Poetry Analysis“Digging”

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Poetry Analysis“Digging” by Seamus Heaney Passion. Its definition, its pursuit, all revolves around our lives. When a person is passionate about something, he should do what he is passionate about and not what the society or friends tell you to do.

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With Passion comes a lot of hard-work and perseverance. The narrator in the poem is passionate about writing. This poem by Seamus Heaney talks about the loss of innocence, deals with the loss of childhood innocence and the following transitions into adulthood. In this poem, Like most of his other poems, like “Death of a Naturalist”, we are shown his admiration for his ancestors, his own distorted view of nature and why he became a writer. When you have to dig deep for the good stuff in digging, you have to dig deep for the good stuff for writing something well.

It seems the author is suggesting that hard work is important, no matter what line of work you do. Just do it with passion. 

In this poem, Heaney seems to use his father’s and his grandfather’s digging into the homeland ground as a comparison to his writing and development of his poetry.

Heaney’s father and grandfather use their shovels to work with the land, while Heaney uses his poem to work on his ideas to write poetry. The narrative voice in this poem is first person narrative throughout the poem. This is proven already in the first line, in the first stanza: “Between my finger and my thumb”. The narrative voice may very well be Seamus Heaney himself.

Seamus mentions ’turf’ in the fifth stanza. 

Ireland is one of few countries left in Europe that still has turf. There is an obvious link to his country. The poem is written in free verse. This form of free verse allows the poet a freedom for subtle rhythmic variety, for example using assonance, or making words look like they rhyme. The poem’s diction is concrete, sensual, and relatively simple and is shaped by the poet’s adept use of dialect, sound devices.

The dominant image ‘Digging’ functions as an analogy for the writing process. Digging into the past, into myth and history. This poem has eight stanzas containing two couplets. In addition, there is no consistent rhyme scheme, although it has some rhymes: “thumb” and “gun” (in the first two lines); “sound”, “ground” and “down” (in the second stanza).

Moreover, it is written in first person narrative; we can see that in the first line of the first stanza: “Between my finger and my thumb”. 

In addition, throughout the whole poem, there is a central extended metaphor of digging and roots, which shows how the poet, in his writing is expressing by this Imagery, “The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge. Related to the title, it is only when we have read the poem carefully when we realise that all the three generations are involved in digging: his grandfather dug turf, his father dug up potatoes, and he is digging up his memories and his innocence. So, the title is much appropriate, because reading it we can guess more or less about what we are going to be told in the poem; at least we can guess that the poem deals with digging. 

As for the tenses used by Heaney: the poem begins in the present tense as Seamus Heaney describes seeing his elderly father straining among the flowerbeds, then it goes into the past tense when he remembers his father and grandfather at work. The last two stanzas return to the present, when Heaney realises that his work is to write. And the end, in the final line, however, it is in the future tense, to emphasise Seamus Heaney’s willpower and positivity “I’ll dig”. 

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Poetry Analysis“Digging”. (2017, Sep 18). Retrieved December 9, 2022 , from

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