Critical Commentary of 'Twice Shy' by Seamus Heaney

1372 Words6 Pages
English Literature Assignment 1: Poetry ‘Twice Shy’ by Seamus Heaney ‘Twice Shy’ is a poem by Seamus Heaney about two young lovers who are walking along ‘the embankment walk’ of a river, both too nervous to open up to one another whilst also adhering to the ‘preserved classic decorum’ that society has taught them to use for such meetings. The poem is written in a first person narrative, presumably taken from Heaney’s own experiences as a younger man with a new girlfriend. The title of the poem is part of the phrase ‘Once bitten, twice shy’, which alludes to the idea of the couple being hesitant to make themselves vulnerable to each other after being hurt from previous relationships. The structure of the poem consists of five stanzas, all of which have six lines each. The sentences are short which makes the rhythm quick. This adds to the sense of tension between the two. The rhyming scheme is abcbdb which enhances the quick flow of the piece. The theme of the poem is of personal feelings; the struggle between what both lovers want to say or do to the other and the urge to protect themselves whilst appearing as what the social norm dictates. There are also underlying themes of sexual tension as confirmed by the language and metaphors used. The imagery is uniquely concerned with nature which conforms to the carnal undertones of the meeting. The tone of the poem is that of nervousness and tension all whilst having the contradiction of being calm and serene being displayed by contrasting chase of the hawk and thrush with the quiet river. Within each stanza Heaney seems to alternate between the feelings of tension and calm to build the rhythm, much like the inhaling and exhaling of the very breathing he describes, as though the whole piece is an act of metaphoric sex. In the first stanza, Heaney describes his girlfriend as wearing a ‘scarf a la Bardot’. This is
Open Document