In the poem "Digging," by Seamus Heaney, where is the chiasmus?

1 Answer
Aug 5, 2017

See explanation...


The chiasmus is seen most clearly in the short stanzas at the beginning, middle and end of the poem:

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.

If nothing else, this forms an ABA' pattern, returning to the present image of the writer armed with a pen instead of the spade his father and grandfather used.

The centre of the chiasmus highlights the digging tradition of his forebears, broken in the poet or reformulated as digging with his pen.

Digging deeper ourselves, we notice that Seamus goes from talking about himself to talking about his father, then his grandfather, identifying their common ground, talking about his grandfather, then his father, then himself. So we actually have an ABCDC'B'A' structure.