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Exploring Seamus Heaney's Poem 'A Constable Calls': A Guide for Irish Leaving Cert Students

Updated: Feb 17

Irish poet Seamus Heaney is widely regarded as one of the greatest poets of the 20th century, and his work continues to be studied by students of all levels, including Irish Leaving Cert students. One of his most famous poems, "A Constable Calls," provides a rich and thought-provoking exploration of themes such as authority, social order, and the power dynamics of rural life.

Understanding the Background of "A Constable Calls"

  • The poem "A Constable Calls" was written by Seamus Heaney in the late 1960s, and was published as part of his collection "Door into the Dark."

  • The poem is set in rural Ireland and is based on Heaney's own memories of growing up in the country.

  • The poem's central figure, the constable, represents the authority figures of rural life and the power dynamics of rural society.

Analyzing the Themes and Message of "A Constable Calls"

  • One of the key themes of "A Constable Calls" is the relationship between authority and those who are subject to it.

  • Through the figure of the constable, Heaney explores the power dynamics of rural life, where the constable serves as a symbol of the law and order that governs rural society.

  • The poem also touches on themes of class, hierarchy, and the role of tradition in rural life.

Approaching "A Constable Calls" in the Irish Leaving Cert Exam

  • For Irish Leaving Cert students, "A Constable Calls" can provide a valuable opportunity to explore themes of authority, power, and social order.

  • When approaching the poem in the exam, students should consider the themes and message of the poem, as well as its literary features, such as its structure, language, and imagery.

  • Students should also consider the context of the poem, including its historical and cultural background, as well as its place in Heaney's wider body of work.


"A Constable Calls" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem by Seamus Heaney that provides a rich exploration of themes such as authority, power, and social order. For Irish Leaving Cert students, the poem can provide a valuable opportunity to engage with these themes and to develop their critical analysis skills. By considering the poem's themes, message, and literary features, students can gain a deeper understanding of its significance and impact.

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