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López 1

Alexis Omar López


Dr. A. Lynn Sukalo
AP Literature and Composition, 1st Period
17 September 2009

Timed Write 3A: “The Grauballe Man”

Seamus Heaney’s “The Grauballe Man” is a poem written in quatrains that expresses the
human plight against the acceptance and perception of death. The author of this piece
incorporates an irregular rhyme scheme into the poem that mimics the uncertainty of mortality,
the underlying theme of the poem.
The observer, Heaney, is apprehensively examining the deceased body from afar;
however, his viewpoint begins to morph. This behavior is similar to the experience a new student
undergoes in a new school. At first the student, is hesitant to make new friends, nevertheless; he
begins to accept the idea that it is essential to make new acquaintances. This idea is slowly
hammered in his mind, slowly complying with the fact that the inevitable has come. In the work,
a shift is exhibited: from a distraught and detached third person point of view and tone, to a more
compassionate and accepting first person point of view, just like the student. Ergo, Heaney
exemplifies the human desire to understand mortality. Oddly enough, a feeling of security is
evoked in merit of not being exposed too suddenly to the “corpse.” However, as the poem
transgresses, a feeling of comfort and acceptance develops. Clearly, Heaney is able to come
close to the body, and understand that “fate unwinds as it must,” (Beowulf, line 451,) realizing
that death is a natural aspect of life and deviation is inevitable.
The author of the poem uses exceptional methods to fully depict the Grauballe man,
creating a recognizable image of the ‘object’ he is so intrigued by. In the first verse Heaney
employs a metaphorical comparison to juxtapose the man’s “weeping” to the flowing of a “black
river.” This, in turn, compares it to the blackened color of the body. Moreover, the second verse
mentions a simile of how both a tree stump and the dead man have clearly been preserved by the
same means. Consequently, the cadaver is compared to “bog oak” by the use of simile. In
addition, through visual imagery the smoothness of his heels are compared to “basalt egg(s),”
basalt being a hard polished rock. In the third verse the body’s odd position gives way to a
metaphorical comparison of an “arrested eel” under “mud” to the man himself. This depicts the
entanglement of the cadaver, just like an eel becomes intertwined when the water in which they
reside becomes too murky.
Overall, Seamus Heaney’s “The Grauballe Man” is an irregular quatrain poem whose
artistic and technical aspects characterize it dearly. When analyzed, inferences can be made
about the author having experienced some apprehensiveness and hesitation in respect to fatality,
for his voice can be heard throughout. This is because, the imagery provided allows pensiveness
to arise, and its structure and shifts give way to understanding the stages of human emotion in
regards of death. When an analysis of the “Grauballe Man” is made it is clear that Seamus
Heaney composed it. This is because he suffered a tragic loss during his early years. He lost his
younger brother at, illustrated in the poem “A Mid-Term Break.” Therefore, the overall message
is mortality.