An analysis of "Digging and "Follower" by Seamus Heaney.
The Irish have always been great harvesters and hard workers. For years, it has been engrained in their cultural identity; the notion of living off the land, of "digging". In the poems "Digging" and "Follower" by Seamus Heaney, we, the audience, are treated to a look into Irish culture and "place". We learn through the poems, that "digging" is indeed part of Irish culture, and was carried out by both the poet's father and grandfather. Through the poems we realise that new times call for a different type of digging, and thus we empathize with Heaney's choice in the pen, and not the spade. .
In "Digging", the poet detail the art of digging, and says, "By God, the old man could handle a spade./ Just like his old man." This indicates that the skill of digging is a family if not cultural tradition, and it's something that Heaney appreciates and understands. One truly sees Heaney's connection to digging when he writes, "The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap/ Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of a edge/ Through living roots awaken in my head." His father and grandfather's trade of digging are the roots of Heaney's life, and are part of his cultural upbringing and "place". Digging is what he knows and understands, and he hold onto it as a foundation. But he explains, "I've no spade to follow men like them/ Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests./ I"ll dig with it. Although Heaney understands digging and values it, he can't follow in his father's footsteps and take up the spade. His trade is writing and he will utilize it as his own form of "digging" in the sense that, writing will be his way of continuing the culture, by writing of the culture, as he is essentially doing in "digging" and "follower". Also, the act of taking up the pen, rather than the spade, seems to suggest a more sophisticated approach to furthering Ireland's cultural identity and also, their ability to deal with "the troubles".