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Nonce Words

by Seamus Heaney

The road taken
to bypass Cavan
took me west,
(a sign mistaken)
so at Derrylin
I turned east.

Sun on ice,
white floss
on reed and bush,
the bridge cast
in an advent silence
I drove across,

then pulled in,
parked and sat
breathing mist
on the windscreen.
Requiescat . . .
I got out

well happed up,
stood at the frozen
shore gazing
at rimed horizon,
my first stop
like this in years.

And blessed myself
in the name of the nonce
and happenstance,
the Who knows
and What nexts
and So be its.


Seamus Heaney received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995. His most recent books are Electric Light (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2001) and Finders Keepers: Selected Prose 1971–2001 (FSG, 2002). Heaney has been a resident of Dublin since 1976 but since 1981 has spent part of each year teaching at Harvard University, where in 1984 he was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory. (5/03)

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