16 pages 32 minutes read

Seamus Heaney

Two Lorries

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1996

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Historical Analysis

“Two Lorries” takes place across two distinct time periods—the distant past and the near past for the speaker. The exact year and age of the speaker as a child are not given, but we know that Seamus Heaney was born in 1939; therefore, as the second stanza establishes the time to be within the 1940s, we can imagine him to be somewhere between five and ten years old. He is young enough to be distracted by the coal and the thought of the perfect ashes it will bring, but old enough to feel some responsibility to his mother. The poet introduces some distinguishing features of the time, such as the emery and black lead used for cleaning the stovetop, and the feeling of occasion attached to the phrase “And films no less!” (Line 13).

For the most part, however, this first memory could exist in any time at all, and it tells a simple story of a mother and a child and a young man that could stand alone in any past, present, or future. This sense of timelessness is made especially powerful by the comparison of the titular two lorries; though decades apart, there is a suggestion that the trucks have changed very little in that time, close enough to be indistinguishable in the speaker’s memory.