Various Themes in the Poems of Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney being an Irish poet has used various themes in his poetry, which are related to his society. Most of the themes, which have been used by him in his poems, are common. He does not specify any poem for a selected theme. List of themes, used by Heaney in his poems, is not so large. It is not the case that every poem has a new thematic concept; rather he replicates his collection of themes again and again. In fact, his poems share universal subject matter; however, there are some poems, which are different in thematic context. Having an Irish background, his themes are also related to Irishmen and Irish society. Heaney is also lover of pastoral life and rustic images can also be found in his poetry. In addition, he, like a psychologist, describes in detail the psyche of a prudent mind. The most important element of Heaney’s poetry is that he is lover of history and feels pleasure in describing it. Many poems of Seamus Heaney revolve around historical prospective of Irish society. He prefers to illustrate history, which is related to Irishmen and their heroic tales. He knows their grieves and sorrows. In fact, he along with Irishmen has suffered a lot. Their sufferings and pains are still in his mind and he does not feel any embarrassment in describing them. Seamus Heaney does not usually discuss the problems of modern men but describes what was happening in the past. Seamus Heaney is not better than many of the modern poets. He has been called good because he has unusual collection of themes as compared to modern poets. It is not wrong to say that his collection of themes makes him suitable for noble prize.
Childhood innocence and psychology is the subject matter of many poems of Seamus Heaney. “Death of Naturalist” is a poem, which is necessary to be quoted here. It illustrates the theme, which is related to loss of child’s innocence. The poem deals with the child’s views regarding the changing nature and atmosphere of the society. A child, who was once innocent and found pleasure in nature now, does not maintain the same perspective; his thinking, views, observation and attitude towards life have been changed. The development in child’s psychology has been discussed very minutely by the poet in this poem. Similarly, another poem, which shares the same concept, is “The Constables Calls”. The poem also deals with the psychology of a child. It is notable that this poem is autobiographical and has been written on an incident, faced by Heaney when he was a child. How a child sees a constable and how fear develops in his mind is the subject matter of this poem. Child’s perception and his imagination with respect to dread of constable is expressed in this poem. Moreover, the fear because of the revolver, hanging around the butt of constable, forces the child to think negatively. A simple visit of a constable creates dread in the society as well as in the mind of any Irish child. Likewise, another poem titled “Blackberry-Picking” has been written by Seamus Heaney in perspective of a child’s psychology. These poems are evident that Seamus Heaney does not only know the psychology of children but also have talent to present it in form of words. Hence, it is a theme which is commonly used by the poet in many of his poems.
Seamus Heaney, as discussed above, is lover of history. His concern is mainly with bog people, bog society and Irish people. He loves to rewrite history in form of poetry. Although, there is nothing new in it because he discusses the same incident, which has already been observed by the people yet his writing style compels the reader to rethink about it. “The Tollund Man” is a poem, in which we meet the bog people. Symbolically, it is not only the history of bog people but also the history of Irishmen. The poem tells the story of a person, who has sacrificed his life in context to a ritual ceremony but Seamus Heaney does not find it worth enough and calls it a waste. Nevertheless, the poem is about a historical event, which was happened in the Iron Age and Seamus Heaney has rewritten it. In the same way, the poem “Grauballe Man” is also a historical poem. Like “The Tollund Man”, it is also based on bog people. It also shares the same kind of theme and has been written on the basis of chronological perspective. “The Lindow Bodies” can also be added in the list, in which the theme of History has been described by Seamus Heaney.
The less common but most important theme, which should also be mentioned, is the theme of dread and fear. Heaney is an Irishman and he is the one, who can better understand the pains and miseries of his fellowmen. Irish people have struggled a lot. Their sufferings remained fresh in the mind of Seamus Heaney and he could not find peace until writing about them. “The Constable Calls” and “Blackberry-Picking” are the poems, in which the dread and fear has been illustrated by the poet. Although these poems have been written on a child’s views yet their appeal and theme is universal. Child anxiety, after seeing cop and enemies, has been very masterly conferred by the poet in these two poems. Hence, in addition to all other themes, the theme of dread and fear must also be kept in mind while reading the poems of Seamus Heaney.
Seamus Heaney has been regarded as “the greatest Irish poet since Yeats” by Robert Lowell and it is because he has the ability to present minor incidents in a dramatic style. His themes make his work prominent. No Irish poet has such like ability to write a poem on a small incident while mixing different themes in it. To conclude, it can be said that due to various themes of Seamus Heaney, he is still read over and discussed around the globe.