Many poems are written to convey attitudes towards other people, however the nature of the attitudes can differ greatly, some are positive and some negative, also there are some uncertain or mixed attitudes within the poems. In Digging, by Heaney the poet is a character within the poem and describes his respect for his father with regard to his memories of watching him digging potatoes. This is evident in ‘By God, the old man could handle a spade, just like his old man’ this quote highlights his memories and the fact that the skill had been passed from his grandfather to his father.
However such a positive point then leads into a slightly negative point when he mentions that he has not inherited the skill in ‘But I’ve no spade to follow men like them. ‘ This suggests he feels a sense of guilt; such conflict in attitudes also exists in Catrin: although the mother is affectionate towards her daughter in ‘tender circles’ this contrasts with the mother (the poet) mentioning ‘the people and cars taking turn at the traffic lights’ which suggests the peace in her life before differed greatly to the conflict the poet faced later on when her daughter was born.
This suggests that the poet feels there is hostility between her and her daughter but at the same time she feels the unconditional motherly love that every mother and daughter should have. In contrast to mixed attitudes, both The Affliction of Margaret and on My First Sonne depict quite negative attitudes towards other characters throughout the poems.
The Affliction of Margaret is a poem which describes a mother’s pain as her son has been missing for seven years and On My First Sonne also describes pain but that of a father who has lost his son. The mother in The Affliction of Margaret mentions that she will ‘be for evermore beguiled’ this describes her eternal pain from the loss of her daughter, similarly in On My First Sonne the father states that he will never love anyone like he loved his son as he can’t face such pain again ‘As what he loves may never like too much.
Both characters in the poems feel pain but for slightly different reasons, the mother is putting herself through pain and torture when she thinks of the awful things that could happen to her son and all she wants to do is talk to him, this is shown in a series of words to describe pain and fear such as ‘groan’ and ‘maimed’ in contrast, On My First Sonne is written more to commemorate and grieve for the dead child as the poem starts with ‘farewell’ which suggests the poet is addressing him directly, obviously saying his last goodbye.
So although the father feels pain he is declaring his love, which means the pain isn’t as negative as in The Affliction of Margaret as the poet is negative throughout the poem, never really mentioning love or any positive attitudes. In similar ways, Catrin, The Affliction of Margaret and On My First Sonne describe negative attitudes towards other people through parent and child relationships.
Al l 3 poems display an amount of pain when talking about their children, this is probably because On My First Sonne and The Affliction of Margaret describe the absence of a child and Catrin explains the struggle they have faced since the girl was born. Loose all father’ suggests that the father in On My First Sonne wants to be dead as he cannot cope with such pain from his son’s death, similarly in The Affliction of Margaret the mother believes no-one can begin to imagine the pain she is going through in ‘beyond participation lie my troubles, and beyond relief’ and finally in Catrin, ‘I wrote all over the walls with my words’ is symbolic of her cries of pain and despair as the struggle with her daughter continued.
In complete contrast, Digging displays a positive attitude towards others as a sense of pride is conveyed, ‘Than any other man on Toner’s bog’ suggests he is proud that his grandfather was the best at digging. This sense of pride differs greatly from the images of pain in the other three poems.
The analysis has shown a clear contrast between different attitudes of poets, some are negative, some positive and some are in the middle, conveying mixed emotions and attitudes towards others. Catrin, The Affliction of Margaret and On My First Sonne are primarily negative whereas Digging exhibits mainly positive attitudes towards his father and grandfather.