With reference to two poems by Heaney and two by Thomas, compare and contrast the ways in which both poets draw on nature to give us insight and understanding of some of the thoughts and consideration which matter greatly to them. In your discussion you should pay close attention to matters of language and structure.
The first poem I am going to look at is Blackberry-picking; this is written by Seamus Heaney and describes how he and his friends used to go out blackberry picking. This poem has a very precise way of describing nature, such as
“A glossy purple clot” and “red, green, hard as a knot.”
These words are very precise so give you a sense of exactly what it was like there. This Poem is very much about nature but not in the same way as Edward Thomas as Thomas describes the beauty and Heaney Describes the way he worked with nature. He focuses on one element, the blackberries, rather than talking about his entire surroundings.
This poem creates a very strong story that is easily imaginable thanks to the descriptions. Then reflects upon the entire poem in the last lines with
“I always felt like crying It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot”
This puts the entire poem into perspective as it shows firstly what he did then moves on to show how he feels about it. If you compare this to As the Teams’ Headbrass by Edward Thomas it has a completely different feel. There are no vivid descriptions of nature or no looking back, it is simply a poem about a discussion between Edward Thomas and the ploughman.
“The ploughman said. ‘When will they take it away?’
‘When the war’s over.’ So the talk began -”
Thomas starts to talk, not so much about the nature but more about the discussion between him and the ploughman and about the war. Thomas uses the idyllic motif against war theme for his poem. The nature he talks about is the big elm tree which was felled in the night; this represents the ploughman’s soldier friend killed in battle.
“He had stayed here we should of moved the tree.’
‘And I should not have sat here. Everything
Would have been different. For it would have been
Another World,’ ‘Ay, and a better, though
If we could see all, all might seem good.'”
This gives a completely new view, saying that if the tree had not fallen I would not be talking to you and everything would be different, then the ploughman said
“If we could see all, all might seem good”
which means that maybe if we could see the big picture then some good may come the war, Britain winning.
This poem shows that there is more than just descriptions of nature in Edward Thomas’ Poems as this poem has hardly anything to do with nature and is almost about the opposite, war and death.
The other Seamus Heaney poem, Digging is an entirely different poem. Again it shows us how he and his family used to work as potato farmers; this poem doesn’t actually focus on nature itself but instead on how his family interacted with nature.
There are many specialised words in this poem such as Potato Drills, Nicking, Turf and Sods which are all potato farming related words which shows that he does know about potato-farming and it was obviously a big part of his life back then.
This poem is about how he used work but it is also about how he broke away from the family tradition to become a poet and shows how he can still dig with his pen meaning he cannot carry on the family tradition but can still continue it in some ways through his writing.
“Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
And I’ll dig with it.”
The next poem Adlestrop, again by Edward Thomas has many descriptions of nature. It’s a poem about Thomas Edwards stopping unexpectedly in a train station and looking out to see how wonderful it was out there. This poem contains descriptions of nature which I feel have no other meaning and are just showing nature at its best,
“And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.”
I think that this poem is almost purely a description as it is a simple account of what happened to him on that day, and doesn’t offer much more than just a description of nature.
The next part of the poem,
“And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and father, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.”
can be interpreted in many ways or it could be seen as just birds flying, the thing this represents for me is the people all grouping together and going to war, farther and farther into the mist although this probably wasn’t the intention of Thomas.
This poem is different to the others in the way it shows nature as it is showing that even in the midst of industrial Britain there are beautiful spots that are preserved and hidden away, and focuses on the actual things rather than in Digging which is all about interaction with nature.