Get notes, line-by-line explanation, summary, questions and answers, critical analysis, word meanings, extras, and pdf of the poem Death of a Naturalist by Seamus Heaney which is part of ISC Class 11 English (Rhapsody). However, the notes should only be treated for references and changes should be made according to the needs of the students.
- Line-by-line explanation
- Glossary/word meaning
- Summary of the poem
- Critical analysis of the poem
- Themes of the poem
- Figure of speech
- About the author
- Workbook solutions/answers
- Additional questions and answers
- Additional MCQs
- Fill in the blanks
All year the flax-dam festered in the heart Of the townland; green and heavy headed Flax had rotted there, weighted down by huge sods.
This line describes a flax-dam, a man-made pond for soaking flax plants, located in the middle of a small town or rural area. Over the course of the year, the flax (a plant used for linen) has decayed there, becoming heavy and weighed down by large pieces of turf or soil.
Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun. Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell.
These lines tell us that the flax-dam gets very hot under the strong sunlight every day. The poet describes bubbles forming in the rotting flax and the buzzing sound made by bluebottle flies, a common insect attracted to decaying material.
There were dragonflies, spotted butterflies, But best of all was the warm thick slobber Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water In the shade of the banks.
The poet mentions the various insects around the flax-dam, like dragonflies and butterflies. However, what he enjoyed the most was the frogspawn (frog eggs) that grew in the shade along the edges of the dam. He describes it as a thick, slimy substance similar to clotted water.
Here, every spring I would fill jampotfuls of the jellied Specks to range on window sills at home, On shelves at school, and wait and watch until The fattening dots burst, into nimble Swimming tadpoles.
Every spring, the poet used to collect frogspawn in jars and place them on the windowsills at home or on the shelves at school. He’d then wait and watch as the eggs developed into tadpoles.
Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called a bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog Laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn.
The poet recounts lessons from a teacher, Miss Walls, about the life cycle of frogs. She explained that the male frog is known as a bullfrog, how it makes a croaking sound, and how the female frog lays hundreds of eggs, which are the frogspawn.
You could tell the weather by frogs too For they were yellow in the sun and brown In rain.
The frogs could also serve as an indicator of the weather. They appeared yellow in the sunlight and turned brown when it rained.
Then one hot day when fields were rank With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges To a coarse croaking that I had not heard Before.
One hot day, when the fields were full of cow dung, the frogs seemed to invade the flax-dam. The poet was taken aback by this sudden, aggressive croaking from the frogs, a sound that was new and unnerving to him.
The air was thick with a bass chorus. Right down the dam gross bellied frogs were cocked On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails.
The poet describes the air as being full of a deep, resonant croaking from the frogs. He vividly describes the scene with large-bellied frogs sitting on pieces of turf, their throats pulsating as they croaked, much like sails billowing in the wind.
Some hopped: The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
Some frogs were hopping around, their movements making loud, threatening sounds. Others sat still, likened to “mud grenades,” and the sounds they made are described in a crude, almost humorous way.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
Finally, the poet expresses his disgust and fear, leading him to run away from the dam. He refers to the frogs as “great slime kings,” suggesting their dominance and control over the dam. He feared that if he were to touch the frogspawn, it would stick to his hand, indicating his new, mature understanding of the harsh realities of nature.
Flax-dam: A man-made pond where flax, a plant used to make linen, is soaked in water to separate the usable fibers from the rest of the plant.
Townland: An Irish term referring to a small geographical unit of land.
Sods: Pieces or chunks of grass and the part of the soil beneath it, held together by the roots of the grass.
Bluebottles: A type of fly that is attracted to decaying material and known for their iridescent blue bodies.
Frogspawn: The eggs laid by frogs and toads, often seen as a jelly-like mass in ponds and water bodies.
Jampotfuls: Full containers of jam, in this context used as a unit of measure to describe the amount of frogspawn collected.
