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Death of a Naturalist. By Seamus Heaney. Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

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Death of a Naturalist

By Seamus Heaney


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Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

Death of a Naturalist

All year the flax-dam festered in the heart

Of the townland; green and heavy headed

Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.

Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.

Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles

Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.

There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

Seamus Heaney, New Selected Poems 1966 - 1987


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How does our attitude change as we grow up?

Make a list of things you may have done/ played with as a child, but would not enjoy now.

E.g. Playing in the mud on rainy days.

Jumping in puddles wearing your red Wellington boots.

What has made your enjoyment of these things change?


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All year the flax-dam festered in the heartOf the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

Underline the positive images or words in this section in red or using a dashed line.

Underline the negative images or words in this section in black or using a solid line.

Find examples of an oxymoron and a metaphor, then comment upon their purpose in the poem.


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Oxymoron

An oxymoron is a figure of speech in which contradictory terms are used in conjunction.

Giant dwarf A fine mess

Abundant poverty Alone together

Military diplomacy Accurate rumours

Falsely true


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Metaphor

A metaphor is a figure of speech in which a thing is spoken of as being that which it resembles.

e.g.

He is a pig


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All year the flax-dam festered in the heartOf the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.Bubbles gargleddelicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,

Positive images or words are underlined/ highlighted in red.

Negative images or words are underlined/ highlighted in black.

Oxymoron

Metaphor


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But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles.

  • Which phrase sounds like a child describing the scene?

2. Identify the ugly image that would be appealing to a child.

3. Where has onomatopoeia bee used?

4. Where has a simile been used to describe the frog spawn?

  • 6. Underline other phrases that have been used to describe the frogspawn.

5. Why are these techniques effective?


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1

2 ‘The warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn’

But best of all was the warm thick slobber

Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water

In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring

I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied

Specks to range on window-sills at home,

On shelves at school, and wait and watch until

The fattening dots burst into nimble-

Swimming tadpoles.

3 ‘slobber’

4 ‘like clotted water’

  • Which phrase sounds like a child describing the scene?

  • Identify the ugly image that would be appealing to a child.

  • Where has onomatopoeia bee used?

  • Where has a simile been used to describe the frog spawn?

  • Why are these techniques effective?

  • Underline other phrases that have been used to describe the frogspawn.


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Miss Walls would tell us how

The daddy frog was called a bullfrog

And how he croaked and how the mammy frog

Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was

Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too

For they were yellow in the sun and brown

In rain.

How do we know the boy’s interest was created by a nature lesson at school?

What is the tone of this first section of the poem?


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How do we know that this section of the poem describes an experience later in the summer? Is it a pleasing image of the season?

Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

How are the developed frogs made to sound ugly and threatening?

What is Heaney trying to say about man and nature in this poem? How do the use of positive and negative images reflect his ideas?

Why does this experience cause the ‘death’ of the naturalist?

How is the tone of this section of the poem different from the first stanza?


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How do we know that this section of the poem describes an experience later in the summer? Is it a pleasing image of the season? ( )

Then one hot day when fields were rank

With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs

Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges

To a coarse croaking that I had not heard

Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.

Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked

On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:

The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat

Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.

I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings

Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew

That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.

How are the developed frogs made to sound ugly and threatening? ( )

What is Heaney trying to say about man and nature in this poem? How do the use of positive and negative images reflect his ideas?

Why does this experience cause the ‘death’ of the naturalist?

( )

How is the tone of this section of the poem different from the first stanza?


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Is this poem just about frogs? experience later in the summer? Is it a pleasing image of the season? ( )

Why is it significant that this poem is written from an adult perspective, looking back on a childhood experience?

What is being said about growing up?

Heaney often represents aspects of nature as basic, ugly and threatening. Does this poem demonstrate this?

Does this mean that Heaney doesn’t like nature?

Heaney loves to use the sound of words in his poems, to describe natural things very vividly. Find some examples of this from the poem


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The End experience later in the summer? Is it a pleasing image of the season? ( )


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