What is the Importance of the Land in Twentieth Century Irish Poetry? Essay Sample

What is the Importance of the Land in Twentieth Century Irish Poetry? Pages
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The Irish people value the land, because ever since the Normans invaded they have never had a united Ireland. A part of it has always been ruled by a foreigner they feel very possessive about the land they own even matter if it is only a few acres. The three poets I am going to study are Kavanagh, Kinsella and Heaney. They all have a link to each other, soil. They each have their own main theme, Kavanagh chooses a biblical theme, The Bog lands for Heaney and Ireland’s destruction is Kinsella’s theme.

In ‘Digging’ by Heaney the three characters that are mentioned are his grandfather, father and himself. Heaney sees the land as a symbolic, metaphoric reference to Ireland. Where as his father and grandfather just saw it as a place of work. Heaney shows remorse that he will never own the farm that has been in his family for generations, “But I’ve no spade to follow men like them” this suggests that he thinks he may never be good as his father. There is also a direct link between agriculture and history because in farming you dig into the ground by ploughing and sowing seeds, which involves peeling back the layers of history in the soil “Bends down low comes up twenty years away”. The pen is “snug as a gun” because it fits his hand and is powerful. Heaney is from County Derry and is well aware of legacy of the “troubles” in Ireland.

‘Follower’ also by Heaney, is about how he is trying to impress his father and follow in his footsteps, but never quite makes it. It shows how Heaney followed his father literally and metaphorically. “I stumbled in his hobnailed wake” He shows his father as a very skilled farmer, “The sod rolled over without breaking.” This is very hard to do and takes years of experience to manage to do. There are many nautical references in the poem such as “his shoulders globed like a full sail strung” In these images it shows his father not as a simpleton farmer but like a highly skilled sailor. Again he shows remorse as in ‘Digging’ that he will never own the farm and work the land “All I ever did was follow in his broad shadow around the farm”

The Poem entitled ‘Punishment’ is about a bog woman who was found in swamps in Holland. Heaney sees the land as preserving history because the woman is completely perfect apart from a few breaks like the collapsing of the rib cage. The way she is today is exactly like when she died. Heaney relates the tarring of girls in Ireland to this bog woman, who was most likely killed for committing adultery. “When your betraying sisters, cauled in tar” If a girl or woman was found conversing with a British soldier in Ireland they could be chained to railings and have hot tar poured over their heads. Heaney may have witnessed such an event.

Kavanagh wrote a poem called the ‘Great hunger’ it reflects on his view of the land in a biblical way, and how humans are very connected to the land “clay is the word and clay is the flesh.” This draws upon the biblical tale of when Adam and eve were first crafted out of clay. Heaney looks at the land in a different way, he loves the land feels he owes something to the mother earth, he treats it with respect, awe and reverence. Where as Kavanagh is almost angry at the land “Or why do we stand here shivering?” this is a reference to the Great Hunger, he is asking the land what have they done to deserve such a punishment. He shows that the land influences his poetry in the line “Is there some imagination in these wet clods?” asking the soil if it can help him.

Kinsella wrote the poem ‘Leaf Eater’ to portray that Ireland cannot live without destroying it self. “Gropes back on itself and begins to eat its own leaf.” Because as everyone knows if it does not eat the leaf it will die but, if it eats the leaf the grub will fall and plunge to its death.

I think these poems are very effective in conveying their feeling and passion for the land they all share. Each poet shows how it is very important for their survival but the land must be preserved and looked after if it is to sustain the population.

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