Seamus Heaney 's poem "Bogland" was included in his second collection, Door into the Dark , and it is one of a number of poems Heaney wrote about the bogs in Ireland. The speaker begins the first stanza by saying what the bogland is not like: the open American prairies, with clear lines in the horizon for the sun to set behind. The speaker also begins the poem in the first person plural. This seems to indicate that the poem represents a general perspective, not an individual one. This is also reflected in the way the speaker refers to "the eye" as a general feature instead of reflection what an individual person sees.
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Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print. Bogland is one of many poems Heaney composed on the subject of Irish identity and its relation to the past. It was written in the s and was the last poem in his second book Door into the Dark, published in Heaney turns the peat bog into a metaphor for memory and feeling, a place where identity is buried and preserved. The speaker is not personally involved in this poem - there is no first person I - but rather takes an overview of the land and the history.
This reflects what Heaney himself said when thinking about poetry and its role in helping understand identity:. The poem with its narrow stanza on stanza form mirrors the bog itself, layer upon layer of peat, layers of language, both descriptive and figurative. And Heaney gets to include his favourite word 'dig' synonymous with the peat bog spade once commonly used in Ireland.
So Bogland is a poem of contrast and comparison, initially between the north American plain with its vastness and the enclosed narrowness of the Irish bog. It's as if the speaker is attempting to clarify the landscape he loves and knows by acknowledging the past, how the bog preserves things and memory, how mythology still clings to the present.
This poem has many typical Heaney lines, full of short, hard consonants, long vowels, strong assonance Butter sunk under and a rich mix of phonetics. We have no prairies To slice a big sun at evening-- Everywhere the eye concedes to Encroaching horizon, Is wooed into the cyclops' eye Of a tarn.
Our unfenced country Is bog that keeps crusting Between the sights of the sun. Butter sunk under More than a hundred years Was recovered salty and white. The ground itself is kind, black butter Melting and opening underfoot, Missing its last definition By millions of years.
They'll never dig coal here, Only the waterlogged trunks Of great firs, soft as pulp. Our pioneers keep striking Inwards and downwards, Every layer they strip Seems camped on before. The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage. The wet centre is bottomless. In the first quatrain the speaker is initially comparing the bog landscape to that of north America - with its vast plains - which is said ' To slice a big sun' - when the sun is setting and disappears halfway down, hence it appears sliced, an active verb.
In Ireland there is always something getting in the way, the horizon wins because it is always trespassing into vision. A comma ends the first stanza so the pause is not so pronounced as the reader moves on. The eye is also 'wooed' sort of seduced or enticed to look for something closer, such as a tarn small lake.
Here Heaney uses the term cyclops' eye for the small lake, a nod to Greek mythology and the one-eyed creature called Cyclops. And the speaker becomes a spokesperson for the island of Ireland - Our unfenced country - again comparing to the American plains which are also unfenced and open. Many things end up buried in the peat bog including the Great Irish Elk, a creature that lived thousands of years ago Megaloceros giganteus which had huge antlers and is now in a museum.
The speaker uses the phrase crate full of air referring to the exhibit, suggesting that it's not worth seeing, of little value? Next in line comes butter, preserved in the peat for a hundred years, those repeated u vowels typically low and flat. Butter is homely, locally produced and represents both farming community and a sense of place.
The bog keeps it, acting like a time capsule. The very ground is black butter, a metaphor for the soft, perhaps deceptive lifestyles led by the people. Enjambment leads straight into the fifth stanza, the ground as black butter so giving when trod on.
It will take a long time to harden and become coal - it'll be millions of years - but there'll be nobody around to dig it out. The bog is so wet fir tree remnants become pulp. And still it is worked by those who sense new things arising from it - but the island has such a long history of invasion and settlement, it's as if there is no pristine land left.
But they're so close to the influential Atlantic too, the bogholes could be seepage. And some of the bog water is so black it could be bottomless. The Irish can never get to the bottom of their past? Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites. I love this poem and it means even more to me after reading your wonderful analysis.
I'll be back for another visit and thank you Andrew. An interesting and informative analysis Andrew. I can remember the smell of a peat fire on a winter's day. Now the bogs are being preserved as part of climate change which is a good idea. An enjoyable read - thank you for sharing. Other product and company names shown may be trademarks of their respective owners. HubPages and Hubbers authors may earn revenue on this page based on affiliate relationships and advertisements with partners including Amazon, Google, and others.
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Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so. Andrew Spacey more. Bogland for T. Flanagan We have no prairies To slice a big sun at evening-- Everywhere the eye concedes to Encroaching horizon, Is wooed into the cyclops' eye Of a tarn.
Analysis of Bogland Stanza By Stanza First Stanza In the first quatrain the speaker is initially comparing the bog landscape to that of north America - with its vast plains - which is said ' To slice a big sun' - when the sun is setting and disappears halfway down, hence it appears sliced, an active verb.
Second Stanza A comma ends the first stanza so the pause is not so pronounced as the reader moves on. The bogland is ongoing crusty country. Third Stanza Many things end up buried in the peat bog including the Great Irish Elk, a creature that lived thousands of years ago Megaloceros giganteus which had huge antlers and is now in a museum. Fourth Stanza Next in line comes butter, preserved in the peat for a hundred years, those repeated u vowels typically low and flat.
Fifth Stanza Enjambment leads straight into the fifth stanza, the ground as black butter so giving when trod on. Sixth and Seventh Stanzas The bog is so wet fir tree remnants become pulp. Alliteration When two or more words are close together and begin with the same consonant.
For example: sights of the sun Assonance When two or more words close together in a line have similar sounding vowels: Butter sunk under Caesura When a line is paused midway by punctuation: Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Enjambment When a line runs on into the next with no pause, maintaining the sense as the reader progresses: They've taken the skeleton Of the Great Irish Elk Out of the peat, set it up An astounding crate full of air.
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Bogland by Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney The colonizers have taken away the skeleton of great Irish elk deer. This skeleton had been set up as an astounding crate full of air. Butter sunk under, more than hundred years ago, was recovered salty and white.
Bogland by Seamus Heaney: Summary and Analysis
Seamus Heaney. A bog is wet, spongy ground with soil composed mainly of decayed vegetable matter Dictionary. The poem is structured like a bog, too, with short lines that make it look like it is drilling into the ground and with the way Heaney uncovers a new layer with each new stanza. All of these literary devices display Ireland as a time capsule, through the symbolism of the bog. When first looking at this poem, I saw how short the lines were and how vertically long it was and I thought this was strange.
Bogland Summary and Analysis of "Bogland"
Andrew has a keen interest in all aspects of poetry and writes extensively on the subject. His poems are published online and in print. Bogland is one of many poems Heaney composed on the subject of Irish identity and its relation to the past. It was written in the s and was the last poem in his second book Door into the Dark, published in Heaney turns the peat bog into a metaphor for memory and feeling, a place where identity is buried and preserved.