Compare the ways Heaney writes about people and the natural world in ‘Digging’ and ‘At the Potato Digging’ Essay

Published: 2021-06-29 01:26:41
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Category: Poetry

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The main similarity about ‘Digging’ and ‘At a Potato Digging’ is that they are obviously, both about digging. But ‘Digging’ is about the writer’s memories of his ‘old man’ and how well he could ‘Digging’. The poem, ‘At a Potato Digging’ is about the potato famine. We know the writer in ‘Digging’ feels comfortable with his pen. He tells us it rests ‘snug as a gun’ in between his fingers. Later on in the poem, we find out how at home his father and grand-father were with a spade. He tells us how he admired them ‘stooping in rhythm through potato drills’.
It is similar to ‘At a Potato Digging’, by the way it shows how close the people were to nature. In ‘At a Potato Digging’, the people perhaps, worship the earth as the god, or worship Mother Nature. The poem mentions religion several times with peoples ‘heads bowed’, ‘humbled knees’ and the ‘seasonal alter’. These people are paying ‘homage to the famine god’. In the poem ‘Digging’, the word ‘digging’ becomes a metaphor, with the idea of the writer using his pen as a spade to dig up memories of how talented his father was a digging.
He tells us that ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them’, but can write about his memories, just as well as they could dig. Heaney writes about nature as the ‘gravelly ground’. He admires his grandfather by telling us that after a drink of milk, he ‘fell to right away’. The words, ‘nicking’ and ‘slicing’ indicate how delicately and detailed the men’s work was to him. This poem is full of admiration for the earth, with which his father and grand-father worked so well with.
In the poem, ‘At a Potato Digging’, Heaney is telling us more about the earth, giving ‘pebbles’ and ‘stones’ for potatoes. The products of the earth have ‘a clean birth’. The use of assonance, really describe the potatoes, earth and the people digging. The ‘shot’, ‘clotted’ and ‘knobbed’ potatoes, indicates loss, destruction and disease. The poet tells you about the ‘wild higgledy skeletons’ that ‘scoured the land’ and ‘wolfed the blighted root and died’. This describes the people that starved or were killed by the potato famine in 1845.
The people are also described as ‘grubbing for plants’ or ‘rooting’ for food, like ‘plucked birds’, because they are starved and ‘beaks of famine snipped at guts’. This refers to nature, because it is saying that the people are like featherless birds, and are also being reminded of their deprivation of food by birds. The ‘bitch earth’ was filled with ‘stinking potatoes’. Walt Whitman describes nature in a very dangerous way in the poem, ‘Patrolling Barnegat’. The ‘wild’ storm and the ‘sea high running’ sound quite menacing, and this is just at the beginning.
The ‘demoniac laughter’ of the wind sounds very evil and menacing. The sound is ‘fitfully piercing and pealing’, and the surroundings with ‘their savagest trinity lashing’. The word ‘trinity’ is from the Bible, so Whitman is making the storm sound religious. Perhaps, he is saying that it is God’s wrath. The ‘combs careering’ is a use of alliteration, which possibly motivates the storms actions, because it follows on the sound. Natures touch is identified with the word ‘slush’, and the ‘death-wind breasting’ is quite ruthless.
The ‘night confronting’ the people, is the storm, and makes nature sound aggressive. The people are described as being ‘dim, weird forms, struggling’ on through the gale. At the end of this poem, Whitman states that ‘savage trinity warily watching’. The alliteration exaggerates the fact that the storm may not just be an accident. The poet describes the storm as being random and always changing. This is shown by using a verb at the end of all the sentences. The poem Sonnet (I Love to See the Summer), by John Clare, is very honest and personal account of what he enjoys about summertime.
This is shown by the repeated use of ‘I like’ and I love’. It is like nature’s rivers or streams, by the fact it has no punctuation, which means it flows easily. The nature in this is very friendly, compared to ‘Patrolling Barnegat’, which was a savage and hostile portrayal of nature. He compares the reed clumps to a ‘wind shook wood’, which is a comparison the rest of the poem which is delicate and gracious. Clouds are ‘white wool sacks’ which is very soft and welcoming. He tells you that the insects have ‘happy wings’ and that the ‘flower head swings’.
Not only is this a rhyming couplet, similar to the rest of the poem, but it is an evocative use of language. He is giving the scene, a very simple, and naive world, that you would fell safe in. A lot of colour is given in this poem. In the winter the land is bare and frosty, but very different is the summer, being stained with colour. The summer is said to be ‘beaming’, and the moor hen comes out from her ‘hiding place’ as though the winter was forbidding, but she now feels safe.
The assonance, alliteration, adjectives and verbs used in these four poems, were all used to describe the full personality of nature. The way that the characters of nature, e. g. wind, rain, sea, and sun, are portrayed, all use very descriptive and concentrated words. The storm in ‘Patrolling Barnegat’ was illustrated in fine detail. I especially liked the ‘demoniac laughter’ because it sounds very sinister. In ‘Sonnet’, I liked the way the buttercups were described as they ‘stain with gold the meadow drain’.

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