Lyra Celtica



        An Old Woman of the Roads.
("Wild Earth and other Poems." Macmillan.)

O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped-up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!

To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!

I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!

I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed, and loath to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!

Och I but I'm weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there's never a house or bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!

And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house--a house of my own--
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.

                A Cradle Song.
(Wild Earth and other Poems." Macmillan.)

O, men from the fields!
Come softly within.
Tread softly, softly,
O men coming in.

Mavourneen is going
From me and from you,
Where Mary will fold him
With mantle of blue

From reek of the smoke
And cold of the floor,
And peering of things
Across the half-door.

O men from the fields
Soft, softly come thro'.
Mary puts round him
Her mantle of blue.


                The Coolun.
("Reincarnations." Macmillan.)

Come with me, under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat,
Or wine if it be thy will
And we will talk until
Talk is a trouble, too,
Out on the side of the hill,
And nothing is left to do,
But an eye to look into an eye
And a hand in a hand to slip,
And a sigh to answer a sigh,
And a lip to find out a lip
What if the night be black
And the air on the mountain chill,
Where the goat lies down in her track
And all but the fern is still!
Stay with me under my coat,
And we will drink our fill
Of the milk of the white goat
Out on the side of the hill.

                The Clouds.
(Songs from the Clay." Macmillan.)

I stood and looked around where, far and nigh,
    The heather bloom was swaying in the air,
The clouds chased one another down the sky
    Beyond my sight, and everywhere
The birds flew through the sunshine, where they sang
So loud, so clear, so sweet, the heavens rang
    Of lark and thrush and stare.

I never heard a melody so sweet
    As I heard then; I never knew a day
So filled with sunshine; never saw the fleet
    And tinted clouds so high and free and gay
Each danced to the horizon like a boy
Let out from school, each tumbled in its joy
    And ran away.


            The Old Woman of Beare.
(The Poem Book of the Gael." Chatto & Windus.)

Ebb tide to me!
My life drifts downward with the drifting sea
Old age has caught and compassed me about,
The tides of time run out.

The " Hag of Beare!"
'Tis thus I hear the young girls jeer and mock
Yet I, who in these cast-off clouts appear,
Once donned a queenly smock.

Ye love but self,
Ye churls! to-day ye worship pelf!
But in the days I lived we sought for men,
We loved our lovers then!

Ah! swiftly when
Their splendid chariots coursed upon the plain,
I checked their pace, for me they flew amain,
Held in by curb and rein.

I envy not the old,
Whom gold adorns, whom richest robes enfold,
But ah! the girls, who pass my cell at morn,
While I am shorn!

On sweet May-morn
Their ringing laughter on the breeze is borne,
While I, who shake with ague and with age,
In Litanies engage.

Amen! and woe is me!
I lie here rotting like a broken tree
Each acorn has its day and needs must fall,
Time makes an end of all!

I had my day with kings!
We drank the brimming mead, the ruddy wine,
Where now I drink whey-water; for company more fine
Than shrivelled hags, hag though I am, I pine.

The flood-tide thine!
Mine but the low down-curling ebb-tide's flow,
My youth, my hope, are carried from my hand,
Thy flood-tide foams to land.

My body drops
Slowly but sure towards the abode we know
When God's High Son takes from me all my props
It will be time to go!

Bony my arms and bare
Could you but see them 'neath the mantle's flap.
Wizened and worn, that once were round and fair,
When kings lay in my lap.

'Tis, "O my God" with me,
Many prayers said, yet more prayers left undone
If I could spread my garment in the sun
I'd say them, every one.

The sea-wave talks,
Athwart the frozen earth grim winter stalks
Young Fermod, son of Mugh, ne'er said me nay,
Yet he comes not to-day.

How still they row,
Oar dipped by oar the wavering reeds among,
To Alma's shore they press, a ghostly throng,
Deeply they sleep and long.

No lightsome laugh
Disturbs my fireside's stillness; shadows fall,
And quiet forms are gathering round my hearth,
Yet lies the hand of silence on them all.

I do not deem it ill
That a nun's veil should rest upon my head
But finer far my feast-robe's various hue
To me, when all is said.

My very cloak grows old
Grey its tint, its woof is frayed and thin
I seem to feel grey hairs within its fold,
Or are they on my skin

O·happy Isle of Ocean,
Thy flood-tide leaps to meet eddying wave
Lifting it up and onward. Till the grave
The sea-wave comes not after ebb for me.

I find them not
Those sunny sands I knew so well of yore
Only the surf's sad roar sounds up to me,
My tide will turn no more.


        From a "Litany of Beauty."

