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Keeping Going Analysis



Author: poem of Seamus Heaney Type: poem Views: 21

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The piper coming from far away is you

With a whitewash brush for a sporran

Wobbling round you, a kitchen chair

Upside down on your shoulder, your right arm

Pretending to tuck the bag beneath your elbow,

Your pop-eyes and big cheeks nearly bursting

With laughter, but keeping the drone going on

Interminably, between catches of breath.



*



The whitewash brush. An old blanched skirted thing

On the back of the byre door, biding its time

Until spring airs spelled lime in a work-bucket

And a potstick to mix it in with water.

Those smells brought tears to the eyes, we inhaled

A kind of greeny burning and thought of brimstone.

But the slop of the actual job

Of brushing walls, the watery grey

Being lashed on in broad swatches, then drying out

Whiter and whiter, all that worked like magic.

Where had we come from, what was this kingdom

We knew we'd been restored to? Our shadows

Moved on the wall and a tar border glittered

The full length of the house, a black divide

Like a freshly opened, pungent, reeking trench.



*



Piss at the gable, the dead will congregate.

But separately. The women after dark,

Hunkering there a moment before bedtime,

The only time the soul was let alone,

The only time that face and body calmed

In the eye of heaven.



Buttermilk and urine,

The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom.

We were all together there in a foretime,

In a knowledge that might not translate beyond

Those wind-heaved midnights we still cannot be sure

Happened or not. It smelled of hill-fort clay

And cattle dung. When the thorn tree was cut down

You broke your arm. I shared the dread

When a strange bird perched for days on the byre roof.



*



That scene, with Macbeth helpless and desperate

In his nightmare--when he meets the hags agains

And sees the apparitions in the pot--

I felt at home with that one all right. Hearth,

Steam and ululation, the smoky hair

Curtaining a cheek. 'Don't go near bad boys

In that college that you're bound for. Do you hear me?

Do you hear me speaking to you? Don't forget!'

And then the postick quickening the gruel,

The steam crown swirled, everything intimate

And fear-swathed brightening for a moment,

Then going dull and fatal and away.



*



Grey matter like gruel flecked with blood

In spatters on the whitewash. A clean spot

Where his head had been, other stains subsumed

In the parched wall he leant his back against

That morning like any other morning,

Part-time reservist, toting his lunch-box.

A car came slow down Castle Street, made the halt,

Crossed the Diamond, slowed again and stopped

Level with him, although it was not his lift.

And then he saw an ordinary face

For what it was and a gun in his own face.

His right leg was hooked back, his sole and heel

Against the wall, his right knee propped up steady,

So he never moved, just pushed with all his might

Against himself, then fell past the tarred strip,

Feeding the gutter with his copious blood.



*



My dear brother, you have good stamina.

You stay on where it happens. Your big tractor

Pulls up at the Diamond, you wave at people,

You shout and laugh about the revs, you keep

old roads open by driving on the new ones.

You called the piper's sporrans whitewash brushes

And then dressed up and marched us through the kitchen,

But you cannot make the dead walk or right wrong.

I see you at the end of your tether sometimes,

In the milking parlour, holding yourself up

Between two cows until your turn goes past,

Then coming to in the smell of dung again

And wondering, is this all? As it was

In the beginning, is now and shall be?

Then rubbing your eyes and seeing our old brush

Up on the byre door, and keeping going.





Anonymous submission.






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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

Well, this poem is clearly addresssed to a brother who died. I'll take it by stanzas.
1. His brother comes walking down the road laughing, having a good time because he is pretending to play the bagpipes with his paintbrush.
2. THey enjoyed whitewashing the fence together. It was their own 'kingdom', seperated from the rest of the world by a 'trench'.
3. The dead and the women stay at the window, together but apart, at peace in that knowledge (I think?)
4. His memories of living together are bitter and sweet (buttermilk and urine). That time was surreal almost. Ended with a broken arm. Birds in houses are bad luck and mean death (foreshadowing!), which was the source of the worry.
5. Compares his mother with the hags, and the steam from her cooking and kitchen to the mist around the witches. Sending him a warning that he will not follow.
6. His brother is shot in the head. The clean spot on the whitewashed fence is where his head was and where the blood and brains did not splatter. Then falls over and bleeds and dies.
7. Still sees his dead brother milking cows, and the smlls of when they were together come back. Haunted by him almost.
I believe it is a very reminescent poem about many things - sin's stain for one (when the blood splatters on the white pure fence), also about the murder of innocence, perhaps the narrator's innocence, and an ending of childhood.
But I think, at the end, the VERY end, it is about moving on and 'keeping going' though the road may be rough.

| Posted on 2009-08-04 | by a guest




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