Seamus Heaney Poems

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 seen through the eyes and narrative voice of one random, deceased Irish soldier. The term “croppies” refers to the rebels, attributable to their short hair – a style adopted from French revolutionaries of the 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 through 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 full of barley.” (1) “No striking camp” (2) works to describe the rebels’ lack of militant training and thus, a deficiency in their preparedness. At the end of the first 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’ focus and urgency in the ensuing battle, making it seem as though the speaker lacks the time to explain the situation further.

In line 3, the reader is given the...

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