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´╗┐Title: The Celtic Twilight
Author: Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1856-1939
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE CELTIC TWILIGHT

by

W. B. YEATS



    Time drops in decay
    Like a candle burnt out.
    And the mountains and woods
    Have their day, have their day;
    But, kindly old rout
    Of the fire-born moods,
    You pass not away.



    THE HOSTING OF THE SIDHE


    The host is riding from Knocknarea,
    And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;
    Caolte tossing his burning hair,
    And Niamh calling, "Away, come away;
    Empty your heart of its mortal dream.
    The winds awaken, the leaves whirl round,
    Our cheeks are pale, our hair is unbound,
    Our breasts are heaving, our eyes are a-gleam,
    Our arms are waving, our lips are apart,
    And if any gaze on our rushing band,
    We come between him and the deed of his hand,
    We come between him and the hope of his heart."
    The host is rushing 'twixt night and day;
    And where is there hope or deed as fair?
    Caolte tossing his burning hair,
    And Niamh calling, "Away, come away."



THIS BOOK


I

I have desired, like every artist, to create a little world out of the
beautiful, pleasant, and significant things of this marred and clumsy
world, and to show in a vision something of the face of Ireland to any
of my own people who would look where I bid them. I have therefore
written down accurately and candidly much that I have heard and seen,
and, except by way of commentary, nothing that I have merely imagined.
I have, however, been at no pains to separate my own beliefs from those
of the peasantry, but have rather let my men and women, dhouls and
faeries, go their way unoffended or defended by any argument of mine.
The things a man has heard and seen are threads of life, and if he pull
them carefully from the confused distaff of memory, any who will can
weave them into whatever garments of belief please them best. I too
have woven my garment like another, but I shall try to keep warm in it,
and shall be well content if it do not unbecome me.

Hope and Memory have one daughter and her name is Art, and she has
built her dwelling far from the desperate field where men hang out
their garments upon forked boughs to be banners of battle. O beloved
daughter of Hope and Memory, be with me for a little.


1893.



II

I have added a few more chapters in the manner of the old ones, and
would have added others, but one loses, as one grows older, something
of the lightness of one's dreams; one begins to take life up in both
hands, and to care more for the fruit than the flower, and that is no
great loss per haps. In these new chapters, as in the old ones, I have
invented nothing but my comments and one or two deceitful sentences
that may keep some poor story-teller's commerce with the devil and his
angels, or the like, from being known among his neighbours. I shall
publish in a little while a big book about the commonwealth of faery,
and shall try to make it systematical and learned enough to buy pardon
for this handful of dreams.


1902.

W. B. YEATS.



A TELLER OF TALES


Many of the tales in this book were told me by one Paddy Flynn, a
little bright-eyed old man, who lived in a leaky and one-roomed cabin
in the village of Ballisodare, which is, he was wont to say, "the most
gentle"--whereby he meant faery--"place in the whole of County Sligo."
Others hold it, however, but second to Drumcliff and Drumahair. The
first time I saw him he was cooking mushrooms for himself; the next
time he was asleep under a hedge, smiling in his sleep. He was indeed
always cheerful, though I thought I could see in his eyes (swift as the
eyes of a rabbit, when they peered out of their wrinkled holes) a
melancholy which was well-nigh a portion of their joy; the visionary
melancholy of purely instinctive natures and of all animals.

And yet there was much in his life to depress him, for in the triple
solitude of age, eccentricity, and deafness, he went about much
pestered by children. It was for this very reason perhaps that he ever
recommended mirth and hopefulness. He was fond, for instance, of
telling how Collumcille cheered up his mother. "How are you to-day,
mother?" said the saint. "Worse," replied the mother. "May you be worse
to-morrow," said the saint. The next day Collumcille came again, and
exactly the same conversation took place, but the third day the mother
said, "Better, thank God." And the saint replied, "May you be better
to-morrow." He was fond too of telling how the Judge smiles at the last
day alike when he rewards the good and condemns the lost to unceasing
flames. He had many strange sights to keep him cheerful or to make him
sad. I asked him had he ever seen the faeries, and got the reply, "Am I
not annoyed with them?" I asked too if he had ever seen the banshee. "I
have seen it," he said, "down there by the water, batting the river
with its hands."

