Similarly, the fruit-picking calls to mind the biblical story from the Book of Genesis, that loss of paradise brought on when Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the forbidden tree: they gained worldly knowledge, but in doing so lost their innocence.But Heaney doesn’t choose to overstress this, any more than the fact that the berries – placed in a bath in a shed – are associated with the infant Jesus lying in his manger in the stable, that setting of a million nativity plays (and Jesus’ time on earth, of course, culminated in his self-sacrifice that was made necessary by Adam and Eve’s fruity temptation and subsequent Fall).
But of course ‘Blackberry-Picking’ is not just about the literal experience of picking blackberries.
The poem appeared in Seamus Heaney’s first volume of poems, , published in 1966, when Heaney was in his mid-twenties.
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A critical reading of a classic Heaney poem Seamus Heaney’s ‘Blackberry-Picking’ is one of the great twentieth-century poems about disappointment, or, more specifically, about that moment in our youth when we realise that things will never live up to our high expectations.
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.For more of Heaney’s classic early poetry, see our discussion of ‘Digging’ here.For more meaningful poetry about fruit, see our analysis of Blake’s poem about resentment and anger, ‘A Poison Tree’.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.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.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.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.