Friday, August 30, 2013

Seamus Heaney's Poem "Digging"

Below is a poem rich with love of family and love of place. The place is the family farm in County Derry Ireland. The family mentioned are his father and grandfather. Seamus Heaney was not to make his living as a turf digger or potato farmer, like his father and grandfather. But he honored their labor with his own labor of love--his poetry, essays, translations, lectures, and the like.

by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb   
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound   
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:   
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds   
Bends low, comes up twenty years away   
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills   
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft   
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.   
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
Seamus Heaney, "Digging" from Death of a Naturalist. Copyright 1966 by Seamus Heaney. Reprinted with the permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC.

1 comment:

luciana said...

Hi, I was looking for some nice Irish music to go together with my post about Seamus Heaney's poem "Digging" ( "Scavando" in Italian ) and I discovered your blog.
I especially discovered that we put the same poem in two different languages!
How strange!
Anyway I like your blog a lot, I've been twice to Ireland and I am fascinated by its culture and music.
If you would like to have a look at my blog this is the address:

Most of the material is in Italian,but there's a lot of music, too and something in English.Sorry for the mistakes!

Luciana Figini