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Personal Helicon Analysis

Author: Poetry of Seamus Heaney Type: Poetry Views: 2126

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As a child, they could not keep me from wells

And old pumps with buckets and windlasses.

I loved the dark drop, the trapped sky, the smells

Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss.One, in a brickyard, with a rotted board top.

I savoured the rich crash when a bucket

Plummeted down at the end of a rope.

So deep you saw no reflection in it.A shallow one under a dry stone ditch

Fructified like any aquarium.

When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch

A white face hovered over the bottom.Others had echoes, gave back your own call

With a clean new music in it. And one

Was scaresome, for there, out of ferns and tall

Foxgloves, a rat slapped across my reflection.Now, to pry into roots, to finger slime,

To stare, big-eyed Narcissus, into some spring

Is beneath all adult dignity. I rhyme

To see myself, to set the darkness echoing.


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

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| Posted on 2017-06-20 | by a guest

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this poem enables this understand, none of you lot helped

| Posted on 2013-05-19 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2012-02-04 | by a guest

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Thanks everyone who posted all your comments helped!

| Posted on 2012-01-03 | by a guest

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Heaney is attempting to portray the poetic root of himself. Mt Helicon, the source of inspiration is mentioned. His \"Helicon\" is in nature, the inspiration to many of his works. He is savouring his childhood, and through his poetry, he is ensuring that it will be remembered. He does not want to forget, or regret, his childhood actions, which were \"above all adult dignity\", but remember them and set \"the darkness echoing\". He wants people to remember where they came from, which is evident with his Northern Irish roots, and celebrate their past.

| Posted on 2011-04-07 | by a guest

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For people everywhere, childhood is remembered fondly. From climbing trees to family barbecues, everyone has a collection of favorite memories from their youth. In the poem “Personal Helicon” Seamus Heaney focuses on strong imagery and combines points of view to explore the happiness of one’s childhood days.
The imagery in his poem effectively helps describe the actions of the narrator’s childhood self. He uses descriptive words such as “dank,” “rotten,” “shallow,” and “soft.” Nearly every line in every stanza of the poem contains some sort of rich descriptive word. The technique instills a mental image of the scenes in the reader and also evokes memories of his or her own childhood. Some of Heaney’s specific phrases also stand out with strong imagery. When he writes about the “rich crash” that occurs when the child drops a bucket into the well or the child dragging roots from the dirt, his audience is truly experiencing the small events in the poem. This is important because it is necessary for the audience to understand the overlying events before deciphering the underlying meaning.
Heaney’s unique combination of first person and second person points of view serves to create both a relationship between the narrator and the narrator’s childhood self, as well as with the audience and the narrator. His first and last two stanzas are written in first person, but the third stanza is written in second person. Heaney writes, “when you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch,” which at first may seem like an unimportant line to include. After all, the narrator still seems to simply still be describing his own childhood with slight change of pronoun. However, the different points of view serve to illustrate the separation the narrator feels between his adult self and his childhood self. It is almost as if he is trying to talk as the same person and maintain a connection to his childhood, but then slips in the third stanza and reveals that he does not feel like the same person at all. Additionally, it could be interpreted as the narrator addressing the audience as “you” to show that as children, everyone shares attitudes of curiosity, happiness, and freeness. By combining the points of view, Heaney connects both his characters and his audience to his characters.
Most people miss being a child with the freedom to spend all day exploring a simple well. By effectively implementing and combining specific literary techniques, Seamus Heaney portrays a reminiscent narrator who longs for the childhood that everyone misses. “Personal Helicon” is essentially a simple tribute to the lost child in all adults.
~Lindsey H.

| Posted on 2011-02-09 | by a guest

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(Personal Helicon) is a description of a curious and thought-provoking work about a child’s fascination and encounter with wells. On the surface, the poem is very straightforward. The narrator is recalling a childhood spent exploring wells and old pumps however. However the poem display a transformation of his perspective as the poem progress to the end. This transformation might refer to Heaney attitudes of life itself during childhood and adulthood
Like most poems; Personal Helicon has a deeper meaning. Similarly to Death of a Naturalist, it follows closely to his very distinct style of expression via the use childhood perceptions coupled with adult realizations. Focusing mainly on disenchantment, a loss of hope that usually stems from the infantile actions of his then morally irresponsible youth.

