Irish Poetry - The Changing of the Guard


  • Connor Kelly


The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.


I had to learn this poem at school. These lines are from Digging by Seamus Heaney.

I remember looking at the poem like a duck looking at thunder. ‘What the hell is he going on about?' I asked myself. I'd never been on a turf cutting outing before and I rarely went digging for anything. The only thing in these lines that I could relate to was ‘The cold smell of potato mould'. Obviously, now that I am older and with hindsight I realise that Digging is a beautifully crafted poem that gently coaxes landscape visions and childhood experience into the reader's mind. However, I didn't get this at the time, and to be honest, even now, it wouldn't be the kind of thing I'd rush to the shop to buy. I'm from the city, from an estate, where the people have ‘quicker tongues' as Heaney himself describes. I could only imagine this world of his, not imagine myself in it.