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Here we will analyse 2 poems by Seamus Heaney called "Digging" and
"Follower". We will look at the similarities and differences between
these poems. In both these poems Heaney puts emphasis on many subjects
related to his life such as his childhood memories of growing up in
Northern Ireland and the conflict there. His father also features
strongly in both poems as a main influence on his life.
We will be analysing the two poems form and content. The content of
the poems reveals much about Heaney's life and by comparing the form
and content of the two poems, we can uncover much about Heaney's
feelings and style of writing.
The poem "Digging" was written by Seamus in 1964 and was one of the
first poems he wrote. This poem is about a man looking down on his
father digging in the garden both now and in the past. He reminisces
about moments in the past of both his father and grandfather digging
potatoes. This is a family tradition, however one that he can not
continue with in the literal sense, but by writing poems and "digging"
with his pen, he continues the tradition.
"Follower", was written later than "Digging" and in many ways follows
on from it, but this period of time is conveyed by the differences in
the writing style. "Follower is about Heaney's dad ploughing the
fields, much in a digging manor, with himself "following" behind. This
poem shows his father as someone he can look up to in life. The poem
goes into description about the ploughing of the land showing his
father as an expert in this field, however, he is left unable to
follow in his fathers footsteps and turns to writing instead.
The similarities and differences of these poems are uncovered when the
form and content is studied closely. If we start with the similarities
in the content we can see many things and these similarities convey
the continuation from Digging to Follower.
Both contain childhood memories, mainly of his father and references
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digging in the garden and this moment takes him back 20 years:
"Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds bends low, comes up
twenty years away"
Here Heaney is reminiscing about the past and how his father used to
be, digging for potatoes. He uses the word "straining" to show how his
father is now getting old and tiresome, but continues to dig. He
reflects back on the past and how his father used to dig with great
In much the same way, "Follower looks back on his father working with
the horse plough with Heaney following behind, watching his father
digging in a different way:
"My father worked with a horse plough"
Again his father is digging in a different way but he continues to
watch his every move conveying his father's expertise. The word
"worked" is key as it shows that his father no longer has the strength
to continue what he loved to do so much and had obviously done for
many years before. As Heaney looks back on his childhood, he remembers
every detail in his mind, following the actions in his head as he digs
to remember it.
Both these poems are revolved mainly around Heaney's father. In
"Digging", his father is in the garden digging as he looks down:
"My father, digging."
He sees his father digging and he remembers how he used to watch him
20 years ago to the very same thing. The way his father digs is
described in great detail as he remembers it in his head. It is
possible that this is one of the few memories he has of his father
from past times and this is why he remembers it so well.
"Follower" is also based mainly on Heaney's father and his memories of
him. In "Follower", Heaney follows his father around watching what he
does taking note of everything as if he were to do this himself.