How do Muldoon and Heaney differ in their attitudes towards violence?

Ireland is a naturally violent country because of the situation there at the moment. As Seamus Heaney said, ‘Poetry is a world apart from violence’. Paul Muldoon and Seamus Heaney are two Northern Irish poets. Their poems bring across many different points about the difficult times the Irish have and also what actually happens in Ireland at these times. They have a great variety of showing this. We can see this from the poems that Heaney wrote, ‘Trout’ and ‘Death of a Naturalist’, and that Muldoon wrote, ‘Anseo’, ‘Ireland’ and ‘Bran’.

While understanding Ireland and studying these poems we have ‘come to realise that it is a deadly place that contains the threat of violence in a seemingly innocent landscape. ‘ This is backed up by the poem ‘Ireland’. ‘Ireland’ is a poem which starts with a scene which initially seems innocent, but the truth is violent and dangerous. The poet sees a car parked in a well-chosen ‘gap’. It may look like two lovers having a quiet evening out or maybe men trying to plant a bomb. The poet notices two people running away from the car but as he is at a distance he cannot see them.

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He sees the terrorist, not lovers, hurrying over the border and suddenly the reality is clear. It is a car bomb The causes of violence are illustrated in the poem ‘Anseo’. The poem ‘Anseo’ is about a young Catholic boy who used to go to school in ‘Collegelands’. When the register was called the pupils replied the word ‘Anseo’ meaning here, here and now. Whenever his name was called out he was hardly ever there. The master used to make a joke every time he was not present by saying ‘And where’s our little Ward-of-Court? ‘.

As the young boy’s name was Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward, a very catholic name hence the names Mary and Plunkett, Mary being Jesus’ wife and Plunkett being a Catholic martyr, this would mean where is our boy whose family is not good enough to look after him or he doesn’t have a family. Because of his lateness or not turning up at class he would have to go to find some wood suitable for the master to beat him with. As he has got used to having to go to make a cane he has taken care over making the stick and he would sand and polish the implement and engrave his initials on it because he knew that it was his.

The poet had next seen Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward in a pub near the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. He was living in a secret camp ‘fighting for Ireland’, this being the IRA (Irish Republican Army). He had been promoted from Quartermaster, handler of weapons, to Commandant, the commander of several thousand men. The fact that he became Quartermaster refers back to his childhood days when he used to make the ‘weapon’ that he was to be beaten with. The most possible reason he joined the IRA is that he had been taught that the only way to pronounce yourself and show what you want is by violence.

Other reasons could be that he wants to get rid of the people that torture other innocent citizens. The reactions to violence are shown in both ‘Anseo’ and ‘Ireland’. Joseph Mary Plunkett Ward engraves his initials on the stick that he is to be beaten with. He takes care over the stick he makes as a reaction to the teacher and his violence. We see Joseph Ward living in the open: he decides to be violent because that is how he was taught, the only way to prove yourself and show what you want is by violence. It also shows the sympathy towards violence. ‘Ireland’ focuses on the victims and possible victims of violence.

Any two lovers could have been separated because of the bomb. This would lead to great distraught for one person. If for example fifteen people get killed in a car bomb that means that roughly thirty people get killed a month by about four terrorists. This leads to lots of depression, misery, dejection etc. Both poems deal with terrorism and loss of innocence. Horror is associated with horror. ‘Trout’ is a poem about a trout going upstream to mate. Seamus Heaney changed the trout’s innocence into violence. He also creates a perception of the trout as a penis.

He does this by comparing the trout to weapons and the movements of weapons are similar to ones of the penis. He uses metaphors to compare the two, ‘gun-barrel’ can be perceived as an actual gun barrel or a penis. He describes the trout that ‘slips like butter’ as it goes up river. This is like the penis during sexual intercourse. There is a loss of innocence as the normal trout going to mate becomes a violent account of sex. This is also shown in the poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’. As the child learns about the frogs’ life cycle he realises later in life how the frogs change and become violent creatures.

In the second part of ‘Death of a Naturalist’ the strength of the frogs are shown: they are ‘slime kings’ and are ‘like mud grenades’. This causes a loss of innocence. It seems that Seamus Heaney has a fascination with violence. He uses phallic imagery in the poem ‘Trout’. He thinks the trout is beautiful, it ‘slips like butter’, it moves with exciting power. Normal nature turns from innocent to guilty as the trout becomes a ‘ramrodding penis’: ‘never burnt out’. Heaney has a fascination with sexual power and freedom.

I feel that Muldoon shows his attitude towards violence more clearly than Heaney does. I believe that he shows the different aspects of violence better than Heaney in different ways, he shows these aspects more directly. In Heaney’s poems it takes time to work the inside meaning of the poem which I feel is a good way of putting across a point clearly but the two poems are very alike unlike Muldoon’s poems which change subjects and describes different events. Heaney describes the glamorisation of violence whereas Muldoon attempts to understand the causes of violence and the regrets of innocence.

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