"Digging" is filled with references to the labors of the poet's father and grandfather. Both were engaged in peaceful activities that were central to the Ireland of past years - the father in farming for potatoes, the grandfather in digging in the bogs for peat which could be used for heat and cooking. However, the tools used and actions taken by these deceased men and the tool used by the poet are often compared to weapons and movements connected with war.
The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun...The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft Against the inside knee was levered firmly...nicking and slicing neatly
Indeed, the title could refer to burying the dead after a military battle as well as to planting potatoes or harvesting peat.
The lack of a consistent rhythm or rhyme contributes to the feeling of disorder, while the short phrases suggest efficiency of movement and a strategy calculated to conserve energy for the coming battles against the sod or the enemy.
Descriptive language is strong and creates images through use and sound of words.
a clean rasping sound When the spade sinks into gravelly ground...the squelch and slap Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge Through living roots
In the end, perhaps the poet is finding hope in his use of a "squat pen" as his tool of labor. He may be suggesting that his work will be of a more peaceful nature than the wars against nature or man conducted by past generations of the Irish people.