FollowerMy father worked with a horse-plough, I stumbled in his hob-nailed wake,His shoulders globed like a full sail Fell sometimes on the polished sod; strung Sometimes he rode me on his backBetween the shafts and the furrow. Dipping and rising to his plod.The horses strained at his clicking tongue. I wanted to grow up and plough, To close one eye, stiffen my arm.An expert. He would set the wing All I ever did was followAnd fit the bright steel-pointed sock. In his broad shadow around the farm.The sod rolled over without breaking.At the headrig, with a single pluck I was a nuisance, tripping, falling, Yapping always. But todayOf reins, the sweating team turned It is my father who keeps stumbling round Behind me, and will not go away.And back into the land. His eyeNarrowed and angled at the ground,Mapping the furrow exactly.
Close Reading Questions Provide full answers backed up with quotations• Describe the speaker and who is • What other language techniques he speaking about? What is the and examples show that the tense and what does this show? speaker admires his father?• What is the speaker describing? • In the final stanza, how has the• How does the speaker feel about father now become like the his father? speaker? How is the tone of voice• What does the title tell us? in the final stanza different from the rest of the poem?• Describe the form of poem • What does the choice of verbs used, the structure of show? (“narrowed … angled … stanzas, lines, rhyme scheme. mapping”) Any repetition, parallels or other patterns? • What choice of verbs are used to• How might the structure here describe the speaker? Now represent the action of compare these to the description ploughing? How might it of the father. represent the father? • Identify the imagery used by the• Explain the comparison suggested poet and discuss their meanings. by the simile used in stanza 1. • Why do you think Heaney has written this poem?
Themes• Group work • NextCompare and discuss your As a group, come to aresponses to the ‘Close consensus on 3 keyReading Questions’. themes explored byEg. “I thought the simile Heaney in this poem.showed……, what did you Provide evidence from thethink?” text for each theme and aAdd new ideas to your reasonable explanation.own answers. Now, put them in what you think is their order of priority
Biography & BackgroundHeaney was born on 13th. April1939, the eldest of nine childrenat the family farm calledMossbawn in the Townland ofTamniarn nearCastledawson, NorthernIreland, about thirty miles north- In 1957 Heaney travelled towest of Belfast and two miles Belfast to study English Languagenorth-east of Magherafelt. As and Literature at Queenswell as being a farmer, his father University of Belfast. He began toPatrick was also a cattle dealer write and during his third year atand was a popular figure at cattle university his poems began tomarkets and fairs throughout the appear in the Queen’s literarydistrict. magazines Q and Gorgon. http://www.seamusheaney.org/seamus_ heaney_biography.html
AnalysisHeaney presents us with a very vivid picture of his father as he appeared to the poet as a young boy. Welearn a lot about both the relationship that existed between them and the way Heaney saw his family.The father is, more than anything else, an energetic and skilled farmer. He is An expert with the horse-plough and Heaney as a little boy would simply get in his fathers way. The poem is full of admiration for hisfathers strength and skill with horses. At the end of the poem, however, we are moved to the present dayand there is a change in roles; it is now Heaneys father who has become the child who gets in the way. Hisawareness of how the passing of time has brought about this change does not lessen the love and respecthe feels, however.Heaney remembers when he was a small boy, and in the poem he looks up to his father in a physicalsense, because he is so much smaller than his father, but he also looks up to him in a metaphorical sense.This is made clear by the poets careful choice of words. An example of this is in the lines:"His eyeNarrowed and angled at the ground,Mapping the furrow exactly."The choices of the verbs "Narrowed", "angled" and "Mapping" effectively suggest his fathers skill andprecision. We are also told that young Heaney "stumbled in his hob-nailed wake," which brings to our minda picture of the ploughmans heavy boots, the carefully ploughed furrow and the childs clumsy enthusiasm.This idea is repeated in the lines:" I was a nuisance, tripping, falling,Yapping always."These words, especially "Yapping" make us think of the boy as being like a young and excited puppy -enjoying playing at ploughing, but of no practical help. In fact, he was a hindrance to a busy farmer, but hisfather tolerates him.
AnalysisHis fathers strength and power are also very effectively brought out in the simple, but effective simile:"His shoulders globed like a full sail strungBetween the shafts and the furrow."The comparison here suggests a man who spends much of his time out of doors, a man who is a part of nature. The word"globed" also suggests great strength and gives the impression that the father was the whole world to the young boy. It isimportant to note that his father is not simply strong; his tender love and care for his son are emphasised by the fact that he"rode me on his back/ Dipping and rising to his plod". The sound and rhythm of these lines convey the pleasure youngHeaney had in the ride.The poem is written in six stanzas of four lines each. The first four stanzas describe Heaneys admiration for his father and hisabilities. The next five and a half lines SHOW that the poet wanted to grow up to be like his father. However, he feels that hecould do no more than get in the way. Then there is a twist in the last two and a half lines:"But todayIt is my father who keeps stumblingBehind me, and will not go away."All through the poem Heaney uses devices like this to suggest to the reader something about his father. Some lines have arhythm which suggest the ruggedness of the ploughman and the rhythm of the ploughing. Also, Heaney uses words that donot rhyme exactly, like "sock" and "pluck" (half-rhyme). This adds to the craggy description. Heaney is also very carefulabout how he arranges the words on the page. The second stanza begins with a brief two word statement -"Anexpert", which, in its emphatic brevity, forces us to take note, and leaves the impression that there is nothing more to add.Even though the word love is never used in the poem, it is obviously the word that best describes the basis of therelationship existing between Heaney and his father. The poem is very much a personal experience, but it has a much widersignificance relating to any kind of hero-worship by a follower. Now that he is himself an adult, Heaney acknowledges thatthe father he hero-worshipped as a young boy has grown old and needs as much tolerance and patience as he himself onceshowed his son.
CompareChart the similarities and differences between Follower & these poems • Praise Song for my Mother • Childhood• Follower • For Heidi with Blue Hair • My Parents • Elegy for my Father’s Father • Country School • A Dream
Briefly• Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 to • It is the reminiscing narrator who a farming family in County defines his father’s ploughing skills; Derry, Northern Ireland, and much of as a youth he was eager, but his poetry is rooted in Ireland. He was ‘stumbled’. As the father gives the awarded the Nobel Prize for child a ride on his back while Literature in 1995. ploughing, the reader senses the patience of the elder man with the• Heaney’s farming background is ‘nuisance’, but also evident is the evident in this poem, as the first five child’s aspiration ‘to grow up and stanzas celebrate the father’s plough’. expertise in old-fashioned ploughing with horses. The language constantly • The final stanza reverses the points to his skill in controlling the positions and can be interpreted in horses and ploughing perfect furrows alternative ways. It could be the in the soil, which ‘rolled over without elderly, infirm father who now ‘keeps breaking.’ It is as much an evocation stumbling’, or it could be the memory of tradition and direct contact of the now deceased father which between man and the earth, as it is consistently shambles through the of the father. narrator’s mind. If the poem is read autobiographically, the ending has extra poignancy, as Seamus Heaney never grew up to ‘plough’.