Friday, December 27, 2013

Analysis of "Fireside" by Seamus Heaney

Original poem reprinted online here: "Fireside" by Seamus Heaney
Originally read: June 28, 2013
More information about the Poet: Seamus Heaney







A very loose Elizabethan sonnet, but the subject matter also has that very loose unknown quality to it.  Ephemeral, seen without definition.  Okay So we'll go quatrain at a time:

     Always there would be stories of lights
     hovering among bushes or at the foot
     of a meadow; maybe a goat with cold horns
     pluming into the moon; a tingle of chains

The first stanza is very image based; however, note the usage of the semi-colon to list how these stories occur.  In the first line there is the mention of lights and how the light reacts, "hovering among bushes," or "at the foot of a meadow," which tell location.  The goal line, "a goat with cold horns / pluming into the moon" feels like a reasoning line, but it's goes toward the absurd by the description, and "a tingle of chains" work as an auditory image that foreshadows a sense of the supernatural.

     on the midnight road.  And then maybe
     word would come round of that watery
     art, the lamping of fishes, and I'd be
     mooning my flashlamp on the licked black pelt

The midnight road adds time and tinge of supernatural which is then a bit added onto with the "word would come around," like some sort of tale to be told around the fireside -- not so much to scare, but of wonder (note nothing "horrifying" has been mentioned).  A wonder that transcends to water, "watery art,"  where the speaker goes searching with the flashlamp.

     of the stream, my left arm splayed to take
     a heavy pour and run of the current
     occluding the net.  Was that the beam
     buckling over an eddy or a gleam

Now there's a sense of fishing (compounded with the mention of "fishes" and water in the previous stanza).  The speaker has a net to try to catch all the fishes (or stories, or light). The last two lines of this stanza rhyme adding a sense of a folktale or something whimsical.

     of the fabulous? Steady the light
     and come to your senses, they're saying good-night.

So the couplet at the end introduces the "you" but I feel the usage refers to the speaker trying to not be mesmerized by the lights, and then quickly implies they are "saying good-night."  The ambitiousness of the saying could cut either way -- them leaving, or them being the last thing the speaker sees before leaving. 

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