The Strand

Heaney’s ageing father once left his signature mark on a Dublin beach; it will never be obliterated by the incoming tide any more than the memory of it from Heaney’s mind

Walking Sandymount Strand where Patrick Heaney once left a trail: The dotted line my father’s ashplant made. As long as Heaney lives nothing the all-powerful sea can do will succeed in effacing the memory:  something else the tide won’t wash away.

  • dotted line: literally the line of marks imprinted by the stick on soft sand; metaphorically the space left on a form or letter upon which a person leaves his signature;
  • Strand: a Dublin beach called Sandymount Strand;
  • ashplant: the walking-stick that the elderly Patrick Heaney used to get about;
  • tide … wash away: messages or sandcastles left on the sand do not survive the incoming tide;
  • the music of the poem: in this three-line piece four assonant strands are woven into the text; Heaney places them grouped within specific areas to create internal rhymes or reprises them at intervals or threads them through the text:

  • alliterative effects allow pulses or beats, soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies:
  • for example, the first lines are dominated by front-of-mouth sounds: voiceless labio-dental fricative [f] bi-labial nasal [m]; bilabial continuant [w] bi-labial plosives [p] and [b]
  • it is well worth teasing out the sound clusters for yourself to admire the poet’s sonic engineering:
  • Consonants (with their phonetic symbols) can be classed according to where in the mouth they occur
  • Front-of-mouth sounds voiceless bi-labial plosive [p] voiced bi-labial plosive [b]; voiceless labio-dental fricative [f] voiced labio-dental fricative [v]; bi-labial nasal [m]; bilabial continuant [w]
  • Behind-the-teeth sounds: voiceless alveolar plosive [t] voiced alveolar plosive [d]; voiceless alveolar fricative as in church match [tʃ];  voiced alveolar fricative as in judge age [dʒ];  voiceless dental fricative  [θ]  as in thin path; voiced dental fricative as  in this other [ð]; voiceless alveolar fricative [s] voiced alveolar fricative [z]; continuant [h] alveolar nasal [n] alveolar approximant [l]; alveolar trill [r]; dental ‘y’ [j] as in  yet
  • Rear-of-mouth sounds: voiceless velar plosive [k] voiced velar plosive [g]; voiceless post-alveolar fricative [ʃ] as in ship sure, voiced post- alveolar fricative [ʒ]   as in pleasure; palatal nasal [ŋ]  as in ring/ ang


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