O shapely Flower that must for aye endure!
O Voice of God that every heart must hear!
O Hymn of purest souls that dost unsphere
The ravished soul that lists! O white, white Gem!
O Rose that dost the senses drown in bliss!
No thing can stay, no thing can stem,
No thing can lure the heart to miss
Thy love, thy joy, thy rapture divine--
O Beauty, Beauty, ever thine
The soul, the heart, the brain,
To hymn thee in a loud perpetual strain,
Shriller and sweeter than song of wine,
Than lay of sorrow or love or war--
Beauty of heaven and sun and day,
Beauty of water and frost and star,
Beauty of dusk-tide, narrowing, grey. . .
Beautyof silver light,
Beauty of purple night,
Beauty of solemn breath,
Beauty of closed eye, and sleep, and death. . .
Beauty of dawn and dew,
Beauty of morning peace
Ever ancient and ever new,
Ever renewed till waking cease
Or sleep forever, when loud the angel's word
Through all the world is heard. . .
Beauty of brute and bird,
Beauty of earthly creatures
Whose hearts by the hand of God are stirred.
Beauty of the soul,
Beauty informing forms and features,
Fairest to God's eye,
Beauty that cannot fade or die
Till eternal atoms to ruin roll!
Beauty of blinded Trust,
Led by the hand of God
To a heaven where cherub hath never trod. . .
Austere Beauty of Truth,
Lighting the way of the just. . .
Splendid Beauty of Youth,
Staying when Youth is fled,
Living when Life is dead,
Burning in funeral dust!

The glory of form doth pale and pall,
Beauty endures to the end of all.

(By permission of The Talbot Press, Dublin.)


I will go with my Father a-ploughing.

I will go with my father a-ploughing
To the green field by the sea,
And the rooks and the crows and the seagulls
Will come flocking after me.
I will sing to the patient horses
With the lark in the white of the air,
And my father will sing the plough-song
That blesses the cleaving share.

I will go with my father a-sowing
To the red field by the sea,
And the rooks and the gulls and the starlings
Will come flocking after me.
I will sing to the striding sowers
With the finch on the flowering sloe,
And my father will sing the seed-song
That only the wise men know.

I will go with my father a-reaping
To the brown field by the sea,
And the geese and the crows and the children
Will come flocking after me.
I will sing to the weary reapers
With the wren in the heat of the sun,
And my father will sing the scythe-song
That joys for the harvest done.

A Northern Love Song.

Brighidin Bhán of the lint-white locks,
What was it gave you that flaxen hair,
Long as the summer heath in the rocks?
What was it gave you those eyes of fire,
Lip so waxen and cheek so wan?
Tell me, tell me, Brighidin Bhán,
Little white bride of my heart's desire.

Was it the Good People stole you away,
Little white changeling, Brighidin Bhán?
Carried you off in the ring of the dawn,
Laid like a queen on her purple car,
Carried you back between night and day;
Gave you that fortune of flaxen hair,
Gave you those eyes of wandering fire,
Lit at the wheel of the northern star
Gave you that look so far away?
Tell me, tell me, Brighidin Bhán,
Little white bride of my heart's desire.


                Fairy Workers.
("Songs of Donegal." Herbert Jenkins.)

Said the Fairies of Kilfinnan
To the Fairies of Macroom
"Oh! send to us a shuttle
For our little fairy loom.
Our workers, one and twenty,
Are waiting in the Coom----"
So Kilfinnan got a shuttle
From the Fairies of Macroom.

Kilfinnan got the shuttle,
The shuttle for the loom.
"Now, send us back a hammer,"
Said the Fairies of Macroom.
"We've cobblers, one and twenty,
All idle in their room."
And Kilfinnan sent a hammer
To the Fairies of Macroom.

The Queen of all the Fairies
Sat in her drawing-room
Her robes came from Kilfinnan,
Her brogues came from Macroom.
Now, at the Royal Dinner
The proudest in the room
Were the Fairies from Kilfinnan
And the Fairies from Macroom.


                    The Shadow People.
("Complete Poems." Published by Herbert Jenkins.)

Old lame Bridget doesn't hear
Fairy music in the grass
When the gloaming's on the mere
And the shadow people pass:
Never hears their slow grey feet
Coming from the village street
Just beyond the parson's wall,
Where the clover globes are sweet
And the mushroom's parasol
Opens in the moonlit rain.
Every night I hear them call
From their long and merry train.
Old lame Bridget says to me,
"It is just your fancy, child."
She cannot believe I see
Laughing faces in the wild,
Hands that twinkle in the sedge
Bowing at the water's edge
Where the finny minnows quiver,
Shaping on a blue wave's ledge
Bubble foam to sail the river.
And the sunny hands to me
Beckon ever, beckon ever.
Oh! I would be wild and free,
And with the shadow people be.

                        My Mother.
("Complete Poems." Published by Herbert Jenkins.)

