Blackberry Picking vs. Ancient Photograph
The poem “Blackberry picking” is mainly about four things, which are picking blackberries, family tradition, life and death and childhood experiences. Referring to blackberry picking, Heaney describes blackberry picking using such words and combination of phrases that just by reading the poem it makes the reader think and feel as though he/she is there, picking berries with the writer. In other words Heaney makes us live out the experience of picking blackberries.
The poet compares blackberries to life cycle and death. He manages that by referring to our senses, which are smell, taste, touch, sight and sound. He uses our senses to make us live out the blackberry picking, as well. As an example of him using our senses to get to the point he wants us to get it: “…juice was stinking too.” This is referring to our smell sense.
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Heaney, using the senses, compares blackberries to a life cycle and to life and death. We can see that when he describes that and how the blackberries rot: “but when the bath was filled, we found a fur, a rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.” This sentence refers to death. However to be able to contrast the two main happening in life, Heaney, at the beginning of the poem describes how good are the blackberries: ” Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it.” The poet even puts very necessary elements of human body-the blood into the poem for readers to make them see better that blackberry are alive. As a result of the two contrasts is that death will always come and there is nowhere to hide from it. No matter how beautiful, juicy and nice is the blackberry, it will also die (rot in this case), as everything that is alive.
What is significant to all Heaney’s poems is that he describes and tells all the readers about his family traditions and this poem is no exception. The poet describes how he and his family used to go blackberry picking all together. After they had collected berries, the family could and would be able to make jam or juice out of the berries and I presume that this tradition was strongly kept through centuries of their existence. Every year they would all do that and Heaney being just a boy remembers how exciting was the experience.
In Heaney’s book “Death of a Naturalist,” I noticed something that also adds to the meaning of this poem. Just below the title “Blackberry Picking,” Heaney has mentioned a name. A name of a man, “Philip Hobsbaym” which he has dedicated this poem to. Reading over his poem I noticed some lines that made me think that Philip was Heaney’s childhood friend or maybe even a close relative, that he went blackberry picking with. One of these lines are: “You ate the first one and its flesh was sweet…” By using the word “you” Heaney probably refers to Philip as remembering how and when both of them were together living out the exciting experience both being just boys. So maybe all the meaning of this poem was dedicating poem to a friend, that is maybe dead or alive, remembering of the good old days when both of them together went blackberry picking.
Referring to the other poem “Ancient Photograph,” some Ideas match from the “Blackberry Picking”. This poem is about a photograph of his great grandfather, family occupation (also tradition), and the big changes after the death.
Well the very basic idea that this poem could be about is the photograph of Heaney’s great grandfather or father’s father. Heaney describes fully the photograph including details such as how does the great grandfather stand and how does he look like. In the photograph Heaney mentions that there is also his father standing there. Once again the poet uses our senses to makes us feel as though we are looking at the photograph of Heaney’s great grandfather, at the same time as Heaney himself is doing that. As an example of the description of Heaney’s great grandfather is: ” Jaws puff round and solid as a turnip…” The poet also mentions that in the end, when he takes the picture of the wall all that is left is a faded patch on the wall exactly where the photo used to stand: “…there is a faded patch where he has been…”
Similar to the poem of “Blackberry picking,” in this poem as in all of them there is a piece of family tradition, in this case it is more specified, it is an occupation passed down from centuries of the family existence. Every man in the Heaney’s family used to be a cattlemen, except Heaney himself. When the poet says: “…there is a faded patch where he has been,” he also describes that after the death of his father there was nobody to continue the family occupation, so it is compared to a faded patch on the wall. It is something that will never return and has been stopped and failed to continue. By taking the portrait of his uncle to the attic, it is also sort of opening a new page in Heaney’s family’s history. The family occupation that lasted for years is like sort of captured in the photograph and is gone to the grave with his uncle. Since the uncle is gone and as Heaney says: “…closing the chapter of our chronicle,” he feels as though memories should be put all together and taken away, so that the future can be brought on. I presume that is the main reason why Heaney takes the photo of his uncle to the attic.
As I already said before, both poems have some certain similarities. The biggest and the main similarity is that both poems are about time passing. Both describe the huge changes that have taken place as time has passed. Also both poems talk about Heaney’s family and the family traditions. The traditions seem to be in a very high value for Heaney, but at the same time it seems like Heaney doesn’t really do anything to continue these traditions, except he writes about them a lot. This however could be interpreted as a passing on a family tradition, but not in a physical way but in a more of a mental way. Also both poems impose the idea of passing the occupation from generation to generation, like saving the monarchy of Heaney’s family. However as I already said before Heaney himself has found another way of passing the monarchy of his family on.
However there are some slight differences or contraries between these two poems. I must say that those differences exist but they are very small and mostly all Heaney’s poems have more or less the same meaning. One of the differences is that one poem talks about family leisure but the other one describes hard work, not only doing the work but also passing the occupation from generation to generation.
The poem about picking blackberries talks about something pleasant that Heaney enjoyed doing as being a kid, however the ancient photograph include some things that Heaney didn’t find so interesting and breath taking, other ways he would be an cattlemen instead of a poet these days.
As to conclude I would say that these two poems are very similar and very deep. I can barely find any differences in the main ideas and that only shows us that Heaney mostly writes about the things that are very important to him, involving all of them in each and every poem as much as he can.
In both poems Heaney used senses as the main source of imagery, to make us be there at blackberry picking with him and to make us see the portrait of his uncle as if it was just there in front of us. In the poem about picking blackberries Heaney uses sibilance to describe the blackberries at the time of picking, however he doesn’t do that in the poem about the photograph. In the blackberry poem, the poet uses long and big word to make the poem sound more fulfilled just like the bushes full of juicy blackberries. However in the poem about the photo, Heaney uses mixed length of words, in each sentence it is different.
In both poems Heaney uses mixed rhythm and both poems rhyme very well: “back smack, rot not and clot knot.” Also both poems contain enormous amount of half rhymes such as: ” cache bush, turnip, lip and been skin. ” Especially the half rhyme mostly is used in the “Ancestral Photograph.” Because the rhythm doesn’t follow any particular patter could be referred to the particular moment, for an example if something stops, the rhythm slows down, as soon as something accelerates, so does the rhythm.