I sat all morning in the college sick bay
Counting bells knelling classes to a close.
At ten o'clock our neighbours drove me home.
In the porch I met my father crying -
He had always taken funerals in his stride -
And Big Jim Evans saying it was a hard blow.
The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram
When I came in, and I was embarrassed
By old men standing up to shake my hand
And tell me they were 'sorry for my trouble'
Whispers informed strangers that I was the eldest,
Away at school, as my mother held my hand
In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs.
At ten o'clock the ambulance arrived
With the corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses.
Next morning I went up into the room. Snowdrops
And candles soothed the bedside I saw him
For the first time in six weeks. Paler now,
Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple.
He lay in a four foot box, as in his cot.
No gaudy scars, the bumper knocked him clear.
A four foot box, a foot for every year
This is an incredibly sad poem. The mood is set almost immediately in the second line: Counting bells knelling classes to a close. Notice how Heaney uses assonance and alliteration to emphasise the funereal sound of the bells and the feeling of time dragging. The stanza begins with the ' morning' in line one but it is two o'clock in line three showing that hours have passed in waiting.
The second stanza begins with the image of Heaney's father ' crying' . Having come across Heaney's father in poems such as Follower in which he appears to be a strong man of few words, this contrary picture evokes powerful emotion in the reader. Heaney skilfully takes the reader with him as he enters the house through the porch - we meet his father, ' Big Jim Evans' , the baby in its pram, the old men…