Blackberry-Picking by Seamus Heaney

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In Seamus Heaney’s poem “Blackberry-Picking” he describes his personal experience with blackberry picking. Throughout the years it is evident that the experience has become less pleasurable. Through rhythm, comparison, and sensory imagery, Heaney not only describes his experience but also says that the innocence of childhood and the wonders of nature are transient, and disappointment has to be confronted.

Heaney uses repetition of sound in his phrase “glossy purple clot” (line 3) to describe the first blackberry that ripened and stood out from others which is imaged with the simile as being still “hard as a knot.” (line 4) This is Heaney explaining how the first experience stood out and will continue to stay prevalent in his memory. He then compares the taste of the first ripe berry to the sweetness of “thickened wine.” (line 6) He uses the metaphor “summer's blood” (line 6) to express the redness of the juice that led to a desire for more, which is also seen with the phrase “lust for picking.” (line 7-8) Meaning, he wanted to do it again.

The second part of the sixteen-line first stanza tells how they collected all the containers they could lay their hands on: “milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots.” (line 9) The rhythm of the list is repeated two lines later in “hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills” (line 11) whose bordering hedges offered the fruit for picking. Onomatopoeia in the phrase “tinkling bottom” (line 13) suggests the sound of the first few berries hitting the metal of the cans they were dropped into. An ominous picture is painted in the description of the ripe fruit on the top: “big dark blobs burned like a plate of eyes.” (14-15) This reflects the vivid imagination of a child. The dark imagery increases at the end of the first stanza, where Heaney uses the simile “sticky as Bluebeard's” to describe the blackberry juice covering the palms of the children's hands as if it were blood, thus echoing the earlier metaphor of “summer blood.”

In the...
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