The Lammas Hireling

(Note that analyses can vary widely, hence these annotations must only be used in conjunction with your own analyses).

Annotations of The Lammas Hireling by Ian Duhig



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Summary of the poem:

Title: Lammas — harvest festival celebrated in England. Hireling — a person part-time employed to do menial work during the harvest season.

Tone: 1st POV, at first jolly but quickly turns macabre. Seemed like a monologue or narrative at first, but the last lines reveal that he is speaking to a priest — reader is the priest. Descriptions are meant to be ambiguous and twisty — creates mysterious atmosphere.

Summary: A farmer hires a young man as his hireling for cheap, who seems to be a good omen as his harvest/produce quickly become plentiful. There are connotations of him pursuing the boy romantically. But one night, after woken up by a nightmare, he wakes up to see the boy practicing dark magic. He quickly kills the boy, who turns into a hare — Irish folklore has it that witches/warlocks die and turn into a hare. The experience seems to shock the farmer, and as his luck turns bad again, he seems to be between a dead state and living, like in a limbo. He confesses his sins to try and salvage his life, but does not tell us the full story.

Structure: Dramatic monologue!!!! Stanzas of 6 lines, caesura (1st stanza signals volta, listing builds anticipation) and enjambment create tension. Strong structure.

Themes: Liminality, witchcraft/magic, surrealism,

Devices used: contrasts (light/heavy — pun too), alliteration and sibilance,, references to Irish folklore, Intertextuality (Annals of Pursuit, muckle sorrow part), repetition, Christian allegory, metaphor (small hour),

Links to other poems: Eat Me (dramatic monologue), Giuseppe (surrealism, legend?), The Deliverer (atrocities)


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