Personal Helicon by Samuel Heaney is a descriptive poem of a child and his fascination of wells. The subject matter of wells is not very typical in poetry although the author, using stylistic devices, has developed the poem so that works on two levels. One level being of a very simple poem and on another level, the use of sounds and powerful images makes an instant impact on the reader’s senses. The five stanzas of poetry give a very personal and emotional insight into the author’s experiences on the farm.
The diction and sentence structure used is typical of a child, and the simple language promotes the feeling of innocence and the sense of enjoyment. The poem contains vivid although often grotesque imagery and helps add to a childlike outlook on life. In my opinion the purpose of this poem is to see how much enjoyment a child can have from such innate objects and therefore reflect on his innocence. The poem is very accessible to all readers since the language used is simple and symbolic of a child discovering a new toy.
The child is portrayed as being very innocent, gaining enjoyment from wells and crashes ‘when a bucket plummets down the end of a rope. ‘ We find many amusing childish ideas in the opening paragraphs, like ‘trapped sky,’ because it seems as if he thinks that the sky is trapped within the well. In the latter part of the poem it seems as if the child has grown up, ‘is beneath all adult dignity. ‘ This last line suggests that this poem has him recollecting childhood memories. In one sense he is discovering an exciting game but in another he can be seen to be discovering who his identity, as he progresses from child to man.
The change in age and pursuit of indentify can evidently be seen through his writing in the last paragraph. ‘I rhyme to see myself, to set the darkness echoing. ‘ The line, ‘A white face hovered over the bottom,’ seems unusual in the way that the reflected face is surely his although he describes it very distantly as if he is not sure who is staring back at him. In my opinion it is him looking though a well as a grown man, and whilst recollecting childhood memories through the poem, he is taken back by his aged appearance now.
The poem which on the front seems very childlike is actually deeper than imagined, containing devices such as paradoxes between the roots that he is digging in the well and the roots of his happy childhood past. The language used in the early paragraphs gives the distinct expression that he misses being on the farm and even years latter can still remember all the minute details that he experiences, such as the ‘smells of waterweed. ‘ An indication of his change in age can be seen through his more complex use of language n the latter paragraphs with words like ‘fructified’ replace more simple words like, ‘bucket’ and ‘rope.
Helicon is a mountain in Greece, and in mythological times was sacred to Apollo and Muses because it contained fountains of inspiration. The poem, ‘Personal Helicon’ therefore may infer that Healey is creating his own helicon in the poem as a source for inspiration, which is in fact the farmyard. The reflection of a well is typically implemented so that a character can reflect on what has happened and allows him to attempt to discover himself, and I feel it is used here to highlight the change from boy to man. ‘Dank moss,’ and ‘soft mulch’ are both examples of the unpleasant imagery used by Heaney in this poem.
The combination of this imagery with the use of senses like sounds and smells is effective in creating a detailed description of the well, so that we can truly experience what he is feeling. ‘Others had echoes give back your call, with a clean new music in it. ‘ I believe this line is symbolic because it represents the man calling but only hearing his on voice in return which might suggest that he is lonesome. I believe that the clean new music in the voice that replied to be his more deeper grown up voice and he was just surprised how he had changed from a child.