The Metaphorical Implications of ’digging’ in Seamus Heaney’s Poem ’Digging’

Digging ,written by  the famous Irish poet Seamus Heaney, is a metaphorical poem. The very title of the poem ’Digging’ bears the metaphorical implications. In this poem Heany is exploring his ancestry and the roots from where he was brought up. With this poem he establishes many of the themes - a dichotomy of emotions, a questioning of his past and a sense of alienation from his familly. As an autobiographical poem, here we find that the speaker is no one but Heany himself. Throughout the poem, the speaker feels a sense of longing for those old days and expresses his constant regret that he is no longer able to follow his ancestors’ occupation as potato farmers. The poet reflects back on the glorious days when his father and grandfather were in their prime. With full respect to his ancestors, the speaker chooses a different occupation from his ancestors as he believes that his occupation will be as helpful for the world as his ancestors’ occuption.

The speaker realizes that he can never be as skilled with a spade as his father and grandfather.But he wants to dig and as a writer he intends to "dig" with his pen.So,his writing is one kind of digging.It is the digging of his native culture and tradition in order to show it to the world. Heaney chooses writing professon in a period or environment where people do not have any kind attitude to literary notions. Heaney attempts to break tradition to become a writer. Through this poem he attempts to explain his reasons.

 First of all, through the use of imagery and irony, Heany  communicates the overall theme of determination, the advantages of hard work, and the importance of loyalty to and respect for one's family in his poem ’’Digging”. He looks through the window of his memory and describes the work of cultivation of his father and grand father. He believes tht they are the real upholders of their family tradition and they do it perfectly for many years. His nostalgia reaches to the peak point  when he describes all the steps of his father and grandfather’s activities regarding cultivation. He again and again thinks about his childhood spent in his mother land. His ancestors grew potatoes and scattered them and the poet picked them up. The author uses a great amount of imagery in this poem to make the reader feel and understand what the speaker feels. These positive descriptions of things connected to his father's work reveal the speaker's admiration, and even a bit of envy, towards his father's achievements. Thus the speaker expresses his passion, pride and respect to his ancestors and their occupation.

With giving full of respect and prestige  to the ancestors, now Heaney makes a comparison between the hard physical labour of his ancestors to his mental labour. By using an extended metaphor of digging and roots in the poem, the poet gets back to his own identity, and where his family comes from. Although the narrator states that ‘I’ve no spade to follow men like them’ the last lines of the poem, which reveals his new ‘spade’ which is the pen, and he will ‘dig with it’, or he will pass on the tradition with his writings. Thus poem is the reconciliatory expression of an artist who will not follow his father and grandfather’s footsteps as a common laborer. It concerns his admiration for his father's and grandfather's skill at digging, and his determination to use his chosen tool - his squat pen, snug as a gun.

To conclude, we can say the poem symbolises the changing face of Ireland, from a rural and backward country to a modern industrial nation. The author reflects on his childhood in rural Ireland, where he and his brothers used to help collect potatoes for his father, and tells of his wish to carry on that family tradition in his own way with the full  respect for his heritage.