Heaney tells of intimate adult conversations by the Fireside and how, as a child, he would listen intently to the tales, sometimes losing himself in his imaginings.
Without fail (Always) these fireside conversations would turn to unearthly stories of lights / hovering by bushes or at the foot of a meadow or scary animal figures (a goat with cold horns) in silhouette (pluming into the moon), or ghostly midnight presences betrayed by a tingle of chains on the ( )road.
On occasion (Then, maybe) reports (word) would be circulating of local poachers engaged in the nocturnal lamping of fishes, to the narrator a blend of skill and black magic (watery art).
The boy would suddenly become part of the action, following the circle of light made by his torch (mooning my flashlamp) on the smooth river surface (the licked black pelt of the stream), his body poised (my left arm splayed) to cope with any sudden pressure (a heavy pour and run of the current) that might displace the catch-net from his view (occluding the net) at a critical moment.
The youngster’s inner drama continues to unfold: is that his light distorted by a whirlpool (the beam buckling over an eddy) or the unbelievable promise of a fish drawn towards his net: a gleam of the fabulous?
The next turn of events puts an end to his reverie: still-in-dream fishing advice (Steady the light) turns into out-of-dream warning to get a grip: come to your senses.
Why? Because the party is breaking up: they’re saying good-night.
- fireside: the intimate fireplace of home;
- hover: remain in one place in the air;
- plume: both adopt a feather shape and feel self-satisfaction;
- tingle: portmanteau of tinkle, jingle, jangle
- word: a unit of language; mention made; a story about, reference to’
- lamping: fishing overnight with lights to attract the fish;
- moon: create a moonlike reflection:
- flashlamp: portable lamp;
- licked: smoothed (c.f.. a tongue over ice-cream)
- pelt: skin, coat of an animal;
- splayed: spread out and apart;
- pour: rapid surge of water;
- run: movement of fish up or down a river:
- current: one-way flow of water;
- occluding: obstruct;
- buckling: bending under pressure;
- eddy: circular swirl of water, whirlpool;
- fabulous: illusory, make-believe
- steady: hold the light still, stop the light shaking;
- 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 poem: thirteen 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 or soothings or hissings or frictions of consonant sound to modify the assonant melodies:
- the first two lines of (1)for example, brings together labio-dental fricative [f] a cluster of alveolar plosives[t] interspersed with nasal [n] and [m];
- 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/ anger.