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The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

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The poem reveals its central themes through a network of allusions, the juxtapositon of past and present, and patterns of imagery. Sex and licentious behaviour seems to be Eliot's obsession in the poem with three explicit accounts and many allusions to famous historical and mythical figures whose downfall is caused by this behaviour or recounted with regret. The Fisher King is a key symbol in the poem and the quest for meaning in the poem is parallel with the quest for the Holy Grail. The Fisher King was the custodian of the Grail and he loses control of it after he is sexually wounded and made impotent. His impotence and lack of fertility is reflected on his kingdom which also becomes infertile. He has the final voice in the poem, 'I sat upon the shore/Fishing, with the arid plain behind me/Shall I at least set my lands in order?' In the myth he is saved in the end by Parsifal, who can achieve this as he is innocent and pure and has been able to rescue the King as he had conquered earthly pleasure, which is alluded to earlier in the poem.

The reader needs to know the context of many of the allusions as they are not explicit in their relation to the topic. The Parsifal allusion ('Et O ces voix d'enfants chantant dans la coupole') refers to children in the chapel but relates to the washing of Parsifal's feet before entering the sanctuary of the Grail. The lines 'To Carthage then I came' is an allusion of St Augustine's 'Confessions' but again it must be seen in the context that he recalling his wild, licentious youth.

Temptation must be overcome for an individual to live fully and in the modern world it is the temptations of the material world that is in the ascendent. This way of living must die and be reborn and this form of redemption in paramount in the allusions to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Those who believe only in the temporal body and the material world are lost: they are the infertile barren soil, the parched earth that dominates the earlier parts of the poem. This soil and correspondingly those in society, need rain and this can only come with belief. The final section of the poem, 'What the Thunder Said', is at least hopeful as the thunder is the forerunner of a storm and rain.

The image of dryness and infertility dominate the earlier parts of the poem. The earth is seen as ' the dead land' with 'dull roots', a 'stony rubbish' which nothing will grow. In this desolation there is no hope for life: 'And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,/And the dry stone no sound of water.' These images of desolation are metaphorically linked to the lack of spiritual belief and loveless relationships in the modern world. In Section Two, 'A Game of Chess' an allusion to the splendour of Cleopatra ('The Chair she sat in, like a burnished') is juxtaposed with the pretentiousness of the neurasthenic woman. The world of fertility and love is replaced with alienation, loneliness and implied sterility ('My nerves are bad tonight.. Stay with me/Speak to me').

She finds nothing to fill her days and her life is empty and purposeless ('What shall we do now. What shall we ever do?') This middle class setting is then juxtaposed with the working class pub scene where again the talk shows a woman whose life is endless child-rearing and finally made ill by an abortion.

The spiritual emptiness initially shown in images of desolation and dryness are echoed again in the third section, 'The Fire Sermon', where loveless relationships are shown in detail. The typist passively has sex and feels total emptiness, shown to act more like an automaton than a human as reflected in the final image of her, 'She smoothes her hair with automatic hand, and puts a record on the gramophone.' In this section it explores the modern world debased by meaningless couplings, by directionless passion devoid of spiritual values and physical joy. After the typist scene and sex in the canoe in Richmond we here the central plight in the poem spoken 'I can connect/ Nothing with nothing', and lines from Buddha's 'Fire Sermon' which relate to purification through fire - 'Burning burning burning burning/ O Lord Thou pluckest me out'. Throughout Section Three the symbolism of fire has been aligned with human passion, jealosy and anger - all traits that destroy and consume, however this is finally juxtaposed with fire as a source of purification and renewal.

If images of desolation and dryness echo through the first half of the poem there is always the suggestion of water. Indeed the spiritual drought of the waste land gives rise for a yearning for water, both for relief and renewal. The imagery and symbolism of water is a little more complex as there is a need for rain and its metaphorical correspondence with spirituality and belief, but as stated by Madame Sosostris there is a fear of drowning ('Fear death by water'). The allusion to Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' ('Those are pearls that were his eyes') refer to Alonso and Ferdinand who are caught in storm and presumed drowned before they experience a 'sea change' and are transformed through drowning. This is important as fear may keep people from undergoing, metaphorically transforming their modern lives, but it can bring about salvation. This is also the theme in Section Four, which is aptly named 'Death by Water', where Phlebas the Phoenician drowns. On one level it relates to the Christian baptism where one must go beneath the water to rise again and be saved. This rebirth imagery occurs in many ancient ceremonies but in this case it shows that water has the power to purify. Phlebas now forgets the materialism of this world with his connection to commerce (Forgot ... the profit and loss') and uses traditional archetypes and symbols - the whirlpool and turn of the wheel - to show the cyclic nature of existence and rebirth.