God made my mother on an April day,
From sorrow and the mist along the sea,
Lost birds' and wanderers' songs and ocean spray,
And the moon loved her wandering jealously.

Beside the ocean's din she combed her hair,
Singing the nocturne of the passing ships,
Before her earthly lover found her there
And kissed away the music from her lips.

She came unto the hills and saw the change
That brings the swallow and the geese in turns.
But there was not a grief she deeméd strange,
For there is that in her which always mourns.

Kind heart she has for all on hill or wave
Whose hopes grew wings like ants to fly away.
I bless the God Who such a mother gave
This poor bird-hearted singer of a day.


                Lyric from "The Crier by Night."
("King Lear's Wife and other Plays." Published by Constable.)

The bird in my heart's a-calling through a far-fled, tear-grey sea
To the soft slow hills that cherish dim waters weary for me,
Where the folk of rath and dun trail homeward silently
In the mist of the early night-fall that drips from their hair like rain.

The bird in my heart's a-flutter, for the bitter wind of the sea
Shivers with thyme and woodbine as my body with memory;
I feel their perfumes ooze in my ears like melody--
The scent of the mead at the harping I shall not hear again.

The bird in my heart's a-sinking to a hushed vale hid in the sea,
Where the moonlit dew o'er dead fighters is stirred by the feet of the Shee,
Who are lovely and old as the earth but younger than I can be
Who have known the forgetting of dying to a life one lonely pain.


            The Quest.
(Dublin University Press.)

They said: "She dwelleth in some place apart,
Immortal Truth, within whose eyes
Who looks may find the secret of the skies
            And healing for life's smart."

I sought Her in loud caverns underground--
On heights where lightnings flashed and fell;
I scaled high Heaven; I stormed the gates of Hell,
            But Her I never found.

Till thro' the tumults of my Quest I caught
A whisper: "Here, within thy heart,
I dwell; for I am thou: behold thou art
            The Seeker---and the Sought."

                                    The Fool.
Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak that am only a fool;
A fool that hath loved his folly,
Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses, or their quiet
Or their fame in men's mouths ;
A fool that in all his days hath done never a prudent thing,
Never hath counted the cost, nor recked if another reaped
The fruit of his mighty sowing, content to scatter the seed;
A fool that is unrepentant, and that soon at the end of all
Shall laugh in his lonely heart as the ripe ears fall to the reaping-hooks
And the poor are filled that were empty,
Tho' he go hungry.

I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth
In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil.
Was it folly or grace? Not men shall judge me, but God.
I have squandered the splendid years
Lord, if I had the years I would squander them over again,
Aye, fling them from me!
For this I have heard in my heart, that a man shall scatter, not hoard,
Shall do the deed of to-day, nor take thought of to-morrow's teen,
Shall not bargain or huxter with God; or was it a jest of Christ's
And is this my sin before men, to have taken Him at His word?

The lawyers have sat in council, the men with the keen, long faces,
And said, "This man is a fool," and others have said, "He blasphemeth";
And the wise have pitied the fool that hath striven to give a life
In the world of time and space among the bulks of actual things,
To a dream that was dreamed in the heart, and that only the heart could hold.
O wise men, riddle me this: what if the dream come true?
What if the dream come true? and if millions unborn shall dwell
In the house that I shaped in my heart, the noble house of my thought?
Lord, I have staked my soul, I have staked the lives of my kin
On the truth of Thy dreadful word. Do not remember my failures,
But remember this my faith.

And so I speak.
Yea, ere my hot youth pass, I speak to my people and say:
Ye shall be foolish as I; ye shall scatter, not save;
Ye shall venture your all, lest ye lose what is more than all;
Ye shall call for a miracle, taking Christ at His word.
And for this I will answer, O people, answer here and hereafter,
O people that I have loved, shall we not answer together?

(By permission of Messrs. Maunsel & Roberts, Dublin.)


                            The Return of Song.

"The swans are singing again," said to one another the gods. And looking downwards, for my dreams had taken me to some fair and far Valhalla, I saw below me an iridescent bubble not greatly larger than a star shine beautifully but faintly, and up and up from it looking larger and larger came a flock of white, innumerable swans, singing and singing and singing, till it seemed as though even the gods were wild ships swimming in music.
"What is it?" I said to one that was humble among the gods.
"Only a world has ended," he said to me, "and the swans are coming back to the gods returning the gift of song."
"A whole world dead!" I said.
"Dead," said he that was humble among the gods. "The worlds are not for ever; only song is immortal."
"Look I look!" he said.   "There will be a new one soon."
And I looked and saw the larks, going down from the gods.


                    Dance to your Shadow.

Dance to your shadow when it's good to be living, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
Dance to your shadow when it's fine to be living, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
            Ho ro haradal, hind* ye haradal,
            Ho ro haradal, hind ye han dan.

