Results 1 to 12 of 12

Thread: Sexual Imagery in Heaney's 'digging'?

  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Posts
    1

    Sexual Imagery in Heaney's 'digging'?

    Hey everyone,

    I've read quite a few of Heaney's poems and the cleverly embedded sexual references in some made me chuckle.

    I'm studying the poem 'Digging' atm, are there any sexual references in this poem, and what is its purpose, or am i simply overanalyzing the notion of "digging into the soggy peat". can it mean the fertility of land, and how it is rich in memories and gives birth to new talents (like seamus and his elderrs)?

    Here's the poem, thanks guys...

    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests: snug as a gun.

    Under my window, a clean rasping sound
    When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
    My father, digging. I look down
    Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
    Bends low, comes up twenty years away
    Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
    Where he was digging.

    The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft against the inside knee was levered firmly.
    He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
    To scatter new potatoes that we picked
    Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

    By God, the old man could handle a spade.
    Just like his old man.

    ...

    The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
    Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
    Through living roots awaken in my head.
    But I've no spade to follow men like them.

    Between my finger and my thumb
    The squat pen rests.
    I'll dig with it.

    Seamus Heaney

  2. #2
    Megan
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    Nottingham, England
    Posts
    37
    This poem is in my GCSE Anthology for English Literature. My class never found any sexual reference, neither did my teacher suggest it was there! However, that's not to say there couldn't be any, and I definitely see where you're coming from.

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,099
    I've often cut peat. There is definitely nothing at all sexual about it. Ah but wait when Patricina Alecina NicIomhair Nic a Ghobhainn used to cut with me there was a definite frisson of affectionate excitement. But that was the same wherever we were. So no I just don't see it. Mainly meanbh-chuileagan and mud aye and sweet air and larks singing and the smoor in your eyes on a windy day.
    He's digging into his own past at once a lesser man because not so practically able but also an advantaged man as he is literate and able to analyse. But I would never lift spuds with a spade!!! Always a graip.

  4. #4
    sybilline
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Near Blois in France
    Posts
    32
    Would you want to analyze the sexual elements in the poem, I think you must have a Freudian approach. "Snug as a gun" has a sexual connotation, I think. "Snug" relates to softness, warmth, whilst "gun" directly refers to the sexual organ. This word contributes to an effect of strength, virility, manliness, which is confirmed by the digging of the ground, an image that makes the father's man seem closer to the forces of nature. Perhaps, Heaney wants to convey the idea that sexuality is deeply rooted in man, the source of spiritual and natural life, as the vegetables are the fertilizers of the ground. It is of course an hypothesis which is to be checked by the text.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,099
    A 'gun' manly?? Help!! Snug as a bug in a rug has suddenly become snug as two copulating bugs in a rug. A snug corner by a fireside is now a trysting place. Oh dear too much connotation here and too little denotation. It's a relatively weak image in the poem and works only to confirm the (erroneous but often self-parodically fulfilling) judgement that the people of the Celtic fringe love guns and violence - sure when there's no one else to shoot we'll shoot ouselves or, in this case, a poem.
    It suggests he is as comfortable with the tool of violence as with a symbol of his own literacy. Although it's a weak image it does reflect badly on the poet as a man compared to his father since he's probably inadvertently contrasting the useful tool- a spade- with the pen which has become a gun in his hand. Not really appropriate as this is a poem in praise of his father not a bitter destructive tirade. Still the poem is a good one despite that bad choice.

  6. #6
    Boll Weevil cuppajoe_9's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Location
    Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
    Posts
    1,644
    Blog Entries
    9
    Man, I haven't read this poem in years. It's sooooooo good. Thanks for posting it.