It is in the last section, 'What the Thunder said' that the reader is returned to the wasteland with its images of dryness, stone and rock. It has been a quest for meaning, for seeking the Grail that would restore life and has allusions to Christ on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection and the approach to the Chapel Perilous where the Grail awaits. Yet the images of desolation are even more pronounced in the early part of Section Five ('After the agony in stony places', 'Here is no water but only rock', 'Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit') suggesting that the suffering is greatest at this time. Nevertheless there is hope as the thunder may bring rain. There is nowhere in this section where rain actually falls, but the harsh images of dryness give way to more evocative and lush images, despite being framed by the conditional 'If there were water'. The lines are musical - 'But sound of water over a rock/Where the hermit thrush sings in the pine trees/ Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop' - and makes the sound of rain and at least alleviate the former desolation.

The Thunder heralds the possibility of rain and thus a way out of the sterility of the Waste Land. The title is from one of Hindu Upanishads and delivers a way of living that will restore the individual and society. Datta means to give, Dayadhvam is self control and, Damyata to show compassion.

Themes/Issues/Values

* The Wasteland is a critique of modern society. The main problems in the modern world alluded to in the poem concern the lost of meaning and faith. In this condition people look for meaning in the external and superficial; in essence the material world. It explores this crisis in belief that pervaded twentieth century Western culture.

* It explores the theme of a desolated land in need of rebirth which parallels the state of contemporary Western culture

* Many of Eliot's early poems concern the individual in conflict with society: the mindless routines that alienate those entrapped by social rituals and materialism. In The Wasteland Eliot for the first time deals with civilisation as much as the individual. He is reacting to a world without order and meaning, a godless and dying civilisation where the 'certain certainties' of traditional society had been undermined by Science, the theories of Darwin and Freud, the social analysis of Marx and the philosophy of Nietzsche. These come to a climax in World War 1 where the teleological belief in Science and Progress brings only greater destruction. It is a world that needs spiritual renewal according to Eliot.

The world portrayed at the beginning of the poem reveals a barren Western world of sexual and regenerative incapacity and Eliot turns to Eastern religion, in particular the Hindu philosophy of the Vedas, for an answer to the problems of the world: Datta (give), Dayadhvam (sympathise), Damyata (control).

The poem's major theme centres on the desolated land that needs rebirth. This is the Wasteland, a symbol of the Western world, a place that is culturally and spiritually barren.

* Eliot endorses traditional, conservative values that re-establish cultural hierarchies. He wants a return to religious values where individuals live by their faith and this purportedly gives meaning. In The Wasteland Eliot is radical in his style of poetry and also his critique of modern society, but his values are never far away from being intellectualised versions of prudish moral codes. The poem is critical of modern sexual behaviour and though calling for the more romantic, courtly love of the past, Eliot can be seen to have an adversion to sexuality itself. In the poem it is 'earthly temptation', and must be transcended to more spiritual vaues which are deemed superior.

 

Allusions

One of the main modernist techniques used by Eliot is to understand and contain the chaos of the present through mythology. For Eliot myth was not simply a set of tales in the past but a way of understanding the modern world. Eliot uses references to vegetation rites (from Jessie Weston's 'From Ritual to Romance'), religious archetypes and anthropological practices in Frazer's 'The Golden Bough', St Augustine's 'Confessions', Christ, the Fisher King, Parsifal and the Holy Grail as well as numerous literary allusions. He employs the contrast between modern life and the ancient (as well as the Elizabethan) world order as a way of criticising what he sees as the meaningless disorder of the contemporary world. All these beliefs and practices gave their adherents a way of understanding themselves and their place in the universe, while the modern world is adrift because of this loss.

