Death of a Naturalist

Death of a Naturalist Study Guide

Seamus Heaney's poem "Death of a Naturalist" appears in a collection with the same name. Published in 1966, Death of a Naturalist is recognized as Seamus Heaney's first major volume, and it was well-received by critics, boosting Heaney's career and his reputation as a writer. The poem from which the collection takes its title appears second. That poem, like many in the collection, is concerned with an experience from the speaker's childhood and reveals how this memory has impacted the speaker.

This poem references direct memories from the speaker's childhood, including the name of a schoolteacher. The speaker learned from her that frogs were like parents, and frogspawn like their children; his feelings toward the creatures grow more complicated. When the speaker one day finds the frogs in the flax-dam, he imagines they have come to avenge their spawn that he has taken. He fears the frogs, but the fear is mixed with empathy; his understanding of them has expanded.