Seamus Heaney

Rookie (April 13,1939 - August 30, 2013 / Castledàwson, County Londonderry)

Digging - Poem by Seamus Heaney

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.

Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down

Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.

The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.

By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner's bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I've no spade to follow men like them.

Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I'll dig with it.


Comments about Digging by Seamus Heaney

  • (6/26/2018 5:33:00 AM)


    lolololololololololololololol (Report) Reply

    2 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (6/26/2018 5:33:00 AM)


    jjjjjjfjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjjfjfjjf (Report) Reply

  • (3/26/2018 3:50:00 PM)


    it a bunch of bullshit and its gay (Report) Reply

    (3/28/2018 1:19:00 PM)

    You go write a poem then Carl, seeing as how you forgot the existence of capital letters I find you likely to succeed

  • (11/17/2017 3:49:00 PM)


    Smell, sniff as you read, I can smell it now and taste the milk straight from the cows teats, just as I did when I was a child. No raw milk now but turning a sod on a damp morning brings it alive every time. (Report) Reply

  • P. Mason (11/1/2016 2:25:00 PM)

    A favorite
    This is one of my favorite poems from Heaney....very impactful for me as I struggle daily to find my own words. Full of remembrance too, as I once had a chance to bend an elbow with him many years ago at the Plow and Stars pub in Cambridge..... (Report) Reply

  • (8/31/2016 11:08:00 AM)


    Heaney has a knack of getting his observations spot on. The idea of the old generation digging and the new writing is true of many father and son relationships with manual labour waning fast and being overtaken by office work. (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (9/4/2015 4:29:00 PM)


    Wow! Such vibrant images this poem evoked for me. I'm going to read more of his works. He has just become one of my favorite poets! (Report) Reply

  • (9/4/2015 8:44:00 AM)


    ..............great poem, poignant and wistful ★ (Report) Reply

  • Rahman Henry (9/4/2015 8:09:00 AM)


    Seamus was a wonderful poet. And this poem is one of his signature poem. I like it, I enjoyed this poem a lot. (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (9/4/2015 7:57:00 AM)


    'snug as a gun'.. a great similitude.. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A (9/4/2015 12:37:00 AM)


    The poet chooses the pen instead of spade unlike his forefathers! (Report) Reply

  • (10/2/2014 6:49:00 PM)


    Good man Iain......let me know when you publish your book - i'll be sure to buy a copy! (Report) Reply

  • (3/14/2014 4:30:00 PM)


    A classic piece of near line-broken prose rubbish, by a tin-eared old bore who will be forgotten just as soon as the next poet comes along willing to write odes to potatoes, and machines for cutting up turnips. Sadly, there's too many of those about, but hopefully our current editors will all be replaced someday by people with a sense for real poetry. In the meantime, let's just enjoy the utter inaptitude of an allusion between a spade and a pen. (Report) Reply

    Francis Lynch (9/5/2015 7:24:00 AM)

    Poor baby. When you publish, pass the spade.

  • (10/30/2013 8:12:00 AM)


    i adore this poem, it's so delicious to the ear; it's so vivid and clear. [3 (Report) Reply

  • Shouvik Roy (7/3/2012 1:06:00 PM)


    the squat pen rest.. (Report) Reply

  • Reuven Goldfarb (5/13/2012 12:05:00 PM)


    The main problem with this generally useful list is the frequent typographical errors that some people make when entering a poem. Mistakes in copying can be corrected by careful proofreading and comparing the original text (assuming that it's accurate) with the copy. I should think that the two errors in the second line would be obvious. (Report) Reply

Read all 18 comments »




Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?



Poem Submitted: Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poem Edited: Monday, May 6, 2013


Famous Poems

  1. Still I Rise
    Maya Angelou
  2. The Road Not Taken
    Robert Frost
  3. If You Forget Me
    Pablo Neruda
  4. Dreams
    Langston Hughes
  5. Annabel Lee
    Edgar Allan Poe
  6. Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
    Robert Frost
  7. If
    Rudyard Kipling
  8. Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep
    Mary Elizabeth Frye
  9. I Do Not Love You Except Because I Love You
    Pablo Neruda
  10. Television
    Roald Dahl
[Report Error]