Critical Analysis of “Casting and Gathering” by Seamus HenaeyCritical Analysis of “Casting and Gathering” by Seamus Henaey

It is necessary to know about two political parties viz. capitalists and socialists in a historical context before the critical analysis of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney. In addition to general themes, Seamus Heaney illustrates the theme of conflict between these two political parties.

What are capitalists?

Capitalists promote 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 have the right to sue. Similarly, they can also be sued. They can also sell and buy properties. In simple words, capitalism means the individual is everything. It mainly focuses on the freedom and progress of individuals.

What are Socialists?

Socialists, on the other hand, prefer socialism. It is an economic system, in which State owns everything including matters related to money and other resources. There is no concept of the individual in it. In addition to one’s personal welfare, he has to work for every other person in the State. It emphasizes the equal distribution of wealth among the people. In other words, the individual is a part of society, therefore, work should be done for society.

Critical Analysis of Casting and Gathering

Critical Analysis of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney

Casting and gathering are the names of two processes. Casting refers to throwing and gathering refers to harvesting. However, in this poem, casting means capitalists and gathering means socialists. Seamus Heaney has translated these words as per his own desire and needs to explain a prominent subject matter.

The poem is advice that Seamus Heaney gives to these two parties. Before Seamus Heaney, his predecessor in poetry W. B. Yeats had also given these parties some suggestions. However, he considered them equal. Seamus Heaney suggests that both parties should put aside their private agendas and focus on working for the welfare of society. He is advising them to effect compromise on a common point. He says that the public at large should be considered superior to everything. 

Like W. B. Yeats, the poet does not prefer any party. He considers them equal as both systems are made for the goodness of humanity. He considers them equal until they favour people and work for their welfare. This poem is an arbitration between two parties. As mentioned earlier, there was a conflict between capitalists and socialists due to which people were expecting a war. 

Seamus Heaney suggests that they should not fight on minor issues. They should compromise and think about the future of the people. They should give hope to them and must make progress while forgetting their clashes. Moreover, he advises that they should create new strategies in order to do something good for humankind. It is the only way through which they can become successful and gain equal sympathy from people.

A Personal Interpretation of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney

There is another interpretation of the poem. It is for Ted Hughes, therefore, there may be a 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 the importance of compromise.

Seamus Heaney is a pure poet whereas Ted Hughes is a fisherman in addition to being a poet. There is very less similarity between the personalities of these two individuals even then they are friends. They have maintained their friendship by means of concession. Validity in friendship is possible only through adjustments and compromises. If this interpretation is considered true even then the concept of the whole poem does not change. Thus, it focuses on the importance of friendship and adjustments.

From a critical analysis of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney, the majority of critics are agreed on the point that the poem is written from 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 for both of them.

Seamus Heaney also focuses on compromises. On one side, they are saying that the individual is everything, therefore, this system is preferable whereas, on the other hand, they talk about the importance of society and equality. Heaney does not advocate any party. He does not show his sympathy for any of them. He promotes the agenda of compromise and considers that it is the only available option for them if they want compassion for their fellow beings. If they make a compromise then the country will make progress.

A General Interpretation of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney

There is also a general interpretation of this poem. There may be a possibility that the poet talks about loss and gain. It is a general concept. Losing and gaining are part of life. Life goes on in this way. Everyone witnesses this general principle. Cast and gather which also means throw and harvest symbolizes loss and gain. Till the end of the world, this general principle would remain intact.

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 a loss. Similarly, he should not celebrate gain. However, if this general principle is followed then it is the best way to spend a peaceful and happy life.

Critical Style Analysis of Casting and Gathering by Seamus Heaney

The poem is based on five stanzas. Each stanza contains four lines. The rhyming scheme in the poem is not regular. In fact, the poet underestimates the use of a rhyming scheme. The poem does not strictly follow syllables but each line has ten syllables. The poet uses simple language to sketch some prominent themes.


In a nutshell, Seamus Heaney repeats the history of Ireland. Like other poems, he talks in respect of social context in this poem too. His views are considerable. He devotes to peace and does not want war. The conflict between parties is a resistance to progress. Moreover, they are making an 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 other object in his life. He is loyal to poetry. He does poetry for the sake of reformations. He considers himself duty-bound to teach through poetry.

Thus, this poem is entirely social as well as political. It focuses on the importance of push and pull. He also philosophizes the concept of contrariness. If the poem is not political even then it gives a moral lesson. It is wise advice on “how to keep a relationship alive”. However, the majority votes for the political interpretation.

It is not wrong to say that this poem is counsel to the parties, who quarrel with each other. They should put aside their personal benefits and consider making progress. They should not publicise their personal grudges but should focus on serving humanity. At last but not least, “Casting and Gathering” emphasize the importance of compromise and promotes the philosophical idea of making adjustments.