Postscript | Seamus Heaney

To read the poem, click here.

Seamus Heaney produces an ethereal imagery of nature while depicting the life we live in the modern times, being oblivious of the beauty that lies beside us in his poem, ‘Postscript’. Heaney takes a directorial stance to move through different transitions from nature to our human life, often zooming into the surrounding to see the ‘flock of swans’ or the ‘wild’ ocean while contrastingly presenting the human life as a ‘hurry’ and through this builds the central theme of his poem as both descriptive and reflective of human nature and our ability to fleet from beauty until it finally hits and opens our heart up.

The poem is built into a form of an interior monologue with the poet starting it by advising one to ‘make the time’ to drive out into ‘County Clare’. Heaney uses proper nouns to point out specific places which are close to his heart, and through this underpins a sense of personal attachment which exalts the description as more than a scene, but something that is integrated into his heart. The definite nouns are brought more into focus as Heaney advises when to go out into the ‘Flaggy Shores’, highlighting ‘September or October’ as the optimum months to visit because that is when the natural scene is at its most beautiful.

Heaney is a painter as he draws the intermix of wind and light and then colouring the ocean with ‘foam and glitter’ with all the effects of light giving the most profound sense of vision as we see the contrasts between the ‘wild’ sea and the ‘slate-grey’ lake juxtaposed together. This complete serene and solitary moment is then ‘lit’ by the metaphor of an ‘earthed lightning’ of swans flying out with their feathers ‘ruffed and ruffling’, as Heaney uses alliterative words and iambic lines to retain a smooth rhythm. Heaney’s canvas is composed with colours of ‘white’ from the swans and ‘grey’ from the lake and through this outburst of natural colours, Heaney celebrates the vivacity of nature – the turbulence of the ocean and the ‘headstrong-looking’ birds in different postures with the tranquillity of the lake combining into the most idyllic portrait.

The line structure is constructed as a very loose sonnet, with about eleven line of vivid description and five lines of reflection as Heaney transforms from the painter to the director. His focus lenses change in the last five lines as he pans from the shores to the humans that drive by. Here, we find Heaney reprimanding human nature as he depicts the human life and our inability to absorb nature or ‘capture’ it as Heaney does in his painting. The human life is embodied into a sustained metaphor of driving, where the poet clearly states that it is pointless to expect us to see or understand the beauty that he sees. We won’t ‘park’ where the diction of driving is broadened to reflect our reactions and actions. The poet beautifully points out how, through our constant movement and hurrying we are heedless of the beauty that is waiting for us and because we limit our visual scopes so much, we often find ourselves estranged and lost without any solidarity to nature – the nature we are bound to return to in death. Yet, Heaney comforts, beauty and nature has a way of finding their way to us as a ‘soft buffeting’ will jolt ‘the car sideways’ and our lives will be suddenly upheaved and our hearts will be opened up again through a kind of inspiration from nature. We will surmount our routine obliviousness and catch our hearts with a newfound sense of love for life.

The symbolisation derived from the extended metaphor of driving as human life accentuates how we fleet by time, and how we never take a moment’s pause to stop and look out into the God’s Creation, into the painting that Heaney draws. But, nature will eventually knock you down and God’s masterpiece will be unveiled in front of you. Transgressing from different tones of advisory to descriptive to reflective, Heaney manufactures a wonderful depiction of human life. With the repetition of the ‘time’ factor emphasising our heedlessness and the outburst of senses evoked in the description highlighting the aspects of life that we don’t pay attention to, Seamus Heaney forces us to look clearly at the picture we drive by past.

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