Funeral rites Seamus Heaney
Funeral rites The poem is separated into three sections, which represents the movement from past to present. It makes the connection between memory and mythology and the present day, and this connection serves to relate the problems of the past to the Irish Troubles and the problems of the human experience. It is through the rituals of death that resolution and healing can take place. It is through ritual that the pain of loss and anger can become dissipated allowing for order, stability and peace can be restored.
Section I The tone of the first section of the poem is sombre and meditative, as the reader reflects the past, represented by the allusions to a cold, disconnected funeral parlour. The first section of the poem uses the mythos of Catholic beliefs to symbolise the restrictiveness of religious practices, obviously seen as a problem of the human experience by the poet.
Section I The metaphor 'shouldered' picks up the physical and emotional role that Heaney now plays within his community The phrase, 'a kind of' is informal and conversational. The poem draws from everyday and ordinary experiences I shouldered a kind of manhood Loss of innocence, and the mechanical nature of religious duties and those of war, the persona now begins a new phase in his life, by which he leaves his past behind, and lives in the present reality of civil war in Ireland Use of 1st person voice personalises and shows the poet’s connection to the events stepping in to lift the coffinsof dead relations. Rather than importance being focused on employment, marriage, and children, manhood is obtained through burial – fighting for religion, and dying for religion. Heaney starting with this particular stanza instantaneously gives way to his anger towards the relentless and unjust exaltation of sectarian martyrdom in Ireland in the later 1960s. Suggests natural deaths of elderly relatives(Contrasts with Section II)
Section I Lingering presence of the dead – tainted by death in taintedrooms, their eyelids glistening,their dough-white handsshackled in rosary beads. Imagery Religious imprisonment and service; Restrictive practices of religion Such practices have been a cause of the Irish Troubles in the past and present The baptism-to-grave influence of the Catholic Church was present even after death. Heaney underlines the Church‘s continuing power.
Section I Their puffed knuckleshad unwrinkled, the nailswere darkened, the wristsobediently sloped . Suggests age Need to be obedient to England and to Christianity. Restriction of freedom (independence from UK)
Section I as wax melted downand veined the candles , the flames hoveringto the women hovering behindme. Neologism through conversion of word class – using vein as a verb The people attending the viewings seem to have the life taken from them, as if the waxy candle is more deserving of existence by being “veined.” Repetition of hovering to draw parallels between flames and women being “pure” and weightless – (no responsibility or blame) Angelic depiction; The female figure is saved, in a sense, while the male figured is chastised for fighting in the name of religion. Their punishment is to be chained within their bodies, trapped by Catholicism, “shackled” with guilt. As more and more people enter the battle for religion, their value of life is stripped, and grace is turned onto the women, creating not only a separation between church and government, but also a divide among the sexes. Enjambment – emphasis that the women are in the shadows
Section I Connotation of being punished or proven of wrongdoing. And always, in a corner, the coffin lid, its nail-heads dressedwith little gleaming crosses.Dear soapstone masks, kissing their igloo browshad to suffice Indicates the progress of time A contradicting view of religion and confinement and finality. The imagery placed on the nails is comparable to the crucifixion of Jesus, dying for the sins of others. The permanent driving of nails into the coffin is the acceptance of consequence and admittance into eternal life. These individuals don’t die in their own name, but in the name Northern Ireland, in hopes to gain widespread liberation through bloodshed. Religion is portrayed as on going and immortal, however in this situation it’s confining and encasing the individuals killed in the war, as if they have done something wrong instead of noble. Reduce distance through these series of phrases. These deaths are turned into portraits of love, respect and even awe Aestheticizing the conflict Softens the concept of “corpses”. He transforms death into something of beauty, something familiar and comforting
Section I Heavy and lingering feeling of despair when confronted with death that is difficult to shift or avoid especially when the “funeral rites” are not conducted in a manner that acknowledges sensitivities Past is represented by the “funerals” being “pushed away”, a religious practice of the ancient times before the nails were sunkand the black glacierof each funeralpushed away.
