Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Seamus Heaney - Blackberry Picking

With the frost that threatened last weekend finally taking hold of the ground this morning, I was relieved to see that the crisp sunshine of October could melt it quickly.

So never one to miss an opportunity, mid morning I took to walking and was surprised to see so many blackberries still opulent on the hedgerows.

I thought of Seamus Heaney's poem 'Blackberry Picking' and how he remembered with sadness the lovely canfuls turning to rot, and was glad that at least this morning they hung with such tempting grandeur.

Anyhow have a listen below:

Blackberry Picking

Seamus Heaney

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.


  1. Great Poem. I love picking blackberries. Even though I'm the only one who ever eats them I drag the kids out to do it every year. It's important to keep the family au-fait with the hunter gathering.

  2. Absolutely. Let them know there's still plenty up on the hills!


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