Prompted by the story of a baby’s body dredged up by fishermen Heaney traces a path through the emotional, maternal, religious and spiritual ramifications of infanticide from within a confused mother’s experience. ‘The poem may be read as a parable for an Ireland in which ‘tribal taboos and laws can so easily outweigh ‘civilized’ humane values’ (MP114-5). Heaney suggests, without passing judgment on her himself that, rather than suffer the ostracism faced by unmarried mothers in the so-called ‘christian’ communities in which she lived, the mother has tried unsuccessfully to cleanse herself of sin by drowning her new-born.. A gruesome discovery, splashed as a news headline, Fishermen at Ballyshannon/ Netted an infant last night generates in the poet an image […]