Section II In section two of the poem the imagery centres on the past, referring to the ancient Norse and Irish mythology, and the arrival of St Patrick to the shores of Ire. The tone is very reflective, as the reader follows the procession to the victim’s burial
Section II England invading Ireland and killing those innocently living there; sectarian violence that dominated Northern Irish politics during the mid-twentieth century; the idea of murders taking place within communities. These murders have taken place on British soil. And not one murder but hundreds of murders stretched out over decades Now as news comes inof each neighbourly murderwe pine for ceremony, customary rhythms: Oxymoron It has been absent for so long Something Ireland can hold for itself without it being infiltrated by England’s desire for dominance
Section II the temperatefootstepsof a cortège, winding pasteach blinded home. Picks up on moderation and restraint rather than anger and revenge which is the traditional response to sectarian violence; comforting and peaceful (A solemn funeral procession) Symbolic demonstration of human solidarity proceeding to the great chambers of Boyne
Section II Heaney draws on the distant and recent Irish past to give the rituals of death and peace authority and legitimacy. He wants to break the culture of violence so embedded with the Roman Catholic culture Allusions to history. HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE -These are Neolithic burial mounds built around 2000 years ago. The markings link the stones to the bronze age the great chambers of Boyne, prepare a sepulchreunder the cupmarked stones. (a small room or monument, cut in rock or built of stone, in which a dead person is laid or buried) Cup-marked stones are associated with ancestor worship, sacrifices, and religious affairs. The tombs being placed underneath these stones signify the dead will forever remain underneath these sacred and often popular landmarks. Their headstones will be a constant reminder of the beliefs left behind in the name of rebellion. It is important for the perspective of responsibility to be placed in the hands of the narrator of the poem, because he is openly expressing his distaste for the actions brought on by politics and religion and inserting it in a widely known, public place.
Section II For the funeral procession the sound of the engines becomes the music for these imagined funerals. Heaney is making a point about the traditional rituals of sectarian funerals accompanied with gunshots, drumming and tribal music; “purring” creates a picture of peace and resolution Out of side-streets and by-roadspurring family carsnose into line, the whole country tunesto the muffled drummingof ten thousand engines. The fact that the nation “tunes” to the drumming means that they are making an effort and going out of their way to incorporate the violence into their lives. This is a part of the Irish troubles, as many people began to accept the violence occurring around them, and so decided to tune to it, meaning that no one would speak out against the social and political injustices happening all around them. Confirms that the victim was a soldier as these drums were used at military funerals
Section II The woman can be seen as Ireland itself, feminised and “left behind” in a sense. She is described as undaunted by the sacrilegious political troops. Women portrayed within Funeral Rites are sheltered from exposure to the deaths, and placed within the common domicile Somnambulant women , left behind, movethrough emptied kitchens imagining our slow triumphtowards the mounds. (“Somnambulant” = walking as if, or while, asleep; detached, grief) Enjambment Heaney places the woman in a sheltered familiar environment so the tragic scene happening in the funeral procession doesn’t harm them. Even though the kitchens have been emptied, the female character remains, unguided and repetitious of her duties. The female Ireland is deserted by the dominating politics, expected to march on within the home, holding on to whatever grips of traditionalism are left.
Section II Quiet as a serpentin its grassy boulevard the procession drags its tailout of the Gap of the Northas its head already entersthe megalithic doorway. CELTIC SYMBOL: (Shedding of the serpent’s skin) a symbol of rebirth, an awakening or renewal of oneself. The serpent is also said to be a symbol of the search for balance, fertility and transformation Heaney is desperate for some resolution to the situation in Ireland Going underground, working back into a prehistory
Section III The third section provides closure on both the death of the victim and the Irish violence
Section III When they have put the stoneback in its mouth we will drive north againpast Strang and Carling fjordsthe cud of memoryallayed for once, arbitrationof the feudplacated, (Blocking the mouth of war) Preventing England from saying more things to exacerbate the chasm between the Irish Feelings of hatred and vengeance have being soothed, and the victim dies honourably Heaney offers his readers an alternative to a barbaric image we have of the past of warring tribes motivated by hatred and revenge
Section III imagining those under the hill disposed like Gunnar who lay beautifulinside his burial mound,though dead by violenceand unavenged. As if it isn’t noble to be a combatant during that time. Heaney did not want the identity of the Irish people to be marred by violence, to be associated with the negativity brought forth by the British controlling Northern Ireland He seems to have turned his back on Christ and the full meaning of that sacrifice. Instead he looks to Ireland's ancient past and the figure of Gunnar - a great Norse warrior He continues to imagine a funeral where personal pain and loss are no longer transformed into hatred, anger, and revenge. enjambment
Section III Men said that he was chanting verses about honourand that four lights burned in corners of the chamber: which opened then, as he turnedwith a joyful faceto look at the moon. Uniform; conformity A joint reference to Jesus and Gunnar, as they both rose from their tombs. This reference symbolises hope for the future and the present, as represented in the past. The poet causes the reader to reflect upon the hope that the future holds. The juxtaposition of the logical present and the mythological past serves to represent the way that the Irish Troubles and the problems of the human experience can be reconciled by looking to the past, at figure like Gunnar and Jesus; justifying the death of the man as Christ-like