Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Seeing Things, Seamus Heaney’s tenth book of poems, is a collection united by the theme of movement between two worlds. The first and last poems in the book are translations; the opening poem is a translation of the “Golden Bough” passage from book 6 of the Aeneid (30-19 b.c.e.) that deals with obtaining the fruit on that bough to gain entrance to the underworld. The ending poem is a translation of a section in canto 3 of Dante’s Inferno (c. 1320). It deals with crossing over to the underworld on Charon’s boat. Thus the two translations that frame the book deal with access to the wonders and knowledge to be gained in another world. The poems in the book are clearly related to this introduction and conclusion. They speak of ordinary things rendered in illuminating detail, which can lead to moments of transcendence or a crossing between two different worlds.
Seeing Things is divided into two distinct sections. In part 1, the lyrics are connected to the translations that deal with the entrance into another world; this is especially so in the first poem, “The Journey Back.” The one who has returned from the other world is not an epic hero like Aeneas or Odysseus but a modern poet—Philip Larkin—who celebrated the ordinary world. Upon his return, he finds that “not a thing had changed.” The dreary world of the street remains unaltered. He is also “Still my old self. Ready...
(The entire section is 1952 words.)
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