The poem's opening lines allude to Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales', which also deals with an April journey, an annual pilgrimage for spiritual regeneration (to Becket's shrine at Canterbury). This is also the central theme in The Wasteland as the poem marks the progress out of the spiritual and cultural wasteland to a place where individual spirituality and a collective civilisation can experience renewal and rebirth.

If images of desolation and dryness echo through the first half of the poem there is always the suggestion of water. Indeed the spiritual drought of the waste land gives rise for a yearning for water, both for relief and renewal. The imagery and symbolism of water is a little more complex as there is a need for rain and its metaphorical correspondence with spirituality and belief, but as stated by Madame Sosostris there is a fear of drowning ('Fear death by water'). The allusion to Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' ('Those are pearls that were his eyes') refer to Alonso and Ferdinand who are caught in storm and presumed drowned before they experience a 'sea change' and are transformed through drowning. This is important as fear may keep people from undergoing a metaphorical transformation in their modern lives, but it can bring about salvation. This is also the theme in Section Four, which is aptly named 'Death by Water', where Phlebas the Phoenician drowns. On one level it relates to the Christian baptism where one must go beneath the water to rise again and be saved. This rebirth imagery occurs in many ancient ceremonies but in this case it shows that water has the power to purify. Phlebas now forgets the materialism of this world with his connection to commerce (Forgot ... the profit and loss') and uses traditional archetypes and symbols - the whirlpool and turn of the wheel - to show the cyclic nature of existence and rebirth.

In Section Two, 'A Game of Chess' an allusion to the splendour of Cleopatra ('The Chair she sat in, like a burnished') is juxtaposed with the pretentiousness of the neurasthenic woman. The world of fertility and love is replaced with alienation, loneliness and implied sterility ('My nerves are bad tonight.. Stay with me/Speak to me'). She finds nothing to fill her days and her life is empty and purposeless ('What shall we do now. What shall we ever do?') This middle class setting is then juxtaposed with the working class pub scene where again the talk shows a woman whose life is endless child-rearing and finally made ill by an abortion.

Temptation must be overcome for an individual to live fully and in the modern world it is the temptations of the material world that is in the ascendent. This way of living must die and be reborn and this form of redemption in paramount in the allusions to Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. Those who believe only in the temporal body and the material world are lost: they are the infertile barren soil, the parched earth that dominates the earlier parts of the poem. This soil and correspondingly those in society, need rain and this can only come with belief. The final section of the poem, 'What the Thunder Said', is at least hopeful as the thunder is the forerunner of a storm and rain.

In the 'Fire Sermon' classical allusions to St Augustine and Buddha are used for their well known restraint from the physical to contrast with the sexual activities of the typist, Belladonna and Lil. It is used as a critique of modern values concerning sexuality and like the movement of the whole poem it attempts to shed physical temptation and yearns for transcendence ('Burning ... O Lord Thous puckest me out')

The allusions to the myth of Tristan and Isolde with lines from Wagner's opera of the couple serve to show how the ecstasy of love is replaced with the desolation of loss after Tristan dies while Isolde is sailing to him ('Oed und leer das Meer' - 'Empty and waste the sea') This echoes the loss of love in contemporary society as well as contrasting the pure, emotional love of Tristan and Isolde with the mechanical and passionless sex witnessed in the urban scenes.

The poem reveals its central themes through a network of allusions, the juxtapositon of past and present, and patterns of imagery. The Fisher King is a key symbol in the poem and the quest for meaning in the poem is paralleled with the quest for the Holy Grail. The Fisher King was the custodian of the Grail and he loses control of it after he is sexually wounded and made impotent. His impotence and lack of fertility is reflected on his kingdom which also becomes infertile. This can be seen as an allegory for the predictament of modern civilisation as the dry, barren earth is a symptom of the lack of traditional values. In some versions he receives his wound after having illicit sex with a temptress and this links with frequent scenes that are critical of sexual behaviour in modern society. He is also similar to the Sibyl of Cumae who yearns for death as he is in so much pain that he wishes to die.

