'...I think childhood is, generally speaking, a preparation for disappointment.'
'...what sets poetry part from all other kinds of writing is the
fact that it's got a rhythmic unity.'
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
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. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
Seamus Heaney was born in 1939. He was brought up on a farm near
Bellaghy, County Derry. His first book, Death of a Naturalist, was
published in 1966 and since then he has published poetry, criticism
and translations which have established him as one of the leading
poets of his generation. In 1995 he was awarded the Nobel Prize
for Literature. Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 was published in 1998.
Other featured poems by Seamus Heaney are:
- The Perch
- The Grauballe Man