Digging -by seamus Heaney The poet, Seamus Heaney uses simple words in his poem which is beautifully portrayed as well as easy to understand. The poem is basically about the poets respect and admiration of his father’s and grandfather’s hard work. The poem begins in the present tense form. The poet, Heaney, is in his room, writing while his father is digging. It can be assumed that the poet is near a window so that when he looks outside he can see his father digging. It is important to note that Heaney “looks down” at his father’s “straining rump”.
Literally his position at the window is elevated but we also get the sense that Heaney somehow feels superior to manual work and that he does not like this feeling. The next stanza takes us back to previous years before his father’s retirement from farming: “Bends low, comes up twenty years away”. We move effortlessly and beautifully from the present day flowerbed to the previous years potato drills. The poet then begins to describe his father’s skills. The paradoxical “coarse boot nestled” shows the physicality and hardwork of digging alongside the love his father has for it.
Heaney uses a two line stanza beginning with the exclamatory “By God” to take us further back to his grandfather’s digging skills. The exclamation and the conversational tone add a feeling of being with Heaney as he reminisces. Neatly Heaney has taken us back to his forefathers to show that working with the land has always been a tradition in the family. He has broken this chain by choosing to become a writer. The next stanza is a memory of visiting his grandfather as he cuts peat from the bog.
The “bottle corked sloppily with paper” reflects Heaney’s clumsiness in practical matters but also a different use of paper to the one he is really skilled at. This is a family proud of their achievements which are measured by a spade and the ability to handle one: “My grandfather could cut more turf in a day than any other man on Toner’s bog”. The penultimate stanza reveals the difficulties created by Heaney’s wish to write. The “curt cuts through living roots” are not only the sharp edge of the spade cutting through living turf.
They are the sharp words spoken as Heaney cuts his ties with his family’s traditional means of earning a living. And so we return to the beginning lines of the poem with the significant change from “as snug as a gun” to “I’ll dig with it”. Heaney recognizes that his skill with a pen is comparable to that of his forefathers with a spade. He also realizes that he can continue the love for skilled work with the land through his writing. Just as his grandfather was “digging down and down for the good turf” so will Heaney dig down and down for the good stuff that makes his poetry so exquisite.