Derry Derry Down

The title is taken from the refrain of The Keeper, a traditional song, ostensibly about a gamekeeper searching for female deer but loaded with the insinuation of sexual encounter. Heaney’s speaker uses a fairy-story atmosphere to describe a pleasure sequence from his own life. The two experiences hint at the deliberate sensuality of the original song. i  With innuendo at the discretion of his reader, Heaney selects a fruit, large and full: The lush/ Sunset Blush/ On a big ripe/ Gooseberry. His aim is to gather it, to enjoy of its promise and its plenitude. This daring task has some peril attached: I scratched my hand/ Reaching in. We know from The Butts that ‘reach in’ is an expression of intimacy. Then comes a further clue: in contrast […]