Heaney: Terminus

Terminus = Roman god of boundaries

The poetry seems to be a self-reflection on the conflicts and tensions of Heaney’s personal identity, and by extension the cultural identity of Ireland as a whole.

“I grew up in between” these tensions summarises the entire poem and, indeed, Heaney and Ireland’s entire history and context.

  • No set rhyme scheme – rhymes and half rhymes
  • No consistent meter or rhythm
  • Enjambment
  • Creates tension


  • A series of contrasts using sensory imagery (sight, sound, touch)
  • Agrarianism vs. Industrialism
  • Country vs. town
  • Father v. Mother
  • Ireland v. North Ireland
  • Asks a rhetorical question about ‘second thoughts’
  • This signifies that different versions of the truth exists


  • Different perspectives on the same thing
  • Although the squirrel is praised for being prudent and storing food for the winter,
  • The persona is shamed and is labelled greedy because he keeps some money
  • They are both essentially saving something for the future, but       different perspectives means one action is praised whilst the other is condemned
  • Represents the tension
  • Also, the conflict between the march drain’s water and its banks reflects the conflict


  • The need for balance between two opposites
  • Heaney’s personal context: born in County Derry, but goes to church in a different county
  • Hence, baronies and parishes collide
  • He is at the central stepping stone both literally and metaphorically
  • His mother comes from an industrialised town predominately Protestant; father from an agrarian village mostly Catholic
  • A river separates the two : Moyola River
  • Last image alludes to the Earl of Tyrone, an Irish defector who was made a peer in return for accepting the British Union and trying to convince the other Irish to join him.


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