I have copied this account of Paddy Flynn, with a few verbal
alterations, from a note-book which I almost filled with his tales and
sayings, shortly after seeing him. I look now at the note-book
regretfully, for the blank pages at the end will never be filled up.
Paddy Flynn is dead; a friend of mine gave him a large bottle of
whiskey, and though a sober man at most times, the sight of so much
liquor filled him with a great enthusiasm, and he lived upon it for
some days and then died. His body, worn out with old age and hard
times, could not bear the drink as in his young days. He was a great
teller of tales, and unlike our common romancers, knew how to empty
heaven, hell, and purgatory, faeryland and earth, to people his
stories. He did not live in a shrunken world, but knew of no less ample
circumstance than did Homer himself. Perhaps the Gaelic people shall by
his like bring back again the ancient simplicity and amplitude of
imagination. What is literature but the expression of moods by the
vehicle of symbol and incident? And are there not moods which need
heaven, hell, purgatory, and faeryland for their expression, no less
than this dilapidated earth? Nay, are there not moods which shall find
no expression unless there be men who dare to mix heaven, hell,
purgatory, and faeryland together, or even to set the heads of beasts
to the bodies of men, or to thrust the souls of men into the heart of
rocks? Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever prey
the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is
true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.



BELIEF AND UNBELIEF


There are some doubters even in the western villages. One woman told
me last Christmas that she did not believe either in hell or in ghosts.
Hell she thought was merely an invention got up by the priest to keep
people good; and ghosts would not be permitted, she held, to go
"trapsin about the earth" at their own free will; "but there are
faeries," she added, "and little leprechauns, and water-horses, and
fallen angels." I have met also a man with a mohawk Indian tattooed
upon his arm, who held exactly similar beliefs and unbeliefs. No matter
what one doubts one never doubts the faeries, for, as the man with the
mohawk Indian on his arm said to me, "they stand to reason." Even the
official mind does not escape this faith.

A little girl who was at service in the village of Grange, close under
the seaward slopes of Ben Bulben, suddenly disappeared one night about
three years ago. There was at once great excitement in the
neighbourhood, because it was rumoured that the faeries had taken her.
A villager was said to have long struggled to hold her from them, but
at last they prevailed, and he found nothing in his hands but a
broomstick. The local constable was applied to, and he at once
instituted a house-to-house search, and at the same time advised the
people to burn all the bucalauns (ragweed) on the field she vanished
from, because bucalauns are sacred to the faeries. They spent the whole
night burning them, the constable repeating spells the while. In the
morning the little girl was found, the story goes, wandering in the
field. She said the faeries had taken her away a great distance, riding
on a faery horse. At last she saw a big river, and the man who had
tried to keep her from being carried off was drifting down it--such are
the topsy-turvydoms of faery glamour--in a cockleshell. On the way her
companions had mentioned the names of several people who were about to
die shortly in the village.

Perhaps the constable was right. It is better doubtless to believe
much unreason and a little truth than to deny for denial's sake truth
and unreason alike, for when we do this we have not even a rush candle
to guide our steps, not even a poor sowlth to dance before us on the
marsh, and must needs fumble our way into the great emptiness where
dwell the mis-shapen dhouls. And after all, can we come to so great
evil if we keep a little fire on our hearths and in our souls, and
welcome with open hand whatever of excellent come to warm itself,
whether it be man or phantom, and do not say too fiercely, even to the
dhouls themselves, "Be ye gone"? When all is said and done, how do we
not know but that our own unreason may be better than another's truth?
for it has been warmed on our hearths and in our souls, and is ready
for the wild bees of truth to hive in it, and make their sweet honey.
Come into the world again, wild bees, wild bees!



MORTAL HELP


One hears in the old poems of men taken away to help the gods in a
battle, and Cuchullan won the goddess Fand for a while, by helping her
married sister and her sister's husband to overthrow another nation of
the Land of Promise. I have been told, too, that the people of faery
cannot even play at hurley unless they have on either side some mortal,
whose body, or whatever has been put in its place, as the story-teller
would say, is asleep at home. Without mortal help they are shadowy and
cannot even strike the balls. One day I was walking over some marshy
land in Galway with a friend when we found an old, hard-featured man
digging a ditch. My friend had heard that this man had seen a wonderful
sight of some kind, and at last we got the story out of him. When he
was a boy he was working one day with about thirty men and women and
boys. They were beyond Tuam and not far from Knock-na-gur. Presently
they saw, all thirty of them, and at a distance of about half-a-mile,
some hundred and fifty of the people of faery. There were two of them,
he said, in dark clothes like people of our own time, who stood about a
hundred yards from one another, but the others wore clothes of all
colours, "bracket" or chequered, and some with red waistcoats.