He can only be saved by someone pure and innocent and this is Parsifal. He has conquered earthly pleasure and in the myth Parsifal saves him simply by believing in the Grail Castle and by asking the question, 'Who does the Grail serve?' or in other words, 'Who is God?' The Fisher King is restored and his kingdom is again made fertile. Parsifal's journey to the Chapel Perilous is alluded to in the final parts of the poem ('There is the empty chapel, only the wind's home'), but it is now in ruins, just like modern civilisation, and there seems no certainty that the quest can be achieved, though there is a suggestion of rain, albeit only a 'damp gust'.

The poem then shifts to the words of the Thunder and perhaps redemption, a way of living that will bring back meaning. The Thunder heralds the possibility of rain and thus a way out of the sterility of the Waste Land. The title is from one of the Hindu Upanishads and delivers a way of living that will restore the individual and society. Datta means to give, Dayadhvam is self control, and Damyata to show compassion. These traits present an attitude to life that transcends the egocentrism and materialism of Western society and offers an alternative to the emptiness prevalent in the European society. Significantly these allusions seek wisdom from eastern philosophy and religion as the western models are in ruins. The final lines of the poem, 'Shantih, shantih, shantih' are also from the Hindu Upanishads and mean 'The peace that passeth understanding'. This has been the object of the quest throughout the poem, yet the poem still ends ambiguously as the last stanza is made up of fragements ('Hieronymo's mad againe') that suggest that this state of peace has not been totally achieved.

The Fisher King and the Holy Grail

The Holy Grail was the cup in which Christ drank wine at the Last Supper and also the same cup that Joseph of Arimathea collected the blood of Christ's wounds at the Cross. It symbolises the truth and knowledge needed to achieve the experience of salvation. It is this salvation and redemption, a spiritual renewal that is at the centre of the quest in The Wasteland.

The Fisher King was the keeper of the Grail, but he is tricked by evil forces into sin (sex) and while he is in the act (just after actually) he is speared by Klingsor (representing earthly tempatation and evil) in the leg. His wound will never heal and he is in great pain and wishes to die (like the Sibyl of Cumae). It is prophesised that he can only be healed when the spear that had wounded him is brought back to him and that the only one who can achieve this is an innocent knight. This figure is Parsifal who goes in search of the Holy Grail and finally defeats Klingsor (by being pure and not succumbing to earthly pleasures) and returns the spear. The Fisher King and his kingdom is restored.

Dante

'Poi s'ascose nel foc che gli afflina' - "and I pray you, by that Virtue which guides you to the top of the stair, be reminded in time of pain'. Significantly these are the final lines of Arnaut Daniel, the late twelfth century poet, in Purgatory for his lust in his encounter with Dante. After this is spoken Arnaut hides himself in the fire that purifies them.

In all these cases concerning the Grail myth and Dante's cosmology the earthly temptations of the body are at the core of sin and suffering. These must be overcome; a higher quest is needed, a spiritual quest that transcends the body and will bring salvation.

'Quando fiam uti chelidon' - 'When shall I become like the swallow'. This allusion to the Tereus-Philomela-Procne myth echoes release and redemption.

Imagery

Contrast between images of aridity and fertility, procreation/sterility, desert/water - opposition of male/female enmeshed in these.

religious images

images of city

past and present (contemporaneity and antiquity) constantly juxtaposed to show the richness of the former, while modern society only offers up 'broken images' and dryness, loveless relationships (typist and the clerk)

11. Seamus Heaney

'Digging' is one of Heaney's poems, written at a time when his poetry was more concerned with the personal - his relationships to his family and the rural world in which he was born. In the poem Heaney memorialises the cycles of manual labour on his family's farm - digging up potatoes and cutting turf on the bog. On one level this seems hardly the material that might engage a poet, but in celebrating the familial and the local, Heaney is drawing attention to the significance of ordinary people on the land as well as atrtempting to find his place in the world and the very nature of this relationship to that world.

'Digging' is centrally concerned with the alienation felt by the speaker and the need to negotiate the distance between origins and the present circumstances. In the Ireland when he was growing up Heaney was the first generation which the working class had access to extended education, and the reader sees the difference between the poet inside by the window writing while his father still needs to labour on the land. In one sense the literal positions of father and son - one high at the window, the other low on the ground - shows the cultural distance between them. Similarly, the shift in the speaker's class position, having changed from the difficult circumstances of small farm life to educated middle class security, is registered in the privileged position occupied by the speaker,as he has the luxury of being able to sit by and observe his father labouring outside.

