Before talking about the poem, it is necessary to have historical introduction of two political parties viz. capitalists and socialists; Capitalists promotes the capitalism; it is an economic system, in which private individuals are owners of money and other resources of capital. Individuals may have private companies and they can run them freely. Companies can sue and can be sued. They can also sell and buy properties. In simple words, capitalism means individual is everything; it focuses on the freedom and progress of individuals. Socialists, on the other hand, prefer socialism. It is an economic system, in which State owns everything including money and other resources. There is no concept of individual in it; you have to work for yourself as well as for the welfare of every person of the State. It emphasizes on equal distribution of wealth among the people. In other words, individual is a part of society, therefore, word should be done for society.
“Casting and Gathering” is a beautiful poem that shows the conflict between the above said two political parties. Actually, casting and gathering are the names of processes. Casting refers throwing and gathering refers harvesting but in this poem, casting means capitalists and gathering means socialists. Seamus Heaney has translated these words as per his owned desire. He gives advice to these parties. Before him, his predecessor in poetry, W. B. Yeats has also given the parties some suggestions. However, he considered them equal. Seamus Heaney has suggested that both the parties should put aside their private agendas and should work for the welfare of society. He is advising them to compromise on a point. He says that people public at large should be considered superior to everything. Unlike W. B. Yeats, he does not prefer any party. He considers them equal as both systems are made for the goodness of humanity. Both systems are good for him until they favour people. This poem, in fact, is arbitration between two parties. As mentioned earlier, there was a conflict between both these parties, due to which people were expecting war. Seamus Heaney suggests that they should not fight on minor issues. They should compromise and think about the future of people. They should give hope to them. They must make progress while forgetting their clashes; they should create new strategies in order to get success. It is the only way, through which they can become successful and get equal sympathy of people.
There is another interpretation of the poem. It is for Ted Hughes, therefore, there may be possibility that it is about the friendship between the poet and him. This interpretation has been given by Andrew Boobies. He has given stress on the words “lush” and “hush”. Be that as it may, the poem still discloses the same concept; it asserts on the importance of compromise; Seamus Heaney is a pure poet, whereas Ted Hughes is a fisherman. There is very less similarity in these persons even then they are friends. They have maintained their friendship by means of contrariness. Validity in friendship is possible only through adjustments and compromises. If this interpretation is considered true even then the concept of whole poem does not change. Thus, it focuses on the importance of friendship and adjustments.
Majority of critics are agreed on the point that the poem is written with the perspective of two political parties. W. B. Yeats also wrote about these parties. He did not consider any party better nor did he prefer anyone; he just had sympathy with both of them. Seamus Heaney also focuses on compromises. On one side, they are saying that individual is everything, therefore, this system is preferable, whereas on the other hand, they are talking about the importance of society and equality. Heaney has not advocated any party. He has not shown his sympathy for any of them. According to him, compromise is the only option for them. If they make compromise then the country will make progress.
There is also a general interpretation of this poem. There may be possibility that the poet has talked about loss and gain. It is general concept. Sometimes, we lose a thing; sometimes we gain it. Life goes on in this way. Everyone witnesses this general principle. Cast and gather; throw and harvest means loss and gain. Till end, this general principle will be followed. It is important to mention here that this concept has ambiguity. If life is the name of loss and gain then one should not mourn on loss. Similarly, he should not celebrate on gain. However, if this general principle is followed then it is the best way to spend a peaceful and happy life.
In a nutshell, Seamus Heaney has repeated the history of Ireland. Like other poems, in this poem too, he talks in social context. His views are considerable. He devotes peace and does not want war. The conflict between parties is a resistance to progress. Moreover, they are making the atmosphere of war, which is not a wise choice. Heaney loves his country and his fellowmen. He wants their welfare. He considers them superior to every object of his life. He is loyal to poetry. He does poetry for the sake of people. He reforms them through it. This poem is entirely social as well as political. It focuses on the importance of push and pull. He also philosophize the concept of contrariness. If the poem is not political even then it gives a moral lesson. It is a wise advice on “how to keep a relationship alive?”. However, majority votes the political interpretation. Hence, it is not wrong to say that this poem is counsel to the parties, who are quelling with each other. They should put aside their personal benefits and consider about making progress. They should not consider about their personal grudges but should focus on the concept of contrariness. At last but not least, “Casting and Gathering” emphasize on the importance of compromise and promotes the philosophical idea of making adjustments.