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Literature Analysis of the Poem “Twice Shy” by Seamus Heaney

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    This underlying theme is used to convey to readers the conflict of the young lovers that gives rise to anxiety as they are caught between protecting oneself from heartache, and risking confession of a true love. Heaney communicates his message through the use of poetic devices as his speaker contemplates whether to go through with his decision or to refrain. The thought process behind his restraint is one that causes him to feel anxiety or nervousness as the speaker enters this new love.

    The structural choices Heaney makes from the start of the piece make evident just how deep the struggle of protecting oneself from heart ache vs. confession of love is ingrained. There is an inherent rhyme scheme In the alternating form of ABCBDB: “In suede flats for the walk… For air and friendly talk” The fluctuating rhyme scheme increases tension as readers feel the conflict Of trying to balance the on and off rhyme running through the poem simultaneously.

    The rhyme scheme mirrors the poem in that it presents the readers with alternating perspectives ” just as the the speaker is ultimately presented with in his internal conflict. Seamus Heaney does not fail to deliver poetic devices within the actual text either. The second stanza opens with heavy pathetic fallacy, “Traffic holding its breath, Sky a tense diaphragm:” Heaney ascribes these actions, dripping with tension and anxiety to the environment around the walking couple.

    This pathetic fallacy helps to establish the theme of nervous love, as these actions are said to be both on the ground with the traffic, as well as in the sky. This couple is essentially surrounded by the anxiety of their relationship. The effect of the couple’s emotions being reflected unto their setting is that it develops the idea that these pprehensive emotions are important and must be dealt with. The speaker, and his partner cannot ignore that they must eventually confess their love for each other, or remain silent and this is where their conflict takes it roots.

    Additionally, there is obvious predator and prey imagery present throughout stanzas of Twice Shy, and this seems to emphasize the half of the conflict that appeals to our speakers desire for his partner: “but tremulously we held as hawk and prey apart,” This line explores the imagery of a predator just too far out of reach from its prey. The imagery presents the picture of a predator earning for his prey but not being able to ever truly have it. This creates feelings of anxiety and nervousness as the speaker must ‘tremulously’ withstand being in such close proximity to a thing which he cannot have outright.

    Heaney also makes use of the poetic device simile to liken the hawk and its prey to the couple featured in the poem. Readers can see that in the context of the speaker’s conflict this comparison is a strong one. Like the Hawk, our speaker is close to the thing he wants most – his partner – and feels the desire to confess his love to her ” yet he Stays his tongue and that eparates them like the simile mentions. This again, emphasizes the underlying conflict our speaker is experiencing as he contemplates whether to profess his love or not, because it is almost painfully frustrating to stay silent about the matter.

    Heaney, with the sentence “our juvenilia has taught us both to wait, not to publish feeling’ emphasizes the second half of the internal conflict, regarding the necessity to protect oneself from heartbreak. The juvenilia turn into a symbol of maturity and hindsight for the speaker as he references it to avoid regrettable decisions. In essence, the juvenilia are ital to the origins of the speakers internal conflict showing him a reflection of the consequences of his past deplorable decisions.

    The speaker has no desire to live them again, and this causes him to be apprehensive in his new relationship. The title of the poem, Wvice shy can be an allusion to the age old saying “once bitten, twice shy” which describes the reservations a person may have to something after being hurt by it before. This is especially ascribed to situations of love, and for this particular poem seems to fit perfectly. The speaker has been once bitten and is now very reserved and shy towards ther potential women.

    Seamus Heaney, using a variety of literary devices as explored above to very successfully create a theme of anxiety when entering new love. It is this theme that gives Way to the underlying conflict in the poem for the speaker: whether to profess his love, or to remain silent and by which possibly save himself feelings of heart ache. The speaker seems to be battling reservations he has due to past experiences, as well as his growing love for this woman. The feelings of nervousness and anxiety that take root in the poem stem from the speakers fear of being bitten by his love interest as before.

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    Literature Analysis of the Poem “Twice Shy” by Seamus Heaney. (2018, Apr 11). Retrieved from

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