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Death Of A Naturalist By Seamus Heaney – Top Irish Poem

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Another week, another top Irish poem. This week, it is another Seamus Heaney poem. It comes in at number 60 in the top 100 Irish poems list. In fact, Seamus Heaney’s poems feature in 10 out of the top 100 poems. After all, he did win the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1955). It also features in my top Seamus Heaney poems article, and you can watch Heaney himself reading the poem below: 

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So what is the poem Death of a Naturalist all about?

Good question; it is another poem where Heaney is looking back on his life. In this case, it is the death of his childhood. Or moving on and the loss of childhood innocence. 

I also found a short clip of him reading his poem on YouTube. You can watch it below or read the poem for yourself. I enjoyed the video of how he reads the poem word for word without looking at the book once. 

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 dragonflies, 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.
    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.


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