An Advancement Of Learning Seamus Heaney

The sample essay on An Advancement Of Learning Seamus Heaney deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.

In the two Seamus Heaney poems’, “The Barn,” and “An Advancement of Learning,” there are a number of similarities and differences between them. One key similarity is the theme of rats. In, “The Barn,” the boy explores around and once he walks into a cobweb, he gets a fright and tries to get away into the sunlit yard.

The boy has nightmares in the poem and the large, heavy corn sacks are described as, “great blind rats,” whereas in, “An Advancement of Learning,” the rats are actually real and they scuttle past in front of his eyes. They are portrayed as arrogant and disgusting.

Heaney says, “The rats slobbered out of the water, smudging the silence. ” We begin to imagine revolting beasts all wet and disgusting scurrying about the riverbanks.

What is very similar about the two poems is that they are both very autobiographical and recall childhood memories. “The Barn,” is about Heaney’s past experience of the barn and he tells us of all the feelings he felt at the time. In, “An Advancement of Learning,” Heaney refers to how he used to panic when his grey brothers scraped and fed behind the hencoop in his yard and on ceiling boards above his bed.

The Barn Poem Analysis

Both poems link to the childhood phobia, which in this case happens to be rats.

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Both poems are narrated in the first person. This enhances the poem’s meaning because it gives a personal insight into how he is feeling at the time. This possibly helped Heaney because he’s writing about past experiences. Both poems draw your attention to them in just the first stanza. “The Barn,” does this by using two similes in the opening sentence whereas, in, “An Advancement of Learning,” the tone is very calm and gives the implication that the bridge is a cause of anxiety and fear.

The understatement is the use of brackets to relate this consistent habit of going the long way round only serves to heighten our curiosity by increasing the sense of ingrained attitude. Heaney is talented at grabbing the reader’s attention, which makes us want to read on. The poem, “An Advancement of Learning,” is structured as nine, four-lined stanzas. This is an appropriate structure because as the poem progresses, the attitude towards the rat changes. For example, in the third stanza, the boy’s attitude towards the rat is, “something,” then a “snubbed rodent,” in stanza five.

However, by the eighth stanza, a “grey brother,” has been transformed. The turning point of the poem comes in the central stanza so the poem is, in my opinion, well structured. The poem gradually builds up the tension before the turning point and the stanzas, which fall after the turning point, show the next steps the boy takes in order to overcome his fear of rats. The turning point is, “I turned to stare. ” It is marked by a change in the rhyme scheme. In stanza one, line two and four rhyme and then in stanza two, line one and three rhyme etc.

Once the turning point (climax) occurs in stanza five, there becomes no significant rhyme scheme. By using the four-line, nine-stanza structure, the poet’s use of enjambment proves to be successful and this helps the poem to flow in an effective way. He says, “so quickly that,” on the end of line four on stanza three and, “I turned down the path,” on the first line of stanza four. The poem does as the poem says, it moves “quickly” onto the next stanza. The poem, “The Barn,” is structured as five, four-lined stanzas. This is an appropriate structure because each stanza progresses further through the barn.

The reader gets an insight into Heaney’s barn experience step-by-step, or stanza-by-stanza. This gradual build up helps you to feel the kind of atmosphere in the barn. Once again Heaney finds the use of enjambment appropriate to help the poem flow. Heaney says, “Then you felt cobwebs clogging up your lungs,” on line four, then, “and scuttled fast into the sunlit yard,” on line one. This is very effective because the poet wishes to change the scene and atmosphere suddenly, so he needed a way in which the two lines could flow together naturally without disrupting the style of the poem.

He also uses the word, “fast,” to add emphasis on the speed or the change of scene. The movement from one place to another in this poem is the definite turning point. It goes from being quite dark in the barn, to the sunlit yard, away from the dank dustiness, to the bright and cheerful place. From there on, the nightmares begin. Although the poem is structured well, I do feel that it sounds slightly incomplete.

Heaney ends the poem by saying, “the two-lugged sacks moved in like great blind rats. I feel that not all questions have been answered in the poem and I would like to read a further one-line stanza perhaps, to draw the poem to a conclusion. The language in both poems is very descriptive and lots of adjectives are being used. In, “An Advancement of Learning,” the boy analyses the, “tapered tail, raindrop eye and old snout,” as though his interest in the rat is no longer imaginative but scientific. In, “The Barn,” the floor is described as, “mouse grey, smooth, chilly concrete. ” Clearly, Heaney’s strength is his use of descriptive language, which creates a vivid image in your mind.

