A four-foot box, a foot for every year. I have a hard back copy of this classic Heaney book, one of my prize possessions because it is signed by him in black ink. I fully recommend this paperback Opened Ground as it gives the reader a chance to scan all of his early poems, including Mid-Term Break, and on into the maturer work. So, from classic Heaney poems such as Digging, you can follow the progress of one of the world's great poets up to the mid 90s, and appreciate just how versatile an artist he was.
This book also includes his Nobel prize speech. A poem with an ambiguous title, Mid-Term Break appears on the page as an orderly set of tercets, finished off with a single line, as if underlining everything that has gone before. Perhaps the poet wanted a neat, arranged form to control what could be a seriously upsetting scenario? So, twenty two lines with an echo of traditional iambic pentameter in each stanza, plus odd bits of occasional anapaests and spondees to reflect the varying emotions at play.
Note the use of dashes, enjambment and other punctuation to slow and pause proceedings, or to let them flow; and the syntax is, as always with Heaney's early poems, worked in a formal conversational fashion. How does grief affect those family members and friends close to us? In Mid-Term Break Seamus Heaney takes the reader right into the bosom of the family and provides first hand observations of people present at home, following the death of his young brother.
Interestingly, we don't know if this is a brother or not. It is a male but the speaker informs us only of the 'corpse' which is delivered by ambulance. From the start, there is a suggestion that something isn't quite right. The speaker has to sit in a sick bay with little to do but listen to the ominous sound of bells - foretelling of doom? The word knelling implies that the occasion is solemn. This is a little bit morbid, a touch ironic, because the title tells of a break, a holiday away from responsibility and formality.
When we are told the neighbours, and not family, are the ones taking him home the intrigue deepens. Atmosphere and tension are building by the second stanza as we learn of the father, the patriarch, being reduced to tears, and a family friend, Big Jim Evans, affirming the difficulty of the occasion. Tough men are showing emotion which is something the speaker isn't used to.
Heaney softens the mood slightly by introducing us to a baby in the third stanza but this is countered when old men offer their hands to shake. Again, you can picture the speaker, the eldest son, trying to take it all in as 'sorry for your trouble' repeatedly hits home. The eldest son is going through a rite of passage, in a sense this profoundly sad death in the family is forcing him to grow up and he's finding it understandably hard.
It's the mother who takes on some of the grief in the form of anger as the speaker holds her hand in a room of strangers and prepares himself for the arrival of the body 'stanched and bandaged.
Compare the role of father with mother in this respect, at opposite ends of the grieving spectrum. Heaneys use of "corpse" is clinical and a little cold, suggesting that the speaker is too upset to mention the child's name.
The next day however he feels compelled to go upstairs to have one last personal meeting. Snowdrops are the first flowers to show in winter, bursting through the cold earth, sparked by the increasing light.
They are a symbol of hope - even in the depths of darkness life prevails. Candles are associated with prayer. The use of the word soothed reflects the healing qualities of the peaceful room where the body lies. There is the dead child "wearing" a bruise, which implies it's not a part of him, a temporary thing. Poppies are linked to peace and also are a source for opiates which ease pain.
Because the car hit the boy directly on the head there are no unsightly scars; the boy reminds the speaker of when he was a baby in his cot. The last line is full of pathos, the four-foot box measuring out the life of the victim in years. Note the full rhyming couplet which seals up the poem, reminding us of how easy it is to die, from a single blow of a car bumper, but how challenging becomes the grieving process that must inevitably follow. To comment on this article, you must sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.
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Analysis A poem with an ambiguous title, Mid-Term Break appears on the page as an orderly set of tercets, finished off with a single line, as if underlining everything that has gone before. The second line is interesting as it contains both alliteration and assonance, plus the combination of the hard c and silent k suggest a confusion of sorts.
Why is the speaker in the sick bay in the first place? Knelling is a word more often associated with church funerals alternatives would have been tolling or peeling or ringing. Stanzas six and seven stand out - the syntax alters in stanza six to meet the contrasting circumstances as the speaker enters the room where the little body lies. He is metaphorically wearing the poppy as a bruise. Note the punctuation and enjambment play a particular role in slowing everything down, carrying us on to the next stanza and that final devastating line.
