Seamus Heaney’s poem titled “North” uses a number of poetic devices and techniques, including the following:
Line 1 contains two good examples of anapestic meter, in which two unaccented syllables are followed by an accented syllable: “I returned to a long strand.” This meter emphasizes “turned” and “long,” and then “strand” gets especially heavy emphasis, thus making the adjective/noun phrase “long strand” particularly powerful and emphatic.
Line 3 is one of various lines that use enjambment, in which the meaning of one line is run over into the next line because the first line ends without punctuation. The same devices can be found in other lines, such as 5-6. In lines 8-9, enjambment is even used between stanzas, so that it receives all the more attention and has all the more impact.
Line 4 gives especially strong emphasis to the verb “thundering” by placing it not only at the end of the line but also at the very end of a sentence.
Lines 6-8 use parallel phrasing when they refer to
. . . the unmagical
invitations of Iceland,
the pathetic colonies
of Greenland . . .
The repetition here suggests the tedium and monotony that the speaker associates with these two places. He finds them boring and uninteresting, and so he writes about them in ways that make them seem largely indistinguishable.
Lines 9-10 use anaphora (beginning two lines with the very same word) to give new and emphasis to the new topics introduced here. Note also how the placement of “suddenly” at the end of line 8, combined with the use of enjambment there, gives even more emphatic stress to the use of two instances of “Those” when those words appear. Finally, lines 9-10 receive even further emphasis because the two phrases that make up the lines are confined to one line each (unlike the pattern in lines 6-8, in which two phrases were stretched out over four lines).
Lines 13-16 again use anaphora, picking up the use of “Those” earlier so that the phrasing now has almost become chant-like. Note also how these lines brim with concrete images and vivid verbs. In lines 13-15, each initial syllable is heavily stressed; in line 16, this is not the case. Similarly, in lines 13-15, each line consists of five syllables, while line 16 consists of seven. In both cases, then, Heaney sets up a pattern and then breaks it, so that lines 13-15 command our attention because of their brevity and force, while line 16 receives our attention because it disrupts the patterns already established.
[To be continued below . . .]