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Critical Analysis of The Peninsula by Seamus Heaney

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There are other mentions of nature, for instance: “The sky” (v3), “sea and hill” (v6), “that rock” (v10), “The leggy birds” (v11), and “Water and ground” (v16). Nature is important in this poem, “breakers shredded into rags” (v10), breakers are heavy waves which become white foam. (Wikipedia) This is really inspiring for the narrator. A lot of his poems are including natural elements, for instance, in “Personal Helicon”, the reference to the Helicon Mountain shows that Heaney is very close to Nature. If we look at the shape of the poem it can remind us of the waves shredding on the beach.

The title was not chosen randomly. Indeed, the shape of a peninsula is causing a cut between the mainland and the water. It also seems significant as it reaches far into the waters, establishing the bridge between the known and unknown. It seems to be a metaphor of the poet finding his voice. In this poems, Seamus Heaney tells us about the encounter between a poet and the lack of inspiration.

The speaker’s voice in the poem is very close to the write’s own voice, like in the poem “Digging”. The author dissociates the lack of inspiration he has with the beauty of nature which can help him to overcome his difficulties. The poem’s atmosphere is quite peaceful, and it is straight forward as the narrator addresses the reader by using the second person singular: “you”. Heaney incorporates the reader into the poem as the lack of inspiration can happen to anybody. It is a common situation that almost anyone can relate to, and he tells us about something we can do to solve this problem. This poem is a journey, like the poem “The first flight”, or even ‘The underground”. The theme of the journey in very important in Seamus Heaney’s poems and life, Indeed, he travelled a lot during his life.

In the first stanza, the narrator tells us that “When you have nothing to say, just drive”. Of course, driving when you have nothing else to say or to do, with no inspiration, is calming and it eases the mind. It can bring back the inspiration to anyone. Trough the poem there is this idea of escaping. In order to escape, oneself can find peace in nature. Like I said earlier, the references to Nature are abundant, and it helps the reader to picture this beautiful setting, in order to feel the benefits of driving through the Peninsula.

But this tranquil atmosphere has obviously an ending, as the verse 4 and 5 picture it, “you will not arrive” means that there is no final destination and that you can escape reality only for a brief moment as you “pass through” the landscape. There is an enjambment who forces the reader to come back to reality as it is impossible to avoid the trip “back home” (v13).

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On the second stanza, the narrator gives us hope, and tells us not to let go and to continue: “But pass through, though always skirting landfall.” It is important for the reader to continue this journey to inspiration, in order to find something beautiful. But, on this journey, it is possible to encounter some difficulties. Darkness is one of them: “The ploughed field swallows the whitewashed gable and you’re in the dark again.” This brings this landscape to life and reminds us that this is a place of constant change and movement.

Nevertheless, on stanza three, the narrator tells us that even if oneself is obliged to come back to real life, it is still possible to remember. On verse 8 “now recall”, proves that the memory of it will sustain even when it’s impossible to see it in the “dark”. The word ‘shredded’ implies violent force. This shows that Nature can be both lifeful and violent, as in “Personal Helicon”, as the wells are filled with life, they are also associated with darkness and fear. All of the imagery, however, is powerful, which proves that this place is indeed inspirational.

The last stanza evokes the trip “back home” that I mentioned earlier. You may have to wait for inspiration to come, but eventually it will come: verse 1” to 14 “still with nothing to say except that now you will uncode all landscapes”. This is important because even if inspiration takes time to come, the trip still taught something to the narrator.

This poem could be divided in two separate parts. Stanza 1 and 2, and stanza 3 and 4. Indeed, the poem starts with the poet’s struggle to find inspiration; meaning his vocabulary is poor and he struggles to find the right words. But as we arrive to stanza 3, the vocabulary becomes richer and the poet’s perception of the word is much clearer than in the first two stanzas.

To conclude I can say that this poem is characteristic of Seamus Heaney’s work. Indeed, the proximity with nature and a quest to find inspiration are one of the usual faces of Heaney’s poetry. The poem started as the narrator did not know what to say, but in the end his vocabulary became richer. It’s an example of what Heaney’s calls poetic technique, as in “The Forge”, as Heaney tells “the discovery of ways to go our of his normal cognitive bounds and raid the inarticulate” (Heaney, 47) It’s a good spiritual answer because Seamus Heaney basically tells us that even if in the end you still have nothing to say, you will be able to remember this journey and the beauty of the place he visited.

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Critical Analysis of The Peninsula by Seamus Heaney. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from
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