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Blackberry Picking

by Séamus 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.


What is the poem about?

In the poem, Heaney recalls a time when he and his friends were sent to pick blackberries. He describes the beauty of the blackberries and how sweet they tasted.

The tone of the poem though changes. Heaney remembers the sense of disappointment he and his fellow blackberry-pickers felt when they discovered that the berries had fermented and a fungus was growing on the fruit. He says that this made him sad, and he came to realise that this would always happen: soon after the berries had been picked, they would go rotten.



Poetry Techniques

  • Alliteration: "bleached our boots"
  • Similie: "Like thickened wine" 
  • Imagery: "rat-grey fungus"

Narrative Writing


Pupils have been looking at and practising Narrative Writing (also known as Story Writing).

Pupils examined the features of good narrative writing in the story 'The King with Dirty Feet'.


Golden Rules of Narrative Writing

Always plan your story 
Use a maximum of 3/4 characters
Give character descriptions
 Use the past tense
Use descriptive language to create images
Magic number 3
Use Sentence Starters


List of Sentence Starters


Beginning of Story Middle of Story End of Story

Long ago...
Once upon a time...
There once...
It is said....

Many years ago...

In ancient times....


Soon after...


It was soon discovered...
Years later...

In the end...


It was decided...





Song of the Witches: “Double, double toil and trouble”

By William Shakespeare


(from Macbeth)


Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and caldron bubble. 
Fillet of a fenny snake, 
In the caldron boil and bake; 
Eye of newt and toe of frog, 
Wool of bat and tongue of dog, 
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting, 
Lizard's leg and howlet's wing, 
For a charm of powerful trouble, 
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 
Double, double toil and trouble; 
Fire burn and caldron bubble. 
Cool it with a baboon's blood, 
Then the charm is firm and good.


  1. What has been added to the cauldron?
  2. Shakespeare uses lots rhyme in this poem. List some of the words that rhyme.
  3. Where does Shakespeare use simile in the poem?

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