Analyse and explain the theme of marriage in Seamus Heaney's Glanmore Sonnets, specifically, sonnet I:Vowels ploughed into other: opened ground. The mildest February for twenty years Is mist bands...

Analyse and explain the theme of marriage in Seamus Heaney's Glanmore Sonnets, specifically, sonnet I:

Vowels ploughed into other: opened ground.
The mildest February for twenty years
Is mist bands over furrows, a deep no sound
Vulnerable to distant gargling tractors.
Our road is steaming, the turned-up acres breathe.
Now the good life could be to cross a field
And art a paradigm of earth new from the lathe
Of ploughs. My lea is deeply tilled.
Old ploughsocks gorge the subsoil of each sense
And I am quickened with a redolence
Of farmland as a dark unblown rose.
Wait then…Breasting the mist, in sowers’ aprons,
My ghosts come striding into their spring stations.
The dream grain whirls like freakish Easter snows.

 

How does this sonnet show Heaney's escape into marital bliss?

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The theme of marriage does not seem to be especially prominent in the very first of Seamus Heaney’s Glanmore Sonnets. The sonnets were written in response to a move, by Heaney, his wife, and their children, from violent Northern Ireland to a much more peaceful, rural life in an area south of Dublin in the Irish Republic. The poet’s wife, however, is nowhere explicitly mentioned in the opening sonnet of the sequence, nor is marriage as an institution. Instead, the twin focuses of the poem seem to be on farming and on art – two forms of creativity.

Heaney opens the poem with a splendid example of a description whose very sounds illustrate the thing described: “Vowels ploughed into other” (1). Here the jamming together of the “ow” sounds of the first two words forces the reader to speak the very idea the phrasing presents. (Similarly skillful use of assonance (and also alliteration) occurs in the first two words of line 3: “Is mist.”) The next two lines celebrate the peaceful beauty of the weather and the earth:

The mildest February for twenty years
Is mist bands over furrows . . . (2-3)

The imagery of line 3 is particularly memorable and beautiful, as is the striking reference, later in that line, to a “deep no sound” – a wonderful way of mentioning silence without using the over-used word “silence.” But Heaney is careful to guard against any facile, simple-minded romanticism. Thus, in the next line he makes sure to mention that this “no sound” is “Vulnerable to distant gargling tractors” (4). The idyllic rural landscape is not entirely free, or distant from, the rumblings of machines, and indeed it is probably these very machines that have created the appealing “furrows.” The poem presents no easy opposition between the land and industry; industry helps farmers till the land and prepare for the coming of the crops: “the turned-up acres breathe” (5).

The speaker, as artist and poet, is inspired by the beauty of the ploughed earth:

I am quickened with a redolence
Of farmland as a dark unblown rose. (10-11).

Like the rose that has not yet fully opened, the true beauty of the tilled land will not be fully apparent until it blooms. In the poem’s final lines, the speaker anticipates the bounty of the harvest – both literal and (figuratively) artistic – that is yet to come.

Although marriage is not an explicit theme in this poem, images of the ploughing of fields have long been associated with human sexuality and human fertility (as in Shakespeare’s 3rd sonnet), and certainly the speaker of this poem seems alive to twin ideals of sowing seeds and watching them develop.

 

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