Both of the two poems go from showing us an innocent child hoping that things will not change, to powerful disappointment when they do. They both convey nature to be pleasant, but both also show how it becomes darker, and nasty. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ shows this nasty side when describing how “briars scratched” the children, while ‘Naturalist’ shows this with words such as “vengeance”and “obscene threats”. Both poems demonstrate the naivety and innocence of a young child, by showing the ignorance of negative facts and how the only thing that seems to matter is what’s happening there and then. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ uses much personification, such as when the child seems to believe the frogspawn will “clutch” his hand should he put it in the water. Of course, while the child knows this won’t happen, he somehow still believes that it will. This shows the child’s imagination and creativity. It is similar to the classic “monster under the bed” scenario.
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Both poems are very autobiographical. They are written in the first person, telling stories and describing events in the poets childhood. I think that Heaney uses this format as it helps convey the images through the eyes of a child, and at first create a carefree, happy and naive mood in the reader’s mind. If the poems were written in the third person instead, they would not have anything like any of these effects, and it would feel more like an adult watching a child, than being read as the thoughts of a child. I think Heaney made the correct decision to write the poems in this way, it works well. The effects of this are applied further by using some, but not too much, childish similes and vocabulary in both poems. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ uses the simile “like a plate of eyes” to describe the blackberries. This shows the thoughts of a child’s mind, finding something imaginative and gory to compare the blackberries to, rather than a more sensible or accurate description. It is not the kind of phrase a more mature person would use. “It wasn’t fair” is used as it is a classic phrase associated with a younger child arguing with parents, which seems like the child doesn’t know exactly what to say for a reason why, but just feels things should not have happened the way they did, such as his blackberries decaying. “Big dark blobs” again uses typical children’s terminology, with the short and simple words a child would use, especially “blobs”, which has a very childish sound to it. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ has this mix of adult language and structure, interlaced with the right amount of children’s phrases and words. “But best of all” reminds the reader of an energetic, enthusiastic child rushing through a story of what he or she has done that day, trying to explain everything as it comes to mind to their parents or a friend. Heaney returns to this image later in the poem by using a very long sentence, with no pauses, which just continues and continues by using the words “and then” or “and how” repeatedly, and also makes it sound more childish by using words such as “mammy frog” and “daddy frog” rather than male or female. The poem uses the word “slobber” as it is the sort of vocabulary a young child would use to describe something with the texture of frogspawn.It seems like the child is happily rambling through a story of an exciting day.
In both poems the mood starts off positive, describing memories of summer’s days and playing outdoors, I think the phrase “wet grass bleached our boots in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ plays a part in creating this image. It is also enthusiastic and energetic, however in the second stanza, both poems suddenly change to a more negative mood. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ describes how things die, rot and decay. Heaney says that the “canfuls smelt of rot” and how the “sweet flesh would turn sour.” This shows how the child is going from the blissful stage of ignorance to learning that everything will end eventually. He also comes back to this disappointment and the upset felt by the child when his fruit that he enjoyed collecting destroys itself, by writing “I always felt like crying”, and showing the immaturity of the child again with the phrase “It wasn’t fair”. The poem ends unhappily and low. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ begins by describing the setting, rather than fixed opinions. However, the mood is still portrayed rather negatively, as the poem starts, and generally continues right through, by explaining and detailing how nature is rotted and strained by different things, such as how “flax had rotted there,” or “sweltered in the punishing sun”. I think the poet has created a very powerful image by describing the sun as “punishing”. The mood tends to stay negative like this throughout the poem, although in the mid-section of the poem it becomes more positive, turning away from the subject of decaying and rotting towards an enthusiastic mood.
Both poems are written in two stanzas, and in both the first stanza is around twice the length of the second stanza. Generally, the first stanza is used to set the scene and create a mood, while the second stanza changes the flow completely, usually turning more negative, and reversing the mood found at the end of the first stanza. The rhyme in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ is mostly half rhyme, with occasional full rhyme, whereas ‘Death of a Naturalist’ does not use rhyme at all. By choosing to not use any rhyming pattern, Heaney can use vocabulary more freely and has a wider choice of sentences than if he was locked in to using a set rhyme structure. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ has definitely used the rhyme scheme to its advantage, and it has effectively added a solid rhythm to the poem. By using mostly half rhyme, Heaney can occasionally insert full rhyme which makes those lines stand out and have a more profound effect, such as when “clot” is rhymed with “hard as a knot”. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ creates its rhythm using other methods, and shows that rhyme is not always required in creating an effective poem.
Each poem is written to begin with the boy joyfully interacting with different aspects of nature, although in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the child is on his own, whereas he is also interacting with friends in ‘Death of a Naturalist’.In both poems the boy takes something away from nature and into his own home, where it ceases to survive.
Both poems are packed with descriptive language. Heaney uses mostly visual expressions, such as “green”, “yellow”, and “pulsed” in ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ and “glossy”, “rat-grey”, and “red” in ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’. However, he also describes the smell, texture and even taste in some parts of the poems, such as when the blackberries’ juice is defined as “stinking” in ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’, or when Heaney uses “rank” to describe the fields in ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’.
‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ certainly uses more powerful language than ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’. It uses strong words such as “punishing” and “sweltering” to describe the heat outside, and uses other -powerful terms such as “obscene” and “vengeance” later in the poem. ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’ also creates strong images but simply does not use as much powerful language.
I think that ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’ uses more similes than ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ as they can effectively be used to create simple images, while in ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ metaphors are more commonly used.Each poem uses alliteration to emphasize certain phrases such as “coarse croaking” in ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ and “fruit fermented” in ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’.
I think that ‘DEATH OF A NATURALIST’ is more of a serious minded poem, although it does still maintain some child like sections, while ‘BLACKBERRY-PICKING’ is the opposite way around.
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