The speaker is fully aware of his privileged position and feels, if not guilt then a sense that he has been cut off from some integral part of his former life, as symbolised by his relationship to the act of digging. In the poem digging serves to establish asense of historical continuity: the father's digging at that present moment shifts to twenty years ago, 'Bends low, comes up twenty years away/Stooping in rhythm through the potato drills/Where he was digging.' This past activity of the father is in turn linked to the work of prior generations, following the same course in life: 'By God, the old man could handle a spade./Just like his own old man.' In these lines there is a great sense of proud in the simple lives of his ancestors, which he is no longer a part. The poem does show that the speaker did feel an affinity to this tradition when he was younger when he recalls picking up potatoes unearthed by his father's digging:

'He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,

Loving their cool hardness in our hands.'

The speaker clearly shows this affinity in the way he describes his love for their 'cool hardness', and suggests a connectedness between the young boy and the land. In a similar vein, the speaker recalls having 'carried him milk in a bottle/Corked sloppily with paper' to his grandfather as he worked cutting turf on 'Toner's bog'. In both of these instances, while the boy's role is peripheral to the activity of digging, he is nonetheless, connected with that activity abd the traditional continuities that it embodies. By contrast, the adult speaker feels entirely disconnected from this world. As an adult he should be expected to take up his place in the fields but he is now forced to observe from the house: 'I've no spade to follow men like them'.

The poem had opened on the lines, 'Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests; snug as a gun', and now concludes repeating the lines, except replacing the last section with 'I'll dig with it'. The opening suggests through the simile of gun that his writing may venture into the outside problems of the world using his words as a weapon, but the shift from a weapon to a simple farming tool acknowledges that he will be more concerned with the world in which he grew up. The metaphor of digging then takes on greater ramifications that are not just personal. The work he undertakes as a poet can be a kind of 'labour' of the same order as the work of his forebears. He can still preserve the continuities represented by his family by encompassing that farming world within his poetry. If he cannot literally dig, he can 'dig' metaphorically, unearthing the details of the life of his family and community and honouring them by preserving them in his poetry. In this the poem ends on a positive note showing thaat continuity has been established.

Poetry as a form of writing cannot be told in a straight-forward narrative that simply tells what the speaker sees or what is happening. The choice of words and image, the creation of metaphor, the sounds of words and rhythm are all integral in evoking another level of meaning. In 'Digging' Heaney shows the act of digging in terms that transcend the literal action, and shows his attitude to the work of his father and grandfather. The alliteration in 'the squelch and slap/Of soggy peat' and 'curt calls'; the assonance in 'The cold smell of potato mould'; and the onomatopoeia in 'squelch' and 'slap', echoes the sounds they describe. They visually enact the work being done as though you can feel and hear the spade going into the earth. Through this the act of digging is transformed from simply labour into a way of life, embodying a relationship with the environment. This is never romanticised though, it is still hard work done to sustain a livelihood ('his straining rump' and the way his grandfather has a drink and immediately returns to 'heaving sods') and the speaker is fully aware of its hardships, yet is is now something beyond the act by being told in poetry. This is exactly what the speaker has in mind when he says that he will 'dig with it'.

The choice of words are of great importance in poetry as they create have connotations that set up a subtext to a poem, an underlying set of meanings or metaphorical relations. This is often achieved through setting up new correspondences between words, often incongruous. In the second line the adjective 'squat' is connected to pen. 'Squat' has the duel meanings of bending the body closer to the ground and to settle a piece of land, usually without permission. In this second sense the word suggests that the pen is out of place in this environment. The speaker's father has a spade in his hand which is more fitting to life on a farm while his son has a pen. It is this very incongruity that makes the speaker feel alienated in his old home. He is no longer part of the tradition of the land, but has acquired the more leisurely status of writer, and it is this very dilemma that he is exploring in the poem. The physical action of squatting also has more to do with his father than him - bending his back out in the fields - than the son who sits comfortably observing others work. This difference also echoes throughout the poem, showing how the son's art - his pen - has caused this distance between them.

