Mid-term Break - by Seamus Heaney I sat all morning in the college sick bay Counting bells knelling classes to a close, At two o'clock our neighbors drove me home. In the porch I met my father crying-He had always taken funerals in his stride-And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow. The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram When I came in, and I was embarrassed By old men standing up to shake my hand And tell me they were "sorry for my trouble," Whispers informed strangers I was the eldest, Away at school, as my mother held my hand In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs. At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses. Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops And candles soothed the bedside; I saw him For the first time in six weeks. Paler now, Wearing a poppy bruise on the left temple, He lay in the four foot box as in a cot. No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear. A four foot box, a foot for every year. Questions Summary The poem begins with the narrator recalling being a child in the college sick bay – he was not ill and had been taken there as something had happened. A neighbour then arrived and took the poet home, where it becomes clear that something terrible has happened. His father was crying and this was entirely out of character and the family friend Jim Evans was there. Old men greet the child and shake his hand. Then the body arrives. The poem ends with a change of scene and time, as the child enters the room of his dead brother the next morning and he attempts to make sense of what has happened. Themes • Childhood – The poem involves the poet recalling an event from his own childhood. • It involves the narrator ‘growing up’ due to the terrible nature of the experience. • Death / Loss – The fact that the poem deals with the death of a child, encourages the reader and narrator to question the pointlessness of death. • Disassociation– The focus of the poem is on the reactions of people to death and the way people attempt to make sense of the loss. The speaker of the poem seems to be watching what is happening in shock, unable to feel and let reality sink in. • Memory – Poem recalls an event from the past and this links it to other poems in the collection that involve looking back in order to see the present and future clearly. 1. Note the reactions of the two parents - how does the reader react to this? (2) 2. With whom, do you think, is the mother angry? (2) 3. How does the poem contrast the fuss of the homecoming with the calmness of the scene when Seamus sees his brother's body? (3) 4. What do you think is the meaning of the poem's last line?(1) 5. Analyse the figure of speech in stanza 4. (2) Total: /10 The Poet- Seamus Heaney • In 1951, Seamus Heaney was 12 years of age and he went to St. Columb’s College in Derry where he was a boarding pupil. • Whilst attending the college, Heaney’s younger brother Christopher was killed in a road accident and this poem involves the poet recalling the events that happened to him after this.