A Drink of Water Historical Context

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In The Government of the Tongue: Selected Prose 1978-1987, Heaney describes the contrary demands that "Song and Suffering" place upon a poet. In a question that has long puzzled poets, he wonders if his primary allegiance as an artist is to beauty or to truth. Especially when read outside its political context, "A Drink of Water" may seem to be a rather nostalgic, overly dreamy poem, too much "Song" and "beauty" and too little "Suffering" and "truth." Yet, it is important to keep in mind the campaigns of violence that form the poem's backdrop in order to see how the poem's peaceful evocations of childhood stand in contrast to contemporary realities.

Among the landmark moments in the violence that has plagued Northern Ireland was "Bloody Sunday," January 30, 1972. In November, the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a Catholic terrorist organization dedicated to independence for Northern Ireland, killed eleven unarmed soldiers...

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This section contains 455 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the A Drink of Water Study Guide
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Poetry for Students
A Drink of Water from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.