'Punishment' and 'Bog Queen' by Seamus Heaney

Categories: Seamus Heaney
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This metaphor emphasizes the time she has been down under the peatlands as she almost has been pealed away and died again jus like a tree that looses its bark. This all comes back to the emphasis of time. Enjambment also carries on the imagery onto the third and fourth line of this stanza as the words ‘dug up’, ‘oak-bone’ and ‘brain-firkin’ are used. ‘Oak-bone’ and ‘Brain-firkin’ are compound words that show kenning in this poem. Kenning is an old English poetic device that compresses two elements of a similie into a single image, just as Seamus Heaney has done.

The use of Nordic desire

The use of kenning expresses and shows his Nordic desire to link the past to the present. These compound words are also metaphors and are a clear example of where Seamus Heaney links the past to the present. The next stanza to an extent is bog imagery as lines one and two are referring to her decomposed body.

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Decomposition is implied as the poem says ‘her shaved head / like a stubble of black corn’, but also her loss of hair shows her loss of beauty, as during the time of the windeby girl hair was a symbol of beauty and this also shows Seamus Heaneys’ links between the past and the present.

The third line in this stanza also shows decomposition as the word ‘soiled’ is used and that represents the peatlands. Not only does the third line ‘her blindfold a soiled bandage’ show that but it also gives us the idea she was hanged, I came to that conclusion as people usually put blind folds on those who are hung as it is very unpleasant to see somebody’s face as they are executed, a bag or a blindfold is generally used.

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However you maybe thinking but how can you also tell she was hung? Well, I took into consideration of the first stanza where Seamus Heaney described the rope and how he imaged it pulled.

The final line of this stanza is a very clear contrast as the poem says ‘her noose a ring’, because the ‘her noose’ part of the line represents the slipknot of how she was hung but the ‘a ring’ represents a wedding ring, this contrast could be called a love hate one making it a oxymoron. This also gives us the idea of why she was hung, love leading to adultery. The sixth stanza further mores my point as it talks about her love throughout her life and what she did. You see this as the poem says ‘to store / the memories of love.’

The use of the full stop shows the end of one life she had and onto her sinful life ad the next line says ‘Little adulteress’ it proves she committed that sin and what seems to us a young age wasn’t in the day of the windeby girl. As their lifespan on average was thirty so she had lived half her life however to us forty is now our halfway point. This also shows the use of time and links between histories. However the last line of the stanza says ‘before they punish you’ it shows she must have done something wrong and just like today people get punished for their actions.

The links in time

This could also be used to show the links in time because today people don’t get hung for adultery but in the time of the windeby girl you would have. Moving on to the seventh stanza it begins with the idea once again of hair being connected to beauty as the first line says ‘you were flaxen-haired,’ the idea of beauty is the main theme in this stanza as the words ‘undernourished’ ‘tar-black face was beautiful’ are used however they are all examples of her beauty leaving her. Once again the kenning is used in ‘tar-black’, however this also emphasizes the peatlands as they usually turn their victims skin black.

The last line is also shows like at the beginning Seamus Heaney’s relationship with the windeby girl as it says ‘My poor scapegoat’. However the next stanza takes a different approach rather than beauty, as it carries on the idea of the relationship between Seamus Heaney and the windeby girl as the poem says ‘ I almost love you’, this gives us the impression that he sympathizes with her but also at the same time thinks she got what was coming to her, you see this through the ‘almost’. On the hand the next line go into a deeper meaning and is a biblical illusion.

The story of how a women was stoned to death

The line says ‘the stones of silence’, this is referred to as a biblical illusion as it complies with the story in John Chapter 8 Verses 1 – 12. This passage describes a story of how a women was stoned to death because she committed adultery, just as the windeby girl did. However ‘stones of silence’ could also be a piece of evidence to show the connections between the past and the present as today we would not stone someone to death for committing adultery well at least not in this continent.

It shows how far we have come from the time of the windeby girl and how much more tolerant we have become towards committing crimes. The following line also complies with the idea of time and Seamus Heaney’s relationship with the windeby girl, as the poem states ‘I am the artful voyeur’ by putting this line into the poem we get an idea of how Seamus Heaney’s feelings are pulled into the poem making it all the more a powerful but emotional poem.

