3 Orange Drums

Heaney composes the brash cartoon/poster image of a figure prominent in a Protestant Unionist parade. He allows his dislike of the event and what it stands for to leak out.

Its central figure is an overpowering caricature: a drummer whose size and posture are complemented by the bulk and weight of his drum. The vocabulary of volume and weight makes him larger-than-life: balloons…belly … weighs … buckles; the sound he produces is bullying to the ear: thunder/ Grossly. He cuts a paradoxical figure his height extended by his heavy instrument: raised up by what he buckles under.

His drumstick is a seasoned rod (‘seasoned’ both in the sense of ‘matured’ and used during the marching season). It indicates the pretext for his showmanship: He parades behind it.

The approving, nodding crowd gives way to the physical momentum and din of the drummers: It is the drums preside. Heaney likens them to ugly disfigurements: giant tumours.

The anti-catholic message the lambeg drummer is walloping out is understood and approved by each and every unionist supporter: To every cocked ear, expert in its greed,/ His battered signature subscribes ‘No Pope’. His single-minded physicality demands sweat and blood and explains the deafening sound: The air … pounding like a stethoscope.

  • Such marches came to symbolize and reinforce sectarian division, were (and remain even in more peaceful times) at the root of annual disruption and violence;

  • tumour: derived from L. word for a ‘swelling’ the term has become associated with cancerous growths some of them disfiguring the body;

  • battered: both ‘pounded out’ and ‘showing signs of wear’

  • signature: a signature ‘tune’ is a musical introduction automatically associated with person or programme, here the Unionist anti-Catholic community;

  • the vellum covering the drum head is traditionally made from goatskin;

  • stethoscope: a sensitive medical instrument that magnifies sound of the heart-beat;

  • 3 quatrains with an abab/ cdcd rhyme scheme; lines based on 10 syllables;

  • 6 sentence structure; limited use of enjambed lines;

  • the vocabulary is deliberately chosen to convey the caricature, swank and hyperbole of the moment;

  • Assonant features, some more dominant than others :

[e] [i:] [ʌ] [ai] [əʊ] [ei] [au] [ɪ] [a:] [ɒ] [u:]

The lambeg balloons at his belly, weighs
Him back on his haunches, lodging thunder
Grossly there between his chin and hisknees.
He israisedup by what he buckles under.

Eacharmextended by a seasoned rod,
He parades behind it. And though the drummers
Are granted passage through the noddingcrowd,
It is the drums preside, likegiant tumours.

To every cocked ear, expert in its greed,
His battered signature subscribesNo Pope.’
The goatskin‘s sometimes plastered with his blood.
The air ispounding like a stethoscope.

  • bilabial plosive [b] is ideal for describing the bullying dominance of drumbeat, accompanied in 1 by nasal [n]; (2 uses alveolar plosive [d] more xtensively); (3) weaves the [p] of Pope into the narrative;

  • the poster representation of a bent-backed men coping with the size of their drum is deftly managed: weighs/ Him back on his haunches … like giant tumours.