As Heaney is gifted with his imagination there are obviously numerous images in both poems. In, “The Barn,” Heaney uses two similes in the first two lines, these are, “lay piled like grit of ivory,” and, “solid as cement in two-lugged sacks”. This paints the image of the corn sacks in your mind as being heavy and old, which have perhaps been there for many years. It seems impossible for them to move. We are then surprised in the closing stanza when the poet says, “the two-lugged sacks moved in like great blind rats. It doesn’t seem likely that the two corn sacks would be possible to move after we read the first stanza and establish the heaviness of them. We then realise that it’s actually a nightmare and we can understand why they appear to have been moving. In, “The Barn,” the roof, “gulfed in. ” Gulfed is an action so how could the roof have gulfed? Well it’s personification. Heaney gave the roof (object) human characteristics by implying that it has gulfed. The use of this poetic device makes the poem easier to understand and makes the images Heaney is trying to draw, clearer to see.

The imagery used in, “An Advancement of Learning,” is equally as vivid as in, “The Barn. ” Heaney says, the swans are, “dirty-keeled. ” This suggests that the purity and beauty of the swans are contaminated by the filth of the river. The filth is perhaps informing us that the industrial revolution has had its direct affect on nature. The river’s portrayed as being corrupted with man’s waste. This filth-ridden home just happens to be the home of the rats in this poem. This suggests that the poet sees the rats in a negative way. The use of alliteration also proves to be effective.

Heaney says, “Something slobbered curtly, close, smudging the silence: a rat slimed out of the water. ” All the words beginning with S are very descriptive and disgusting. Basically these words sum up the poets attitude towards the rats. Heaney uses the word, “slimed,” which isn’t actually a word in the English dictionary; it is the inflected form of the verb slime. The word that he used fully satisfies the situation and I think it adds to the effect of alliteration. The trochaic rhythm of the first line on stanza three heightens the tension: “Something slobbered curtly, close. The voice falls forward and heavily stresses the, “closeness,” of the rat because of the expected, but missing final syllable. In, “An Advancement of Learning,” Heaney uses the word, “hunched,” this suggests the tenseness in response to the atmosphere of the riverbank.

Heaney also says, “well away from the road now,” this means that the boy finds himself isolated and, therefore, more vulnerable. This is also the case in, “The Barn. ” The boy is alone in the daunting barn with just the sheer intension or exploration to comfort him. In, “An Advancement of Learning,” the river is said to have, “nosed past. This is linked to the rat, as the rat is described as, “snubbed,” and, “old snout,” referring to the rat’s nose and other disgusting features. In the early stanzas of the poem, the rat is seen as arrogant and disgusting; but later the rat clockworks, his back bunched. The transformed diction marks the inversion of roles between the boy and the rat. For example, the rat moves, “curtly,” in the second stanza but yet, “aimlessly,” in the sixth. This shows that man is dominant over nature in the end, no matter what the circumstances may be.

The same situation is also shown near to the end of the poem. The speaker becomes calm and matter-of-fact like in the last stanza, ” then I walked on and crossed the bridge. ” The simple diction and movement of the rhythm into a pair of iambs, reflects the boy’s triumph over his fear and his return to a balanced state of mind. Both poems show rats in a negative way. This shows the poets feelings towards them. Both the rats are portrayed as being intimidating and frightening. It is obviously the childhood memories which have had an impact on the way Heaney views rats.

The past encounter with rats has, therefore, left a negative imprint on the poets mind forever, or as this case may be, until the fears have been conquered by staring one out. The stare factor is common in both poems. In, “The Barn,” the poet says, ” where bright eyes stared from piles of grain in corners, fierce, unblinking. ” In, “An Advancement of Learning,” the poet says, “He trained on me. I stared him out. ” After reading these two poems I feel that the general point they’re trying to make is that you must face up to your fears in order to overcome them.

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An Advancement Of Learning Seamus Heaney. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from

An Advancement Of Learning Seamus Heaney
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