Digging Questions and Answers
by Seamus Heaney

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What is "Toner's bog" mentioned in Heaney's poem, "Digging"?

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Rebecca Hope eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Seamus Heaney's poem "Digging," he begins by describing the pen in his own hand and immediately jumps to the scene of his father digging outside his window. He recalls that his father has always been handy with a spade, especially when he used to plant and dig potatoes. Next, the poet describes how his grandfather was also a great digger. He used to dig turf in the peat bogs. In Ireland, bogs are common. They are lowland areas made up of dead and dying vegetation. The spongy ground can't be used for farmland or for building, but it was a reliable source of home heating fuel. People who lived near a bog would cut up the turf by hand. A block of peat the size of a brick would burn for an hour, creating a fragrant and warm fire for the home.

"Toner's bog" seems to be the bog in the area where the speaker's grandfather lived. It seems that many area residents had access to this bog since the speaker's grandfather's turf-digging prowess exceeded that of his neighbors. The idea that multiple people lived "on Toner's bog" suggests that many people lived nearby; perhaps their own properties abutted this bog. It is not an identifiable bog today. Whether it was in Heaney's grandfather's day is unclear. The poet may have assigned a name to the bog for the purposes of the poem. The name of the bog or its exact location doesn't matter. Heaney was celebrating the digging abilities of his father and grandfather and comparing them to his own skill with a pen.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The question of "What is Toner's bog?" is a very interesting one precisely because there doesn't seem to be...

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mstokes | Student

Toner's bog in the poem "Digging" refers to the owner of the particular plot of bogland. In Ireland, in the absence of coal, peat taken fromthe bog is used for turf fires as heat. The cutting of turf is labour intensive, and during the time Heaney speaks of would have been cut by hand. A person would pay the owner of the bog for the turf he would cut for his own use.

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