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 noble prize for literature(in 1955).
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So what is the poem death of a naturalist all about?
Good question; well, 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 managed to find a short clip of him reading his own poem on YouTube. You can watch it below or read the poem for yourself. I enjoyed in the video how he reads the poem word for word without looking at the book once.
Death of a Naturalist
All year the flax-dam festered in the heartOf the townland; green and heavy headedFlax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun.Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottlesWove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies,But best of all was the warm thick slobberOf frogspawn that grew like clotted waterIn the shade of the banks. Here, every springI would fill jampotfuls of the jelliedSpecks to range on window sills at home,On shelves at school, and wait and watch untilThe fattening dots burst, into nimbleSwimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us howThe daddy frog was called a bullfrogAnd how he croaked and how the mammy frogLaid hundreds of little eggs and this wasFrogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs tooFor they were yellow in the sun and brownIn rain.Then one hot day when fields were rankWith cowdung in the grass the angry frogsInvaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedgesTo a coarse croaking that I had not heardBefore. The air was thick with a bass chorus.Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cockedOn sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some satPoised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kingsWere gathered there for vengeance and I knewThat if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.