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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 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 was filled we found fur’. These lines are very descriptive because they are saying that the fresh berries don’t last and will eventually wrinkle and turn mouldy.
This is true in life as well, because also young children are ‘fresh’ but in time they will lose their quality and begin to wrinkle until they are of no use to anyone. ‘The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.’ This is a very powerful line because it is saying that the smooth, sweet flesh would become unpalatable. This is true in life as well because when you are young your skin is smooth and perfect but as time passes it will shrivel and will lose the beauty it had initially.
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.’ This works very well at the end of the poem because it is showing that he felt it was ‘unfair’ that the freshness would not keep just like youthfulness would not. ‘It wasn’t fair that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.’ This sentence is saying that the poet feels it isn’t fair that youthfulness has to turn rotten. Each year he hoped it would last but he knew that it would not because it is not possible. This poem is trying to convey the feeling that when you are young you do not think that things will change but as you get older and you begin to fade you realize that nothing lasts.
The ‘Death of a Naturalist’ is similar to the theme of ‘Blackberry-Picking’ because it is again talking about youth and its innocence however it is not about ageing. This poem is very moving because it deals with the changing feelings of someone as they turn from young innocence into adulthood where things are not so innocent. This is visible at the end of the first verse when he says, ‘Miss Walls would tell us how The daddy frog was called the bullfrog And how he croaked and how the mammy frog laid hundreds of little eggs and this was Frogspawn.’ This is very crucial because it is describing a teacher talking about ‘the birds and the bees’. The writer is trying to convey the fact that when young everything is simpler and is not explained in true detail but made to sound pleasing. ‘The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting. I sickened, turned and ran.’
This is describing the fact that the teacher’s words were incorrect, as they did not show the sick and dirty side of the frogs. And when this person saw this he was not prepared because he had been protected in his youth from the realities but now that he had seen for himself he did not like it. The writer has tried to show that thing can seem lovely and nice when the full detail is left out but when the whole truth comes out it can be shocking and even sickening. What the writer is really talking about is that the innocence of youth can hold back the truth, ‘The Daddy frog was called a bullfrog.’ This is just a version of the truth when children are told about sex and then when finally they are in a situation like this it can seem daunting and sometimes even sickening. This is because it is now reality and all the terrifying feelings and sights can shock someone because it is now shown in its full brutality. The writer has used the frogs as an example however the undertones of the poem are along the same lines of young innocence and how it comes as a shock when the full truth is apparent.
It is now apparent that these two poems have similar themes but they differ slightly. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ is a very sombre poem because it is describing the frailness and weakness of the body, as you become older and how these things are not as easy to understand as a young child. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ is similar because again it has a serious theme about lost childhood innocence. However instead of beauty it talks about sex and how it can be sickening to someone who has been sheltered from the bare facts. Apart from the slightly different topics both poems concentrate on the issue of youth and are quite sombre.
‘Blackberry-Picking’ and ‘Death of a Naturalist’ both contain four verses, however the latter has a much longer first verse and over all is greater in length. Both poems start off talking about happy things but they then turn to a more depressing theme. Perhaps the writer wanted them to be set out like this to end the poems on a bad note ensuring that the harsh facts would stick in the reader’s mind longer than the pleasant things.
‘Blackberry-Picking’s last letter of the final word in a line usually makes the same sound as the last letter of the next line. There are a few exceptions but mostly this is true. The third and fourth and the last two lines rhyme properly. There is no consistency in the number of lines per verse and each verse has varying numbers. The language used in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ is complicated and it is not easy to see the true meaning of the poem at first glance. However after careful observation it is possible to see the hidden meaning. The language, once understood, is very powerful and descriptive. ‘Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it.’ This simile is a very powerful description of the blackberries because it is comparing them to wine making the reader think of thick red wine oozing from the blackberry. ‘Summer’s blood was in it’ is very powerful because it saying that the red heat of summer was in them which creates a strong image in the mind of the reader. ‘big dark blobs Like a plate of eyes.’ is another good simile because again it gives an image to paint a picture from. The last line of the second verse, ‘With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s’ it paints a superb picture of their hands being covered in the red juice. It does this because Bluebeard is a name for a man who murders his wives or is someone with a horrible secret and so they would have blood on their hands, which you can easily compare to the red on the children’s hands.
