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It’s a rite of passage that we all go through, though it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when disillusionment begins to cloud our clear and sunny skies of hope.
The clichéd example is when we discover there’s no Santa Claus, but in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the speaker’s realisation does not come all of a sudden: note how in the poem’s second stanza he says he ‘ I hoped they’d keep’.
Heaney uses the specific act of picking blackberries to explore this theme.
You can read ‘Blackberry-Picking’ here; below we offer a brief analysis of Heaney’s poem in terms of its language, meaning, and principal themes.
Note that when he does, he describes the ‘flesh’ of the blackberries and how ‘sweet’ it was.
Of course, fruit does have ‘flesh’ and blackberries are sweet, but the word, especially given the speaker’s talk of ‘lust’ in the next line, also calls to mind a sexual awakening.The speaker recalls the sense of disappointment he and his fellow blackberry-pickers felt when they discovered that the berries had fermented and a fungus was growing on the fruit.He says that this made him sad, and he came to realise that this would always happen: soon after the berries had been picked, they would go rotten.Most of them are instead off-rhymes or pararhymes at best: , and so on.As in Wilfred Owen’s war poems, the pararhyme suggests that something is not quite right, and rhyme seems too neat and glib a way of rendering such an unsettling and disillusioning experience. And this is because by now the speaker has come to terms with his disillusionment and can face it squarely in the face, especially now he’s a bit older.‘Blackberry-Picking’ helped to make Seamus Heaney a success almost overnight, along with the other poems in his first volume.We hope this analysis has offered some suggestion of why it is such a triumph of a poem, such a satisfying portrayal of disappointment.Blackberry Picking is a poem rich in imagery and symbolism -from the macabre linking of the fruit to a ‘plate of eyes’ capable of staring at the young Heaney and intensifying his sense of guilt, to the link between this apparently innocent fruit picking and the altogether more guilt-ridden picking of forbidden fruit in Eden and subsequent punishment through the perpetual torment described in the closing line – ‘each year I hoped… Here Heaney uses the trochaic substitution of the 4th foot to drive home the sense of despair as his hopes are dashed annually.Blackberry-Picking BY SEAMUS HEANEY Late August, given heavy rain and sun For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.These things are roughly at the back of our minds when we read Heaney’s poem, perhaps, but he does not insist that we understand or analyse ‘Blackberry-Picking’ in terms of such possible biblical resonances.The only explicit comparison made with other literature is to the notorious figure from French folk tales, Bluebeard, who had a habit of murdering his wives; the sticky deep red juice of the blackberries on the speaker’s hands is like the blood on Bluebeard’s hands.