An August Night

Heaney’s titles often open more than a single line of suggestion; in this piece a possible play on the word ‘august’  linking a month that offers outdoor nocturnal nature-spotting opportunities with the hands of a venerable father.

Heaney focuses on his father Patrick Heaney’s hands that he saw in a dream (again last night). The hands were those of the man: his warm heart, diminutive stature (small) and broad experience (knowledgeable).

The interlacing of his fingers conjured up the contortions of a pair of fierce predators (two ferrets) at play; their aloofness (by themselves) is a further clue to his father’s nature. Hands in a dream but in the beloved august landscape (moonlit field) where such sightings were possible.

  • Heaney is a meticulous craftsman using combinations of vowel and consonant to form a poem that is something to be listened to.
  • the music of the poem: three lines of poetry generate seven assonant strands , woven into the text:

  • alliterative effects allow pulses or beats, soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies; this is sonic engineering of the first order;
  • the second poem interweaves nasals [m] [n] with sibilant variants [s] [z, ] alveolar plosive [t] [d], and alveolar [l];
  • a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section