Seamus Heaney is referred to as a peeping tom almost but as the line implies this it also indicates to me that he is looking deep within himself and looking at all the wrong things he has done in order to understand and only begin to imagine how the people at the time of the windeby girl must have felt watching her be killed and there is nothing you can do but stand there helpless. You see this in more detail when stanza 10 is commented on. This expresses Seamus Heaney’s own guilt showing me that he also abides by moral responsibilities.

Moving onto the ninth stanza, it starts off with a half rhyme in the first two lines ‘of your brain’s exposed / and darkened combs,’ this is used to emphasize the decaying of her body but also the digging up of it as well. The poem continues to expand on this idea in the next two lines, ‘your muscles’ webbing / and all your numbered bones:’ Agriculture imagery is shown through the line ‘your muscles’ webbing’, but a different meaning is being highlighted in the next line.

The biblical allusion from the psalms

‘And all your numbered bones:’ is another biblical allusion from the psalms used in the Catholic Church. The psalms read ‘They have pierced my hands and feet, they have numbered all my bones. ‘ This not only proves my point but also links to rebirth and time, as Jesus Christ was killed but arose from the dead when his body was buried in a tomb, just as the windeby girls’ body was buried in the peatlands and arose once again when she was dug up.

All these stanzas that I have mentioned have all been about the past and about the windeby girls body, however the poem now takes a turning when it comes to the past tense. The tenth Stanza however is the first official present stanza we come across. It starts off with a link to eighth stanza as I already mentioned, ‘I who have stood dumb’ refers back to the line ‘I am the artful voyeur’ as they both show how Seamus Heaney could have done something to help but he never therefore he feels as guilty as the people who committed the windeby girl to her fate.

Line two and three in this stanza takes a different approach towards reflecting time as the poems says ‘when your betraying sisters, / cauled in tar’ this is considered to time as this illustrates the time when Catholic girls that befriended the British soldiers during the early 1970’s were tarred and feathered as a punishment, condemned by the IRA.

Also by using the word ‘cauled’ it is referring towards birthing imagery as cauled is an extra membrane which is meant to be considered lucky, however you weren’t so lucky if you was going to be tarred and feathered were you? ‘Wept by the railings’ is the next line, which we can see the use of present tense. Illustrating my point of how this is the first official present stanza of the poem. The last stanza raps the poem up in Seamus Heaney’s deciding comment on whether he agrees or disagrees of the IRA’s actions towards the windeby girl and people during the 1970’s.

But to contrast coming to a decision whether he agrees or not is something in which Seamus Heaney doesn’t do as he uses the words ‘civilized outrage’, which is an oxymoron to emphasize his point how he doesn’t condemn or condones the IRA actions as he is outraged at them but also sympathizes at the thought of punishment. But are we still like the Stone Age when it comes to drastic actions? We still punish women if they step out of what is considered as appropriate actions inside our society. Although the poem ‘Punishment’ is one of Seamus Heaney’s very successful ones it is not the only one.

The other poem of Seamus Heaney – ‘Bog Queen’

The other poem I mentioned at the being was ‘Bog Queen’ this isn’t another poem about the windeby girl but is still to do with the bog bodies and the peatlands. This poem contains many geographical references of Denmark and Ireland, purely because the Bog Queen was that of a Danish Viking but was found in the peatlands, Ireland, this links Jutland and Ireland. These references will be commented on whilst I analyze this poem. Well, to begin I think you should realise that this poem is spoke in a different way to the other poem, this one is a monologue of the bog queen.

However the ‘Bog Queen’ and ‘Punishment’ poems are alike in the way that they both feature enjambment, but on the other hand this enjambment emphasizes the idea of flowing like a glacier running down a mountain, this two is connected to the geographical reference. This Bog Queen is seen as almost a Kathleen ni Houlihan that is a kind of mother Ireland. This amazing bog body was the first documented body ever taken from the bog. It was discovered on the moira Estate about 20 miles south of Belfast in 1718.

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'Punishment' and 'Bog Queen' by Seamus Heaney. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from http://studymoose.com/danish-viking-5564-new-essay

'Punishment' and 'Bog Queen' by Seamus Heaney

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