The third line of the third verse contains very good use of language to paint a very descriptive picture. ‘A rat -grey fungus, glutting on our cache.’ This description of the mould growing on the berries is a very good use of language because it allows the reader to visualise a picture of the fungus due to its comparison to the colour of rat. This gives an exact grey to use to create the scene in your head. The last part of this sentence is very good again at providing a description, ‘Glutting on our cache’. This use of language helps the reader to picture the fungus eating too much of their secret hoard. Glutting is a very powerful word because it means something that eats too much and the word cache means someone’s secret hoard. These words in the sentence create a very vivid image.
The language in this poem is very powerful and uses very specific words to describe images and this provides a good background for the poem.
In the ‘Death of a Naturalist’ the use of language is very different because it does not rhyme at all nor do the last letters sound the same. It does not contain many similes and so it is blander but still very realistic due to the use of adjectives. ‘Daily it sweltered in the punishing sun’ is a very descriptive line that still paints a clear image. The words used are not complicated and mean what they say. All through the poem there is great use of descriptive words, which paint stimulating images in the readers head. ‘But best of all was the warm thick slobber’, here we see the effective use of adjectives while in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ the poet establishes an emotive atmosphere by the use, primarily, of similes.
The imagery used in ‘Blackberry-Picking’ in the first two verses is very detailed, emphasizing the colours of ripeness. ‘A glossy purple clot’ is a very powerful sentence because it pictures shiny, ripe colours associated with youth and perfection. ‘Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it’ the poet again has emphasized the bright colours because ‘summers blood’ creates a powerful image of a bright summer’s red which again is a warm and youthful colour. ‘big dark blobs burned Like a plate of eyes.’ Again the poet has tried to create effective imagery to represent the warm and happy months of the year full of joy and sun or the happier years of someone’s life.
The imaginative use of colour in the first verse is emotionally powerful and creates an image of immense pleasure and expectation. This completely contradicts with the imagery used in the last verse because the mood of the poem is changed due to the change of the imagery. The last verse has very bleak images; ‘A rat-grey fungus’ completely contrasts with the other two verses images of youth and summer. It is much darker and depressing, ‘The juice was stinking too.’ ‘That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.’ All of these extracts portray much darker and grotesque imagery and all imply the rotting of anything good and is saying that nothing good lasts forever. The line ‘the sweet flesh would turn sour’ is a powerful example of this because it is showing depressing imagery of the reality that sweetness will turn sour eventually.
‘Death of a Naturalist’ uses many adjective images to portray the feeling behind it. This poem is equally detailed, however its imagery is descriptive rather than comparing images by use of similes. ‘Bubbles gargled delicately’ is emotionally powerful because the poet is using adjectives to paint the images. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ has captured equally the emotion however it uses similes rather than adjectives. Both poems have very powerful, emotional and moving words and both create both light and dark images but they both do this in different ways.
Overall I feel that these two poems are similar in some ways because they are both portraying the innocence of childhood and how youth does not stay forever. However they portray this in different ways. ‘Blackberry-Picking’ uses the subject of ageing and the fact that everyone ages. ‘Death of a Naturalist’ uses the subject of sexual relationships saying that no one can remain young and eventually they will grow up and have to face fears and horrors. The language is different because ‘Blackberry-Picking’ uses similes and compares things to others but ‘Death of a Naturalist’ uses adjectives to describe things that are easier to understand. They both, however, have imaginative and moving images, both starting with positive ones that turn to negative. The way these two poets have approached the subject matter is very different but they both still have the same underlying meaning contrasting light and dark, idealism and reality.
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