How does Heaney make his childhood experiences in rural Ireland vivid

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My essay is on Seamus Heaney and two of his poems he wrote describing part of his childhood, they are ‘Blackberry Picking’ and ‘The Early Purges’. With these two poems I aim to explain what the poems are about and how Seamus Heaney tries to make his childhood experiences vivid to the reader and then compare both of the poems, and also write a paragraph on Seamus Heaney’s background.

Seamus Heaney was the eldest of nine children; he was born on April 13th 1939. His father, Patrick Heaney, ran a small farm, which him and Seamus Heaney lived and worked on, he bought and sold cattle, which he wanted Seamus Heaney to carry on doing when he passes away. Seamus Heaney’s talents were there very early when he won a scholarship to a Catholic Boarding school. He progressed to Queen’s University, Belfast, and became a teacher, then a lecturer. His first collection of poems, Death of a Naturalist, was published in 1966. Then in 1995 he went on and won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The Early Purges is about how Seamus Heaney changes his views on killing animals as he grows up, and how if you live on a farm, how things are treated differently and how things are dealt with. At the age of six Heaney first saw kittens being killed. Heaney was so upset about this; we know this because he said, “for days I sadly hung round the yard watching the three sogged remains.” After all this happened Heaney’s “fear came back as he saw Dan Taggart trapped big rats, snared rabbits, shot crows, and pulling old hens necks”. The killing is quite violent.

As Heaney got older he thinks concern for animals is a false sentiment “still living displaces false sentiments” so he has started killing animals him self. We know this because it says, “when shrill pups are prodded to drown I just shrug, bloody pups” Saying that we know that he has no problem with killing animals. So he is now like Dan Taggart.

One way that Seamus Heaney makes his childhood experience vivid to the readers is by the use of oxymoron. “Tiny din” is an example of oxymoron used to descried the noise made by the drowning kittens. The word “tiny” suggests it is a very faint noise the kittens made, whereas “din” suggests a loud noise. By placing the words side by side it makes us aware that the kittens were trying, in their panic, to make a loud noise, but being so small, were unable to do so.

In the poem Blackberry Picking, Seamus Heaney and one of his friends went out to go and pick all the freshly ripening blackberries, putting them in what ever they could put them in. After they picked all of the berries they could find and filled their bath with them, the mood of the poem changes, and the berries turn rotten “like thickened wine” the blackberries which were rich and juicy are now disgusting and mouldy. Lots of the blackberries went mouldy because they were greedy and they get disappointed “a rat grey fungus, glutting on our cache”. “We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre” they placed all the blackberries into a bath even the non ripe ones, to wait till they’re good to eat. And at the end of this he learns that it is best to not be greedy cause when your greedy you get less!

Heaney’s descriptive style of writing in the poem Blackberry Picking describes the colours and the ripening of the berries in very graphic and descriptive detail. “At first, just one, a glossy purple clot” describes the beginning of the berries forming and the beginning of his craving and greed for them. “Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it” captures the image of ripe, juicy, thick, plump berries full of deep red juice. When it came time to pick the berries Seamus Heaney and his friend were sent out with “milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots” anything that could be found to use to collect the Black berries. At the end of the frenzy of blackberry picking the containers had been filled and “on top big dark blobs burned, like a plate of eyes” because of all of the “glossy purple clot (s)” with the shine of light on them it looks likes lots of eyes on a plate.

The Blackberry Picking shows a happier side of his life for Seamus Heaney, a time of simple childhood pleasures and experiences such as going out and picking blackberries and enjoying his friends company. In the poem the Blackberry Picking he was never scarred or changed by the fact of death. Where as in The Early Purges he sees kittens being killed at a very young age. This then effects his later life, when he grows up because he kills the pups and says “on well run farms pests have to be kept down” This made Seamus Heaney loses his childhood and everything which he did in his childhood.

I think that the poem ‘The Early Purges’ is the most effective in putting across Seamus Heaney’s childhood experiences because it tells you where he lived. It explains to you how his life was and how he felt about what happens on farms. It also shows how he felt about things when he was a child, which it does kind of does in ‘Blackberry Picking’ but only that he was sad and greedy when he was a child!

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