‘Digging’; is about a person looking out of a window at their Father digging, describing what he/she sees and then the poem goes on to describe what he/she feels.
I believe that the narrative voice in the poem is in fact that of Seamus Heaney. There are a number of clues that lead me to this conclusion. The first and most obvious one is in the first line,
‘Between my finger and my thumb.’
The poet writes in the first person throughout the poem. He writes about his Father and his Grandfather and he seems to move from describing his Father to describing his Grandfather. He does this so smoothly that the reader harldy notices the transition that took place. The second clue is slightly more hidden. The poet mentions turf. Now Ireland is one of the only countries left in Europe that still have turf bogs. Since Seamus Heaney is Irish there is an obvious link to his country. When the poet writes about his Grandfather he implies that there used to be a lot of turf cutters in his day.
‘My Grandfather cut more turf in a day than any other man on Toners bog.’
In that line there is a lot of pride on the part of the Grandson. The line also implies that there used to be a lot of turf-cutters in his day. So when Heaney writes, ‘But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.’
This could be because of a number of reasons; one could be that he just doesn’t want to be a turf digger. He might not find it mentally stimulating enough. But he shows a lot of pride in what his Father and Grandfather do and did for a living. It may be because turf cutters are no longer needed. In other words the world is changing and ‘men like them’ are no longer needed.
Turf cutters are no longer needed because firstly turf is a lot harder to obtain than coal or central heating and secondly people in Ireland are not as poor as they used to be so they no longer need turf now that they have enough money to buy coal and to have central heating. So Heaney dedicates his life to writing.Digging is written primarily about what Heaney sees through the window, ‘Under my window;#8230;’
So the poem is based on sight. However, the poet uses the other three senses to emphasize what he sees. For example, ‘;#8230;a clean rasping sound.When the spade sinks into the gravelly ground’
The first line is clearly used to emphasize and make the second line clearer. That line also paints an image in the readers mind of the spade sinking in and the scratching/rasping sound it makes. An example of how the author does the same thing only with the sense touch is, ‘The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly.’ In this case the second line emphasizes the first. It does this by using the words levered and firmly they make the whole phrase seem more realistic.
However the best possible example of this is when the poet uses two senses to emphasize sight ‘The cold smell of potatoe mould, the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge.’
These two lines not only include two senses but one of the senses uses two onomatopoeic words; squelch and slap. These two words suggest someone moving through thick soggy mud for some reason it also suggests to me that it was on a cold day.
In my opinion that line is also quite interesting to read because it paints a clear picture in my mind’s eye of someone toiling and sloshing around in the mud. I think this is because the poet uses words like; soggy, curt, cuts and edge. Since those words are sharp words they make the phrase clearer and sharper in my mind’s eye.
I think the poet’s attitute to work is that of a perfectionist. I get this impression because of how picky he is about describing the way his Father and Grandfather worked. For example, ‘Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods Over his shoulder, going down and down For the good turf. Digging!’
These lines especially the first one show the perfectionist’s attitude to work. ‘Nicking and slicing neatly;#8230;’
I also think the poet preferred working with a pen because of two things. One reason is in the last stanza, ‘Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests, I’ll dig with it.’
The poet means that he will dig metaphorically into his mind and memory with the pen. Especially his memory and by digging into his memory he keeps the past alive. Since in my opinion this poem was written about the poet’s own childhood memories it ties in niclely with that.
The first stanza of the poem is the stanza where you can interpret its meaning in a variety of ways. ‘Between my finger and my thumb The squat pen rests snug as a gun.’ The phrase is a similie comparing a pen to a gun. The way in which the poet has written the lines implies that he is in fact as comfortable with a pen as he is with a gun. The poet is also saying that a gun is ‘snug’. Now for me there is nothing snug about a gun, this could imply that the poet is uncomfortable writing but I don’t think that is the case. I think that it’s more likely that Seamus Heaney feels comfortable around guns. Also since ‘snug’ seems to imply that something has been around for a long time that could mean that the gun idea has also been there for a long time. Finally that in turn could imply that Heaney lives in a society that is more accepting of guns. For example a farm which ties in nicely with the turf lifestyle.
On a surface level this poem was not all that interesting. I thought the subject matter was a dull one and although the poet describes everything in great detail I found the poem lacking in a consistant style. However when I looked at the hidden meanings and all the different ways Heaney conveys his feelings. I realized that the poem is obviously a very personal one. He seems to use his poetry to help him remember certain aspects of his past and childhood. He gets the reader to really understand the way of life for him, his Father and his Grandfather. The reader can also see how much he looked up to both of them although he chose not to follow in their footsteps. But to follow his own path in life In conclusion I realized that ‘Digging’ is a very complex poem which can be interpreted in a variety of different ways.