Today I was asked to analyze a poem. The exact question was, “write a critical assessment of the following poem by Seamus Heaney commenting on its title, theme, diction, imagery, rhythm and rhyme :
I write this post in order to share what I did before going to the answer sheet and then ultimately on the answer sheet.
I took one hour to get the meaning of this poem. Please know, that I saw the text as text only, no context. And seriously, I had not the minutest idea about the context of this work. Though I knew that Seamus Heaney is from Ireland and he got the noble prize; and that because he got the noble prize he must be writing great poetry, I had no inkling about the kind of thing he is talking about in this poem.
The notion that great poetry always talks about some universal truth came into my course of one hour thinking and may be that ruined the probability of getting even a zero out of forty marks in the test. But right now, this feeling of being dilapidated is feeding the construction of this post. So I should not feel that much sorry about myself.
I tried to use all the faculties I had to get the thesis statement for this text. I tried a bit hard (and dare that silly smile approaching your face) as I did not know the meanings of the words “Requiem” and “Croppies”.
Hence, I started that guess work which always go wrong in exams. I guessed requiem’s meaning as replenishment and since ‘croppies’ has crop in it, I hope you understand subconscious faculties which automatically without much thinking can ask you to relate it to ‘crops’. And also since first line of the poem has barley in it, it becomes much obvious for subconscious to interpret what I did. (Note: I don’t like highlighting my mistakes again and again)
After reading the poem several times, I finally reached what according to me was its literal and figurative meaning. To decipher out that I did some coding-decoding. Let me enlist here all of that.
Greatcoats = coats which are great(literal) ; human beings(figurative)
Barley = resources for humans
Full of barley = so many resources
Although we have so much barley we have no kitchen to cook it(2nd line). Although we have so many resources we cannot cook them/ ourselves through them into eternity. We have become vagabonds in order to find peace.( we moved quick and sudden in our own country) because some God or nature kept introducing some or the other problem.
Priest = some God like entity/some human form through which God works to introduce into our lives problems which though ultimately make us wise but make us peaceless.
A people, hardly marching- on the hike = increasing number of people who don’t work, who force us into things we don’t want to do, who are God’s indirect messengers introducing problems into our lives.
Stampede cattle into infantry = like God/nature force us to do things ,during disaster we forced our fellow living beings to do what they didn’t want to, in order to find solution for our problems, in order to move from impermanence to permanence.
Then retreat through hedges where cavalry must be thrown= nature created for them such situation in which they had to live in dirty places where horses should be kept or thrown; again human superiority over fellow living beings
This one is ultimate.
Vinegar Hill = a figurative place where vinegar signifies acid and hence acerbic fatal conclave took place there ( acerbic fatal conclave = where everyone is irritated by everyone)
The hillside blushed = hillside is personified here and it blushed because now the hillside/nature has found a way to show off that it actually respect humanity. Respect humanity is shown when it blushes upon the intuition of coming of new life. As ‘our broken wave‘ = dead bodies will give way for new life, the hillside blushes that now it can experience new life.
I thought scythes is some underwater creature. 😀
Terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon= people irritated by natural calamities or life’s problems who met at the hill’s terrace died which sent tremors deep down the underwater. I thought he is talking about underwater because there is scythes in the line, which according to me is some underwater plant or creature.
And in August the barley grew up out of the grave = a sarcastic remark which states that in respect(show off) for work done by mankind (which ultimately see its decimation or movement into nothingness) on the resource present in full quantity in or near our human skin coat pocket, nature multiplies life or more resource as it says: the barley grow up out of the grave.
Are you still interested in my thesis statement?
I understand the fact that any teacher who is master of poetic art might kill me for doing this but I still was interested in recording this post in order to read, laugh or wonder at it a few years from now.
Now, if those of you who don’t know about this poem find yourself interested in reading the actual meaning and analysis of this poem might also get as bonus with that reading, your gaping mouths. 😁
Actually one must read the actual meaning and analysis of this work.( All respect for Mr. Heaney)