The Diviner

Cut from the green hedge a forked hazel stick

That he held tight by the arms of the V:

Circling the terrain, hunting the pluck

Of water, nervous, but professionally


Unfussed.  The pluck came sharp as a sting.

The rod jerked with precise  convulsions,

Spring water suddenly broadcasting

Through a green hazel its secret stations.


The bystanders would ask to have a try.

He handed them the rod without a word.

It lay dead in their grasp till, nonchalantly.

He gripped expectant wrists.  The hazel stirred.


Seamus Heaney, from Death of a Naturalist

D  The master knows how to handle the hazel wood, knows how to pinpoint the holy well (as does Heaney).  In the hands of the curious passerby the stick lies inert, pointing nowhere, in no particular direction, simply wandering like the curious traveler.  The poet-master-diviner knows how to sound a poem.  For example, his line that begins with “Unfussed” ends with a sharp sting.  The long “e” sound in “ing” stands out, lives more sharply, because of the repeated short “u” sounds in “Unfussed” and “plugged.”  He knows how to set up a later effect.  Again when “the rod jerked,” he uses single-syllable subject and verb to express force, while the rising meter of the multi-syllable “precise convulsions” rounds out the motion.  He rough hews the opening of the line, while a divinity shapes its end.  It’s fun and instructive to watch a master work.