In the first stanza the simile, 'snug as a gun' is also incongruous. The comfort and warmth suggested by 'snug' is a contrast to the cold hardness of the gun (significantly the potatoes later in the poem are describe affectionately as 'cool hardness'), however as the ending shows the pen can be a powerful weapon and in this context it can present a certain comfort as it can be used as a means of alleviating oppression or at least telling the story of people who do not always have a voice in the political world.

The digging is also concerned with the actual digging of potatoes that carry great cultural signiifcance to the Irish. Potatoes have been their staple diet for centuries and the images of potatoes and their cultivation draws on a terrible past where a million Irish peasants died in the potato famines in the nineteenth century. In this context potatoes are life itself as well as being a reminder of the great injustices suffered by the Irish because of the oppressive policies of the British. In the poem the traditions that the speaker feels initialliy alienated from include a tradition of farmers that have had to fight for a living and suffer greatly from outside forces.

General Notes

Many poems in Death of a Naturalist concern themselves with the transitions from childhood to maturity, and particularly with the cost incurred in acquiring the knowledge that puts an end to childhood innocence. These include 'Death of a Naturalist', 'The Barn', 'An Advancement of Learning'. 'Blackberry Picking' and 'Dawn Shoot'.

In 'Personal Helicon', Heaney proclaims that he writes poetry in order 'to set the darkness echoing'. Heaney's poems often explore language as a means of examining reality and the individual's relationship to the world, and he once said that 'Words themselves are doors' that open up new ways of understanding. In the final lines of 'Personal Helicon' the 'darkness' is the unknown, the things that remain hidden, concepts that have not been brought into the light and articulated in words. Whether it is personal fears or social injustices, poetry is a medium to bring these 'unspoken' attitudes to the world, to make it 'echo' and resound with force.

In the poem the 'Helicon' is a reference to the mountain in Greek mythology where the nine muses lived. The streams that run down the mountain have the power to give those who drink from it the inspiration to write poetry. It is in this context that the poem explores the nature of writing or at least a definition of poetry.

The speaker finds his poetic source in the wells of the farmyard.

Heaney uses the book, The Bog People, written by P.V. Glob, in many of his poems. Heaney wrote that the book 'was chiefly concerned with preserved bodies of men and women found in the bogs of Jutland, naked, strangled or with their throats cut, disposed under the peat since early Iron Age times.' He saw in the book a way to focus a number of his traditional interests, and it offered him a frame of reference, and set of symbols which he could deploy in engaging with the present conflict and its antecedent history.

Glob's book offers an image of a pre-Christian, northern European tribal society, in which ritual violence is a necessary part of the structure of life. Most of the bodies recovered from the Jutlans bogs had been victims of ritual killings, many of them having served as human sacrifices to the earth goddess, Nerthus. Heaney detected a kinship between the pagan civilisations and Irelans's own Celtic traditions and he used these Iron Age narratives to explore contemporary atrocities.

Tollund Man

'Tollund Man' was Heaney's first attempt at conflating his sense of Glob's Jutland rituals with his own sense of mythic and modern Irish history. The 'Tollund Man' is one of the recovered bodies featured by Glob in his book. He was a victim sacrificed to Nerthus, in the hope of securing a good crop from the land, and it is in this sense that the speaker describes him, 'Bridegroom to the goddess'. The speaker imagines the killing of the Tollund Man and his subsequent burial in the bog as a kind of violent love-making between victim and goddess, in which Nerthus, 'opened her fen', preserves the victim's body by immersing it in her sexual 'dark juices'. When the Tollund Man is dug up, many centuries later, the turf cutters discover 'His last gruel of winter seeds/Caked in his stomach.' As a sacrificial victim to the goddess of germination, he carries the potential of germination ('gruel of winter seeds') within himself rather than in the pockets of the young fighters in 'Requiem for the Croppies' whose graves sprouted with the barley from seeds in their pockets when they fell.

In the second section of the poem the connection between Jutland and Ireland is made explicit. Both places have had their innocent victims. Ireland also has killings that have a certain ritualistic dimension to them. In the last stanza the speaker recalls an incident in which bodies of four young Catholics, murdered by Protestant militants, were dragged along a railway line in an act of mutilation:

'Tell-tale skin and teeth

Flecking the sleepers

Of four young brothers, trailed

For miles along the lines.'

