by Seamus Heaney
Lines 1-4 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
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.
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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