Frustration with Aspects of Ireland - Heaney and Montague

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“The settle-bed” by Seamus Heaney and “A Lost tradition” by John Montague are two poems that show the poets frustration with aspects of Ireland. Heaney’s poem is concerned with how we handle our inheritance. The subject of the poem is an unwieldy piece of furniture, a settle-bed. This was an essential feature in a traditional rural Irish household but in a modern home it is cumbersome and hardly functional. It represents the burden of the past on the present and Heaney’s subsequent frustration as he ponders on how ‘to conquer [the] weight’ this aspect of Ireland. Montague expresses his frustration at the “lost tradition” of the old Irish culture. He is frustrated by the way that modern society neglects its heritage despite the “shards” of history surrounding it in the form of the landscape and the language. He reflects upon his own experience of growing up in Ireland and compares it with ancient Irish history. Both poets use the Irish past as a stimulus for their poems. In both poems, the source of their frustration is the debate about how the past should be dealt with in the present. Montague uses references to figures from ancient Irish history e.g. “Shane Barnagh”, a legendary Irish rebel, intertwined with his memory of places from his childhood to argue the importance of Irish history and show the sense of patriotism he has towards it. He reinforces his argument using the Irish language throughout the poem e.g. “Tir Eoghain: Land of Owen”, a place that is now known as ‘Tyrone’. He does this to show how it would be terrible to lose a language that had once been so important and is the origin of the place names we have

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