Seamus Heaney Poems

An Examination of “Intimate Revenge” in Seamus Heaney’s “Punishment” 12th Grade

The poem “Punishment” by Seamus Heaney was written in 1975 as a part of the anthology North. It is a part of Heaney’s bog series, in which he describes the Irish bogland, and the different artifacts and remains that have been found within the Northern European bogs. In these poems, the bog imagery is metaphoric of Heaney’s Irish homeland, specifically Northern Ireland. Written during the bloodiest year of the Irish Troubles, “Punishment” delves deeper into this metaphor to examine relations during the time period. In “Punishment,” the poetic persona observes the body of a bog woman, the Windeby Girl. She has a noose around her neck, and as he looks at her corpse he imagines the context in which she was hanged. Throughout this first section of the poem, Heaney creates a very empathetic tone through the persona’s description of the woman and the circumstances surrounding her death. Toward the end of the poem, the persona admits that some part of him does not regret her execution, and almost condones it. In “Punishment,” Heaney uses contrasting images of the bog woman and metaphor of the Irish Troubles to create tension and explore the internal conflict between empathy and revenge.

Heaney begins to develop an empathetic tone from...

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