| Posted on 2010-11-20 | by a guest

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I think that the fact he`s looking down a well and that wells give echoes- mean that the echoes could signify the child he once was . And that by writing he remembers his childhood memories and there a form of noting them down because like an echo they die with time - so his memories become harder to remember so by writing he is constantly reminding himself, reliving good and bad aspects of his life.

| Posted on 2010-09-26 | by a guest

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In my opinion, this poem is about finding Heaney\'s inspiration. It goes back to where he found his inspiration to write a poem. The poem is a poem about writing a poem. In stanzas two and three he uses half alternative rhymes where in stanzas 1, 4 and 5 he uses full alternative rhymes. This may show how empty and unfulfilled he felt in the past (as stazas 1-4 is in the past tense). Moreover, the rest of the poem focus\' on happy child memories. In the last stanza he is showing the regret and guilt he feels for loosing his childhood and becoming a man.
Ps. your all retards tbh

| Posted on 2010-09-16 | by a guest

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The poem Person Helicon by Seamus Heaney is a curious and thought-provoking work about a childs fascination with wells. On the surface, the poem is very straight forward. The narrator is recalling a childhood spent exploring wells and old pumps however, like most poems; Personal Helicon has a deeper meaning. A lot of the depth in this poem can be seen just from examining the title. Helicon, a mountain situated in Boeotia, Greece, was celebrated in Greek mythology because of the two springs that were located there. The springs were said to be the source of poetic inspiration and they were very sacred to the muses, the gods and goddesses who inspire literature and art. This suggests that the poem Personal Helicon is about Heaneys own inspiration for his writing. The poem talks about wells and mentions dark drops, reflections, and echoes which could signify that Heaney gets the inspiration for his work from himself. His poems are a reflection of himself and, by looking deep into his soul just as the narrator of the poem looks into wells; he is able to find the motivation and vision necessary to create his literary works. This meaning is furthered through several lines in the poem. The words When you dragged out long roots from the soft mulch a white face hovered over the bottom, for example, could be referring to the narrator tracing back the roots of his family tree to discover his own identity. Another line others had echoes, gave back your own call with a clean new music in it could mean that Heaney sees poetry as a way of restating his thoughts and emotions in a more beautiful and musical way. Even the last line of the poem, I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing, could be saying that the author uses poetry as a way to discover himself and to gain insight. The poem could also be about coming of age and the transition for childhood into adulthood. In the last few lines of the poem the author mentions that exploring wells is beneath all adult dignity therefore the poem could be about childhood innocence and how the simplicity of youth is lost when a person grows up. Or the meaning could be just as simple and straightforward as meets the eye- a man remembering a favourite childhood pastime and reminiscing about the good old days. Whatever the meaning Heaney intended for the audience to take away, the poem remains just as mysterious and intriguing. It forces the audience to think and ask questions and is captivating from start to finish.

| Posted on 2010-07-12 | by a guest

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My take on it is it's about the dual nature of ones identity. There are 2 types of contrast in the imagery here: child vs adult, deep dark well that doesn't reflect vs a shallow clear well that reflects. The shallow well gives back your own voice. When sthg allows u to express yourself or gives u a voice, it allows the speaker to have a sense of freedom and legitimates their identity. However conventionally we associate the dark with negative connotations but here the speaker likes the deep well and savoys it's first bucket plummetting, which is the reverse of what one expects. The shallow well that reflects is actually bad as an image of a rat slapped his reflection and the rat embodies the undesirable things in life. It's like having sight and seeing all the suffering and injustice or being blind and not having to see first hand the atrocities of life. This is why I think it'ms full of contrasts.

