Commentary On "Death Of A Naturalist"

1026 words - 5 pages

In the poem "Death of a Naturalist", Seamus Heaney seems to suggest that humanisation and simplification of essentially foreign and incomprehensible phenomena often occurs through education and authority. Through the dramatic contrast in tone and diction between the first and second stanzas, Heaney emphasizes how observations of the harsh reality and threat of natural hierarchies can shatter childlike naïveté and admiration for the apparent simplicity and ordered structure of nature. This notion is already implied in the title, "Death of a Naturalist," suggesting that a realisation of the grim realities and aggression in natural structures can abruptly end these simplifications; ...view middle of the document...

The introduction of the schoolteacher Miss Walls and her explanation of the "daddy frog" and "mammy frog" can be seen as representing the authority that simplifies reality, and explains nature in drastically humanised terms. Her name "Miss Walls" giving further implication her education creating a type of wall or veil over reality, merely for some degree of comprehension to be attained. The last line of the first stanza is merely the two syllables "in rain," which is irregular and creates a longer pause between stanzas. This line begins to suggest a sense of mystery or potential threat, in that it breaks the sense of order of the first stanza by some information given to the youth by the educational figure-head; it creates the first slight connotations with the negative or potentially aggressive aspects of nature that are depicted in the second stanza.The use of the words "rank," "cowdung" and the image of "angry frogs" that "invade" the flax-dam in the first few lines of the second stanza display a drastic shift in tone and diction which is present throughout the concluding stanza. The "coarse croaking" which "was thick like a bass chorus" was overlooked during his previous visits to the flax-dam and the repetition of "thick" from the first stanza was used to describe a trait which was once "best of all" to him, yet in the second stanza it depicts a conflicting sound which unsettles the child. The obscene and vulgar diction used in these lines establishes a definite contrast to the apparent beauty and simplicity of the description of natural settings in the first stanza. The image of "gross-bellied frogs," emphasised by the simile of "necks pulsed like sails," could symbolise the reality that the authority fails to confront in the first stanza (since wind allow sails mobility yet does not dictate the exact path of the vessel, it gives an impression of independence to the frogs). The onomatopoeia of "slap" and "plop,"...

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