The Wicklow cottage past and present – a unifying symbol.
From those early days Heaney pictures a neglected garden and some basic implements (scythe and axe and hedge-clippers); he hears echoes of the presence of children (the shriek of the gate the children used to swing on); he recalls the hearth tools (poker, scuttle, tongs) to tend the open fire and a gravel rake to remove clinker from the grate.
And now, the cottage still stands there, symbol of an idyllic period (locus amoenus) – the chores are still there to be done (old activity starts up again) but it is no longer quite the same (differently) -their youngsters now lead their own lives (we’re on our own … emptied); poet and wife are ‘sole’ owners (in full possession) of a house that stands for their relationship (whatever keeps between us).
A relationship far deeper than mere keepsakes though there it sits, the unifying factor, the child’s bed that witnessed their daughter’s first intelligible sounds (the ‘doodle do’ of the rooster in the farm across the road) a bed that straddles two generations – Heaney’s own first ‘cot’ at Mossbawn from the time when, in common with his daughter, the farm and its noises were the sum total of his experience (the whole world … eked and crowed).
- cot: the word for a child’s bed is also the shortened archaic term for a cottage;
- scythe: grass-cutting tool with long handle and long curved blade;
- shriek: high pitched, piercing sound;
- poker: metal rod for use in an open fire;
- scuttle: container for coal for domestic fire;
- tongs: two-armed instrument for pcking up and holding;
- locus amoenus: literary term generally referring to an idealized place of safety or comfort (beautiful, shady lawn, open woodland, group of idyllic islands), here the Heaney family dwelling; connotations of Eden or Elysium;
- tenant: occupier who pays rent;
- keepsake: token of remembrance, reminder;
- rooster: cock a-doodle doo; reference a popular English language nursery rhyme;
- eke: both allusion to frugal living and the ‘eek’ing sounds of farm animals;
- crow: both the sound of the cock and the pride and delight it expresses;
- sonnet (8 + 6); volta after l.8 moves the poem’s thrust from the site to the relationship, from cot>cot;
- lines based on 10 syllables; some rhyme but no pattern;
- 4 sentence structure ( 2 stops, two colons); mid- and end-of-line punctuation outruns enjambed lines
- personification: gate ‘shrieks’ that it is carrying too much weight;
- italicized Latin phrase;
- pun: ‘cot’/’cot’
- sonic pun: ‘eke’ as written suggests fragility whereas ‘eek’ is a an onomatopoeic animal sound alongside ‘crowed’;
- 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 Glanmore poems: thirteen assonant strands are woven into the texts; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes , or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text:
- Note that each of the Glanmore Revisited sonnets below follows this pattern;
- 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;
- for example, the lines might interweave bilabial plosives [b][p], front-of-mouth sounds [f] [h] [y] [w] and sibilant variants [s] [z] [ts]; the sounds will be heard as the poem is read;
- a full breakdown of consonant sounds and where in the mouth they are formed is to be found in the Afterthoughts section;