He could not see what they were doing, but all might have been playing
hurley, for "they looked as if it was that." Sometimes they would
vanish, and then he would almost swear they came back out of the bodies
of the two men in dark clothes. These two men were of the size of
living men, but the others were small. He saw them for about half-an-
hour, and then the old man he and those about him were working for took
up a whip and said, "Get on, get on, or we will have no work done!" I
asked if he saw the faeries too, "Oh, yes, but he did not want work he
was paying wages for to be neglected." He made every body work so hard
that nobody saw what happened to the faeries.


1902.



A VISIONARY


A young man came to see me at my lodgings the other night, and began
to talk of the making of the earth and the heavens and much else. I
questioned him about his life and his doings. He had written many poems
and painted many mystical designs since we met last, but latterly had
neither written nor painted, for his whole heart was set upon making
his mind strong, vigorous, and calm, and the emotional life of the
artist was bad for him, he feared. He recited his poems readily,
however. He had them all in his memory. Some indeed had never been
written down. They, with their wild music as of winds blowing in the
reeds,[FN#1] seemed to me the very inmost voice of Celtic sadness, and
of Celtic longing for infinite things the world has never seen.
Suddenly it seemed to me that he was peering about him a little
eagerly. "Do you see anything, X-----?" I said. "A shining, winged
woman, covered by her long hair, is standing near the doorway," he
answered, or some such words. "Is it the influence of some living
person who thinks of us, and whose thoughts appear to us in that
symbolic form?" I said; for I am well instructed in the ways of the
visionaries and in the fashion of their speech. "No," he replied; "for
if it were the thoughts of a person who is alive I should feel the
living influence in my living body, and my heart would beat and my
breath would fail. It is a spirit. It is some one who is dead or who
has never lived."


[FN#1]  I wrote this sentence long ago. This sadness now seems to me a
part of all peoples who preserve the moods of the ancient peoples of
the world. I am not so pre-occupied with the mystery of Race as I used
to be, but leave this sentence and other sentences like it unchanged.
We once believed them, and have, it may be, not grown wiser.


I asked what he was doing, and found he was clerk in a large shop. His
pleasure, however, was to wander about upon the hills, talking to half-
mad and visionary peasants, or to persuade queer and conscience-
stricken persons to deliver up the keeping of their troubles into his
care. Another night, when I was with him in his own lodging, more than
one turned up to talk over their beliefs and disbeliefs, and sun them
as it were in the subtle light of his mind. Sometimes visions come to
him as he talks with them, and he is rumoured to have told divers
people true matters of their past days and distant friends, and left
them hushed with dread of their strange teacher, who seems scarce more
than a boy, and is so much more subtle than the oldest among them.

The poetry he recited me was full of his nature and his visions.
Sometimes it told of other lives he believes himself to have lived in
other centuries, sometimes of people he had talked to, revealing them
to their own minds. I told him I would write an article upon him and
it, and was told in turn that I might do so if I did not mention his
name, for he wished to be always "unknown, obscure, impersonal." Next
day a bundle of his poems arrived, and with them a note in these words:
"Here are copies of verses you said you liked. I do not think I could
ever write or paint any more. I prepare myself for a cycle of other
activities in some other life. I will make rigid my roots and branches.
It is not now my turn to burst into leaves and flowers."

The poems were all endeavours to capture some high, impalpable mood in
a net of obscure images. There were fine passages in all, but these
were often embedded in thoughts which have evidently a special value to
his mind, but are to other men the counters of an unknown coinage. To
them they seem merely so much brass or copper or tarnished silver at
the best. At other times the beauty of the thought was obscured by
careless writing as though he had suddenly doubted if writing was not a
foolish labour. He had frequently illustrated his verses with drawings,
in which an unperfect anatomy did not altogether hide extreme beauty of
feeling. The faeries in whom he believes have given him many subjects,
notably Thomas of Ercildoune sitting motionless in the twilight while a
young and beautiful creature leans softly out of the shadow and
whispers in his ear. He had delighted above all in strong effects of
colour: spirits who have upon their heads instead of hair the feathers
of peacocks; a phantom reaching from a swirl of flame towards a star; a
spirit passing with a globe of iridescent crystal-symbol of the soul-
half shut within his hand. But always under this largess of colour lay
some tender homily addressed to man's fragile hopes. This spiritual
eagerness draws to him all those who, like himself, seek for
illumination or else mourn for a joy that has gone. One of these
especially comes to mind. A winter or two ago he spent much of the
night walking up and down upon the mountain talking to an old peasant
who, dumb to most men, poured out his cares for him. Both were unhappy:
X----- because he had then first decided that art and poetry were not
for him, and the old peasant because his life was ebbing out with no
achievement remaining and no hope left him. Both how Celtic! how full
of striving after a something never to be completely expressed in word
or deed. The peasant was wandering in his mind with prolonged sorrow.
Once he burst out with "God possesses the heavens--God possesses the
heavens--but He covets the world"; and once he lamented that his old
neighbours were gone, and that all had forgotten him: they used to draw
a chair to the fire for him in every cabin, and now they said, "Who is
that old fellow there?" "The fret [Irish for doom] is over me," he
repeated, and then went on to talk once more of God and heaven. More
than once also he said, waving his arm towards the mountain, "Only
myself knows what happened under the thorn-tree forty years ago"; and
as he said it the tears upon his face glistened in the moonlight.

