Literature Annotations

Heaney, Seamus
Mid-Term Break

Genre Poem
KeywordsChildren, Death and Dying, Family Relationships, Grief, Mourning, Trauma

The speaker is a boy away at school when the news comes that his four year old brother has been killed in an accident. Arriving home, "I met my father crying . . . " The boy is "embarrassed / By old men standing up to shake my hand / And tell me they were ’sorry for my trouble.’" The next morning the boy goes upstairs to see his brother lying "in the four foot box as in his cot." [22 lines]


This poem captures a boy’s unfolding consciousness of death by recounting the particulars of his experience--being kept in the sick bay until his ride arrived, his father’s crying, the awkward behavior of the old men, the "poppy bruise" on the corpse’s temple. In the end he expresses death’s finality: "A four foot box, a foot for every year."

SourceOpened Ground. Selected Poems 1966-1996
PublisherFaber & Faber
Place PublishedLondon
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 10/27/99
Last Revised 09/01/06