Dance to your shadow when it's hard to be living, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
Dance to your shadow when it's sore to be living, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
           Ho ro haradal, etc.

Dance to your shadow, letting Fate to her fiddle, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
Dance to your shadow, for it's fine to be living, lad,
Dance to your shadow when there's nothing better near you.
            Ho ro haradal, etc.

*Pronounce like English " hind."  

            Sea Longing.

Sore sea-longing in my heart,
Blue deep Barra waves are calling,
Sore sea-longing in my heart.
Glides the sun, but ah! how slowly,
Far away to luring seas!
    Sore sea-longing in my heart,
    Blue deep Barra waves are calling,
    Sore sea-longing in my heart.
Hear'st, O Sun, the roll of waters,
Breaking, calling by yon Isle?
    Sore sea-longing in my heart,
    Blue deep Barra waves are calling,
    Sore sea-longing in my heart.
Sun on high, ere falls the gloamin',
Heart to heart, thou'lt greet yon waves.
    Mary Mother, how I yearn,
    Blue deep Barra waves are calling,
    Mary Mother, how I yearn.

        The Reiving Ship.

A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Early sails she to the reiving,
A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Flashing by the frowning headlands.
A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Early sails she to the reiving.

A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Grinds beneath her, gray-blue limpets,
A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Crunches curving whelks to sand-drift.
A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
    Early sails she to the reiving.

Sweeps she gaily (*) Moola's waters, Kyles and Moyles to fair green Isla,
Leaps her way to Isles of daring, gleaming Isles of blades and laughter.
                A ho hi ! hirrum bo!
                Early sails she to the reiving.

*Gaelic pronunciation of Mull.


        Land of Heart's Desire.

Land of Heart's Desire, Isle of Youth,
Dear Western Isle, gleaming in sunlight!
Land of Heart's Desire, Isle of Youth!

Far the cloudless sky stretches blue
Across the isle, green in the sunlight,--
Far the cloudless sky stretches blue.

There shall thou and I wander free
On sheen-white sands, dreaming in starlight.
Land of Heart's Desire, Isle of Youth!

Ossian's Midsummer Day-Dream.

"Sleeps the noon in the deep blue sky."
(After Thos. Pattison's translation from Ossian--
            "The sweet voice of Cona."

Sleeps the noon in the deep blue sky,
While bright the sun shines on Cona's steep.
Sweet sounds the note of the lonely heron,
Sleeps the noon in the deep blue sky.

Bright the sun shines on Cona's steep,
While hounds for chase all on fire are straining.
Their deep-mouthed bay sweet as bardic music,
Sleeps the noon in the deep blue sky.

Sweet the winds softly murmuring,
Of eagle sweet is the far-heard cry.
As sails she o'er Morven's mighty sea-board,
Sleeps the noon in the deep blue sky.

    Kishmul's Galley.

High from the Ben a Hayich
On a day of days
Seaward I gaz'd,
Watching Kishmul's galley sailing.
O hio huo faluo!

Homeward she bravely battles
'Gainst the hurtling waves
Nor hoop nor yards,
Anchor, cable, nor tackle has she.
O hio huo faluo!

Now at last 'gainst wind and tide
They've brought her to
'Neath Kishmul's walls,
Kishmul Castle our ancient glory.
O hio huo faluo!

Here's red wine and feast for heroes
And harping too,
O hio hu!
Sweet harping too!
O hio huo faluo!


Aignish on the Machair.

When day and night are over,
And the World is done with me,
Oh carry me West and lay me
In Aignish by the Sea.

And never heed me lying
Among the ancient dead,
Beside the white sea breakers
And sand-drift overhead.

The grey gulls wheeling ever,
And the wide arch of sky,
On Aignish on the Machair,
And quiet there to lie,


Fingal's Weeping.

Because they were so brave and young
Who now are sleeping,
His old heart wrung, his harp unstrung,
Fingal's a-weeping.

There's warble of waters at morning in Etive glen,
And the mists are flying ;
Chuckle of Spring in the wood, on the moor, on the ben,
No heed for their dying!
So Fingal's weeping the young brave sleeping,
Fingal's weeping.

They'll be forgot in Time,-forgot!
Time that goes sweeping;
The wars they fought remembered not,
And Fingal's weeping.

Hearken for voices of sorrow for them in the forest den
Where once they were rovers--
Only the birds of the wild at their building again,
Whispering of lovers!
So Fingal's weeping, his old grief keeping,
Fingal's weeping.

They should be mourned by the ocean wave
Round lone isles creeping,
But the laughing wave laments no grave,
And Fingal's weeping.

Morven and Moidart, glad, gallant and gay in the sun,
Rue naught departed;
The moon and the stars shine out when the day is done,
Cold, stony-hearted,
And Fingal's weeping war's red reaping,
Fingal's weeping!

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