Another retells the Irish legend of a man who fell out of a magical airborne ship, into a monastery's scriptorium, then climbed back on board, "Out of the marvelous as he had known it." Everyday work, even indoor work like writing, could be marvelous too.
Heaney recorded these marvels in sheaves of sonnets, in complex old forms such as sestinas, in an iambic pentameter whose confidence buoyed his readers too, even when -- as in his last book, "District and Circle" (2006) -- he used those soaring lines to remember dead friends. He became, if book sales are a measure, perhaps the most popular serious poet writing in English anywhere in the world. And he became determinedly international, writing verse parables derived from Eastern Europe, adapting tragic drama from ancient Greece, and translating "Beowulf" from the Anglo-Saxon.
Yet he remained connected to the particulars of the Irish spaces he knew, to his first friends in poetry (and in folk music), and to his own earlier selves.
Later poems (such as "Glanmore Revisited") would see how he had, and how he had not, changed, and would see -- in the 1990s and 2000s -- the political change that brought calm, even peace, to the counties of his birth.
"Postscript," the last poem in "Opened Ground," begins "in County Clare along the Flaggy Shore"; but it rises soon enough to a space of permission and imagination, a generous space identified with poetry itself, where "You are neither here nor there,/ A hurry through which known and strange things pass/ As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways/ And catch the heart off guard and blow it open."
Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.
Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.