At a Potato Digging

Heaney builds his sympathy for the Irish condition into this bleak sequence via particular reference to the great misfortunes suffered by his fellow countrymen during the Irish potato famines between 1845–8. All four poems explore Irish dependency on its staple potato crop. Heaney is asking why anyone should be surprised at long-term Irish grievance resulting from the non-response to rural hardship of those who over history have imposed insensitive government from Whitehall in London. I In many cultures Mother Earth (presented here as a divinity worshipped in Ireland on the altar of the sod) presides as a pre-Christian symbol over planting and harvesting. The legendary importance to the Irish of the potato crop explains the reverence Heaney lends it. This […]