Bogland Poem Summary, Notes And Line By Line Analysis In English By Seamus Heaney


‘Bogland’ is a poem written by Seamus Heaney. It is the final poem from his collection ‘Door in the Dark’. This poem delves deep into Ireland and its history.

About the Poet:

Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) was a notable Irish poet. He is known for receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1995. Famous works of his include ‘Beowulf: A New Verse Translation’, ‘Death of a Naturalist’, and ‘North’. 

Stanza 1:

We have no prairies
To slice a big sun at evening--
Everywhere the eye concedes to
Encrouching horizon,

The poem begins with the persona using the collective pronoun ‘we’, referring to Ireland. The persona goes on to state how Ireland had no ‘prairies’ that could cut through the light shed by the evening sun. Everywhere one could look, one’s eyes would be restricted to view the horizon. 

Stanza 2:

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country
Is bog that keeps crusting
Between the sights of the sun.

Either they will be able to view this horizon or a ‘tarn’, meaning, a mountain lake which had a ‘cyclops’ eye’. Ireland thus is called a ’bog’, that is, a wetland, that seems to be crushed between the ‘sights of the sun’. 

Stanza 3:

They've taken the skeleton
Of the Great Irish Elk
Out of the peat, set it up
An astounding crate full of air.

‘They’, referring to archaeologists, have dug out skeletons of the ‘Great Irish Elk’, that is, ancient people of Ireland, only to set it up in a meaningless crate ‘full of air’. 

Stanza 4:

Butter sunk under
More than a hundred years
Was recovered salty and white.
The ground itself is kind, black butter

The butter that had sunk under the land ages ago seems to have recovered fresh, ‘salty and white’. The soil of Ireland is in fact compared to such a butter, a ‘kind, black butter’, rich and smooth. 

Stanza 5:

Melting and opening underfoot,
Missing its last definition
By millions of years.
They'll never dig coal here,

This smooth soil has been in Ireland around for ages, ‘melting and opening’ under people’s feet as they walk. Coal, the persona states, has never been mined there. 

Stanza 6:

Only the waterlogged trunks
Of great firs, soft as pulp.
Our pioneers keep striking
Inwards and downwards,

What could only be dug up, in fact, was ‘waterlogged trunks’ of fir trees, all gone soft now. Pioneers of the land, however, are keeping on striking below the soil of Ireland regardless.

Stanza 7:

Every layer they strip
Seems camped on before.
The bogholes might be Atlantic seepage.
The wet centre is bottomless.

Every layer of land that they dig up seems to have been inhabited previously. The persona muses that perhaps Ireland was a bog due to the seepage of water from the Atlantic Ocean. All in all, Ireland was a ‘bottomless’ land, wet and mushy in its core.


This is a beautiful poem. It captures the landscape of Ireland even as it captures the intimate bond the persona has with their homeland.