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Poetry appreciation of Death of a naturalist Essay

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Poetry appreciation of Death of a naturalist

This poem ‘Death of a Naturalist’ by Seamus Heaney is about the
lifecycle of frogs and a child’s interest in nature. As the child
grows up he looses interest in all aspects of nature. It is as if
‘Death of a Naturalist’ was referring to the loss of innocence of the
child and the love of nature he once had died inside him. Not only
that, he now has respect for nature but not necessarily disliking it;
nor loving it either.

The atmosphere of the first stanza is quite positive. A phrase such as
‘There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,’ suggests a happy mood
and refers to pleasant memories to Heaney as a child. Diction such as
the ‘warm thick slobber’ indicates to me the child-likeness theme of
this poem. Which proves that it is from an adult’s perspective looking
back at his childhood. Heaney has done this by using the ‘child-like’
vocabulary as well as a more complex and mature tone to the poem. He
has done this so that we as the reader can recognise the difference of
the fascination of a child and a simpler explanation of things from an
adult. For example as the first stanza draws to a close we learn that
by frogs we can tell the weather ‘For they were yellow in the sun and
brown/in rain.’ This is the typical child learning something new in
school, and then assuming they know it all. From that I get the image
of the child telling its mother ‘mum did you know…’ Where as an adult
would dismiss it as merely a fact.

By the second stanza the poem takes a rather dark turn. All the
positivity in the first stanza has been replaced with a sinister and
morbid tone. The beginning of the stanza ‘ Then one hot day…fields
were rank’ suggests the dramatic change in ...


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changed and I realised that the poem was not all about frogs. It was a
case of reading between the lines. Heaney’s overall message fascinated
me and urged me to delve more into the subject of ‘loss of innocence’.
Which set me on a train of thought. One thing in particular that made
the poem more enjoyable for myself was Heaney’s flair for style. The
way in which he concentrates on the onomatopoeia in the poem is very
effective. As I had not previously read any other of Heaney’s poems
this immediately drew my attention. Another thing I liked was the
images he created in my mind. One of those images were (in the second
stanza); a battlefield where the child is on one side and the frogs
are his opposition and the frogs are invading the land-similar to a
war scenario. Therefore I would highly recommend this poet simply for
Heaney’s unique style of writing.


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