January 2, 2017 General Studies

The poem, “Follower”, by Seamus Heaney is about Heaney, as young boy, and his admiration for his father. Heaney was brought up on a farm in County Derry, where his father would plough the fields. Heaney admired his father’s skill and strength. Sometimes his father would pick him up and carry him on his back as he ploughed. Heaney admired his father so much, that he too, wanted to become a farmer with the same skill and strength. He remembers often being a nuisance, by getting in the way of his father while he ploughed. At the end of the poem, Heaney comments on how the roles have changed and how his father is now the nuisance, who follows him.

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The poem is structured with six four-line stanzas, each line has four main beats and the stanzas are regularly rhymed ABAB. This precise form of poetry is arguably, Heaney’s way of reflecting the skill and precision of his father, while he was ploughing the fields.

The first three stanzas of the poem are focused on Heaney’s memories of his father ploughing. Heaney uses a metaphor and a simile in the poem to create a striking image of his father working on the land: “His shoulders globed like a full sail strung”. This conveys to us, the idea, that Heaney’s father is a powerful figure, whose broad shoulders remind him of the mythical Atlas, carrying the world on his shoulders while he moves with the significant rhythm of a ship. Heaney’s word choice in this simile link the furrowed land to the sea, each furrow representing a wave. Thus, he dips and rises, when he is carried on his shoulders. Heaney describes his father succinctly as “An Expert”, who knows exactly what he is doing on the fields. He gives this image impact by structuring it in a short sentence at the beginning of the line and the verse. He seems to be like a legend in Heaney’s mind, strong and silent, except for the quick, sharp sounds, which are all he needs to control the horses.


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