Blackberry Picking- Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet who was born in Mossbawn farmhouse and spent fourteen years of his childhood there. Many of his poems are based on personal experience; ‘Mid-term Break’, for example, was based on the death of his younger brother; and are laid out in settings akin to those he is familiar to. His poem, ‘Blackberry Picking’, is set on a farm and explores the simple luxury of picking fresh, ripe blackberries, his inspiration quite possibly being his own childhood. Thematically, the poem explores the idealistic nature of childhood, and the importance of waking up to reality as one grows older. The beginning of the poem is filled with a vivid passionate recollection of the seasonal picking of blueberries. The time is late August, and in perfect harvest conditions of ‘heavy rain and sun, the blackberries would ripen’. The idealistic views of childhood are brought out in the description of the berries, conveying a sense of near perfection, ‘At first, just one, a glossy purple clot.. You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet’. The memory of the blueberries is so vivid that Heaney recounts the ‘stains’ left upon the tongue and even the ‘lust’ felt for picking. There is a deep sense of indulgence conveyed in this first part of the poem, especially through the use of the word ‘lust’, which would otherwise not normally be used in describing the feelings of children. This passion for something as innocent as blueberry picking is something that can come only in childhood. As the poem progresses, Heaney switches from showing a joyous, childlike recollection to a more wistful, longing tone of an adult whose younger days have passed. He conveys in this part the desperation to hold on to something good, ‘We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre’, and how holding on is never to any avail, as these ‘berries’ possibly used as a metaphor for anything that is almost too good, decay if held on to for too long. This is when a sense...
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