Comment on Heaney’s treatment of the theme of conflict and explore how it is used in the four collections
Throughout the anthology Heaney uses a number of themes several times in each of the collections. Conflict is the theme used most frequently ranging from international conflict to interpersonal conflict. Each of the poems from the different collections shares a number of characteristics for example the use of sensory language and the signs that Heaney is growing up. “Death of a Naturalist” is the second poem of the “Death of a Naturalist” collection and is a classic example of a poem with all of the common sense.
On the first line there is the mention of “flax” which is a plant that is of course a part of nature. This is the first instance that nature is involved in this poem and closely interlinks it with other poems, especially from the “Death of a Naturalist” collection. There is a strong use of imagery throughout all the poems and this poem is no exception. “Green and heavy headed”, this is describing the flax in the flax dam that he used to visit as a child. The structure of the poem is in two stanzas with a definite change between the two.
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The first section is the actual memory and how it happened and then the second section is where he sees the frogs copulating. The use of this form of structure is the same as the structure in “blackberry picking” which also shows the same change between each stanza. The change is a change from Heaney’s childhood understanding to the reality of how they are really happening. Many of the poems throughout the anthology show Heaney’s maturation. In the first stanza the mood is of a very happy nature where he is enjoying the day and all the nature around him.
The second stanza is somewhat different. In this stanza the mood is sad and shows a hint of disbelief of what is happening. Up until then he has only seen the frogs as animals and frog spawn but now he sees them as disgusting. There is no regular rhythm in the poem but there is the use of enjambment which gives the poem a sense of speed. With the change of the mood in the second stanza there are a lot of monosyllabic words used which slows the poem down. Also the use of alliteration is used which also slows the poem down.
The main section of conflict used in this poem is personal conflict between his childhood views and to views that he is learning later on in life. “Wife’s Tale” is the fourth poem from “door into the dark” which is the section where he encounters interpersonal conflict, in particular marital conflict between him and his wife. The main feature of this poem is the use of sensory language, mainly tactile and aural. The structure of this poem is very different to that of “Death of a Naturalist” as it is split up into the four stanzas instead of the conventional two that are in “Death of a Naturalist”.
Common to “Death of a Naturalist” there is a lot of imagery but unlike in” Death of a Naturalist” it is of a militarised theme for example “as javelins might mark lost battlefields”. Unlike any of the poems in the first section the persona has changed from being only Heaney himself to being his wife. Heaney describes his wife’s personality in some detail and also tends to exclude her from time to time. I also get the impression that she is very attentive to other men. The poem “Other Side” has a different structure to the other poems in the collections, this time it has three stanzas.
Unlike “Death of a Naturalist” and “Wife’s tale” the change between each stanza this time represents the movement of location and a length of time between each section. What is similar with this poem to the other two above is that there is a change in mood between the three sections. When the poem starts they are enemies but as the poem inaugurates the feelings begin to be less hostile between each of the people. The poem to begin with is set on the boundary of the two farms, Heaney’s and his neighbours. This is where the conflict is in this poem, it is sectarian conflict between two different religions. England’s Difficulty” is again different in its structure as this time it is not so much poetry as it is written in prose. All the poems in the other sections have been done by Heaney when he was younger and only just after he has experienced what is happening in the poem whereas in this poem he is an older man and he is looking back on his childhood. Throughout the poem he is being satirical towards England as this poem is about international conflict. “He’s an artist, this Haw Haw”, this is taking the mick out of England as he is complimenting Haw Haw who in World War II was a traitor against England.