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Seamus Heaney??™s poem ???Follower??™, at first glance appears to be a poem dedicated to his childhood idolising of his father, a farmer. But the twist at the end of poem suggests to the reader that the poem is not merely about the relationship between father and son, but in fact the circle of life.
Six quatrains make up this poem; with the first stanza introducing his father and the power and strength he possesses working in the fields. The two stanza??™s following describe the nature of his father??™s work while the fourth stanza hints at the relationship between the two. The fifth and sixth stanzas differ from the previous ones as the focus has turned more towards the poet himself and his role on the farm. The last stanza also gives a glimpse of the poet and his father in present day and how their roles have switched. His use of enjambment allows a smoother and more flowing reading of the poem, perhaps reflecting the way his father worked, uninterrupted and without error. The very short sentence, ???An expert??™, which starts the second stanza, stands out amongst the rest of the poem??™s longer sentences. This adds particular emphasis to the phrase and its simplicity and frankness implies that his father was exactly that, an expert ??“ a master at his work.
Heaney??™s lexical choices in the poem are particularly effective in describing his father. His ???globed??™ shoulders not only depict the physicality of his father being broad and rounded, but also suggest that his father meant the whole world to him and encompassed all aspects of his life. The poem is filled with verbs that make it very active and reflect the physical labour and hard work that is required on a farm. The poet??™s use of verbs like ???strained, sweating, and mapping??™ suggests the difficulty of his father??™s job. ???Without breaking??™, ???a single pluck??™ and ???exactly??™ communicate his father??™s flawless and precise execution of all his work. The adjectives in ???his eye narrowed and angled??™ illustrate the focus and concentration that he had towards his farming. The verbs of stanzas four and six, ???stumbled, fell, tripping, falling??™, depict the poet being the exact opposite as his father, clumsy and silly. ???Dipping and rising??™ illustrates his father??™s heavy walk and suggests that the poet had observed his father down to the very way he walked. His father??™s walk is described as a plod, which also indicates his father??™s large size. The word ???follow??™, used in the fifth stanza, illustrates the poets idolising and admiration of his father, which can be linked to poems theme of father son connections.
Heaney makes use of nautical imagery conveys his father??™s power and strength. The simile ???like a full sail strung??™ depicts strength so powerful it can resist and withstand battering forces. Power is also illustrated in ???the horses strained at his clicking tongue??™, which implies that even the ???clicking??™ of his father??™s tongue was intimidating and respected. It is evident that as a child, the poet wanted to grow up to be exactly like his father. He wanted ???to close one eye, stiffen my arm??™, which his father was his role model in every way and the poet wanted to embody him completely. However in the last half of the poem, we see that the poet was never able to live up to his father??™s legacy, as he ???fell sometimes on the polished sod??™, also suggesting that he never thought he was good enough. His present self appears to be looking down upon his childhood self. This feeling of never being able to measure up to ones father is one of the many aspects of a father and son relationship, one of the poem??™s themes. The ???broad shadow??™ in the fifth stanza symbolizes his father??™s parental protection and the unachievable expectations that the poet was trying to live up to.
Ironically, at the end of the poem, it appears the once strong father is now following his previously clumsy son. This reflects the circle of life: as people grow old, they become more helpless and dependent, just as they were as newborns. The poets father may also be ???stumbling behind??™ him because he is seeking safety, guidance and reassurance that he is still of importance in the world. The turning of the tables may also express the poet??™s feelings of being held back or haunted by his father and the expectations of becoming a farmer.
Up till the middle of the last stanza, the poem is told in retrospect, with a very nostalgic and reflective tone. There is a strong sense of admiration in the poem, but the ironic end seems to carry with it a feeling of annoyance. The poet??™s present day views contrast with his ones as a child. He is now an independent adult who can make his own choices when he was once a child so easily influenced, a follower, with now clue as to what lay beyond the farm. His disapproval of his activities as a child may suggest his disagreement with his childhood worshipping of his father, though he may still admire him. In a way, the poem acts as a reminder that the eyes through which we view the world as children are very, very different to those we look through today. That being said, childhood homes feel as if they have shrunk and idols are no longer god like but mere mortals.