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Can you analyze and determine what the theme is of the 4th sonnet written in the book...

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smartguy2323 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted April 23, 2013 at 4:12 PM via iOS

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Can you analyze and determine what the theme is of the 4th sonnet written in the book "Glanmore Sonnets" by Seamus Heaney?

"I used to lie with an ear to the line
For that way, they said, there should come a sound   
Escaping ahead, an iron tune
Of flange and piston pitched along the ground,   
But I never heard that. Always, instead,
Struck couplings and shuntings two miles away   
Lifted over the woods. The head
Of a horse swirled back from a gate, a grey   
Turnover of haunch and mane, and I’d look   
Up to the cutting where she’d soon appear.
Two fields back, in the house, small ripples shook   
Silently across our drinking water
(As they are shaking now across my heart)
And vanished into where they seemed to start."

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 3, 2013 at 6:18 PM (Answer #1)

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Heaney wrote "Glanmore Sonnets" while living in the countryside. In attempts to inspire his creative process, Heaney moved his family to Glanmore. There is a clear indication that Heaney was trying to returns to his "roots" and to get in touch with nature. In this sense, the connection with the Romantic poets, and Wordsworth particularly, is evident. By coming to the countryside, Heaney (the speaker) is attempting to revitalize his creative process by intuiting that Romantic spirit of connecting to nature. In the third sonnet, the speaker begins to compare himself and his wife to William and Dorothy Wordsworth before his (the speaker's wife) stops him: 

Dorothy and William—' She interrupts:

'You're not going to compare us two . . . ?'

Outside a rustling and twig-combing breeze

Refreshes and relents. Is cadences. 

The speaker's wife tries to bring him out of his fantasy, his project of becoming like Wordsworth, a Romantic, transcendent poet. But the speaker, after being interrupted, notices a breeze that refreshes his fantasy and he compares the breeze to a cadence, perhaps from a song or a poem. Many of these sights and sounds from nature remind the speaker of his childhood. Like Wordsworth, the speaker wishes to be inspired by nature but also to recall how he, as a child, looked at the world with more wonder. 

In the fourth sonnet, the speaker recalls how he could never hear a train by placing his ear on the rail. He doesn't hear the mechanics of the train. But he does notice the horse's reaction. The sonnet ends with the image of the small waves in the drinking water supposedly caused by the train's vibrations. As the speaker recalls these ripples, the memory moves (like the movement of the waves) his heart. 

Two fields back, in the house, small ripples shook

Silently across our drinking water

(As they are shaking now across my heart) 

And vanished into where they seemed to start. 

This is a seemingly trivial memory but it is not trivial. For the speaker, it echoes a significant emotion from his childhood. But the feeling, being from so long ago, is elusive and fleeting. Like the waves, it vanishes where/when it seems to start. This feeling can be compared to the moment when, upon waking, we try to remember a dream. This idea is very similar to Wordsworth's line from "Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood," in which the speaker wanted to recall those elusive perceptions, to recall "the glory and freshness of a dream." 

Heaney's Sonnet IV is a part of the overall Glanmore project of getting close to nature, reworking poetic creativity, and recalling childhood memories. But it is mostly about how actually recalling those impressionable memories is like a creative act; it creates an emotion, the waves shaking across his heart. The wind or vibrations create waves, the sight and sound creates an impression, the memory of this creates a connection to nature and the past. These are all like writing poetry: creative processes. 

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