Death of a Naturalist
All through Seamus Heaney’s poem “Death of a Naturalist” we discover the transformation of a young boy’s personality and his observation of nature. The poem is divided into two stanzas, the first portraying a child, like most others – fearless innocent and evoking a seemingly indestructible love for the gruesome confusion of nature. However, he develops into a searching adolescent guilt for taking the frogspawn in the second stanza. This change in personality conveys the central themes of the poem; growing up and loss of childhood innocence.
Stanza one begins with the young boy exploring and enjoying nature, full of innocence and wonder.
“All year the flax-dam festered in the heart
Of the town land”
The opening line combines assonance and alliteration and begins to create the atmosphere of decay. ”festered “gives a sense of dirt and decay which contrasts the word “heart” which displays the image of rotting flax growing deep inside the boy. This shows an unwanted guilt growing amongst the innocence of the child. Moreover, the first stanza is very much a celebration of nature. Heaney continues to reinforce the child’s personality further as the young boy comas across all important frogspawn:
Nature is made by nature, not by man. Nature can be used for many different things. It can be used for a natural playground, a learning experience, a science experience, a meditation place. The list is endless on what nature can be used for. The best part about it is that there is no list that states what it can and can’t be. It is all in your imagination. This is important for children to learn ...
“ But best of all was the warm thick slobber
“Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water”
“best of all” Highlights the boy’s childish excitement of the flax-dam. This is linked to the word “slobber” which is emphasised by the use of enjambment showing the boys innocent delight at natures horrible attributes. The frogspawns growth here is significant of the growth which is occurring within the boy, further emphasised by the juxtaposition of “clotted” and “water” which shows the boy’s innocence turning to guilt. The poem then switches to an account of how when Heaney collected frog spawn every spring, filling “jampots of the jellied / specks”, imagery that again combines alliteration and assonance. The jars were arranged both at home and at school, and then carefully observed as the specks turned into “nimble-Swimming tadpoles”.
The turning point in the poem is easily recognisable as the poem is split into two stanzas. The second stanza begins with “Then”. This is a sign of where the boy’s change in personality and change in ideas take place; from an innocent, eager child to that of a guilty adolescent. Instantly we begin to see his guilty mind take over:
“Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs”
The use of enjambment here emphasises the word “rank” which suggests something strong smelling of disgusting. This marks the change in his beliefs, for which previously he would have seen this as a wonderful delight. This change is reinforced by the “angry frogs”, as they had developed from their “jampotfuls of jellied specks” and now they were now coming for revenge for the boy stealing their spawn. In this adolescent stage, he is scared and has “ducked through hedges” in order to escape the invasion of the angry frogs. Heaney continues to enhance the boy’s changed personality as he reflects on new sights and sounds which he did not recognise when he was a young boy:
“ To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
This enjambment here emphasises the word “ before “ creating the image of the young boy’s lost innocence, reflecting back on how he used to see nature as a child.
In the poem "Blackberry-Picking" by Seamus Heaney, the author uses powerful metaphors, strong diction, descriptive imagery, and an organized form to compare picking blackberries to holding on to your childhood. Metaphors are the strongest tool the author uses to convey his deeper understanding of the experience of picking blackberries. The blackberries in themselves are a metaphor for childhood. ...
The conclusion to the poem is introduced by Heaney’s use of caesura; a technique which gives the effect of a pause. This helps create the found sense of fear and uncertainty in the boy:
“I sickened, turned and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.”
The overrunning of fear is reinforced by the by referring to frogs as “great slime kings”. This contrasts with the previous image of the spawn being kept in jam jars. This highlights his change from fearless to fearful. This imagery in the last sentence is particular effective when gathering and comparing the boy’s two different group of characteristics.: For years he would take the frogspawn unaware that it was wrong, which show his childish desires, his receptive nature and most importantly , his innocence. However now he feels, “That if i dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.” The use of personification by giving the spawn human abilities increases the idea of the child’s curious, fearful and guilty mind. Altogether signifying the loss of innocence, development of the boy’s personality and the death of a young naturalist. Heaney’s constant use of clever techniques in this poem provides us with a greater understanding of these changes and makes us appreciate the depth Heaney has gone into in order to make these changes apparent