Bullfrog: A term used to describe a male frog, especially those species with a distinctive deep call.
Croaked: The distinctive sound made by frogs, typically referred to as “croaking.”
Rank: In this context, it means foul-smelling or stinking.
Cowdung: The waste material produced by cows, also known as cow manure.
Gross-bellied: A term used to describe something as large or bloated.
Mud grenades: This is a metaphor used by Heaney to describe the appearance of the frogs, possibly referring to their potential to explode into movement or their muddy color.
Great slime kings: Another metaphor used by Heaney, this one is referring to the frogs in a manner that gives them an aura of power or authority, while still highlighting their slimy nature.
Vengeance: The act of punishing someone for causing harm or seeking retribution. In this context, Heaney may be attributing human-like motives to the frogs, suggesting that they are taking revenge for the earlier collection of their spawn.
Summary of the poem
“Death of a Naturalist” is a poem by Seamus Heaney that discusses the transition from childhood innocence to a more mature, complex understanding of nature and the world around us.
The poem begins by describing a flax-dam, which is a pool of water where flax is soaked to break down the fibers. It’s located in the centre of the townland, a small rural area. The poem depicts the flax in the dam as rotting and weighed down by large chunks of grass and soil, known as sods. The dam is depicted as being extremely hot under the sun. We see a range of insects around the flax-dam, including bluebottles, dragonflies, and butterflies. Bluebottles are flies that are attracted to decaying material and their constant buzzing is depicted as a “gauze of sound.”
However, the focal point of the dam, as seen through the child’s eyes, is the frogspawn – the eggs laid by frogs. The poet describes the frogspawn as a “warm thick slobber” that grew in the shady parts of the flax-dam.
Every spring, the young poet used to collect this frogspawn in jam jars and observe them as they developed from “jellied specks” into tadpoles. He would place these jars on windowsills at home and on shelves at school and watch as the eggs gradually developed into swimming tadpoles. He recalls his teacher, Miss Walls, explaining the life cycle of frogs – how the male frog or the “daddy frog” is called a bullfrog and how it croaks. She also explained how the female or the “mammy frog” lays hundreds of tiny eggs which make up the frogspawn. The poet notes how the colour of the frogs could also indicate the weather: they were yellow in the sun and turned brown in the rain.
Then, the mood of the poem shifts dramatically. On a hot day when the fields are full of cow dung, the poet describes how the frogs seem to invade the flax-dam, their croaking becoming louder and more aggressive. This is a sound that he had not heard before and it disturbs him. The poet paints a vivid picture of large-bellied frogs sitting on pieces of sod, their throats pulsating as they croak, and others hopping around, making loud, threatening sounds. The sounds and sights of the dam are now seen as scary and disgusting, rather than exciting and fascinating as they were before. The frogs, once a source of fascination, now seem like “mud grenades” – dangerous and volatile.
The child in the poem is overwhelmed by the sudden shift in perception – the world that was once familiar and safe has now become foreign and threatening. He feels sick and scared, and runs away from the dam. The once intriguing “slime kings”, the frogs, now appear to be vengeful creatures. The young poet feels as though they are there to take revenge on him for taking their spawn and if he were to touch the frogspawn, it would clutch onto his hand.
The poem ends on this ominous note, marking the child’s transition from the innocence of childhood to a more mature understanding of the harsh realities of nature. The title, “Death of a Naturalist”, implies the end of the poet’s naive fascination with nature, replaced by a more complex and realistic view of the natural world.
Critical analysis of the poem
“Death of a Naturalist” by Seamus Heaney is a vivid and thought-provoking poem that explores themes of innocence, discovery, fear, and the transition from childhood to adolescence.
The poem is split into two stanzas. The first stanza is longer, presenting the joyful exploration and fascination of a young child with the natural world. The shorter second stanza shifts in tone and perspective, reflecting the child’s fear and his move from innocence to a more mature, complex understanding of nature.