This old man always rises before me when I think of X-----. Both seek
--one in wandering sentences, the other in symbolic pictures and subtle
allegoric poetry-to express a something that lies beyond the range of
expression; and both, if X----- will forgive me, have within them the
vast and vague extravagance that lies at the bottom of the Celtic
heart. The peasant visionaries that are, the landlord duelists that
were, and the whole hurly-burly of legends--Cuchulain fighting the sea
for two days until the waves pass over him and he dies, Caolte storming
the palace of the gods, Oisin seeking in vain for three hundred years
to appease his insatiable heart with all the pleasures of faeryland,
these two mystics walking up and down upon the mountains uttering the
central dreams of their souls in no less dream-laden sentences, and
this mind that finds them so interesting--all are a portion of that
great Celtic phantasmagoria whose meaning no man has discovered, nor
any angel revealed.



VILLAGE GHOSTS


In the great cities we see so little of the world, we drift into our
minority. In the little towns and villages there are no minorities;
people are not numerous enough. You must see the world there, perforce.
Every man is himself a class; every hour carries its new challenge.
When you pass the inn at the end of the village you leave your
favourite whimsy behind you; for you will meet no one who can share it.
We listen to eloquent speaking, read books and write them, settle all
the affairs of the universe. The dumb village multitudes pass on
unchanging; the feel of the spade in the hand is no different for all
our talk: good seasons and bad follow each other as of old. The dumb
multitudes are no more concerned with us than is the old horse peering
through the rusty gate of the village pound. The ancient map-makers
wrote across unexplored regions, "Here are lions." Across the villages
of fishermen and turners of the earth, so different are these from us,
we can write but one line that is certain, "Here are ghosts."

My ghosts inhabit the village of H-----, in Leinster. History has in
no manner been burdened by this ancient village, with its crooked
lanes, its old abbey churchyard full of long grass, its green
background of small fir-trees, and its quay, where lie a few tarry
fishing-luggers. In the annals of entomology it is well known. For a
small bay lies westward a little, where he who watches night after
night may see a certain rare moth fluttering along the edge of the
tide, just at the end of evening or the beginning of dawn. A hundred
years ago it was carried here from Italy by smugglers in a cargo of
silks and laces. If the moth-hunter would throw down his net, and go
hunting for ghost tales or tales of the faeries and such-like children
of Lillith, he would have need for far less patience.

To approach the village at night a timid man requires great strategy.
A man was once heard complaining, "By the cross of Jesus! how shall I
go? If I pass by the hill of Dunboy old Captain Burney may look out on
me. If I go round by the water, and up by the steps, there is the
headless one and another on the quays, and a new one under the old
churchyard wall. If I go right round the other way, Mrs. Stewart is
appearing at Hillside Gate, and the devil himself is in the Hospital
Lane."

I never heard which spirit he braved, but feel sure it was not the one
in the Hospital Lane. In cholera times a shed had been there set up to
receive patients. When the need had gone by, it was pulled down, but
ever since the ground where it stood has broken out in ghosts and
demons and faeries. There is a farmer at H-----, Paddy B----- by name-a
man of great strength, and a teetotaller. His wife and sister-in-law,
musing on his great strength, often wonder what he would do if he
drank. One night when passing through the Hospital Lane, he saw what he
supposed at first to be a tame rabbit; after a little he found that it
was a white cat. When he came near, the creature slowly began to swell
larger and larger, and as it grew he felt his own strength ebbing away,
as though it were sucked out of him. He turned and ran.

By the Hospital Lane goes the "Faeries Path." Every evening they
travel from the hill to the sea, from the sea to the hill. At the sea
end of their path stands a cottage. One night Mrs. Arbunathy, who lived
there, left her door open, as she was expecting her son. Her husband
was asleep by the fire; a tall man came in and sat beside him. After he
had been sitting there for a while, the woman said, "In the name of
God, who are you?" He got up and went out, saying, "Never leave the
door open at this hour, or evil may come to you." She woke her husband
and told him. "One of the good people has been with us," said he.

