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The Honour in Courage: An Explication of ‘Requiem for the Croppies’

“Requiem for the Croppies”, written by Seamus Heaney in 1962, describes the Irish Rebellion of 1798 as noticed by way of the eyes and narrative voice of 1 random, deceased Irish soldier. The term “croppies” refers to the rebels, attributable to their brief hair – a style adopted from French revolutionaries of the exact same period. In this sonnet, Heaney employs the use of double meanings, metaphors, and other literary devices to convey, in spite of futility, a sense of nationalistic pride via desperation.

Heaney opens the poem suggesting the narration’s source to be that of an itinerant male. With “no kitchens on the run” (2), the man—along with most of the community—is confined to rely on barley for nourishment: “The pockets of our greatcoats complete of barley.” (1) “No striking camp” (2) functions to describe the rebels’ lack of militant coaching and thus, a deficiency in their preparedness. At the finish of the 1st two lines, Heaney utilizes what is called an em dash. This rhetorical device, defined in this case as aposiopesis, serves to effectively express a sense of the rebels’ concentrate and urgency in the ensuing battle, producing it seem as although the speaker lacks the time to explain the circumstance further.

In line 3, the reader is provided the impression of an aggressive Irish uprising in spite of adversity. The English are attacking, causing the Irish to “[move] rapid and sudden in [their] personal nation.” In portraying the Irish as beneath siege, Heaney demonstrates the energy of England, as the rebellion need to stave off intrusion in their house nation. In spite of this reality, the speaker observes a classless neighborhood unite to fight for their kingdom: “The priest lay behind ditches with the tramp.” (four)

Heaney details elements of the war in subsequent lines, even though once again suggesting that the Irish have been not as equipped for battle. This is accomplished via atypical punctuation, breaking up what could be an otherwise smooth sentence: “A men and women, hardly marching—on the hike—”. To study the line appropriately is to instil noticeable pauses this gives a single the sense of a nervous, sporadic progression. The adjective “hardly” takes on a double meaning. As a synonym for “barely”, Heaney suggests a contrast to the organized English troops, who advance collectively and are nicely-ready however, taking the word to mean “powerfully” or “impressively” is not incorrect, and insinuates a sense of willpower. Regardless, the Irish try “new tactics” (6) so as to compete with the English: “We’d reduce via reins and rider with the pike” (7). As the rebellion “stampede cattle into infantry” (eight), the feeling is more a sense of desperation than innovation. Originality aside, the Irish must resort to such acts due to their low numbers and lack of substantial weaponry. On the other hand, the use of these techniques demonstrates a determination to succeed in defence of the nation.

The Irish would see their eventual defeat at Vinegar Hill, a “fatal conclave” (ten) that marked the finish of the rebellion. Even though “conclave” can refer merely to a gathering of people, it has its roots in religion, especially denoting the private meetings Catholic cardinals would hold in electing a pope. Heaney fuses the two definitions together in his use of the word not only are the English soldiers and Irish rebels to assemble on Vinegar Hill, but because the meeting is to prove “fatal” for Ireland, and diverse classes had assembled for the trigger of the nation, communities could want to be rebuilt and leaders designated.

In line 11 the poet applies rhetorical devices that address the agricultural themes of the poem. In summarizing the battle’s conclusion, the speaker mentions that “terraced thousands died, shaking scythes at cannon.” (11) A “terraced” land is merely an undulating cultivated location with levelled sections, noteworthy as the rebellion is primarily comprised of farmers who relied on the crops, as evidenced in both the 1st and last lines of the sonnet. At the very same time, the reader is presented with relatively brutal imagery, as one likens the terracing of land to the scything of human bodies. “Shaking scythes at cannon” suggests an additional symbolic interpretation, this time of a lopsided affair in between the weak and the powerful, once again exemplifying the Irish’s dogged spirit in the face of defeat.

When Heaney notes that “the hillside blushed” (12), he utilizes a metaphor in order to represent the shame that comes with defeat on native soil and also the red from the blood of the dead rebels. When the fighting dies out to see English rule triumph, the Irish soldiers are “buried … with out shroud or coffin” (13), indicative of gross disrespect, possibly on account of their defeat despite the fact that, when coupled with line 14, it seems Heaney is alluding to the recurring violence in Ireland. In “the barley grew up out of our grave” (14), one particular gets the sense that Heaney is perpetuating conflict in Ireland and accepting it as recycled by way of generations, provided that “barley” is pointed out in the sonnet’s initial line and will offer sustenance for the subsequent batch of soldiers.

“Requiem”, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “something that resembles … a solemn chant for the repose of the dead.” Seamus Heaney’s “Requiem for the Croppies” is such a chant, intended to pay respects to those that fought and died for Ireland in the 1798 rebellion. The poem is rife with literary devices in the type of metaphors, double meanings, and revealing imagery, and presented in a manner that makes clear the soldiers’ pride and fortitude in fighting for their country.

Functions Cited

Gahan, Daniel. “The 1798 Rebellion in Wexford.” Multitext Project in Irish History. University College Cork, n.d. Net. 15 Oct. 2009.

“requiem.” Merriam-Webster On the web. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Net. 19 Oct. 2009.
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