Punishment, and the Grauballe Man

Posted by on Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

<p>So, the last two important bog poems: </p>

<p><strong>The Grauballe Man</strong></p>

<p>As if he had been poured<br />in tar, he lies<br />on a pillow of turf<br />and seems to weep<br /><br />the black river of himself.<br />The grain of his wrists<br />is like bog oak,<br />the ball of his heel<br /><br />like a basalt egg.<br />His instep has shrunk<br />cold as a swan’s foot<br />or a wet swamp root.<br /><br />His hips are the ridge<br />and purse of a mussel,<br />his spine an eel arrested<br />under a glisten of mud.<br /><br />The head lifts,<br />the chin is a visor<br />raised above the vent<br />of his slashed throat<br /><br />that has tanned and toughened.<br />The cured wound<br />opens inwards to a dark<br />elderberry place.<br /><br />Who will say ‘corpse’<br />to his vivid cast?<br />Who will say ‘body’<br />to his opaque repose?<br /><br />And his rusted hair,<br />a mat unlikely<br />as a foetus’s.<br />I first saw his twisted face<br /><br />in a photograph,<br />a head and shoulder<br />out of the peat,<br />bruised like a forceps baby,<br /><br />but now he lies<br />perfected in my memory,<br />down to the red horn<br />of his nails,<br /><br />hung in the scales<br />with beauty and atrocity:<br />with the Dying Gaul<br />too strictly compassed<br /><br />on his shield,<br />with the actual weight<br />of each hooded victim,<br />slashed and dumped. </p>


<p>I can feel the tug<br />of the halter at the nape<br />of her neck, the wind<br />on her naked front.</p>

<p>It blows her nipples<br />to amber beads, <br />it shakes the frail rigging<br />of her ribs.<br /><br />I can see her drowned<br />body in the bog, <br />the weighing stone, <br />the floating rods and boughs.<br /><br />Under which at first<br />she was a barked sapling<br />that is dug up<br />oak-bone, brain-firkin: <br /><br />her shaved head<br />like a stubble of black corn, <br />her blindfold a soiled bandage, <br />her noose a ring<br /><br />to store<br />the memories of love.<br />Little adultress, <br />before they punished you<br /><br />you were flaxen-haired, <br />undernourished, and your<br />tar-black face was beautiful.<br />My poor scapegoat, <br /><br />I almost love you<br />but would have cast, I know, <br />the stones of silence.<br />I am the artful voyeur</p>

<p>of your brain’s exposed<br />and darkened combs, <br />your muscles’ webbing<br />and all your numbered bones: <br /><br />I who have stood dumb<br />when your betraying sisters, <br />cauled in tar, <br />wept by the railings, <br /><br />who would connive<br />in civilized outrage<br />yet understand the exact<br />and tribal, intimate revenge. </p>



<p>These two poems are more violent than the first two we discussed.&nbsp; The Bog Queen’s disinterment can be seen as an act of violence against her, but, within the context of the poem, her death itself isn’t violent.&nbsp; Here we have a shift.</p>

<p><a href=”http://moesgaard.hum.au.dk/images/1/grauballe/graubman_head_jk.jpg”>Grauballe</a> <a href=”http://www.moesmus.dk/images/1/grauballe/graubmanjk153.jpg”>Man</a>, the actual body, is clearly more tortured in appearance than Tollund Man.&nbsp; Part of that is just a result of shifts within the peat that occurred after his was interred.&nbsp; The body is twisted in a way that Heaney compares to the <a href=”http://www.utexas.edu/courses/introtogreece/lect35/ab%20Dying%20Gaul.jpg”>Dying Gaul</a>.&nbsp; But Grauballe Man’s face is not the picture of restfulness that Tollund Man’s is.&nbsp; </p>

<p>In Punishment, the subject is a girl who was apparently shamed before she was killed and interred.&nbsp; Heaney admits that, had he been there, he would have aided and abetted those who harmed her.&nbsp; Many critics connect the subject here to the women who were tortured and terrorized for dating outside of their religion and community in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.&nbsp; </p>

<p>Again, I am most taken by Heaney’s language.&nbsp; His words are beautiful.&nbsp; His interest in Glob’s work is obvious.&nbsp; I just want to read this quartet of poems aloud again and again.&nbsp; &nbsp; </p>

<p>And I really need to dig up that paper and my slides . . .</p>

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