Having read some of Seamus Heaney’s poems before, I have chosen Blackberry-picking to analyse. This is a beautiful poem that supplies vivid detail and smart diction. The author is trying to relay on a deeper meaning by using the simple situation of picking blackberries, even though the subject of the poem knew that the blackberries would rot, he still picked and got caught up in the excitement. This is to mean that in life, as human beings we all get excited for certain things and believe that we are on cloud nine, but the life bring us back. It’s simply a lesson that is never learnt and is always repeated. After reading this poem few times I think it is a very good poem with good quality language.
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The taste of the first berry that was eaten is compared to “thickened wine” Heaney used metaphor “summers blood” to convey the madness of the sweet juice that led to wanting to eat more, ‘lust for picking’. Towards the middle of the first stanza shows us the picker’s real love for blackberry’s, they pulled out any available container to collect their fruit.
The next line tells us how far the children travelled to pick the fruit, “round hey fields, corn fields and potato drills” Heaney uses onomatopoeia on the 13th line of the 1st stanza, “tinkling bottoms” this suggests the sound off falling berries in the metal containers.
The following line’s tone completely changes and gets very violent, “like a plate of eyes”, this sounds very gloomy and gruesome, then it tells us the children are not really bothered by getting hurt only thing they care about is their hunger for the berries . “Our hands were peppered with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeards.” The last few words in this sentence are very mystical, I don’t really understand why Heaney has mentioned Bluebeard, he could be trying to say that the children’s hands are covered in blood, due to killing the blackberry’s (in other words the crime they have committed by wasting the blackberries to satisfy their lust and excitement) just like Bluebeard’s were after murdering his wives in the fairy tale story. Here Heaney uses Figurative language to give a connotation to blood and violence. (“Our hands were peppered with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeards.”)
In the last stanza Heaney discusses what happens to the blackberries after they have been picked, “we found a fur” this is a testament to the greed of the pickers. The ripeness of the blackberries is contrasted with what it later becomes, describing the fungus as a “fur” is a affective simile as it create an image in the readers mind of what exactly the mouldy blackberries look like, “rat -grey fungus” the description also mentions the colour of the fungus, to give more detail about how it looks. The poet has given a reference to a grey rat; this also could be to do with the fact that rats are very common in Ireland.
The following line Heaney is speaking like a child. “I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair.” Here Heaney shows us how young the children could have been to be so emotional about the blackberries. The naive language used by Heaney, makes the reader feel sorry for the poor children.
Once again Heaney gives another small reference “all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.” Again Heaney is contrasting “lovely” with “rot”. He is very good at playing with the language.
In the last line Heaney mentions that he always hoped the blackberries would last, but they never did, like I said before we never learn any lessons from our experiences and we go out and make the same mistake over and over again. “Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.” Here it tells us that how possessive and passionate the pickers are about blackberries, that each year they forget that the blackberries would rot; and they end up making the same mistake again and again.
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The poem is packed with verbs and adjectives, to give the real taste and feel of the blackberries. It is intentionally almost too rich, so that the poem fills the reader’s mouth as the blackberries do. The poem is set out in iambic pentameter couplets, full of monosyllabic nouns “clot”, “cans”, “pots”, “blobs”, “pricks”, “byre”, “fur”, “cache”, “bush”, “flesh”, and “rot”. Heaney does not use a lot of rhyme; it is only used two times in the whole poem, “clot”-“knot”, “rot”-“not”.
Heaney uses many alliterations in the poem, “first”-“flesh” “peppered”-“pricks”-“palms” “berries” – “byre” “fur”-fungus” “fruit fermented”-“flesh” and last of all “sweet”-“sour”, to make the poem sound interesting, and also to make it sound more appealing when read aloud. Heaney also uses a lot of words that sound similar; “milk cans”, “pea tins”, “jam pots” “hayfields”, “cornfields” “trekked”, “picked”, again this is done so that when reading the poem, slowly and loudly, we as readers can feel the vibration of our tongues.
Heaney uses a personification, as he gives the fungus human quality, which is eating away the delicious blackberries. Seamus Heaney uses different language styles in this poem such as, the poem gives viewpoint by an innocent and excited child and also it uses very strong language like an irritated adult. (“Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.”)
After analysing this poem, it has defiantly deepened my thoughts, and I’ve come to a conclusion that this poem is really about hope and disappointment (knowing that things never turn out to be, how we want them to be) and we should accept that nothing is eternal in this world, changes are due to happen in time, and blackberries become a metaphor for the experiences.
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