Mid-term Break by Seamus Heaney


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Mid-term Break by Seamus Heaney

I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home.

In the porch I met my father crying--
He had always taken funerals in his stride--
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.

The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand

And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble,"
Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand

In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.

Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,

Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple,
He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.

A four foot box, a foot for every year.

Poetry analysis of Mid-Term break by Seamus Heaney

The title 'Mid term break' gives us the disillusion that the poem is
going to be an upbeat poem; we associate it about a holiday away from
the stresses of school. The opening stanza upsets out expectations as
it has a melancholy tone and the usage of rather pessimistic words
such as 'close' and 'sick'. The sounds of the words also contribute to
the negative theme, as they are heavy, depressing and slow sounds like
'all', 'college', 'bell', 'knell'. The poet describes the bells
'knelling', which is significant as it give us the image of church
bells. In the first stanza it is not clear what exactly has happened
yet, you just think that the poet is merely sick.

In the second stanza we realise that some one has died but it is not

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clear who just yet. The poet describes the reactions of the people
around him like his father and uncle. The poet uses 'p' and 'b' sounds
which gives the impression of being out of breath and shocked. I think
that the boy would feel rather confused and shocked by there behaviour
as he is not used to them reacting in this way, as men are usually
less emotional, more strong and controlled.

In the third stanza there is an ironic description of a baby cooing
and laughing in its pram, I think in away the poet uses this image to
juxtapose the baby's innocent actions to his own, as he is feeling
bewildered and confused and cannot relate to the situation. 'I was
embarrassed by old men standing up to shake my hand', this quote shows
how immature the poet is and it also shows how there is a reverse of
roles here, as usually young boys give respect to older men, whereas
now, the poet is receiving the respect.

In the fourth stanza we find out that the poet is the eldest and goes
to boarding school. This contributes to the poet's lack of being able
to relate to the situation as he is not normally at home so perhaps he
does not seem his family relating this way and so it must come to him
as a shock. 'My mother held my hand' this line is important as it
shows how vulnerable the mother are feeling, its as if she is trying
to hold him so that he too will not leave her. Here again there is a
reverse of roles, as boy is taking a parental role

In stanza five the stanched and bandaged body arrives. The mother's
tears are also being stanched in this stanza, with anger. The mother
and fathers reactions have also been reversed in a way as normally it
the woman who is crying, and the man that is controlled.

In stanza six the poet describes the room where body rests, 'snowdrops
and candles soothed the bedside' this line shows that perhaps the
household is catholic. The death must have happened during the Easter
term because snowdrops blossom during spring; the time of Easter.

In stanza seven we finally find out how the child died-in a car
accident, 'the bumper knocked him clear' This stanza is rather
different from the descriptions the day before as it is more intimate,
and it is as if it is just him and the body whereas before it was as
if he was more concerned with the all the visitors and reactions of
everyone else. For the first time in the whole poem the poet uses
imagery 'a poppy bruise', this image is very powerful as it gives us a
picture of the severity of the bruise

The last stanza is shocking and brief and effective; we find out that
the child was only four years old, 'a four foot box, a foot for every
year'. We also are given an impression of speechlessness and brings
the poem to its climax.

The speaker in this poem is a young boy and to purvey this, the poet
writes in very simple free verse.


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