One of the major themes in the poem is the loss of innocence. In the first stanza, we see the world through the eyes of a young child who is fascinated by the wonders of nature, especially the process of frogspawn turning into tadpoles. There is an intimate connection with nature, illustrated by rich imagery such as “warm thick slobber,” “jampotfuls of the jellied Specks,” and the idea of the “daddy” bullfrog and “mammy” frog. These images are full of wonder, curiosity, and a certain sense of comfort.
The second stanza, however, contrasts sharply with the first. The language and imagery become more grotesque and unsettling. Frogs are no longer fascinating creatures but “gross bellied,” “mud grenades,” and “great slime kings.” This dramatic shift in perception reveals the child’s loss of innocence, an inevitable part of growing up, where the world becomes less wondrous and more threatening.
The tone of the poem undergoes a distinct shift between the stanzas. Initially, the tone is nostalgic and idyllic, portraying a child’s fascination with nature. However, this sense of wonderment transitions into a tone of fear and disgust in the second stanza. The mood thus shifts from a comforting sense of familiarity to a feeling of estrangement and terror.
Heaney’s use of language is key in developing the poem’s themes. He employs a rich sensory language that evokes specific sounds and images. The use of onomatopoeia, such as “slap and plop,” enhances the sensory experience, and the use of colloquial language, such as “slobber,” makes the poem more accessible and relatable.
The flax-dam can be seen as a symbol of the natural world – a world that initially fascinates the child but eventually causes fear. The frogs serve as a metaphor for the darker side of nature that the child hadn’t previously understood. They transform from subjects of a science project into intimidating creatures embodying his fear.
In conclusion, “Death of a Naturalist” is a powerful examination of the journey from innocence to experience. Through striking imagery, contrast, and sensory language, Heaney captures the transformation of a child’s perspective as he comes to realize the complex realities of nature and life. The ‘death’ referred to in the title does not signify a physical death but rather the end of the child’s naive and romanticized view of nature, marking his transition into a more mature understanding.
Themes of the poem
Loss of Innocence: This is the central theme of the poem. The speaker recounts their childhood experiences of the natural world with wonder and fascination, but this innocence is shattered in the second half of the poem when their perception of nature shifts from fascination to fear. The transformation of frogspawn, initially a source of delight and curiosity, into menacing adult frogs, marks the end of childhood innocence and the beginning of a more complex understanding of the world.
Transition from Childhood to Adolescence: The poem mirrors the transition from childhood to adolescence, a time when the world becomes more complex and less idyllic. This is symbolized by the stark contrast between the two halves of the poem: the first half represents childhood innocence and fascination, while the second half signifies the onset of fear and the recognition of the harsh realities of the world.
Nature and its Cycles: The poem also reflects on the cyclical nature of life, represented by the cycle of the frogs’ life from spawn to adult. The natural world is shown as a place of both beauty and terror, a place where life and death coexist.
Education and Learning: The poem speaks to the process of learning about nature, not just through formal education (as represented by Miss Walls’ lessons) but also through direct experience. This personal, experiential knowledge brings about a deeper, though more frightening, understanding of nature.
Fear and Revulsion: The latter part of the poem explores the theme of fear and revulsion. The speaker’s fear of the frogs signifies a growing awareness of the darker aspects of life. The imagery used to describe the frogs creates a sense of revulsion and illustrates the dramatic shift in the speaker’s perspective.
Change and Transformation: The poem illustrates the inevitability of change, symbolized by the metamorphosis of the frogs. This theme is also echoed in the speaker’s shifting perception of nature – from fascination and delight to fear and repulsion.
Figure of speech
Metaphor: The poem contains several metaphors that aid in its descriptive power. For example, the “flax-dam” that “festered in the heart / Of the townland” gives us an image of a stagnating, decaying place. Later, the frogs are referred to as “great slime kings,” transforming them into menacing and almost regal figures.