The speaker imagines that, if he addresses a prayer to the Tollund Man ('risking blasphemy' as a Christian by aligning himself with pagan rituals), then perhaps the potential for germination and regeneration inherent in the Tollund Man's sacrifice, and in his very body ('winter seeds') might be released, not in the victim's native Jutland, but in contemporary Ireland. It might 'make germinate//The scattered, ambushed/Flesh' of the sacrificial victims.

In the final section of the poem, the speaker imagines a visit to the Museum in Aarhus where the Tollund Man has been in display. Though the names of the region he passes through ('Tollund, Grabaulle, Nebelgard') will be alien to him, and the local language unintelligible, he fancies that, as an Irishman burdened with the weight of his country's history, he will feel a kinship with a landscape that has witnessed similar conflict and killings.

Punishment

Another poem based on Glob's book which centres on the retrieval of bodies from the bog, is 'Punishment'. It is about a young woman who has been shorn, stripped, killed and thrown into the bog as punishment for adultery. The poem has caused controversy because of the values it seems to represent concerning the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. Through fusing the contemporary with the past, the poem suggests that such violence is everpresent throughout history, and in this sense it seems part of human nature and inevitable. Instead of blaming the specific government, policies and individual groups, Heaney opts out by relegating it to some mythical past instead of the present, and implies that 'such is the nature of the world'. This has been criticised as being conservative in its politics as it fails to confront and engage in the everyday problems and turmoil which has been caused initially by imperialistic policies rather than simple human nature.

This is shown early in the poem where the speaker expresses a sense of identification and empathy with the victim, but quickly becomes a voyeur (as he explicitly states later), exercising his male power to take pleasure in the woman's exposed body:

'I can feel the tug

of the halter at the nape

of her neck, the wind

on her naked front.

It blows her nipples

to amber beads,

it shakes the frail rigging

of her ribs.'

This conflict between empathising on one hand and watching passively, is compounded later when the speaker directs his words to the dead woman: 'My poor scapegoat/I almost love you/but would have cast, I know/the stones of silence.' The 'stones of silence' are an allusion to the story of a woman's adultery in the Bible (John8: 1-12) and through this allusion conflates pagan and Christain mythologies, which again serves to shows such stories happen elsewhere. The speaker indicates that, despite his attraction to her he would have still been complicit in her death, if not directly, then certainly by failing to raise his voice in support of her. In the closing stanzas of the poem, this sense of troubled complicity in an act of violence is extended to the contemporary conflict in Northern Ireland, as the speaker characterises himself as one who has

'stood dumb

when your betraying sisters,

cauled in tar,

wept by the railings,

who would connive

in civilised outrage

yet understand the exact,

and tribal, intimate revenge.'

The speaker acknowledges he sympathises with the motive of revenge, and this is worse as now it includes those Catholic women in Heaney's own country who were 'tarred and feathered' by members of their own community. This is the 'punishment' of the title as this was inflicted on those who became involved with members of the British Army. Like the victims in Danish pre-history, the women had their heads shaved, before having hot tar and feathers poured over them and being left tied up in a public place, as an act of ritual humiliation.

The speaker's attitude to the contemporary punishment, like his response to the women retrieved from the bog, is ambiguous. On one hand, he 'connives/in civilised outrage', yet he finds himself again complicit in the act of retribution, as he admits that he is able to understand the rationale for the punitive act. Though admitting his own complicity it does not change the idea that the poem accepts the inevitability of violence and revenge, and offers a bleak portrayal for any hope of change in Northern Ireland.

 Limbo

The poem explores the religious and sexual repression caused by a dogmatic Catholic Church, whose beliefs in abortion and the value of female virginity before marriage has resulted in unmarried girls killing their new born infants. It is critical of these beliefs showing them to be archaic and in conflict with the Christian belief in love and forgiveness.

The title refers to the Catholic doctrine of limbo being a place where unbaptised children go, which is neither heaven or hell. The existence of such a place seems unjust as the infants have done no wrong and the speaker questions its doctrinal existence as 'Even Christ's palm, inhealed/Smart and cannot fish here'.

