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Give examples of imagery in the poem "Digging" by Seamus Heaney.

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In Seamus Heaney's poem "Digging," the speaker describes his ancestors' digging using imagery and considers his own writing as his form of "digging."

The speaker begins by referencing a more figurative form of digging, as his "squat pen rests" between his fingers, "snug as a gun." This short stanza includes some imagery, as we can picture the speaker holding his pen. The simile "snug as a gun" also conveys how tightly he is holding the pen and how it seems to fit there.

Most of the imagery, however, is in the stanzas of the poem where the speaker describes his father and grandfather literally digging. Stanzas three and four are heavy on imagery:

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our...

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arolfsen | Student

In this poem the speaker's use of imagery serves as a link between the lives of his progenitors and his own. In laying out these scenes he aims to show how the work he does as a writer, while different in action and tools from his father's and grandfather's, still makes the three men similar if not wholly equal.

In the poem's first three stanzas the speaker looks down on his father as he digs into "the gravelly ground", "his straining rump among the flowerbeds". With these specific sights and sounds the reader is brought into the occasion and can feel what the writer felt. We see that his father did strenuous work with a spade. The speaker goes on to mention the "new potatoes...cool hardness in our hands". The imagery now gives the reader the chance to not only see but to feel the scene.

The poem takes a leap in time to a moment when the speaker brought his grandfather "...milk in a bottle // Corked sloppily with paper." Again we are shown a clear image of an important item from the scene and because it was corked "sloppily" we can feel what it would be like to hold in our own hand.

Without imagery like this we would be listening to a story instead of experiencing it through its sights, sounds and physical sensations.