Cow in Calf

Picturing himself in a location familiar to him as a farmer’s son, Heaney composes a sonnet about birth and renewal. The poet weighs up the signs of pregnancy evident in the first instance (It seems) from the cow’s sheer bulk (as if she had swallowed a barrel) and from her sagging undercarriage (slung like a hammock) from front (forelegs) to rear (haunches). Farming experience recognizes the physical methods required to shift a cow (slapping her out of the byre). The smacks administered sound somehow different with a calf inside her body: solid, dull sounds like slapping a great bag of seed; smacks so weighty that his own hand suffers physical punishment (no doubt a distant memory of school!) smarting as […]