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Seamus Heaney - 'Storm on the Island'


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'Storm on the Island'
As a Northern Irish poet, Heaney's motivation to write about politics is very likely. As such, we can use the homophone to read "island" here as Ireland. Better still, the Northern Irish parliament building - Stormont - is clearly (if subtly) referenced. It seems that Heaney is exploring a political storm as well as a meteorological one.
We are prepared: we build our houses squat
Heaney's inclusive pronoun "We" immediately establishes a positive feeling of safety in numbers, reiterated by the possessive pronoun "our"
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
The end-stopping of the first couplet reinforces the safety and certainty of the islanders. The constrasts sharply with the open-ended and free-flowing enjambment of the rest of the poem.
blows full / Blast
Heaney utilises enjambment to make the plosive and violent "Blast" become the first word of line 7, enhancing the violence and impact of the storm by drawing on destructive imagery.
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs
Does the oxymoronic contrast of the violent verb "Exploding" and its calm adjective "comfortably" create a feeling that readers might feel safe because the 'storm' is far away (perhaps across the sea)? If so, Heaney's violent verb - associated strongly with terrorism and violent death - should not be considered "comfortably". The poem seems to place the two words together to force us to realise the foolishness of that opinion.
Space is a salvo. / We are bombarded by the empty air.
The weather is described through a militaristic semantic field to create and emphasise the sense of its destructive power. Nature is powerful and relentless in its attack.
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