Seamus Heaney - Personal Helicon

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  • Heaney - Personal Helicon
    • Allusion in the title to mount Helicon and the group of ancient greek myths associated with it only gradually revealed as relevant to the theme of childhood experience.
    • Mount Helicon the site of the stream called Hippocrene, sacred to the Muses. This stream was said to have broken out of a hoof-print made by Pegasus, the winged horse of poetry, and Pegasus was endangered from thbe spilt blood of the monstrous Gorgon Medusa.
      • Dark origins of poetry suggested through this part of the myth and the poem ends with Heaney rhyming "To set the darkness echoing"
    • Helicon also associated with the myth of Narcissus who gazing into a spring, became enamoured with his own reflection.
    • Heaney begins with a description of particular childhood experiences and uses these myths to say something about the writing of poetry, the art to which he will devote his life.
    • Structure is governed by 2 phrases.
      • "As a child" governs verses 1-4. These verses deal with the childhood experience of the speaker as he explores and investigates the local wells and springs which so fascinated him
        • Last verse introduced by "Now". the speaker states an attitude to his former activities - "beneath all adult dignity" - relates them to his present occupation of "rhyming".
    • Untitled
    • Memory poem
      • More explicit than Birches, where the speaker only gradually revealed that the childhood experiences were his own
      • 1st 4 verses memorable for detailing of the investigations of the young well enthusiast.
        • Echoing from some wells. "Gave you back your own call with a clean new music in it". Like Frost, Heaney charges his childhood experience with more than literal meaning. Something which may be dark and frightening but which is also fresh and new is perceived in the wells.
    • Them and me opposition hinted by the vague use of "they", for those who might have kept him from wells if they could
    • Theme of childhood experience
      • Vividness suggested by the listing of equipment, plants and sense impressions of many kinds - olfactory, tactile and auditory as well as visual. More sensuous than in Birches
      • Heaney handles the theme of childhood experience in language which is concrete and factual. He names things for what they are. Little of Frost's playfulness
      • Strangeness present and fear in the experience of the investigating child.
        • "Scaresome" used when "A rat slapped across my reflection"
          • Heaney had a phobia of rats which afflicted the young Heaney and which emerges memorably into several other of his poems.


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