Analysis of Poem “Mid Term Break” by Seamus Heaney

Mid-term Break is a poem by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. In this poem I will explain how the poem is very effective at conveying the complex emotions of how Seamus Heaney feels when he loses his younger brother in a road accident. I was surprised that in the poem he doesn’t show any sadness, but he shows other emotions such as embarrassment and awkwardness. The emotions he conveys don’t match the situation he is in, until the end when he starts to convey anger and guilt. At the start of the poem Seamus Heaney is waiting in the school sick bay, he is waiting for his neighbours to pick him up.

When he arrives at his house he finds his father crying. As he goes into the house he finds a baby in a pram, it is cooing and rocking its pram back and forth, the baby is in the middle of strange old men inside his house. He is greeted by the strangers, they whisper behind Seamus Heaney’s back that he is the elder child. He is then met by his mother who is who is angrily coughing out tearless sighs. At 10 o’clock the ambulance arrives, the nurses then bandage the body and take it away. The end of end poem is the next morning, where he sees his brother for the first time in six weeks.

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His brother has a small poppy bruise on his left temple, where the bumper of the car hit him. The first emotion conveyed in the story is boredom. The way he conveys this is by saying “counting bells”, which he is doing to keep himself occupied while he waits for his neighbours to pick him up. The time difference in the stanza shows that he lives far away from the school. It begins with “I sat all morning in the sick bay” and ends with “At two o’clock”. Rhythm also appears in this stanza, it is in the second line “Counting bells knelling classes”.

The next emotion to be conveyed in the poem is awkwardness, this emotion is shown in the second stanza. Awkwardness is first shown in the second stanza after Big Jim Evans says “it was a hard blow”, this creates an awkward moment because “hard blow” means that he was sorry for him losing his little brother, but it also means that the force at which his brother got hit by the bumper. He also feels awkward when he sees his dad crying, his dad usually doesn’t cry at funerals and takes them “in his stride”. Another emotion to be shown in the poem is embarrassment, this is shown in stanzas three and four.

The first time it is shown is when he enters his house to find old men that he doesn’t know, are standing around his home. He next feels embarrassed, when the old men come up to him and shake his hand, telling him “they were sorry for his trouble”. He is also embarrassed by the old men whispering to each other that he was “the eldest”. The baby in the third stanza who “cooed and laughed and rocked the pram” is used effectively because of its happy sound and the rocking contrasts with the silence in the room.

In the stanza rhythm is created by the repetition of the word “and” to create the rocking motion of the pram. “Cooed” used onomatopoeia to create the actual sound the baby is making. This happy noise emphasizes the embarrassing silence in the room. In the final three stanzas, his emotions start to change to what someone in this situation would feel like. In an earlier stanza he refers to his brother as “corpse” this shows that he is in denial that his brother is dead, in the sixth stanza he starts to refer to his brother as him showing that he has accepted what has happened.

In this stanza he begins to feel guilty because this is the “first time” seeing seeing him in “six weeks”, because he hasn’t seen his brother in a while. This means that he goes to a boarding school. In the seventh stanza Seamus Heaney notices that his brother has a “poppy bruise on his left temple”, this is a metaphor saying, that the bruise is the same colour and the same shape as a poppy and a connotation of death. Seamus Heaney, by going to a private school, most likely had scars from sports that he would boast to his friends about, his brother has a little delicate bruise on his head, which killed him.

This would make Seamus Heaney feel guilty about showing off his scars. In the poem Seamus Heaney refers to his brothers coffin as “his cot”, because his brother died it will be too painful for him to use the word coffin. The final emotion conveyed in this poem is anger, the way this is done is through rhyme, it stands out and it is the only rhyme in the poem. The last word of the seventh stanza and the last word of the final stanza. This rhyme shows that Seamus Heaney was angry at this point.

In the final stanza “A four foot box, a foot for every year” alliteration is used, this is used to show more of Seamus Heaney’s anger. I liked the poem because it was easy to understand, and the way he conveyed everything was clear. I don’t think I would be able to relate to this poem, because I have not lost anyone from my family. The main emotions in this poem, were boredom, embarrassment, awkwardness with anger and guilt at the end of the poem, I think these emotions were put across well because they were unusual emotions for the situation, and there was no sadness in the story.

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Analysis of Poem “Mid Term Break” by Seamus Heaney. (2017, Mar 20). Retrieved from