Simile: Heaney uses similes to vividly describe the environment and its inhabitants. For instance, the necks of the frogs are described as pulsing “like sails,” and the frog’s heads are likened to “mud grenades.”
Imagery: The poem is rich in sensory imagery, particularly visual and olfactory. For example, the phrase “Bubbles gargled delicately, bluebottles / Wove a strong gauze of sound around the smell” provides a clear and strong sensory image.
Personification: The poet uses personification to give human characteristics to the frogs, such as when they are depicted as invaders, and later, when they seem to seek “vengeance.” This helps to intensify the fear and revulsion that the speaker feels in the second half of the poem.
Alliteration: Alliteration is used to enhance the rhythm and sound of the poem. An example is “flax-dam festered.”
Onomatopoeia: Onomatopoeia is used to recreate the sounds of nature, particularly in the second half of the poem, where the coarse croaking of the frogs and the “slap and plop” of their movements are graphically described. This helps to build the sense of unease and fear.
Hyperbole: The fear and disgust of the speaker in the second half of the poem are emphasized through hyperbolic language, such as when he describes the frogs as “great slime kings” and “mud grenades.” This exaggeration mirrors the heightened emotions of the speaker.
About the author
Seamus Justin Heaney (1939-2013) was a renowned Irish poet, playwright, and translator. His career took off in the 1960s when he commenced his tenure as a lecturer at St. Joseph’s College in Belfast, following his education at Queen’s University. Despite living in Sandymount, Dublin, from 1976 until his death, Heaney also spent considerable time in the United States between 1981 and 2006. During this period, he held prestigious positions as a professor and Poet in Residence at Harvard University, and also served as the Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1989 to 1994.
Heaney’s numerous awards included the esteemed Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1996, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize (1968), the E. M. Forster Award (1975), the PEN Translation Prize (1985), the Golden Wreath of Poetry (2001), the T. S. Eliot Prize (2006), and two Whitbread Prizes (1996 and 1999). He was also honored with the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2011, and a Lifetime Recognition Award from the Griffin Trust in 2012. His most prominent accolade was the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Many regarded Heaney as one of the key contributors to Irish poetry during his lifetime. American poet Robert Lowell described him as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats,” and numerous others, including academic John Sutherland, heralded him as “the greatest poet of our age.” Robert Pinsky praised Heaney’s storytelling abilities, emphasizing his remarkable visual and auditory style. The Independent lauded him as potentially “the best-known poet in the world” at the time of his death in 2013.
Among Heaney’s most well-known works is “Death of a Naturalist” (1966), his first significant published collection, featuring 34 short poems. The collection primarily revolves around themes of childhood memories, the journey into adulthood, familial bonds, and rural existence. The titular poem, “Death of a Naturalist,” recounts the adventures of a young boy collecting frogspawn from a flax-dam. The narrator reflects upon his vivid childhood experiences, the teachings about frogs from his school, and a frightening encounter at the flax-dam that led to the metaphorical death of his inner “naturalist.”
Multiple Choice Questions (MCQs)
(i) Who is the speaker in the poem?
Answer: (b) a boy
(ii) What is flax-dam?
Answer: (c) a kind of pool
(iii) Why is flax placed in the flax-dam?
Answer: (c) to make it rot
(iv) Where does the boy find the frog spawn?
Answer: (d) within the flax-dam
(v) In what mood does the boy approach the flax-dam in Stanza 1?
Answer: (b) fascinated
(vi) What accounts for the mood swing in the boy’s mind?
Answer: (b) the threatening postures of ugly fully-grown frogs
(vii) When does the boy seem to take on the role of a keen naturalist?
Answer: (d) when he recalls the lifecycle of a frog as told by his teacher.
(viii) Which figure of speech is used in the line:
To a coarsa croaking that I had not heard’
Answer: (c) alliteration
(ix) Which of these statements is NOT true?
