The Butter-Print

  Heaney revisits the lost domain of childhood, his memory awakened by the sight of an old-fashioned farmhouse utensil used to decorate butter (the Heaneys produced their own butter on the family farm in ‘Churning Day’ from Death of a Naturalist, Heaney’s first collection of 1966). The sight of the butter-print generates mock recrimination aimed at the woodworker who made it: Who carved on the butter-print’s round open face / A cross-hatched head of rye, all jags and bristles? The contrast between the tasty substance and the image it bears has given rise to a stinging memory: Why should soft butter bear that sharp device / As if its breast were scored with slivered glass? The poet’s reaction stems from […]