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by Seamus Heaney

Lines 1-4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Lines 1-2

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

  • A pretty straightforward start: it's late August and the conditions are perfect (rain and sun) for the blackberries to ripen.
  • Heaney gives us a foothold in time. We know right away that it's late summer.
  • We can also guess, given the title and the mention of blackberries in the first two lines, that the poem will probably focus on none other than blackberries.

Lines 3-4

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

  • When the berries start to ripen, there's just one ripe, purple one among all the green (completely unripe) and red (just starting to ripen) berries.
  • "Clot" is an interesting word choice. Usually we use "clot" when we're talking about blood or other coagulated liquid. Here, the speaker is perhaps trying to get us to think about the image – sticky juice, maybe?
  • This is the first time (though it won't be the last) that Heaney describes the scene using more than just the visual. Here, he describes the texture of the berries – clotted (so, probably soft) and the green ones "hard as a knot."
  • So far he's used two of the five senses: sight and touch.

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