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In Seamus Heaney’s “The Forge” we are taken into the speaker’s thought process as he is picturing the inside of a forge that he passes by. He begins by describing what is physically visible to him and slowly uses this information to develop an idea of what goes inside the forge. The speaker uses this imagination of the forge to demonstrate the creative process of poetry.
The speaker uses the darkness and mystery of the forge to illustrate the start of the creation process. He begins with his describing what he is able to see of the forge which is just a “door into the dark” (line 1), meaning he cannot really see what is going on within the forge. The lack of being able to see can be seen as an illustration of the way you start when writing poetry which is with no ideas what so ever. The fact that he can only see complete darkness is like how he only sees complete darkness in his mind. However, he then begins to describe the outside of the forge which are common forging tools like the “old axles and iron hoops” (line 2) which start to give him ideas of what is inside. This can be seen as the inspiration that can come to a writer at the beginning of his writing since right after he begins to hear “short-pitched ring” (line3) which is a sound that seems like it’s signifying the start of something which in this case is the forging process but can also be seen as the start of the poetry process. The speaker then describes the “unpredictable fantail sparks” (line 4) which can be seen as the first brain sparks or first ideas that are coming to his brain since ideas are often unpredictable because they can come at any time and from anywhere. The speaker also uses the semi-color and commas between these observations to show the flow of ideas from one idea to another like the inspiration that happens within writing. These ideas then begin to develop into the next poetic process.
The speaker then continues to imagine the process of forging which reflects the development of ideas within poetry. He starts by picturing the “anvil” (line 3) which is a tool for forging but based on the writing we can say that he is using is to symbolize a tool in writing. He then infers that it “must be somewhere in the centre” (line 6) which signifies that it is the core of something meaning it is important in some way or another. This thought process can most likely reference a very important tool in writing which is needed in order to begin the whole writing process. This tool can be the imagination of the writer since he continues to describe it as “horned as a unicorn”(line 7) and a unicorn is a fictional animal that can only exist within our imagination. This illustrates the importance of imagination within the writing process and how it must be the most important tool in writing since it is at the center of it. He then describes this tool as “immoveable” (line 8) which again shows the importance of the tool since it cannot be moved and it is there like “an altar” (line 8) showing again how high up in importance this tool is since someone in an altar is often someone of importance. The speaker continues to describe how the forger “expends himself” (line 9) which can be a representation of how a writer expends himself within the crafting of writing. This is further supported with the reference to “shape and music” (line 9) which in other words is the creation of objects and sounds within the forge. He uses these words instead of sounds and objects in order to exemplify the beauty of the creation process within both the forgery and poetry giving both a very artistic description. He begins to further expand on his feelings and opinions within writing as the poem continues.
Furthermore, in the last stanzas the speaker describes the actions of the forger in order to illustrate the hard work that begins to happen when finally starting to create the poem. He begins to signify the start of his writing when he “recalls a clatter” (line 11) which means he has finally remembered something or something has finally came to his mind. This is the ideas finally hitting him to start his writing. He then describes “grunts” (line 13) which is a sound that many make when frustrated which is a reference to the frustration within the crafting of poetry. He further says that something “goes in” (line 13) signifying the start of something because something has finally gone through which in this case is the start of the craft that has finally begun. Then he begins to describes the “slam and flick” (line 13) within the forge which are sounds that are louder than the sound the speaker described at the beginning of the poem. This progress from weaker sounds to louder ones is a representation of how within the writing the crafter starts from small thoughts and moves onto huge ones from those small ones. He then describes the beating of “real iron” (line 14) which in forging happens when they are making something and in this case is the creation or crafting of the poem. The speaker ends with “to work the bellows” (line 14) which is as shout and can be seen as something very chaotic and when talking about poetry it can be a reference to the chaotic nature of it since you create something orderly out of a bunch of chaotic ideas.
Seamus Healey’s speaker ends up showing the hard and lengthy process that comes with writing poetry. He uses his thought process when imagining the inside of the forge to illustrate the process of the creative process. He treats what is inside the forge like the inside of his mind when he is working on poetry. He compares both the forge and the creating process as a place where work of art happens and where beauty arises from hard work. The speaker gives the reader a mental picture of what it feels like to go through the creation process and how one must go about it. It is not just some easy and quick process like most people believe it is. The process is a series of steps and it can be very chaotic and frustration like that of forging.
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