Heaney concentrates his creative attention on a ‘Mother Earth’ figure of Norse legend (Nerthus) in whose name the Tollund bog-body of the previous poem was allegedly sacrificed. Her pagan beauty is set in tree form, within a sexually suggestive meld of landscape and female symbol of fertility: ash-fork staked in peat. The eye is drawn from mildly provocative long-distance shot (‘fork’) towards textures and shape suggestive of the female reproductive zone: Its long grains gathering to the gouged split. Jutland and Ulster landscapes have much in common; why not, then, a tree tolerant of all extremes of climate (A seasoned, unsleeved taker of the weather) preserved in an Ulster bog identical in all but the language to describe it: Where […]