Answer: (a) Some frogs rushed forward as if to attack the boy
(x) I sickened, turned and ran’. The statement is indicative of:
Answer: (a) the death of a naturalist in the boy
(i) Flax is placed in the flax-dam because _____________
Answer: it needs to rot for processing.
(ii) Flax in the flax-dam rotted because of _____________
Answer: of the moist and warm conditions, which are conducive for decomposition.
(iii) The speaker would fill jars of frogspawn and carry home and to school because _____________
Answer: he was fascinated by the life cycle of frogs and enjoyed observing the transformation of frogspawn into tadpoles.
(iv) The flax used to be placed in the flax-dam in summer because _____________
Answer: the heat and moisture of the summer season helps in the rotting process of the flax plant.
(v) The weather can be told by looking at the frogs because _____________
Answer: their colors change according to the weather conditions – they turn yellow in the sun and brown in the rain.
(vi) Stanza 2 in the poem significantly begins with ‘then’ because _____________
Answer: it marks a change or shift in the speaker’s perception of nature, particularly the flax-dam and its inhabitants.
(vii) The boy dodged the frogs because _____________
Answer: he was frightened by their aggressive behavior and appearance.
(viii) The boy ran away from the scene as depicted in Stanza 2 because _____________
Answer: he was terrified and disgusted by the grown-up, aggressive frogs.
(ix) The boy seems to have lost his innocence and fascination for nature because _____________
Answer: he was confronted with the harsh and less appealing side of nature – the reality of survival and competition among creatures.
(x) The frogs seem to the boy to threaten him for _____________
Answer: he interprets their aggressive posturing and sounds as directed towards him, possibly a result of his immature understanding of nature and animals.
Short answer questions
(i) Describe the activities at the flax-dam in the first part of the poem.
Answer: In the first part of the poem, the activities at the flax-dam include the flax rotting under the sun, the buzzing of insects like bluebottles and the presence of dragonflies and butterflies. The highlight, however, is the speaker’s fascination with the frogspawn that grows there every spring.
(ii) What does Miss Wall’s lesson tell the speaker? How does he experiment with what he has learnt?
Answer: Miss Walls taught the speaker about the life cycle of frogs, how they croak and how the female frog lays eggs. Intrigued by this, the speaker experimented by collecting the frogspawn in jars and observing them turn into tadpoles.
(iii) What shocking scene is described in the second part of the poem?
Answer: In the second part of the poem, a shocking scene is described where the flax-dam is invaded by mature frogs, whose coarse croaking, intimidating postures and aggressive behaviors frightened the speaker.
(iv) Compare and contrast the feelings of the speaker in two different situations depicted in the poem.
Answer: In the beginning, the speaker was intrigued and fascinated by nature, particularly the frogspawn and the life cycle of frogs. However, this fascination turns into fear and disgust when he encounters the mature frogs at the flax-dam.
(v) Comment on the use of language in the poem.
Answer: Heaney’s use of language in the poem is vivid and sensory. He uses rich imagery and onomatopoeia to create a detailed picture of the flax-dam and its inhabitants. The language also reflects the speaker’s changing emotions – from fascination and curiosity to fear and repulsion.
Long answer questions
(i) Bring out the significance of the title of the poem with close reference to the text.
Answer: The title “Death of a Naturalist” is symbolic of the loss of innocence and the end of a childhood fascination with nature, a kind of ‘death’ or transformation in the speaker’s identity as a naturalist. The poem traces the speaker’s journey from a child fascinated with the lifecycle of frogs, collecting frogspawn and waiting for them to hatch into tadpoles, to an adult horrified by the reality of mature frogs. This shift in perception, this loss of wonderment and awe towards nature, signifies the ‘death’ of the naturalist within the speaker.
(ii) What do you mean by ‘flax-dam’? What attracted the speaker about it?
