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Blackberry-Picking Analysis

Author: poem of Seamus Heaney Type: poem Views: 27

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Late August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

Submitted by Peter Carter


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

It's beautiful the way he describes blackberries :D it brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face :') He's by far my favourite poet.

| Posted on 2010-07-05 | by a guest

.: :.

I didn't see religion in this piece so much as I saw a "thirst" or temptation for blood and death. The imagery of "summer's blood" and "sweet flesh" and "eye" contradict starkly to the supposedly happy images of running children collecting berries in a summer field. They begin picking tentatively, go after the unripened "green and red" berries before the "big black blobs." I saw this almost as a rise of power, like a criminal or a slightly demented soldier getting their first taste of blood. Slowly it progresses into much more than just berries or just lives, but rather becomes an insatiable hunger and "lust for picking." He even likens himself to Bluebeard, murderer of wives, and feels a sense of guilt reflected in the "plate of eyes" that stares at him from the tin. The speaker cannot stop, however, and "each year he hopes that they will keep"--hopes that the bloodlust will remain sweet, but the feeling "rots," "ferments," grows old and pointless and "sour." This insistent insanity makes him seem almost childlike--he doesn't see this massacre as horrific in any way, as if too innocent to understand the extent and meaning of his actions--but his voice suggests a man of much higher intelligence than a mere child.
Ultimately, this poem is indeed about lust and greed--for blood and death and destruction, and the craze that ensues.

| Posted on 2008-08-25 | by a guest

.: what? :.

It works on many different levels. Could it just be the childhood experience of Heaney himself or is there a darker subliminal message? Could this poem actually be about the inevitable sin of temptation?
Heaney incorporates religious imagery in this poem which leads me to this answer. Being a strict catholic in Northern Ireland, Heaney had strong beliefs and catholic views. “Blackberry ripens” this is referring to the apple that Eve took off the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden.
The religious connotations appear in the next lines “You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it” the reference to flesh wine and blood could be referring to the last supper, the Eucharist. The blood and flesh of Christ. The last temptation
Again this appears in the line “With thorn pricks…” perhaps the crown of thorns. Heaney is a very sensuous poet and this is beautifully reflected in this poem.

Ultimately, this poem is about human lust, incapable to resist temptation. The transitionalality of our desires.

| Posted on 2007-05-18 | by a guest

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