All the year the flax-dam festered in the heart Of the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods. Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell. There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies, But best of all was the warm thick slobber Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring I would fill jampots full of the jellied Specks to range on the window-sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until The fattening dots burst into nimble- Swimming tadpoles. Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn. You could tell the weather by frogs too For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain.
Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus. Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked On sods; their loose necks pulsed like snails. Some hopped: The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting. I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
“All year the flax-dam festered in the heart of the townland,”
“bluebottles wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.” “There were dragon-flies..”
“ That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it”
1.How would you react (as a young adult or as a child) to the sight of a horde of frogs invading a familiar place? 2.How far does this poem tell the truth about frogs and how far does it tell the reader about the power of imagination? 3.Is this poem comic, serious or both? How far does the poet invite us to laugh at him? Why do you think the poet has written in this style? 4.Heaney describes the frogs' heads as “farting”. As a boy he might have said this word to friends, but would not repeat it at home or write it in school work. How does it work in the poem? What literary technique is used here? 5.Is it a good idea for teachers of the young to explain how animals live by describing them in human terms, like “mammy” (mum or mummy) and “daddy”?
6.Does this poem have anything in common with other poems by Heaney? How far does it fit into a pattern of poems that show him not to be a real country person (like his father and grandfather) - because he can't dig, he can't plough, he gets upset when the blackberries start rotting and he is frightened by a lot of frogs? (This question is asking you to compare this poem with others by the same author in terms of it’s theme. In the exam you will be comparing poems by Heaney, Clarke and the pre-1914 poets in terms of the themes discussed in them. This question needs to be answered fully, using any of Heaney’s poems which you have studied so far that you think are relevant, and needs to include quotes!!! You must explain your answer completely – let the examiner know that you re an expert on these poems and that you can understand the themes behind them.)
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