Answer: A ‘flax-dam’ refers to a kind of pool or pond where flax is placed to rot as part of its processing. In the poem, the flax-dam is depicted as a place teeming with life and nature. As a child, the speaker was deeply attracted to the flax-dam because of the abundance of frogspawn. He would fill jars with the frogspawn, bring them home or to school, and watch them transform into tadpoles. This annual ritual of observing and engaging with nature, particularly with the lifecycle of frogs, was a source of great fascination for the speaker.
(iii) What caused the ‘death’ of a naturalist in the speaker?
Answer: The ‘death’ of a naturalist in the speaker was caused by a disturbing encounter with mature frogs at the flax-dam. The speaker, who had always been fascinated by frogs and their lifecycle, was shocked and repelled by the sight of the mature frogs: their coarse croaking, their threatening postures, and their sheer number. This experience shattered his naive curiosity and joy in observing nature, leading to fear and repulsion instead. The poem thus captures the end of the speaker’s fascination with nature and his transition from an innocent observer to a fearful adult – the ‘death’ of his identity as a naturalist.
(iv) “I knew/That if I dipped my hand the spawn would cluch it.” Elaborate it with close reference to the text.
Answer: The line “I knew/That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it” signifies the fear and revulsion the speaker felt towards the frogs and their spawn. Previously, he had been fascinated with the frogspawn, joyfully collecting it in jars to observe its transformation into tadpoles. However, the frightening encounter with the mature frogs led him to view the spawn in a new, terrifying light. He imagines that if he were to reach into the spawn, it would cling to his hand just as the adult frogs seemed to threaten him. This line encapsulates the transformation in the speaker’s perception of nature, from fascination to fear and disgust.
Additional questions and answers
1. What is the flax-dam mentioned in the poem?
Answer: The flax-dam mentioned in the poem is a pool or dam where flax is soaked in water to separate the usable fibers from the rest of the stalk.
2. Who is Miss Walls mentioned in the poem?
Answer: Miss Walls is presumably a teacher who educates the young speaker about the life cycle of frogs.
3. What is the main setting of the poem?
Answer: The main setting of the poem is a rural area where the speaker observes nature. It is primarily focused around the flax-dam, which is a central place of interest and fascination for the young speaker.
4. How does the speaker of the poem describe the frogspawn?
Answer: The speaker describes the frogspawn as “warm thick slobber” and “jellied specks” that grow like “clotted water.” These descriptions reveal both fascination and slight repulsion, illustrating the speaker’s complex relationship with nature.
5. What do the colors yellow and brown signify in the poem?
Answer: The colors yellow and brown are associated with the frogs, which change colors based on the weather. These colors possibly signify the natural transformations and cycles that are an inherent part of life. They might also hint at the changing perception of the speaker – bright and lively yellow turning into a more somber brown.
6. How does Heaney use imagery to describe the nature around the flax-dam?
Answer: Heaney employs vivid and often visceral imagery to bring the flax-dam to life. He describes the flax rotting under the weight of “huge sods,” the bubbles “gargling delicately,” and the “strong gauze of sound” woven by bluebottles. He portrays dragonflies, butterflies, and frogspawn in explicit detail, creating a rich, immersive environment that is both fascinating and, eventually, repulsive to the speaker.
7. What does the “warm thick slobber” of the frogspawn symbolize in the poem?
Answer: The “warm thick slobber” of the frogspawn represents the raw, unfiltered aspect of nature that is often overlooked or sanitized in classroom learning. It stands for the organic, somewhat repulsive, yet fascinating reality of biological processes that contribute to life.
8. How does the transition from the first to the second stanza mark a shift in the speaker’s perception of nature?
Answer: In the first stanza, the speaker observes nature with fascination and curiosity, particularly interested in the life cycle of frogs. However, in the second stanza, this fascination turns to fear and disgust when the speaker encounters the mature frogs in the flax-dam. This transition marks a shift from innocent fascination to fearful awareness, symbolic of the speaker’s loss of innocence.
