This poem shows a sense of state of war. The poet narrates his watching of foreign soldiers marching on the road in a state of battle. This state of battle has snatched away all the rights of man or public. Heaney feels that there must be some reaction, there must be a revolt. He feels, as a poet, not to protest but, as a man, he wants to protest. Anyone, who tries to shake the people out of slumber, appears to people as an enemy. So Heaney seems to be helpless to find some outlet for his depression and helplessness at the invasion of foreign armies. Life is stable in sanctity; cruelty and oppression come and go but life stays holy. Huxley also says that life is invincible.
Marquez got the Nobel Prize in 1987. In his address to the Nobel Prize ceremony he said that there is so much oppression, cruelty, violence and disease in the world, but the population of the world is increasing. This shows that life does not stay still. It is always on the march to progress. In this poem, Heaney, too, seems to advocate this thing and tries to preach for a compromise with the troubles and worries of life.
This poem perhaps relates to a childhood experience of Heaney when he was only five or six years of age. He watched American soldiers on military exercises in the fields along the roads. The forces were preparing for the
invasion of 1944. The American armies were stationed near his house at an aerodrome within a couple of miles from his home. This is how history, even legend or myth, haunt the consciousness of Heaney. Normandy
Toome Road, he describes the movement of armoured cars in a convoy. The carriages, covered with some paint, leaves or nets so that they look like their surroundings, are in a state of battle with soldiers standing up through holes in the armoured cars and they are wearing head phones.
Heaney’s first reaction was that these were the foreigners who had occupied his land and who had denied him the right of way. He wants to protest; he wants to- rouse people in reaction but helplessly he remarks:
‘The whole country were sleeping’
He wants to shake the people out of their slumbering in action. They have locked themselves within their houses because they, too, feel helpless.
The poem is a good picture of foreign invasion. Like all poets, Heariey is also anti-war. In the end he makes a very helpless remark that these forces have invisibly descended upon their country from omphalos (omphalos is considered to be the navel, the centre of the universe. Obviously the reference is to a super power) so they are invincible.
Here we see a conflict in Heaney between his aversion to foreign domination and his belief in political non commitment.