In 1975, Seamus Heaney came out with his fourth book of poetry, North. Although the third volume, "Wintering Out" foreshadows many of the same themes, it is North, according to several critics that develops these themes, and establishes a turning point in Heaney's poetry. According to Anthony Thwaite, journalist for the Time Literary Supplement in 1975, the book is not only "mature" but "noble" as well.
[...] Indeed, Heaney digs up more than antiquated words in the poems of North, and his previous books. He is interested in history, in what it means to be Irish, and in the whole writing process. One of Heaney's earliest poems “Digging” speaks of his family who for years had made their living digging potatoes and peat. Heaney, on the other hand chooses to dig with his pen instead, to make his living digging words and history, which is the inspiration behind North. [...]
[...] It is this tradition that Heaney draws on in “Kinship” and many of his other poems. He presents the ground as female in a similar way that the whole country of Ireland is traditionally presented as being female. In of Union,” and “Ocean's Love to Ireland,” Ireland is inescapably female in the same way that England is “still imperially Male.” (North, 43.) In he describes the ground as being an “Insatiable bride.” (North, 34.) In addition to being a bride, the ground is also a mother and a goddess. [...]
[...] He is mentioned in a book Heaney read called The Bog People, by P.V. Glob. In the book, Glob often uses information from Tacitus' history of the Germani. But the history that Tacitus writes is one sided history, it is the history of a conquered people written by a member of the dominant group of the age, the Romans. In several of his poems, Heaney uses the Romans as a symbol for the English. The poem “Oysters” published in Field Work, the book following North, discusses the conquest of the Romans and their cruelty to their slaves. [...]
[...] Heaney took a step back from the crisis in order to write North, and only with this stepping back was the writing possible. Several critics used the poem “Exposure” to delineate Heaney's “political” stance and his position as a poet: I am neither internee nor informer; An inner émigré grown long-haired And thoughtful; a wood-kerne Escaped from the massacre (Heaney, North 67-68.) Heaney describes himself as an “inner emigre,” because he has left the North of Ireland for the South of Ireland. [...]
[...] However, Bog Queen” is the only poem which gives a voice to the actual woman, where Heaney steps aside from his own voice and instead gives words to the body preserved for so many years by the “mother ground.” The voice of the woman says twice that she is waiting. It seems likely to assume that the body in the bog is waiting to be discovered, however she also expresses discontent that she is unveiled from the ground and that her hair is cut or “barbered” a turf-cutter's spade.” It feels as though the bog queen's statement that she is waiting also fits in with the violence of Ireland. [...]
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