'Limbo' recalls a specific incident in Ballyshannon where a dead infant is hauled in by fishermen. The trope of fishing dominates the poem with the dead infant called a 'minnow', and refered to in the fishing parlance of 'A small one thrown away'. More importantly, the trope of fishing alludes to Christ, who was known as 'fisher of men', his disciples were fishermen and the orthodox symbol of Christianity is the fish. The speaker does not blame Christ for the death of the child, but the Catholic brand of Christianity that enforces laws that seem so uncompassionate and out of touch with the lives of women in contemporary society. The metaphor of the infant as a minnow ('He was a minnow with hooks/Tearing her open') reveals in the image of tearing and hooks the anguish and loss felt by the mother.

The mother is driven to infanticide by the fear of social approbation and exclusion as she has sinned against the laws of the Church. The poem clearly reveals that it was not a cold-hearted act and now she must live with the murder of the child haunting her. The killing is shown ironically in the image of the Christian baptism: 'As she stood in the shallows/Ducking him tenderly'. Instead of being baptised into eternal life this passage under water brings death and a fate in limbo. The adverb 'tenderly' shows the love the mother has for her child and she will never forget this moment. The images of death and coldness also permeate the poem ('frozen knobs of her wrists', 'dead as gravel', 'cold glitter of souls') echoing the mother's psychological state as well as th last image of 'cold glitter of souls' being an indictment of the traditional beliefs in Christianity.

The Christian iconography reappears throughout the poem in the image of the baptism, the Cross and the palms of Christ. Significantly it is the mother who is equated with Christ, 'She waded in under/the sign of her cross', and it seems she is the one who must suffer like Christ. Also the final lines show the palms of Christ 'unhealed', suggesting that such social attitudes are just as harmful as the driving of nails into his hands by his crucifiers, and that Christ would never endorse such beliefs; they merely leave old wounds unhealed.

The poem quietly reproves the social and religious values in contemporary Irish society that result in the deaths of infants. The speakers sympathises with the suffering mother and though the murder of a child can never be supported the poem presents an insights into the circumstances that lead to such tragedy.

Bye Child

Heaney explores his own Irish culture - one that purports to live as a community and in Christian benevolence - by revealing its dark underside. As in the poem 'Limbo' Heaney examines the effects of Catholic doctrine on unmarried mothers and illegimate children. Instead of killing the child to escape social disappproval the mother in 'Bye-Child' hides him in a henhouse, feeding him scraps like an animal.

The poem tells of the discovery of the young boy in the outhouse with the speaker recalling the photograph he saw of him in the newspaper. It focuses on this photograph trying to imagine him living in a henhouse, attracted by the light of the main house and the silence that he lived in.

The dominant image in the poem is the moon and light. The boy is attracted to the light of the back window, with the light being seen in the metaphor of 'A yolk of light', capturing both the visual image of the lamp but more importantly associating it to the eggs of hens and the henhouse which which has been his home since birth. The boy's face is described in the simile as 'Sharp-faced as new moons/Remembered', called 'Little moon man' and is associated with the moon in the frail shape of his body being 'luminous' and weightless'.

On one level the associations with the moon illustrate the boy's condition - he is separated from the social world, a world of love and language, as if he was as cut off from society as being on the moon. The final stanza echoes this distance, showing how his treatment, never taught to speak or communicate, reveals the great distance (from her to the moon - 'Of lunar distance/Travelled beyond love) between the way the child should have been nurtured and his animal-like state in the henhouse.

The child is also connection with light throughout the poem: he is attracted to light of house, he is called a moon man, the moon being a source of light in the darkness, he is luminous again reflecting light and is described having a 'A puzzled love of the light'. In the end the boy does emerge from the darkness of his isolation into the light. He is now recognised and is shown to 'speak' without language for the first time.

This light is in contrast to the images of dryness and waste (dust,'old droppings', 'dry smells from scraps') as well as the animal images which reveal the way the boy has been treated because of fear of social approbation.

"In 'Limbo' and 'Bye-Child' the children are the scapegoats for the parents, paying the price for the parents' guilty and socially stigmatised sexuality". (From Lynch)

animal imagery - seen as a rodent as dog ('Kennelled and faithful')

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