Poems That Lift Readers Root and Branch to Heaven

From Associated Press

The following poems by Irish poet Seamus Heaney were cited by the Swedish Academy in awarding him the 1995 Nobel literature prize:

"The Wishing Tree," from his 1987 collection, "The Haw Lantern"

I thought of her as the wishing tree that died

And saw it lifted, root and branch, to heaven,

Trailing a shower of all that had been driven

Need by need by need into its hale

Sap-wood and bark: coin and pin and nail

Came streaming from it like a comet-tail

New-minted and dissolved. I had a vision

Of an airy branch-head rising through damp cloud,

Of turned-up faces where the tree had stood.


"Oracle," from the 1972 collection, "Wintering Out"

Hide in the hollow trunk

of the willow tree,

its listening familiar,

until, as usual, they

cuckoo your name

across the fields.

You can hear them

draw the poles of stiles

as they approach

calling you out:

small mouth and ear

in a woody cleft,

lobe and larynx

of the mossy places.


"Night Drive," from the 1969 collection, "Door Into the Dark"

The smells of ordinariness

Were new on the night drive through France:

Rain and hay and woods on the air

Made warm draughts in the open car.

Signposts whitened relentlessly.

Montreuil, Abbeville, Beauvais

Were promised, promised, came and went,

Each place granting its name's fulfillment.

A combine groaning its way late

Bled seeds across its work-light.

A forest fire smoldered out.

One by one small cafes shut.

I thought of you continuously

A thousand miles south where Italy

Laid its loin to France on the darkened sphere.

Your ordinariness was renewed there.

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