Study Guide

Digging Man and the Natural World

By Seamus Heaney

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Man and the Natural World

When the spade sinks into gravelly ground: (4)

The sounds of the earth are so familiar to our speaker that they send him into a spiral of memories.

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds (6)

What we can't help but notice is that the nature he describes is not wilderness. It's farms and gardens – places where man controls nature.

To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands. (13-14)

This passage shows both how close the family worked to the land, and how much they loved what it produced.

Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. (22-24)

It's almost like the grandfather is digging himself deeper and deeper into the earth – getting close to the heart of it.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
of soggy peat, (25-26)

Our speaker remembers the smells and sounds of nature very clearly and powerfully, which makes his love of it all the more understandable.

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