A fragment and a hope

Sylvia Plath and Sappho

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Blackberrying - By Sylvia Plath



Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,


Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,


A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea


Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries


Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes


Ebon in the hedges, fat


With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.


I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.


They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.





Overhead go the choughs in black, cacophonous flocks—


Bits of burnt paper wheeling in a blown sky.


Theirs is the only voice, protesting, protesting.


I do not think the sea will appear at all.


The high, green meadows are glowing, as if lit from within.


I come to one bush of berries so ripe it is a bush of flies,


Hanging their bluegreen bellies and their wing panes in a Chinese screen.


The honey-feast of the berries has stunned them; they believe in heaven.


One more hook, and the berries and bushes end.





The only thing to come now is the sea.


From between two hills a sudden wind funnels at me,


Slapping its phantom laundry in my face.


These hills are too green and sweet to have tasted salt.


I follow the sheep path between them. A last hook brings me


To the hills’ northern face, and the face is orange rock


That looks out on nothing, nothing but a great space


Of white and pewter lights, and a din like silversmiths


Beating and beating at an intractable metal.




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A fragment from Sappho
Translated by Mary Barnard


I asked myself



What, Sappho, can


you give one who


has everything,


like Aphrodite?


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