The fourth stanza begins with another platitude used by the old men to express their condolences: This expression is strangely unfeeling and detached. It is an evasive euphemism alluding to the death, and perhaps another indication of the inadequacy of expressions of condolence.
The poet is acutely aware of having been away from his family, and is ill at ease with people whispering about him because of this: It is also possible that there are underlying feelings of guilt and regret in the young lad, at having been absent at a time when his family needed him.
It is also significant that the poet was greeted at the door by his father, but then had to move through a room of strange people, before reaching the centre, the core of the grieving host: The three lines of the fifth stanza are a turning point in the poem, as they finally reveal that there has indeed been a death in the family, and that the remains have been brought to the house. It is not an idealistic, romanticised image of a woman sobbing softly, with warm and copious tears at the death of her son.
On the contrary, it is a gritty and realistic portrayal of a woman who is angry about being cruelly robbed of her young son.
As a consequence, her crying has become a brutal coughing-up of sighs, harsh and tearless, as empty and barren as her feelings of loss. The second line brings the reader back to the action in the poem. His brother is not referred to in personal or emotive terms, but merely as a bandaged corpse that has been brought to the house by ambulance. This image indicates how alienated and remote the poet feels from events, as if he is still in shock and experiencing feelings of denial and disbelief.
He does not see his brother as a person, but as a corpse. In addition, his brother is shrouded in bandages, and is not clearly seen or described.
The scene changes for the third and final time in the last two stanzas of the poem. It is the next morning, and the poet finally describes seeing his dead brother for the first time.
This time, the description is more personal and affecting, and the feelings towards his brother seem to be more real, and less frozen by shock. The first things that the poet notices upon entering the room where his brother is lying are snowdrops and candles. This image is striking and significant, as it is here that the poet contrasts images of life and death. The snowdrops represent renewal, growth and new life, whereas the candles recall funeral rites, stillness and death.
We then learn that this was the first time in six weeks that Heaney had seen his brother, having been away at school. As previously touched upon, this is a reprise of the ideas put forward in fourth stanza: We also know from biographical material that Heaney did not like being away at boarding school, and was terribly homesick, so it also suggests that Heaney missed his brother and is now terribly anguished that they must meet again in this way.
It is as if the poet is comparing an image of his brother as he remembers him, with what is lying in front of him now. It is another device by which the poet juxtaposes images of life and death: Poppies are obviously a reference to death and remembrance, but this image serves more than one purpose.
It is as if the poppy bruise, the colour of death, has marked the lone spot where the fatal blow was dealt. The line is once again filled with images of death: It also echoes the image of comparison in the previous stanza, as if the poet remembered his brother asleep in his cot, and compared this image to that of him lying in his coffin. Heaney uses various conceits to build up a sensation of apprehension throughout the poem, evoking feelings of foreboding and unease in the reader.
We are made to feel that something is amiss, we may even guess that someone may have died, but we are never sure until the concluding part of the poem. The poet also uses a wide variety of imagery to illustrate his feelings of incomprehension, shock, grief and anger at the loss of his brother, and to describe the reactions of family members and those close to them.
Seamus Heaney is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. A native of Northern Ireland, Heaney was raised in County Derry, and later lived for many years in Dublin.
Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney - I sat all morning in the college sick bay Counting bells knelling classes to a close. At two o'clock our neighbors dro.
Mid-Term Break by Seamus Heaney..I sat all morning in the college sick bay Counting bells knelling classes to a close. At two oclock our neighbors drove me home. In the porch I met my. Page/5(8). Seamus Heaney and Mid-Term Break The early poem Mid-Term Break was written by Heaney following the death of his young brother, killed when a car hit him in It is a poem that grows in stature, finally ending in an unforgettable single line image.
Heaney’s poem about a death in the family is based on the actual death of the poet’s younger brother, Christopher, at the age of four. The “break” in “Mid-Term Break” implies not only. mid-term break The subject of this poem is the death of Seamus Heaney’s younger brother, Christopher who was killed by a car at the age of four. It is a tremendously poignant poem and its emotional power derives in large measure form the fact that Heaney is very muted and understated with respect to his own emotional response.