Seamus Heaney’s depicts his past in an autobiographical way, and he attempts to preserve the traditions from the past through his poetry. He feels a great sense of guilt, because he doesn’t carry out the traditions and crafts of his father and ancestors. The family that he grew up in is drifting, so as he aspires to continue the traditions of his ancestors, he is inspired by other craftsmen to create his poems about the dying traditions. He respects not only his grandfather and father’s skilled hands in “digging”, but he also has great respect and admiration for artisans’ skills, which is dying out whether he be a “Thatcher” or a “blacksmith”. He presents each of these different skills as having “the Midas touch”, although only mentioned in “Thatcher”.
The poems are autobiographical. He wants to keep alive his fathers aspect on digging. His poetry is going to unlock and celebrate the past. He wants to honour his father and ancestors; even though he physically can’t carry on the unique skills they possess. The interjection “By God the old man could handle a spade. Just like his old man” shows that he does admire his ancestors in what they do, and how he is nothing like the “expert” they were. He is “digging” down deep into the past with his pen, and these traditions will live forever in his poems. He says how he feels alienated in “digging”, the fact that his father’s “course boot nestled on the lug” shows that he is almost naturally fitting with the spade. But Heaney says in how “snug” the “squat pen rests”, and how he can’t be a “Follower” because he was “a nuisance”, and always “stumbled in his hob-nailed wake”.
Everyday workmen like a blacksmith, whom we would find very ordinary, Heaney describes “The Forge” as harmonious, and his anvil as his “alter” and “unicorn”, saying that it’s the centre of his crafts and his mythical archetype will soon become extinct (of which they will). Blacksmiths obtain a particular skill, which not many people can easily do without practise. In “Follower”, “The horses strained” because Heaney’s father was “clicking his tongue” for the horses to arrive. Heaney tries to express the feeling, that it’s such a unique fundamental skill. As Heaney presents in many of his poems, all the skilled craftsmen do their specific skill so casually and quietly, as if it’s so easy. This is where the inspiration comes for Heaney’s poems, Thatchers, blacksmiths, father, grandfather, and other skilled craftsmen.
Heaney presents the craftsmen as being so natural, with natural gestures that have an amazing effect that the average man can’t do. He shows how a Thatcher can turn bits of straw, into a perfectly “stitched”, and “sloped honeycomb” roof. The Thatcher “shaved and flushed”; the blacksmith in “The Force” beats the iron out “with a slam and flick”. His grandfather is “neatly” “nicking and slicing” and his father is “dipping and rising” to his plod. When Seamus Heaney tries ploughing, he was always “tripping” and “falling” and he always “stumbled…. and sometimes fell”
Heaney feels he is isolated from the rest of his family and other rural workers. This is displayed in “The Forge”. The first lines are: “All I know is a door into the dark.” The dark is illustrating the occupations unknown to him. He shows in “Digging” how he never will live up to his ancestors “…. I’ve no spade to follow men like them.” He also shows in
Heaney uses many ways of language to express his feelings. For example, “The Forge” is a sonnet. In this he uses onomatopoeia, “hiss” and alliteration “…. sparks or hiss”. He creates a vivid effect using these language techniques in all of his poems. Equally does he create a vibrant effect by using Caesuras, interjections, similes and metaphors, which bring our attention to the certain words, to protrude his points and make his poems so dissimilar.