Heaney’s “A Constable Calls” is Based on Memory. It talks of Distrust and Fear.
Heaney’s “A Constable Calls” is based on memory. It talks of distrust and fear. Elaborate
Seamus Heaney, in his poems, explores the past. He grew up in Northern Ireland; therefore, his past is related to his fellowmen, who has suffered a lot. He cannot forget their grief, therefore, he described each and every pain very minutely so that the world could know about the sacrifices of Irishmen. There was a clash between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. Seamus Heaney, in his young age, has observed many incidents, which are there in his poetry. There are scars of fear and dread on his mind and his poetry is also filled with these scratches. His imagination has been deeply affected by the conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Heaney’s family belonged to Catholics and they were distrusted. Most of the poems of Seamus Heaney deal with this major conflict, in which the pains and sorrows of Irish conflict can be found. He directly talks about the painful incidents and also uses symbols for this purpose. If you are able to find a poem of Seamus Heaney, which is not a direct representation of Irish misfortune then minutely observe the theme, symbol and tone of the poet in it; you will definitely find a hidden tragedy in it.
Although, every poem of Seamus Heaney reflects history of Irishmen yet four major poems are based on childhood memory, which are: “Death of a Naturalist”, “Blackberry Picking”, “England’s Difficulty” and “A Constable Calls”. There are certain incidents, which are still in the mind of Seamus Heaney and he print them on the paper so that his readers can get awareness. These poems show how Protestants have pervaded the Catholics. From a child’s perspective, the poet spreads light on an incident and leaves it on the readers to judge the reason behind fear and violence.
“A Constable Calls” is a poem is the best poem with regard to child’s psychology. When Heaney was young, he witnessed an incident; a policeman came to his father’s farm in order to investigate about the crops. Attitude of Heaney’s father was cold towards the policeman. Heaney, being a young boy, could observe the fear but he was not mature enough to understand the issues behind it. Catholic families were distrusted in the Ireland. A visit from a higher authority could create worry and anxiety in the minds of people. Definitely, Heaney has witnessed the fright among the people of Ireland. While reading the poem, we can observe strong memory of the poet; somewhere in his consciousness, the incident is still fresh. Thus, there is no doubt that like other poems of Seamus Heaney, this poem is also about history; in fact, it is an incident, which has directly hit the psyche of the poet. Heaney could not stop himself thinking about this incident, therefore, he put it in front of readers to judge how fear was imposed on the minds of Irish people. Hence, this poem is just an incident, which has been observed by the poet in his early days of life.
As regards the distrust and fear, we know that Heaney belongs to Catholic family, as discussed above, and being member of that family he and his family have also suffered a lot in Northern Ireland. Catholics were not preferred in law enforcements nor did they join the same. Instead of feeling security in presence of a policeman, they become afraid. The boy, presented in the poem, who is definitely Heaney himself, feels restlessness because of the visit of the investor. His anxiety starts with the arrival of the cop and ends with his departure. In order to show the power and attitude of the policeman, Heaney describes his props in a strange way. The words and the attitude of the poet reveal fear in child’s imagination due to the policeman. Each and every object, described in the poem, is a symbol of fright; the description of bicycle, dynamo, pistol on the butt of cop and his attitude towards Heaney’s father is dreadful. Minute description of every object creates more fret and readers can imagine what is going on due to the visit of policeman.
Boy’s imagination is also remarkable and is full of fear. When Heaney’s father forgets to give detail of root crops; the boy imagines his father in the prison. It creates tense atmosphere in his mind, which is finally resolved at the end when policeman returns.
It is not only the boy, who is fearful from the cop. He is a symbol, created by Heaney; the boy is the representative of every person living in Ireland at that time. His imagination is everyone’s imagination; his fear is shared by everyone. Thus, the attitude of Protestants towards Catholics was not positive but negative.
Seamus Heaney has command in describing each and everything in minutely. We can feel the fear, hidden in every word of the poem.
No one can give as correct definition of “A Constable Calls” as given by Michael Parker. He, while commenting on the poem, says:-
“In ‘A constable Calls’ Heaney recollects the anxiety and ‘Small guilts’ he experienced as a child during the visit of a policeman, sent to check details of his father’s crops….The secure, familiar worlds of home and classroom, however, are jeopardized by the presence of this armed stranger[cop]. Like the peasant boy, Luis, in Graham Greene’s ‘The Power and the Glory’, the young Heaney cannot at first take his eyes from this object of fear and fascination. Entrancement turns to alarm when he hears the constable’s inquiry as to whether his father is growing any root crops being met with a denial. It is a lie. An accessory to his father’s crime, he pictures the place of retribution.”
The poem is obviously based on memory of Seamus Heaney. He was unable to forget the incident and presented it in shape of poetry. The main theme of the poem is “distrust and fear”. Heaney, has once observed the condition of his fellowmen and in this poem, talks about the fright, horror and anxiety, faced by them.