9. How does Heaney use the frogs to symbolize the speaker’s loss of innocence?
Answer: The frogs, initially a source of interest and pleasure, become threatening and repulsive to the speaker. The contrast between the harmless tadpoles and the aggressive mature frogs represents the speaker’s transition from childhood innocence to the realization of the harsh realities of nature and life.
10. How does the speaker feel towards the frogspawn in the beginning, and how does it change towards the end?
Answer: In the beginning, the speaker feels curiosity and delight towards the frogspawn, collecting it and watching it transform into tadpoles. By the end, this fascination turns to fear and repulsion as the frogs become menacing figures. This shift in perception represents a loss of innocence and a newfound understanding of nature’s raw realities.
11. What emotions does the speaker experience during his encounter with the “great slime kings”?
Answer: During the encounter with the “great slime kings,” the speaker experiences fear, disgust, and a sense of threat. The speaker is repulsed by the aggressive behavior of the mature frogs and is terrified that they might retaliate if he tries to interact with the frogspawn as he used to.
12. How does Heaney use language to evoke a sense of repulsion in the second half of the poem?
Answer: Heaney employs vivid and sensory language to create a sense of repulsion. He describes the mature frogs as “gross bellied,” “loose necks pulsed like sails,” their heads “farting.” The sounds they make are described as “coarse croaking,” “slap and plop,” and “obscene threats.” These expressions paint a grim, repugnant picture, significantly different from the innocent fascination in the earlier part of the poem.
13. What is the significance of the “gross bellied frogs” being described as “mud grenades”?
Answer: The comparison of the frogs to “mud grenades” underscores their transformation from harmless creatures into potentially harmful ones in the eyes of the speaker. This militaristic metaphor intensifies the perceived threat, marking the frogs as dangerous entities, and amplifying the speaker’s fear and repulsion.
14. How does Heaney explore the theme of the loss of innocence in “Death of a Naturalist”?
Answer: Heaney explores the theme of loss of innocence through the speaker’s evolving relationship with nature, particularly the frogs. The speaker transitions from a curious, innocent observer collecting frogspawn, to a frightened individual, repulsed by the mature frogs. This transformation symbolizes the speaker’s loss of childhood innocence and the ushering in of a more complex, and sometimes harsh, understanding of the world.
15. How might the frogs’ invasion of the flax-dam symbolize the harsh realities of the adult world?
Answer: The invasion of the flax-dam by the frogs could symbolize the intrusion of adult realities into the speaker’s previously innocent world. Just as the frogs disrupt the calm of the dam, the harsh truths of adulthood disrupt the tranquility of childhood. The speaker’s fear and repulsion indicate his struggle to come to terms with these realities.
16. What might the speaker’s act of running away from the flax-dam symbolize in the context of his personal growth and maturity?
Answer: The speaker’s act of running away from the flax-dam may symbolize an instinctive reaction to confront the harsh realities of life. It may indicate the speaker’s initial resistance to let go of his childhood innocence and face the complexities of adulthood. However, it can also be viewed as a crucial step in his personal growth, as this experience leads to a newfound understanding of the world around him.
1. What is the flax-dam in the poem?
A. A type of plant. B. A body of water surrounded by flax plants. C. A wall built to hold back flax plants. D. An agricultural tool used in flax cultivation.
Answer: B. A body of water surrounded by flax plants.
2. Who is Miss Walls in the context of the poem?
A. The speaker’s mother. B. The town’s mayor. C. A school teacher. D. The speaker’s neighbour.
Answer: C. A school teacher.
3. How does the speaker initially describe the frogspawn in the poem?
A. Unpleasant and scary. B. Intriguing and beautiful. C. Disgusting and repellent. D. Ordinary and uninteresting.
Answer: B. Intriguing and beautiful.
4. What does the yellow color of the frogs in the sun represent in the poem?
A. The presence of a disease in the frogs. B. The warm, sunny weather. C. The age of the frogs. D. The poisonous nature of the frogs.
