Study Guide

Digging Admiration

By Seamus Heaney

Admiration

My father, digging. I look down (5)

It seems our speaker has always had a careful eye on his father and grandfather, and that he's looked up to them for his entire life – even now as a grown-up.

He rooted out tall tops, buried the edge deep (12)

The speaker admires the skillfulness with which his father dug potatoes. But what do you think this is really about? Does he really just think his dad is awesome at digging potatoes, or is he admiring something deeper?

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog. (17-18)

Same question for his grandpa: does he admire the guy for his hard work, for his skill, or for both?

Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. (19-20)

We might interpret this as a young boy's contribution to the huge effort his grandfather is making. It's his way of being a part of the peat harvesting.

But I've no spade to follow men like them.

In this line, the speaker both puts himself down (a sort of "I'm not as good as those guys" comment) and praises his father and grandfather. It's a strange combination, but it makes sense when you consider the unique situation in which he finds himself.

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