There are many factors that will shape a young boy’s life, but possibly none more important than the role of that boy’s father. Seamus Heaney and Theodore Roethke both have shown the importance of the father role in their poems “Digging” and “My Papas Waltz.” Although the roles of the fathers in these poems were different, the respect and admiration shown by their sons is one in the same. Weather it is Heaney’s father digging under his window, or Roehtke’s father dancing him around as a little boy, the love shown in these two poems, shows a direct relation on the lives they shared with their fathers.
Heaney’s poem, “Digging” showed that while the boy still loved his father, he did not wish to carry on the tradition of potato digging that had been in his family for generations. For example, Heaney wrote that he had “no spade to follow men like them”(Spence par 1). This quote states that Heaney, although loving his father, did not think he could carry on the tradition. Heaney remembers the way he would bring his grandfather a glass of milk, and would drink the entire bottle, and then would watch his grandfather fall to work once again. This brings about the fact that while
still caring a great deal for his father and grandfather, he still would prefer the path of a writer (Glover 542). Ultimately, Heaney chose not to “follow men like them”, and chose instead on becoming a writer. This is backed up later in the poem when Heaney writes “Between my finger and my thumb/The squat pen rests/I’ll dig with it.” Heaney had always watched his father from the upstairs window while he dug, and Heaney would watch and write, and this fanned the fire for Heaney’s desire to become a writer (Pellegrio par 1). After Heaney had decided to become a writer, he still did not neglect or disrespect his father in any way, he would often bring them “milk in a bottle. Corked sloppily with paper.” This shows that while Heaney decided not to follow in his fathers footsteps, he loved and cared for his father regardless (Glover 543). Overall, Heaney’s love for his father was a powerful factor in his deciding to become a writer.
Roethke’s peom, “My Papas Waltz”, shows us a completely different relationship among the father and son. In the opening line, we read “The whisky on your breath/could make a small boy dizzy;” this, to some, arises suspicion as to weather this is a happy dance, or a violent one. Many will debate over weather or not this represents a happy time or a violent relationship, but this is further clarified when Roethke writes “But I hung on like death” this shows that the boy was in fact having fun dancing with his father (Magill 1453). You can sense the anger in the
mother as you read “My mothers countenance/could not unfrown itself.” This shows that despite the mothers feelings of anger towards the dance, the son was enjoying it, so they went on (Malkoff 344). The last two lines of the poem further illustrate the boys love for the dance with his father; “Then waltzed me off to bed/still clinging to your shirt.” This shows that after a long day of work, the boys father would come home and have a drink, and then waltz Theodore around the kitchen. The love between Roethke and his father is shown throughout the poem, and can be seen in many ways, some wish to view it as a relationship of hate, while others view it as a simple, loving bond between the two (Magill 1454-5). Roetheke’s remembrance of the dance is something that helped him get to a whole new level of poetry, adding the autobiographical to his list of accomplishments.
Although the relationships shared between father and son in “Digging” and “My Papas Waltz” are under different circumstances, they share very many commonalties. In “Digging”, we see the boy looking up to his father, and choosing a different path to follow, while in “My papas Waltz” we see a boy and his father sharing a moment suspended in time. These relationships share the commonality of love, respect, and an unwillingness to let go. Seamus Heaney and Theodore Roehtke both had
fathers who were hard working, involved men, but both having taken the time to show their sons the attention and love that they deserved. The impact that the fathers played in these poets lives will always be remembered in the poems “Digging” and “My Papas Waltz.”
Between the lines of these two poems, you can see the importance that Seamus Heaney, and Theodore Roehtke’s fathers played in their sons lives, by showing them love, and compassion, no matter what hey had chosen to do. Weather it was simply bringing his dad a glass of milk, or dancing around the kitchen without ever wanting to let go, the role of father is one of the biggest roles a man can ever accept. “Digging” and My Papas Waltz” are two great examples of how much difference a father makes if he shows warmth, love, compassion, and possibly most important, understanding.