digging

Fits in his hand and is powerful, much like the spade of his father’s

Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests; as snug as a gun.Under my window a clean rasping soundWhen the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My father, digging. I look downTill his straining rump among the flowerbedsBends low, comes up twenty years awayStooping in rhythm through potato drillsWhere he was digging.The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaftAgainst the inside knee was levered firmly.He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deepTo scatter new potatoes that we pickedLoving their cool hardness in our hands.

The poet looks down on his father; this contrasts with the later image of him ‘looking up’ to him as a child. What does this suggest about heir relationship

This attention to his father allows him to describe the process in detail

Emphasise his father’s skill and connection with the land and the work

Heaney remembers helping his father when he dug potatoes. It evokes an image of a young Heaney closely watching his father at work. Possibly with the childlike admiration that seems to be in this poem

F/H


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Simple explanation of how he admires his father. Could it be tinged with regret that his father is no longer the powerful man he was?

The repeated phrase could give a sense of the loving bond shared across the generations

Heaney metaphorically digs further into the past

By God, the old man could handle a spade,Just like his old man.My grandfather could cut more turf in a dayThan any other man on Toner's bog.Once I carried him milk in a bottleCorked sloppily with paper. He straightened upTo drink it, then fell to right away

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sodsOver his shoulder, digging down and downFor the good turf. Digging.

15

20

Heaney’s pride extends to his grandfather too. He was strong and skilled and hard-working and once again, Heaney helped him

F/H


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Onomatopoeia forces the reader to share in the vividity of the memory

As do the other appeals to the senses throughout the poem

Alliterative ‘c’ sounds emphasise the neatness of the cuts his grandfather made

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slapOf soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edgeThrough living roots awaken in my head.But I've no spade to follow men like them.Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I'll dig with it.

25

What are the meanings of ‘living roots’ and how can they awaken in Heaney’s head?

30

Does he regret not having the spade?

Why does he have ‘no spade’?

Change of culture meaning he’s not required to dig?

Does he feel as if his father and grandfather would be disappointed in him?

F/H


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Repetition of the opening stanza without the gun simile the memory

What is the significance of this decision?

Return to the present tense and then into the future at the end. Emphasising Heaney’s determination

The cold smell of potato mold, the squelch and slapOf soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edgeThrough living roots awaken in my head.But I've no spade to follow men like them.Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I'll dig with it.

25

30

Heaney’s pen now becomes a spade with which he will explore his past in the same way as he has in this poem

This is a return to his roots, in a sense

What is the effect of the repetition of ‘digging’ and ‘dig’ throughout the poem?

F/H


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Comparisons the memory

  • Song of the Old Mother

  • Both poems deal with the relationship between generations, and both describe hard, physical work

  • But the Old Mother is bitter about the drudgery which she must do; while Heaney's poem celebrates the work as creative.

  • Catrin

  • Both poems are intensely personal

  • Both poems deal with the bonds between the generations - in Clarke's poem a mother addresses her child, while in Heaney's a son talks about his father and grandfather.

What other comparisons are there?

F/H


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Review the memory

  • How does the poem explore ideas of heritage and family tradition?

  • What does the poem suggest about physical labour?

  • Explain in your own words the image in the last line of the poem.

  • What is Heaney’s relationship with nature?

  • Should this poem be read with pride, regret or sorrow? Find quotations to prove all three possibilities.

F/H


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