Ministry of Fear- Seamus Heaney Analysis

Categories: Seamus Heaney

Utilizing Ministry of worry and another properly picked poem explore the sense of place Heaney conveys with reference to the problems in N.I, with specific reference to the results of any political and social context and Heaney’s own views.

Ministry of Worry is from Heaney’s ‘North’ collection, composed in 1975 while Heaney was remaining in Wicklow, Casualty was written quickly after in ‘Field work’ in 1979. Through these 2 poems Heaney communicates a strong sense of location, specifically Northern Ireland, through ‘Ministry of fear’ Heaney explains 4 events throughout his life in N.

I that had a strong impact on him, ‘Casualty’ is comparable but more concentrated on the Troubles in N.I and some of Heaney’s sensations towards those occasions.

‘Ministry of fear’ touches on four essential moments in Heaney’s life, the very first of which is his boarding at St Columbs, then a catholic boarding school in Derry. An experience he found to be extremely unreasonable and nearly treacherous.

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“Sweeten my exile” Heaney describing it himself as exile, plainly he believed he was pushed into going possibly when he didn’t wish to. Secondly he explains his first flirtation with poetry and greater education at Queens University. This area is written in a very self deprecating tone and almost a hint of jealousy, He describes his Buddy, Seamus Deane’s ability with the pen “vowels and concepts bandied complimentary” and after that mocks his own attempts, “hobnailed boots … Fine lawns of elocution” These statements are somewhat bathetic and quite ironic, Heaney writing what was to be an extremely well-known poem about his own poetic failures.

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He goes on to explain his first sexual encounters when he “came to life” in “the kissing seat of an Austin 16” this whole expression resonates innocence and although this particular experience is essential in any young guys life I think it is an intentional ploy to worry the innocence he felt he had prior to the fourth memory. Which is Heaney’s experience with a crass RUC patrol, which appears to represent a bovine danger “crowding round … like black cattle.” Each of these memories assists communicate a real local color, making it simple for us to relate to Northern Ireland in each circumstances, through Heaney’s vibrant recollections.

‘Casualty’ explores one main theme; the affinities between himself as a poet and a fisherman killed “accidentally” for defying a curfew imposed by the IRA in Derry after Bloody Sunday. Heaney through this poem tells the story of Louis O’Neill, a provincial man who drank at his father in laws bar. Much like Ministry of fear he is looking back on the events, with a different perspective, almost analytically. It begins with a celebration of the man, Heaney affords him much respect and clearly remembers him fondly in the opening stanza, he goes on to express the difficulties Poetry made for him, and how he felt it isolated him from ordinary people especially in Northern Ireland. Similarly to Ministry of fear, when Heaney talks of his own poetic prowess he is self deprecating, ironic and bathetic again. The man, whom he would not talk to poetry about, became a muse or inspiration for one of his own poems. He goes on to recall Louis O’Neill’s death and the political situation in Northern Ireland. “PARAS 13 BOGSIDE NIL” this phrase alone places us perfectly in the context of the troubles.

Aside from the similar contexts of both poems Heaney conveys the sense of place in other ways, In Casualty Heaney takes influence from Writers of his own Country, The fisherman theme is carried throughout the poem, initially just as Louis O’Neills vocation but particularly later in the poem as a way of life, the poem and this particular theme has an affinity in form and content with Yeats’s ‘the fisherman’ Both are written in trimesters, employ iambic rhythms and rhyme on alternate lines. For each poet the fisherman is “ the most unlike, a kind of anti self, who embodies independence, wisdom, integrity – a refusal to submit to the will of the crowd.”

By hinting at Yeats- an Irish poet- Heaney further emphasises the sense of place conveyed in this poem, this time through a more social context as opposed to a political one. He also references a famous Christmas carol “while shepherds watched their flocks” which because of the very religious nature of the Irish Catholics and indeed the protestants is as much an indication of Northern Ireland then as it is now.

In ‘Ministry of fear’ Heaney alludes to many other poems and poets, the most obvious of which was Patrick Kavanagh, An Irish Poet who’s work Heaney discovered in the early 1960’s and for which he developed an increasing respect throughout the decade, Kavanagh seemed to Heaney to illustrate the split he himself was experiencing between “the illiterate self that was tied to the little hills and earthed in the stony grey soil, and the literate self that pined for the city of kings, where art, music and letters were the real things” He also alludes to Yeats as in “Casualty.” Yeats’s ‘ Ancestral Houses’ which speaks of a ‘rich mans flowering lawns’ and of his ‘planted hills’ much in the same way as Haney describes the “fine lawns of elocution. By referencing all these other poets, especially the two Irish ones Heaney makes sure we are concentrating on N.I.

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Ministry of Fear- Seamus Heaney Analysis. (2016, Jun 04). Retrieved from

Ministry of Fear- Seamus Heaney Analysis

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