Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney “More and more children today have less and less contact with the natural world. . . this is having a huge impact on their health and development. ” 1) To what extent do you think this statement is true? 2) In what ways do you personally experience nature?
A 03: Show understanding of the context in which texts were written. Naturalist An expert in nature and the natural world. Can you think of any famous naturalists? Seamus Heaney • Seamus Heaney was an Irish poet born in 1939, and was the eldest of nine children. He grew up on a farm with his family. • He faced the issue of being a Catholic in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland. • His poetry came to public attention with the publication of the critically acclaimed volume ‘Death of a Naturalist’ in 1966.
All year the flax-dam festered in the heart Of the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods. Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, But best of all was the warm thick slobber Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied Specks to range on window-sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until The fattening dots burst into nimble- Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain. Flax-dam – a pool where bundles of flax (a plant) are placed to soften the stems from which linen is made Festered – decayed/rotted Townland – a small territorial division of land in Ireland
Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus. Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped: The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting. I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it. In pairs, can you summarise what happens in the poem? What could this poem symbolise? Sods – clumps of earth or mud Gauze – a gentle, light and thin transparent fabric Rank – foulsmelling Vengeance - revenge
Death of a Naturalist "Death of a Naturalist, " describes the exploits of a young boy collecting frogspawn from a flax-dam. He remembers his teacher telling him all about frogs. He relates how his teacher has taught them about the lifecycle of a frog, proudly demonstrating his knowledge and love of nature Finally, we hear about a trip to the flax-dam that went wrong. He feels threatened by the frogs (which were once his playful allies) and flees. His interest in nature has gone – this is the death of a "naturalist" suggested in the poem's title. The previous security the poet feels changes into threat, mirroring the transition of the tadpoles into frogs, and his own selfdevelopment. The loss of innocence is a consequence of growing up, but spoils a previously blissful existence.
A 02 : Analyse the language used by a writer to create meanings and effects using terminology to identify techniques. Reread the first stanza Annotate these quotes to explain your thoughts about what the words/images suggest. How did the boy view nature in these lines? Can you identify the techniques (using terminology) that have been highlighted? a) ‘Bubbles gargled delicately’ b) ‘bluebottles/Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell c) ‘The fattening dots burst, into nimble/Swimming tadpoles’
Let’s listen to the poem
A 01 : Develop an informed personal response using evidence (quotations) to support interpretations. A 02 : Analyse the language and structure used by a writer to create meanings and effects using terminology to identify techniques. In stanza one, Heaney describes a comfortable childhood routine, however in stanza two, the young child seems to fear nature. Heaney uses military language. . . Analyse the following quotes ensuring that you identify their techniques and explain the meaning of the quote and the effect it has on the reader. 1)‘the angry frogs/Invaded’ 2)‘coarse croaking’ 3)‘Poised like mud grenades’ 4)‘The great slime kings’
A 01 : Develop an informed personal response. No one actually dies in the poem. What do you think the poet was suggesting by using the title ‘Death of a Naturalist’?