Comparison Of Heany

’s ‘Trout’ And ‘Death Of A Naturalist’ Essay, Research Paper


poems ?Trout? and ?Death of a Naturalist? are both written by the Irish poet,

Seamus Heaney. In this piece of coursework I aim to analyse the two poems and

compare them. The

subject of the poem ?trout? is a fairly basic one ? the trout itself and the way

it moves. ?Trout? is a descriptive poem that follows the actions of the fish as

it ?darts? and ?slips? down the ?throat of the river?. The

subject of ?Death of a Naturalist? is more complex. The obvious subject is

nature: ?spotted butterflies?, ?frogspawn? and ?frogs?. Childhood memory is

also a key feature in the poem, illustrated by words such as ?daddy? and

?mammy?. Childhood could come under the heading of a subject or a theme as it

is relevant to both and raises childhood issues. Both

the subjects are connected with nature and both describe a particular creature,

the trout in ?trout? and frogs in ?death of Naturalist?. However, the subjects

differ apart from this point. ?Death

of a Naturalist? has the subject of childhood, specifically childhood memory.

The poet is reminiscing about his past and it is much more emotionally written

than trout, which has no emotion and uses visual images. The title ?Death of a

Naturalist? explains another part of the poem because it is literally about the

little boy loving ?the warm thick slobber of frogspawn?. Then he grows older

and loses some of the innocence that was present in the first stanzas. He is

sickened by the ?gross bellied frogs? and the naturalist in him is dead. ?Trout?

has two main themes: the first being the power of nature. This theme is present

in the images of guns, such as the comparison of the trout to a ?fat gun

barrel?. Then the second theme, movement, becomes linked with power and

guns.? The movement theme is present in

images like ?slips like butter down the throat of the river?. The two themes

are shown together in phrases such as ?fired from the shallows? and ?darts like

a tracer bullet?. These themes bring out the speed and? power of the trout, and help to convey a

sense of brutality. The

theme of ?Death of a Naturalist is also the power of nature. This is

illustrated by the frogs having power over the author as a child. This powerful

theme is conveyed in the second stanza, with phrases like ?angry?, ?threats?

and ?vengeance?. The frogs are described as being ?poised like mud grenades?

which brings out images of guns and strength. Another

central theme is childhood and growing up. The poet is describing his happy

attitude towards nature, saying the frogspawn was ?best of all?. The teacher,

Miss Walls, uses childish language, such as ?daddy? and ?mammy?. The poet uses

this language to convey his innocence at that age. In the second stanza, it is

obvious by the change of tone and language, such as ?gross?. ?slime? and

?angry?, that the child is perhaps moving into adolescence and has become less

oblivious and innocent to the world around him. The

themes of ?Trout? and ?Death of a Naturalist? are similar in that they both use

the creatures in them to convey the power of nature to the reader. However,

?Trout? uses the theme of movement to show the powerful image, while ?Death of

a Naturalist? shows how the frogs had power to the author when he was younger. The

poem ?Trout? focuses heavily on visual imagery. There is no emotion in the

poem, it simply describes the trout and its behaviour. Heaney uses the metaphor

?a fat gun barrel? to describe the trout?s shape and its power. Then, the poet

goes on to use the simile ?slips like butter? to show the ease with which the

trout moves. Heaney uses the simile ?smooth skinned as plums? to convey an

image of the trout to the reader. The poet uses phrases such as ?bull?s eye?,

torpedoed?, ?fired?, and ?tracer bullet? to shoe the trout?s speed and might.

The trout is said to ?pick off grass seed and moths?. This illustrates his

dominance over other creatures and helps us create a mental image of him. In

the last stanza, Heaney describes the trout as ?never burnt out? and a ?a

volley of cold blood?. He does this to illustrate the trout?s determination and

ruthless nature. The last line ?ramrodding the current? is apart from the rest.

This adds to the effect and reflects the whole poem?s theme of power and

unemotional images. ?Death

of? a Naturalist?, in contrast to

?Trout?, has emotional images, because it is the poet?s memory and he is

reminiscing. Heaney uses a number of poetic devices to create images. Firstly,

he uses the metaphor ?in the heart of the town land? to add interest to the

poem. He uses language such as ?sweltered? and ?punishing sun? to create an image

of the hot summer that he remembered. The poet brings nature into the poem with

the metaphor ?bluebottles wove a strong gauze of sound?. This creates a visual

image of the day he went to collect frogspawn in the reader?s mind and engages

their interest. He uses alliteration in the line ?on shelves at school, and

wait and watch?, to make the tone calm and happy with soft sounds. There is

childish language like ?mammy? used to convey an image of innocence in the

first stanza. In

the second stanza, the mood changes dramatically from one of nostalgia and

innocence to vulgarity and almost horror, although there are hints to this tone

in the preceding stanza. The poet uses words like ?rotted?, ?slobber?, and

?festered? as a hint that all is not well. In

this stanza, the mood is dark, and vile, conveyed by language like ?rank?,

?gross? and ?vengeance?. Heaney creates a tense image with the ?bass chorus of

the frogs. He describes the frogs? necks as ?pulsing like sails? and ?their

blunt heads farting? to convey his terror that his once loved frogs would wreak

?vengeance? on him. The frogs are described as ?slime kings?, once again

bringing out the dominance of nature. Heaney uses onomatopoeia in the words

?slap? and ?pop? to create an image in the reader?s mind. The poem concludes

with the poet saying that ?the spawn would clutch? his hand. This communicates

his terror and reflects the poem?s central theme of the power of nature. Both

poems utilise powerful imagery and also gun imagery to convey their main theme:

the power of nature. Both rely upon the use of metaphors and similes to create

images in the mind of the reader. However, ?Trout? shows no emotion and uses

only visual imagery, which ?Death of a Naturalist? is emotional and uses human

reactions to nature to create images.?Trout?

and ?Death of a Naturalist? are both written in free verse, as a rhyme pattern

would probably detract from the powerful imagery used. Both the poems contain

enjambment, which is more apparent in ?Trout? because of the short sentences.

An example this enjambment in ?Trout? is a ?a volley of cold blood ramrodding

the current?. The enjambment helps the poem to flow easily when read. In

?Death of a Naturalist? sentences are longer, but still use enjambment, such as

?Green and heavy headed flax had rotted there?. ?Trout?

is displayed in a long thin form, like the shape of the trout itself. This

makes the sentences appear even shorter than they are and thus the poem is read

more quickly to reflect the trout?s movement. ?Death of a Naturalist? has no

specific layout. The sentences are longer because it tells a story and is meant

to be read more slowly than ?Trout?. Overall,

I think that the two poems are very similar in that they both depict the

sovereignty of nature. However, the style in which they are written is what

really sets them apart, such as the form, sentence structure and imagery.


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