Identify examples of imagery in the poem "Punishment" by Seamus Heaney.

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In his poem "Punishment," Seamus Heaney" writes of the crimes of the Irish Republican Army against British sympathizers in Ulster. He points to the "intimate revenge" and cruelty of the IRA to their own people and compares it to the savage and "tribal" outrages of primitive man.

When the body of a girl, hanged for being an adulteress with a British man, is found in a bog, it is likened to the prehistoric discovery of bodies preserved in a bog after their apparent beatings.

Visual Imagery

  • The poet describes the wind changing the adulteress's "nipples/to amber beads."
  • He is able to imagine her as she must have looked before her murder:  with visual imagery, Heaney describes her as having had "flaxen-hair[ed]"; "a beautiful face that is now "tar-black"; with her "shaved head," her brain is exposed "and darkened combs" with "muscles' webbing" are seen. Her "numbered bones" can also be viewed on her "undernourished" body. 
  • With the metaphor of the poet as a voyeur, Heaney writes that he envisions her "drowned body in the bog" and he sees the "weighing stone," "the floating rods and boughs" under which her body lies.
  • The final visual image is that of the other adulteresses who are "cauled in tar" and stand by the railings weeping.

Tactile Imagery
There is tactile imagery, or the representation of the sense of cold, hot, wetness, wind, hardness, or softness.

  • In the first stanza the poet remarks that he can feel "the wind" and "It blows...it shakes the frail rigging..."

Kinesthetic Imagery
This imagery represents the sense of movement or tension in the muscles or joints.

  • The first line of the poem has kinesthetic imagery as Heaney writes, "I can feel the tug" of the rope on the adultress's neck.
  • The adulteress's brain is exposed with "your muscles' webbing"

Auditory Imagery

  • It is the lack of sound that must be imagined as Heaney writes of the "stones of silence" and how he has "stood dumb."
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