It is a tremendously poignant poem and its emotional power derives in large measure form the fact that Heaney is very muted and understated with respect to his own emotional response.
Reading a story or poem about death is usually gloomy and overtly predictable. However, Heaney inverts this mundanity to deliver a poem that is initially shrouded in mystery. However, Heaney uses a number of conceits to build a feeling of unease in the reader, a feeling that grows and escalates with each stanza of the poem, until we are told, in the fifth stanza, that there is a corpse, borne to the house by an ambulance.
Looking at the title again after an initial reading of the poem, we understand the cruel irony in the words.
Not only has the poet had an unexpected break in his stay at boarding school, but this break is due to that fact that his brother is dead: The opening stanza is set in the boarding school, with a young boy the poet waiting in sick bay.
This feeling of apprehension and fearful expectancy is intensified with the second line of the opening stanza: Notice how Heaney uses alliteration to emphasise the funereal sound of the tolling bells and the feeling of time dragging.
This is a powerful indication of time passing and conjures an image of a boy using the school bell to tell what time it is, to try to guess how long he has been waiting. The feelings of anxiety and unease are perpetuated, however, by the fact that we have yet to be told what has happened, and why the boy is being taken home.
The confined space of the porch suggests a feeling of claustrophobia, as the young poet enters a house unexpectedly crowded with people, and an ambience filled with their feelings of grief and sorrow. It is a further indication to the reader that a frightful event has occurred, a suggestion of a tragedy that is still away in the distance and that we can not yet see clearly, although we sense that it is there.
The reader enters the house with the poet, and the feelings of shock and slow, final realisation come over both reader and poet simultaneously.
However, we later learn that Christopher was, ironically, dealt a fatal blow by a speeding car. It is as if the poet is in shock: He notices that the baby, too young to comprehend what is happening, is cooing happily and rocking in its pram.
The contented sounds of the baby, a new life, act as a jolting counterpoint to the grief-stricken silence in the room.
The boy clearly feels uncomfortable with the atmosphere of stiff, mournful formality and the attention he receives: The fourth stanza begins with another platitude used by the old men to express their condolences: This expression is strangely unfeeling and detached.
It is an evasive euphemism alluding to the death, and perhaps another indication of the inadequacy of expressions of condolence.
The poet is acutely aware of having been away from his family, and is ill at ease with people whispering about him because of this: It is also possible that there are underlying feelings of guilt and regret in the young lad, at having been absent at a time when his family needed him.
It is also significant that the poet was greeted at the door by his father, but then had to move through a room of strange people, before reaching the centre, the core of the grieving host: The three lines of the fifth stanza are a turning point in the poem, as they finally reveal that there has indeed been a death in the family, and that the remains have been brought to the house.
It is not an idealistic, romanticised image of a woman sobbing softly, with warm and copious tears at the death of her son. On the contrary, it is a gritty and realistic portrayal of a woman who is angry about being cruelly robbed of her young son.
As a consequence, her crying has become a brutal coughing-up of sighs, harsh and tearless, as empty and barren as her feelings of loss. The second line brings the reader back to the action in the poem. His brother is not referred to in personal or emotive terms, but merely as a bandaged corpse that has been brought to the house by ambulance.
This image indicates how alienated and remote the poet feels from events, as if he is still in shock and experiencing feelings of denial and disbelief. He does not see his brother as a person, but as a corpse.
In addition, his brother is shrouded in bandages, and is not clearly seen or described. The scene changes for the third and final time in the last two stanzas of the poem. It is the next morning, and the poet finally describes seeing his dead brother for the first time. This time, the description is more personal and affecting, and the feelings towards his brother seem to be more real, and less frozen by shock.
The first things that the poet notices upon entering the room where his brother is lying are snowdrops and candles. This image is striking and significant, as it is here that the poet contrasts images of life and death.
The snowdrops represent renewal, growth and new life, whereas the candles recall funeral rites, stillness and death. We then learn that this was the first time in six weeks that Heaney had seen his brother, having been away at school.
As previously touched upon, this is a reprise of the ideas put forward in fourth stanza: We also know from biographical material that Heaney did not like being away at boarding school, and was terribly homesick, so it also suggests that Heaney missed his brother and is now terribly anguished that they must meet again in this way.
It is as if the poet is comparing an image of his brother as he remembers him, with what is lying in front of him now. It is another device by which the poet juxtaposes images of life and death:Introduction: “Mid-Term Break”, by Seamus Heaney, is a free-verse poem that portrays the event in which the speaker, who came back from boarding school, deals with the loss of a younger brother.
Seamus Heaney’s “Mid-Term Break” argues the paradox of grief: that grief is impossible to articulate and yet people attempt to explain it. The poem uses phrases that call on emotions, a listless first-person narrator, and structural elements to display the theme of death that is so obvious in this poem.
MID-TERM BREAK. The subject of this poem is the death of Seamus Heaney’s younger brother, Christopher who was killed by a car at the age of four. ” In this essay, we will be analysing Heaney’s poem “Mid-Term Break”. More specifically we will be looking at the content, use of language and imagery, poetic voice, tone and mood in the poem.
Mid-term Break Ireland’s favourite poems Seamus Heaney. The understatement is typical of Heaney and doesn’t mean there was no emotion, but rather that extravagant language is superfluous in moments of such extreme tragedy.
Notes and analysis on Mid-term Break, the poem by Northern Irish writer Seamus Heaney.