| Posted on 2010-06-22 | by a guest

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Verse 3 is where Heaney symbolises writing the poem, "dragged out long roots from the soft mulch, a white face hovered over the bottom" he is using poetry to see himself "to set the darkness echoing", he has traced back his roots and discovered himself (the white face hovering over the bottom)

| Posted on 2010-04-10 | by a guest

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As always imagery is a key device in all of Heaney's poems. P
ersonal Helicon contains aural imagery as evident through "darkness echoing" and "new music." It contains tactile imagery: "finger slime", "soft mulch" ; visual imagery: "dark drop", "white face" and olfactory imagery: "smells of waterweed.." etc.
In addition to sensual imagery there is also conceptual imagery in the form of decay imagery. There is a sense of decay conveyed by the words "rotting", "slime", "fungus" etc.
The effects of the various types of imagery should be explored in order to attain a higher sense of Heaney's purpose.

| Posted on 2010-02-14 | by a guest

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About loss of identity. "a white face hovered over the bottom." That is Heaney's face but he is not entirly sure who he is... He finds himself through poetry???

| Posted on 2010-02-01 | by a guest

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In Greek mythology, Mount Helicon was sacred to Apollo and the Muses. Heaney alludes to Narcissus, a Greek figure obsessed with his reflection. This parallels Heaneys captivation with his lost childhood.
Heaneys optimistic language can be juxtaposed with the connotations associated with his dark topic. Hispassionate way of describing the dank and dark is ironic. Heaney explores the conflict between the freedom of youth and societys expectations of adults. He uses his poetry as compensation for lost childhood experiences. Personal Helicon is a means for Heaney to communicate his internal emotions and illuminate the negative aspects of life.

| Posted on 2010-01-17 | by a guest

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i dont understand the theme of it. is it about memories. i like this poem ish

| Posted on 2009-12-16 | by a guest

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so, he is talking about his past by his
reflection in the water !! that sounds good then
any one here could analyze the poem in details ?

| Posted on 2009-12-11 | by a guest

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| Posted on 2009-11-05 | by a guest

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I think it's about jelly tots tbh wtf are you on about???? i dont agree that its a legitimate choice and this poem has no distinction what so ever! what is a naturalist anyway? please stop shuddering at them!!

| Posted on 2009-09-21 | by a guest

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"I am quite unsure on what he means by the white face hovered in stanza 3. is this himself? or could it be an ancestor? or like a ghost??"
I believe the white face is his own reflection, for he is Irish, and being from where he is from, his skin was likely to have been quite pale as a child.

| Posted on 2009-09-19 | by a guest

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To the personal below. At least they tried to explain it and you didnt. :l
Anyway this poem is essentially about the coming of age, which is a recurring theme in many of Heaneys poems. the last stanza states that he understands himseld now by writing poetry whereas before with the metaphors of wells and water he understood himself by the reflections.
I am quite unsure on what he means by the white face hovered in stanza 3. is this himself? or could it be an ancestor? or like a ghost??
What is the theme and tone of this poem?

| Posted on 2009-09-01 | by a guest

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wtf does that mean?!?! you didnt even explain it you tard.

| Posted on 2009-07-28 | by a guest

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The poem is about the author's self-discovery. As a child he looked at the reflection of wells and thought about himself. As an adult it's not practical to look into wells, so instead he writes poetry to explore his mind.

| Posted on 2009-02-20 | by a guest

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wtf is the analysis that the person before gave. it doesnt make sense

| Posted on 2008-10-27 | by a guest

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Seamus Heaney has always been fascinated with the earth, with the quality of earthiness. His poems are invariably dense and muddy, clumps of murky adjectives and plodding nouns pulling the reader into a world full of 'the smells / Of waterweed, fungus and dank moss'. Even his titles reflect this preoccupation, from "Bogland" (the very first poem in his very first collection), to his justly celebrated (if somewhat unsettling) masterpiece, "Death of a Naturalist".

Unfortunately, this predilection is not a very fashionable one - indeed, I can't help but shudder at some of the imagery in "Naturalist" - which is perhaps why Heaney chose to expand on it in today's poem. As the title makes clear, this is a poem about poetic inspiration: Heaney's Muse is a gritty, plodding, deliberate creature, more Caliban than Ariel. A perfectly legitimate choice (if it can be called a choice at all), and one which sets his poetry apart, and gives it distinction.

| Posted on 2005-03-03 | by Approved Guest

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