I am going to compare the poems, ‘Blackberry-Picking’ and ‘Death of a Naturalist’ to see whether they are similar. I will study the main themes of both poems and look for any similarities between them. I will also look at the way in which they have been written, analysing their layout, content and imagery to see if there is any consistency in the poems. By doing this I hope to be able to find out whether these two poems are similar or in fact totally different. The two poems by Seamus Heaney that I am going to discuss are Blackberry Picking and the Death of a Naturalist.
It is often said that Seamus Heaney is one of our ‘greatest living poets’ Over the last thirty years or so, Seamus Heaney has written a substantial amount of poetry and prose specifically on his first four collections of poetry which marked him as a unique and valuable talent. I will also look at how the political situation of his country has affected his poetry, and how the poet and his poetry have evolved against a background of violence to earn him the reputation he holds today. Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, whose work is notable for evocation of events in Irish history and its allusions to Irish myth.
Heaney was born on April 13 1939. He was the eldest of nine children. Seamus Heaney describes a vivid childhood memory of him as a child blackberry picking. The poet described the disappointment of the rotting blackberries and also the excitement of picking the berries. Blackberry picking gives a colourful account of picking blackberries, but its theme is hope and expectation. The poem is divided into two stanzas, with the first stanza describing Heaney picking the blackberries and the second stanza showing the failed attempt to preserve the berries.
Not everyone has the chance to go blackberry picking but Heaney actually describes the process so brilliantly that one can imagine being there with him. There is an obvious move from optimism in the first stanza to pessimism in the second, which is a technique also used in Death of a Naturalist. In death of a naturalist, the subject and structure are quite alike. Like in Blackberry Picking, this poem is set out in two stanzas, showing a change in Heaney’s attitude towards nature. By the word naturalist, you would think of someone who liked to study nature, someone who had great knowledge of the natural world.
However, when you reach the second stanza of the poem, you cannot think of calling someone who found frogs disgusting a naturalist. If you first looked at it, you would think the poem is about the death of someone who studied nature, and in a way, it is. ‘ He involves the senses, like in Blackberry Picking, by almost letting you hear the bubbles gargling and imagining the frogspawn as if you were there with him. As with Blackberry Picking, he uses unpleasant nouns and make them sound pleasing by adding unlikely nouns to them.
Similar to Blackberry Picking, he would place the frogspawn in any container he could find and then put it high up on the shelf (a safe place for a child), waiting for the spawn to burst. As I have mentioned before, there are quite a lot of similarities between Blackberry Picking and Death of a Naturalist, but also a few differences. The themes of the poems are similar because they are both about the innocence of childhood and the fact that when you are young everything is simple. “Blackberry-Picking” is about the innocence of childhood and that this innocence and youthfulness doesn’t last forever.
This is indicated by the lines in the last verse “we hoarded the berries in the byre. But when the bath wasfilled we found a fur,” This shows that when the children had picked all they could carry they didn’t know that they had to keep them cool because as soon as you pick something it starts losing its ripeness as soon as it comes off the branch and because the children placed them in a bath this shows they do not have the adult wisdom to show so they don’t keep them cool and from that moment Seamus and his friends see that nature isnt only about life but about death as well.
As we can see in Blackberry-Picking and Death of a Naturalist we can see that these are the times when Seamus comes to terms with the fact of life and the fact that everything isnt allright with the world and the fact that things die and things get taken over and killedits a fact of life.
In Death of a Naturalist Seamus is on his family’s farm when the wool is being made from flax, this was a popular money maker back then and the fasted growing business getting into the linen industry, and Seamus watches as frogs make their home in the flax dams that needed to be made to make wool and as he watches he takes another childhood memory and the eye of young Seamus again and says that “Miss Walls would tell us how the daddy frog was called a bullfrog and how he broaked and how the mammy frog laid hundreds of little eggs and this was frogspawn. This shows that teachers and parents at the time made a protective shield round small children because they want to shut out the death and the destruction of the world from them they want to shield their eyes from how this world becaomes what it is and to make sure that they see everyone to be as kind and loving as “daddy” which is the disarming efeect on the man of the house which provides for the family etc and young children see him as gentle as a small animal like a lamb.
Also in both poems we can see that they are both made up of two stanzas and the first one is when he has the protective shield round him and everything is fine and dandy in the world but in the second stanza he comes to terms with the real world and finds out about nothing lasts forever and that everything dies eventually and is shown in Blackberry-Picking when the fruit starts to die to rot so that it cant be eaten anymore “The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour. This shows Heaney that when there is a protective shield around you it can just disappear like a slap in the face and you wake up to the smell of rotting fruit and realise that you will die like these pieces of fruit in front of you and at this very moment people are dying and this would make anyone think “why?! ” Heaney uses a lot of poetic devices in both poems some of which I shall explain now : there is pattern of three which is shown in Blackberry-Picking and is used to get an idea into your head and to show that Heaney has got the knoledge to use it.
He uses a Military Overtone in Death of a Naturlist to show the frogs invading the flax dam to flush the other ones out to take over “the angry frogs Invaded the flax-dam;” Heaney shows that shows that the frogs a smart enough to realise they can have what they want and he knows that he shouldn’t get in there way Heaney knows this because he is the Naturalist described inthis poem and the Death of the Naturalist inside him is when he does realise that things happen that other things don’t like and this is the theme in Death of a naturalist that shows Heaney growing up.