    I think you have to stretch a bit to find anything sexual in it.
    What is the use of a violent kind of delightfulness if there is no pleasure in not getting tired of it.
    - Gertrude Stein

    A washerwoman with her basket; a rook; a red-hot poker; th purples and grey-greens of flowers: some common feeling which held the whole together.
    - Virginia Woolf

  7. #7
    sybilline
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Near Blois in France
    Posts
    32
    A gun will never be a weak image, for the violence it suggests, above all in this poem where the image sounds like a shot. Moreover, it introduces the poem, being the last word of the first sentence and of the first stanza. It is emphasized by the colon, which implies a break, and by the comparison "snug as ...". You can notice too the assonance (snug, gun)which throws light on the antithesis between the two images. So you can see that there are many stylistic devices which prove that it is a strong image, not to be put aside, or to be treated like a simple simile.
    One can have many readings of a poem, all of them acceptable if they are sustained by the text. As the sexual element is at stake, this issue having being raised by Boarrays, it is worth studying this matter, without rejecting it violently. Sexuality does not always refer to copulation. In a Freudian approach, it may relate to sexual pulsions which are at the basis of life. Sexuality does mean vulgarity either, and it would be very choking to analyze it with this point of view. Sexuality does not pervade the atmosphere of this poem, but it is true that we can see an hint in the phrase "snug as a gun".

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,099

    Guns,power 'n sex

    I beg to differ totally over that bit. Why did some wealthy Victorians cover the legs of their expensive tables? Freud said it was to stop themselves getting urges at the sight of all that wood. Freud needed a psychiatrist. It was to stop them being scratched duh.

  9. #9
    Ditsy Pixie Niamh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Marino, Dublin, Ireland
    Posts
    14,243
    Blog Entries
    118
    I agree with Ennison, i think Heaney i merely digging in to his own past, and i dont think there is any sexual reference in the poem seeing as the main focus of the poem is his dad digging the land. Maybe the reference to the gun is symbolic of the troubles that were going on in northern Ireland when he was growing up etc. Seamus Heaney is obviously sitting at the table supposed to be doing his home work or something like that, but is too busy watching his father digging, admiring the skill and simplicity of it and how country life still goes on even with the problems and the death around them. It is also like he is fighting as well. but instead of using a gun as his weapon of choice hes using a pen.

    i didn't study this poem os this is a skimming glance guess.
    "Come away O human child!To the waters of the wild, With a faery hand in hand, For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand."
    W.B.Yeats

    "If it looks like a Dwarf and smells like a Dwarf, then it's probably a Dwarf (or a latrine wearing dungarees)"
    Artemins Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer


    my poems-please comment Forum Rules

  10. #10
    rat in a strange garret Whifflingpin's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    On the hill overlooking the harbour
    Posts
    2,558
    "A skimming glance guess"
    Nothing to do with the poem, but that would make a good book title.
    Voices mysterious far and near,
    Sound of the wind and sound of the sea,
    Are calling and whispering in my ear,
    Whifflingpin! Why stayest thou here?

  11. #11
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Posts
    3,099
    Yes Niamh has the setting and thus the pulse.

  12. #12
    Ditsy Pixie Niamh's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Marino, Dublin, Ireland
    Posts
    14,243
    Blog Entries
    118
    By looking for sexual references in the poem you are over analysing it. Its supposed to be as is. Like many of Heaneys poems, they are just merely reflections of memories; of a lost childhood and of his parents. It is also obvious in many of his poems the he had a lot of admiration for his father, and that is also evident within this poem.

    I like this poem.
    Last edited by Niamh; 12-19-2006 at 06:29 PM.
    "Come away O human child!To the waters of the wild, With a faery hand in hand, For the worlds more full of weeping than you can understand."
    W.B.Yeats

    "If it looks like a Dwarf and smells like a Dwarf, then it's probably a Dwarf (or a latrine wearing dungarees)"
    Artemins Fowl and the Lost Colony by Eoin Colfer


    my poems-please comment Forum Rules

Similar Threads

  1. Heaney's poems?
    By WaRm-IcE in forum Poems, Poets, and Poetry
    Replies: 14
    Last Post: 07-29-2007, 02:47 PM
  2. Hamlet Imagery
    By Djstef in forum Hamlet
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 03-31-2006, 02:06 AM

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •