Seamus Heaney

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Describe the language of the poem "Sunlight" by Seamus Heaney.

Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet who often writes about Ireland, its history and its people. This is an example of a poem that describes the process of making scones by hand. The imagery suggests familiarity and warmth in the process of baking.

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“Mossbawn: Sunlight” by Seamus Heaney presents an imagery of intimacy with the woman making the scones, heating the griddle, and keeping a watchful eye on their baking progress.  Despite the “sunlit absence”, the setting is replete with warmth, light, and plenty.

Structured in five sentences and six stanzas, the poem emanates a tone of industry, art, and love.  Industry, in the sure dexterous moves of the baker and the continuous repetition of the “s’ sound suggesting speed and nimbleness, studied craft, in "her hands scuffled over the bakeboard” or “she dusts the board with a goose’s wing” and love, “like a tinsmith’s scoop sunk past its gleam in the meal-bin".  The language has the detail of a familiar observer who may have frequently witnessed this essential daily activity or perhaps has engaged in the same.

“The helmeted pump in the yard” appears as a friendly supervisor once it has “honeyed” the water in the “slung bucket” and the “reddening stove” appears to hurry the baker along as it radiates its “plaque of heat” against her.  “The floury apron”, “the whitened nails”, the spotted “measling shins” the old-fashioned, loud “tick of two clocks” and the sitting “broad-lapped” suggest familiar loving, warm images of an almost lost art.  The last stanza anchors the warmth of sunlit love in the gleam of the scoop grounded in the “meal-bin.”: “And here is love/ like a tinsmith’s scoop/ sunk past its gleam/ in the meal-bin”.

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