Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney Who is Heaney?



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Storm on the Island by Seamus Heaney

Who is Heaney?

  • Born in Northern Ireland in 1939
  • His father farmed 50 acres in rural County Derry.
  • Much of Heaney's poetry is centred on the countryside and farm life that he knew as a boy.
  • Therefore, strong natural images and content both positive and negative run through most of his poems

Storm on the Island

  • Key terms:
  • Blank verse
  • End-stopping
  • Enjambment
  • Caesura
  • Assonance
  • Oxymoron
  • Metaphor/simile
  • 1st/2nd/3rd person
  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat, Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate. The wizened earth has never troubled us With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees Which might prove company when it blows full Blast: you know what i mean - leaves and branches Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale So that you can listen to the thing you fear Forgetting that it pummels your house too. But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits The very windows, spits like a tame cat Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. We are bombarded by the empty air. Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.
  •  
  • Storm on the Island: Content/meaning
  • Old and shrivelled. Also experienced.
  • Corn sheaves bundled up
  • Rapid, simultaneous firing of artillery
  • What is the poet describing. How does he feel about it?
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/poetry_slideshow/storm/photoplayer.shtml
  • 5
  • 10
  • 15
  • Present tense. What effect does this have on the reader?

Storm on the Island: Structure and Form

  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat, Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate. The wizened earth has never troubled us With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
  • 5
  • Iambic metre which mirrors the speech patterns of English and makes the poem feel like a conversation
  • Why is there no article (‘the’ or ‘a’)? What does that suggest about the storm?
  • Also, the first 8 letters spell Stormont, the seat of Irish rule. Could the storm have a secondary meaning related to the troubles in Ireland?
  • Line 2: what words does the metre stress. What effect do they have?
  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat, Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate. The wizened earth has never troubled us With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
  • 5
  • Simple, comforting statement of strength. Sets the tone as secure and safe.
  • ‘We’  togetherness, community
  • ‘squat’ low down, immediate suggestion of the strength of the wind
  • ‘roof’ ‘good’ these words have assonance. Emphasising the connection between the people and nature
  • The earth is like an old friend, saving them the bother of harvesting and the pain of lost crops
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat, Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate. The wizened earth has never troubled us With hay, so as you can see, there are no stacks Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees Which might prove company when it blows full Blast: you know what i mean - leaves and branches
  • Caesura forces the reader to pause in the comfort of this statement
  • End-stopping forces the reader to dwell on the feeling of safety/solidity
  • Safe and comfortable tone is disrupted and the poem becomes more fearful. Caesura used to ‘break’ the rhythm throughout the rest of the poem.
  • Enjambment: the blast comes at the start of the line, possibly suggesting a sharp, unexpected gust of wind.
  • 5
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • Blast: you know what i mean - leaves and branches Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale So that you can listen to the thing you fear Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
  • 10
  • Conversational style (there are other examples). Draws the reader in. Does it emphasise the poet’s isolation?
  • Chorus is sustained and incessant.
  • End of the line but not end-stopped, the fear hasn’t taken hold yet
  • Forgetting that it pummels your house too. But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no:
  • 10
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • Therefore, no ‘tragic chorus’. Nature has spared them that.
  • No shelter, emphasises how barren this place is in contrast to the poet’s earlier, positive view.
  • ‘might think’ i.e. you don’t know
  • How can the sea be company? What doesn’t he have if it is?
  • Oxymoron: The poet is used to these sounds because the storms are a part of life. It’s familiar therefore comfortable.
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits The very windows, spits like a tame cat Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. We are bombarded by the empty air. Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.
  •  
  • 15
  • Caesura: The pause makes the reader consider the absence of safety and comfort
  • Violent language runs throughout the final 6 lines emphasising the danger and fear. Military language (“salvo”, “strafe”, “bombardment”) personifies the weather as attacking them.
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits The very windows, spits like a tame cat Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. We are bombarded by the empty air. Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.
  •  
  • 15
  • Caesura: forces the reader to dwell on the savage nature of the weather
  • Simile: ‘like a tame cat’ a pet, friend, something the poet is comfortable with
  • Enjambment: suggests surprise at the sudden change in the ‘cat’/sea
  • There’s nothing they can do. Nature has all of the power
  • Storm on the Island: Language
  • But there are no trees, no natural shelter. You might think that the sea is company, Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits The very windows, spits like a tame cat Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo. We are bombarded by the empty air. Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.
  •  
  • 15
  • “fear.” is a repetition of the end of line 9 only this time it is end-stopped. Fear has taken hold and the reader is left to consider this at the end
  • Their fear is not of anything they can see or fight. Emphasises their powerlessness.
  • Storm on the Island: Structure and Form
  • “like a tame cat/ Turned savage” this line mirrors the whole poem.
  • Starts safe, comfortable, known  frightening, violent.
  • Use this to compare the first and last lines
  • Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear
  • We are prepared: we build our houses squat
  • like a tame cat/ Turned savage

Comparisons

  • Patroling Barnegat
  • Both are first person descriptions of storms, and both use alliteration and assonance
  • But while Heaney is indoors, protected against the storm, Whitman is outside in the midst of it.
  • Inversnaid
  • Both poems use alliteration and assonance to enhance their detailed description of the natural world
  • But in Hopkins' poem the wind is benign - 'A windpuff bonnet of fawn-froth' - not threatening like Heaney's wind.

Summary

  • What poems could you compare this with?
  • GC: October, The Field mouse
  • Pre1914: Patrolling Barnegat, The Eagle, Sonnet (Clare), Inversnaid
  • Key Themes
  • Natural power
  • Fear and isolation
  • Man’s relationship with nature
  • What could you add to this list?


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