What Influence Of History Can Be Seen In Seamus Heaney's Work?

1664 words - 7 pages

What influence of history can be seen in Seamus Heaney's work?

In Requiem for the Croppies Heaney writes specifically about an
historic event, but he also uses different forms of history such as
mythological and personal in his poetry. Although Requiem for the
Croppies is written about a past event, the Battle of Vinegar Hill,
Heaney uses 'We moved quick and sudden in our own country' to produce
the idea that he was with the 'people, hardly marching', that he was a
part of them. These words also give rise to the idea that when Heaney
writes about the Battle of Vinegar Hill he also refers to the
continuing troubles in Ireland, which he most definitely is involved
in. This poem is steeped in history; Heaney describes things, as they
were then; 'The pockets of our greatcoats full of barley-'. As he
writes here it seems factual writing, as though having 'barley' to eat
is a normal thing. When Heaney writes 'No kitchens on the run, no
striking camp-' the misery and wanting these men had to go through
becomes clear. It appears that the men were living hand to mouth,
fighting for their own country which, paradoxically they had to move
'quick and sudden' in. Even though they had been born into Ireland and
had it's ancestral roots, it was they who were scared and ran, not the
invaders. Again Heaney reiterates that he was involved in this Battle,
by writing 'We found new tactics happening each day: / We'd cut
through reins and rider with the pike'. The 'people' with Heaney had
to live by their wits, they had no modern artillery or machinery to
fight with, just old spears. Here Heaney brings home just how violent
it was, they'd 'cut through rider' in order to win their country. Most
of the people fighting were from the country, and they used the tools
they had, in the most part 'cattle', which they used to 'stampede into
infantry'. After this they would 'retreat through hedges where cavalry
must be thrown', and most probably kill them while they were wounded.
This fighting went on 'until' the two sides met 'on Vinegar Hill',
what Heaney calls the 'fatal conclave'. Although of course it wasn't a
'conclave', it was an incredibly public meeting in which 'Terraced
thousands died'. Those that died Heaney refers to as 'Terraced'
perhaps because of the sloping side of the hill, which meant that
those fighting would have been raised above one another on levels of
land. Here Heaney imparts the bravery of those standing up against the
cavalry. They died 'shaking scythes at cannon', against impossible
odds, but still fighting for what they believed in. Heaney uses
powerful imagery in this poem. He writes 'The hillside blushed', which
is because of the 'broken wave' of blood from the dead but also a
metaphor for the earth's embarrassment at what the men were doing to
it and each other. 'They buried us without shroud or coffin' is a
distinctive line because it seems like 'They buried' all Ireland when
this monstrosity was...

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