Chris Corrigan has posted a nice selection of Seamus Heaney‘s poetry, from which I take this:

A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.
There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.

(Via wood s lot.)


  1. I vaguely remember in one of the [Iris Murdock?] novels a love scene in the autumnal forest that involved yellow and brown leaves, clusters of rowan berries and red lipstick. Highly hot-hued.
    BTW, what’s the difference between rowan and mountain ash?

  2. Apparently a rowan is a variety of mountain ash. But I had to look it up; botany is not my specialty.

  3. Apparently, ‘rowan’ is simply a somewhat dated synonym of ‘mountain ash’. The rowan tree(ryabina in Russian) is native to Europe and is ensconced in ancient European lore deeply enough to have a one-word name instead of a misleading two-word appellation (it is not really an ash). So is the alder, I suppose; and the willow, perhaps the deepest of all.

  4. The old Scottish song, O Rowan Tree, is quoted in full at this site, as are some botanical details about the rowan and its place in folklore.

  5. The last two verses work particularly well, and seal the thought harmoniously, kind of like sonnets are meant to be ended. There are words I didn’t know, like rowan. But like in any good poem, one doesn’t need to know the meaning of every word in order to experience the poem. Of course one should learn the words eventually, then re-read the poem. I enjoyed song immensely.

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