Death of a Naturalist

906 words | 4 page(s)

Title and meaning

Whenever the author mentions death in the title, any poem holds extraordinary effect. Seamus Heaney tricks us with the image of death while nobody actually dies in the poem. While the image bears figurative meaning only, still it hooks our imagination right from the start. The naturalist is an enthusiastic speaker holding genuine interest in frogs and the flax dam. What actually dies closer to the end is this inner ‘interest’ when the kid observes how the frogs are slapping around in disgusting way producing a rather horrifying scene. Thus, through the image of ‘death’ Heaney points out the effect of growing older and taking life from different lens. Overall, the poem acknowledges the complexities associated with the awakening understanding of sexuality and the related feelings of loss and revulsion experienced along the way.

puzzles puzzles
Your 20% discount here.

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
"Death of a Naturalist".

Order Now
Promocode: custom20

Form and structure
While the author applies blank verse, this does not mean that nothing is going on throughout the poem. Seamus Heaney deploys unrhymed lines to make up verse in iambic pentameter. Overall, the author glues the poem together by using blank verse particularly emphasizing on the commonest variations of the blank verse form that is inversion. Mostly, he stresses the first syllable of the foot instead of the second one at the beginning of the lines, namely: “Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how” (Line 15). From the beginning of the line, the stress comes back to normal while the author stresses the second syllable of the foot for the rest of the line and therefore achieves musical sound for the poem.
Structurally, the poem comes as a long stanza, though the Line 21 is the only two-word line signaling the transition between the young enthusiastic speaker who transforms into the mature freaked-out observer.

Imagery and symbolism
The image of ‘death’ mentioned in the title comes as a strong metaphor indicating the loss of innocent child’s enthusiasm while he starts sensing the realities of life, though fails to understand them properly. While the image of naturalist associates with someone enthusiastic about exploring nature, unpalatable realities change our attitudes towards natural observations over time. The idea of the transition from childhood innocence to growing-up experience comes as a core concept of the poem. The author shows how the reality of sexuality overwhelms the speaker’s consciousness. As he took frogs’ spawn away, the kid is now terrified that angry frogs will now settle scores with him. This refers to the idea of vengeance for bad deeds done and child’s belief in its effect. Beginning with innocent and secure presentation of the speaker’s primary school experience, the author imposes threat in the following lines followed by even more aggressiveness throughout the second section. “Festered”, “rotted” and “sweltered” are strong verbs conveying punitive aspect of nature enforced by the “punishing sun”. Soon afterwards, the author transforms the immature child’s perception of the importance of the frogs’ reproductive process into the frogs’ capacity of signaling the weather: “For they were yellow in the sun and brown in rain” (Lines 21-22).

Throughout the poem, Heaney reaches powerful symbolic interpretation. In Lines 7–8, the author paints buzzing, pretty things through rich imagery followed by warm thick slobber. Everything readers get on this stage is through the child’s rose-colored glasses and intimate innocence. The speaker’s enthusiasm towards the nature and everything in it reaches acme in Lines 10–11 when the power of spring symbolizes rebirth and newness. The young speaker’s enthusiasm further burns with symbolic capacity of spring nature giving the birth to the frogs. The child’s innocence is most vivid in Lines 15–19 while the speaker believes in a magical process of creating frogspawn unlike the one he learned at school about the reproductive habits of frogs. Heaney deliberately applies rather childlike tone to highlight the innocence of the moment. With so great enthusiasm towards learning frogs, still the speaker fails to understand them completely in Lines 19–21.

Seamus Heaney starts the poem with enriched description of a swampy area full of flax plant. The author describes the nearby surrounding of the mucky soil where flies are buzzing and the sun is beating downright. This way, from the first lines, Heaney develops a strong sense of setting: “All year the flax dam festered in the heart of the townland” (Lines 1-2). Closely referring to the nature, the author aims to make readers completely immersed in the birth of springtime. The approach makes readers drain within marvelous natural setting and become as one with it.

Right from the start, the author stresses on surrounding smells and sounds while celebrating every single motion all around reaching absolute outcome of frogspawn. This ultimate finale, at least on this stage, urges the speaker to refer to extra exploration of frogs’ reproductive processes and explore how ‘frogspawn’ leads frogs to adulthood. The author makes the whole scene rich in springtime associations both good and ugly, including sprouting greenery and butterflies vs. steaming cow dung and rotting flax. Vivid detailed descriptions make readers totally engaged in the surrounding: “Then one hot day when the fields were rank with cowdung” (Lines 22-23). While the setting never changes throughout the poem, the telling thing about it is the speaker’s changing relation towards it. At the beginning, the speaker appears as enthusiastic celebrant who gradually turns into a fearful observer as the poem develops. This way, Heaney alludes to the overall effect of one’s growing up.

puzzles puzzles
Attract Only the Top Grades

Have a team of vetted experts take you to the top, with professionally written papers in every area of study.

Order Now