A greater section of Heaney's body of work dwells on the theme of separation and isolation. His isolation from his family is quite glaringly sketched as he returns from school for his brother's funeral in "Mid-Term Break"; his qualms about farming are highlighted in "The Barn" and "Early Purges"; his praise for his father and frustration at his own lack of skill are presented in "Follower" whilst his lack of understanding of nature is expressed ironically in "Death of a Naturalist". The poem digging is an attempt to come to terms with all such things.
The poem is circular in structure as variation between the first lines and the ending lines reveal that Heaney has got an answer. He may never be as skilled as his forebears in working the land but his skill with a pen can recreate that lifestyle, keep it fresh and ever-present in the minds of his readers.
Between his fingers, "The squat pen repose. / I dig with." Seamus Heaney, the eldest of nine children, is the son of a farmer. Dig the poem (in Death of a Naturalist) shows how the writer tries to succeed those who have tilled for generations, and the words become heavy as the earth: "Under my window, the screech net / De la Beche which enters the stony ground: / My father digging. I look (...) The cold smell of the earth moved, the gurgling / Peat wet, short cuts of a blade / Through living roots awaken in my head. / But I don ' have no shovel to follow such men. "Peatlands, children (both research and back) are met in one of the metaphors that weave throughout the work:" My love for you I will complete the child / Who diligently tinkering in my head / And hollow with a heavy tail to stack the lumps / or floundering in the mud of a deep ditch. "
If the theme of return, in Heaney, seems to designate a nostalgia, it soon fades to an ambivalent feeling, a poetic tension intended to express, by itself, the ancestral conflicts. It is the poet himself who is "on edge, like a plowed field" (North, 1975). Is that the archeology of the Irish, she led him into the underground or its individual identity through the layers of history preserved by time and peat, still faces violence:
"There- down in Jutland / In the old parishes murderous / I will feel lost, / Unhappy and at home "(the poem of the Tollund Man, in the book Enduring winter in 1972, refers to the fratricidal conflicts of Catholic and Protestant church). On the other hand, if Heaney uses a considerable erudition to unearth and update Irish mythology, it is the movement that implements doubt in it making it seem lik a backward-looking. Just as his grandfather was "digging down and down for the good turf" so will Heaney dig down and down for the good stuff that makes his poetry so exquisite.