In this comment on Zbigniew Herbert’s Report from the Besieged City (title of both a poem and a poetry collection), Heaney likens the development of the Polish poet’s writing to an apple ripening from a pure green hardness to something more mellow and bough-swaying. 

Note that refreshingly and deliciously ‘unforbidden’ knowledge hanging from the apple tree.

There you discover that the perfect moral health of the earlier poetry was like the hard pure green of the ripening apple: now the core of the thing is less packed with tartness and the whole oeuvre seems to mellow and sway on the bough of some tree of unforbidden knowledge. 

For a rich selection of other Heaney similes and metaphors, see our celebration of Beowulf, both his version and that of Kevin Crossley-Holland.

See also further writing metaphors by Heaney, including writing technique as a form of dousing, the resemblance between verse and masonry, and writing as a skein of thread. 


Source: Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers: Selected prose 1971-2001 (London: Faber and Faber, 2003), p. 163

Photo credit: B3R3N1C at pixabay 3


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