Answer: B. The warm, sunny weather.
5. Which imagery does Heaney use to describe the mature frogs towards the end of the poem?
A. Positive and beautiful. B. Intriguing and mysterious. C. Horrifying and disgusting. D. Mild and boring.
Answer: C. Horrifying and disgusting.
6. What is the significance of describing the mature frogs as “mud grenades”?
A. They are extremely dirty. B. They are dangerous and threatening. C. They are a source of entertainment for the speaker. D. They are valuable like a treasure.
Answer: B. They are dangerous and threatening.
7. What does the speaker’s act of running away from the flax-dam symbolize?
A. His fear of water. B. His aversion to physical exercise. C. His resistance to facing the realities of adulthood. D. His dislike for frogs.
Answer: C. His resistance to facing the realities of adulthood.
8. Which theme is not explored in “Death of a Naturalist”?
A. Loss of innocence. B. The beauty of nature. C. The dangers of technology. D. The transformation of perception.
Answer: C. The dangers of technology.
9. What happens in the poem when the fields become rank with cowdung?
A. The frogs invade the flax-dam. B. The speaker decides to leave his town. C. The flax plants begin to grow rapidly. D. The speaker has a pleasant picnic.
Answer: A. The frogs invade the flax-dam.
10. How does the speaker collect the frogspawn?
A. By scooping it up with a net. B. By filling it into jars. C. By digging it out of the ground. D. By catching it with his bare hands.
Answer: B. By filling it into jars.
11. What transformation does the speaker observe in the frogspawn over time?
A. It decomposes and smells bad. B. It grows into beautiful flowers. C. It bursts into swimming tadpoles. D. It turns into shiny gemstones.
Answer: C. It bursts into swimming tadpoles.
12. Which phrase does the speaker use to describe the noise made by the mature frogs?
A. A sweet symphony. B. A soft lullaby. C. An annoying chatter. D. A coarse croaking.
Answer: D. A coarse croaking.
13. How does the speaker feel when he encounters the “great slime kings”?
A. Amused and entertained. B. Fascinated and inquisitive. C. Repulsed and scared. D. Indifferent and bored.
Answer: C. Repulsed and scared.
14. Which of the following best describes the poem’s setting?
A. A bustling city. B. A calm beach. C. A quiet, rural landscape. D. A busy school.
Answer: C. A quiet, rural landscape.
15. What does the phrase “the flax-dam festered in the heart of the townland” suggest about the dam’s role in the poem?
A. It is a beloved community gathering spot. B. It is a hidden and forgotten place. C. It is a central and significant part of the setting. D. It is a site of commercial activity.
Answer: C. It is a central and significant part of the setting.
Fill in the blanks
1. In the poem, the speaker mentions that the flax-dam is located in the heart of the __________.
2. According to the speaker, the flax in the flax-dam had __________.
3. The speaker describes the flax-dam as sweltering in the __________ sun.
4. The speaker recalls how every spring, he would fill __________ of the frogspawn.
5. The speaker mentions that he would wait and watch until the frogspawn burst into __________.
Answer: nimble swimming tadpoles
6. Miss Walls told the speaker that the daddy frog was called a __________.
7. The speaker notes that frogs were yellow in the __________ and brown in the rain.
8. The angry frogs invaded the flax-dam on a hot day when the fields were rank with __________.
9. Upon the invasion of the frogs, the air became thick with a __________ chorus.
10. The speaker describes the mature frogs as being poised like __________.
Answer: mud grenades
11. The speaker ran away from the flax-dam upon encountering the __________.
Answer: great slime kings
12. The speaker believed that if he dipped his hand into the frogspawn, it would __________.
Answer: clutch it
13. The speaker described the frogspawn as growing like __________ water.
14. The mature frogs’ loose necks pulsed like __________.
15. Miss Walls told the speaker how the __________ frog laid hundreds of little eggs.
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