Probably the man braved Mrs. Stewart at Hillside Gate. When she lived
she was the wife of the Protestant clergyman. "Her ghost was never
known to harm any one," say the village people; "it is only doing a
penance upon the earth." Not far from Hillside Gate, where she haunted,
appeared for a short time a much more remarkable spirit. Its haunt was
the bogeen, a green lane leading from the western end of the village. I
quote its history at length: a typical village tragedy. In a cottage at
the village end of the bogeen lived a house-painter, Jim Montgomery,
and his wife. They had several children. He was a little dandy, and
came of a higher class than his neighbours. His wife was a very big
woman. Her husband, who had been expelled from the village choir for
drink, gave her a beating one day. Her sister heard of it, and came and
took down one of the window shutters--Montgomery was neat about
everything, and had shutters on the outside of every window--and beat
him with it, being big and strong like her sister. He threatened to
prosecute her; she answered that she would break every bone in his body
if he did. She never spoke to her sister again, because she had allowed
herself to be beaten by so small a man. Jim Montgomery grew worse and
worse: his wife soon began to have not enough to eat. She told no one,
for she was very proud. Often, too, she would have no fire on a cold
night. If any neighbours came in she would say she had let the fire out
because she was just going to bed. The people about often heard her
husband beating her, but she never told any one. She got very thin. At
last one Saturday there was no food in the house for herself and the
children. She could bear it no longer, and went to the priest and asked
him for some money. He gave her thirty shillings. Her husband met her,
and took the money, and beat her. On the following Monday she got very
W, and sent for a Mrs. Kelly. Mrs. Kelly, as soon as she saw her, said,
"My woman, you are dying," and sent for the priest and the doctor. She
died in an hour. After her death, as Montgomery neglected the children,
the landlord had them taken to the workhouse. A few nights after they
had gone, Mrs. Kelly was going home through the bogeen when the ghost
of Mrs. Montgomery appeared and followed her. It did not leave her
until she reached her own house. She told the priest, Father R, a noted
antiquarian, and could not get him to believe her. A few nights
afterwards Mrs. Kelly again met the spirit in the same place. She was
in too great terror to go the whole way, but stopped at a neighbour's
cottage midway, and asked them to let her in. They answered they were
going to bed. She cried out, "In the name of God let me in, or I will
break open the door." They opened, and so she escaped from the ghost.
Next day she told the priest again. This time he believed, and said it
would follow her until she spoke to it.

She met the spirit a third time in the bogeen. She asked what kept it
from its rest. The spirit said that its children must be taken from the
workhouse, for none of its relations were ever there before, and that
three masses were to be said for the repose of its soul. "If my husband
does not believe you," she said, "show him that," and touched Mrs.
Kelly's wrist with three fingers. The places where they touched swelled
up and blackened. She then vanished. For a time Montgomery would not
believe that his wife had appeared: "she would not show herself to Mrs.
Kelly," he said--"she with respectable people to appear to." He was
convinced by the three marks, and the children were taken from the
workhouse. The priest said the masses, and the shade must have been at
rest, for it has not since appeared. Some time afterwards Jim
Montgomery died in the workhouse, having come to great poverty through
drink.

I know some who believe they have seen the headless ghost upon the
quay, and one who, when he passes the old cemetery wall at night, sees
a woman with white borders to her cap[FN#2] creep out and follow him.
The apparition only leaves him at his own door. The villagers imagine
that she follows him to avenge some wrong. "I will haunt you when I
die" is a favourite threat. His wife was once half-scared to death by
what she considers a demon in the shape of a dog.


[FN#2]  I wonder why she had white borders to her cap. The old Mayo
woman, who has told me so many tales, has told me that her brother-in-
law saw "a woman with white borders to her cap going around the stacks
in a field, and soon after he got a hurt, and he died in six months."


These are a few of the open-air spirits; the more domestic of their
tribe gather within-doors, plentiful as swallows under southern eaves.

One night a Mrs. Nolan was watching by her dying child in Fluddy's
Lane. Suddenly there was a sound of knocking heard at the door. She did
not open, fearing it was some unhuman thing that knocked. The knocking
ceased. After a little the front-door and then the back-door were burst
open, and closed again. Her husband went to see what was wrong. He
found both doors bolted. The child died. The doors were again opened
and closed as before. Then Mrs. Nolan remembered that she had forgotten
to leave window or door open, as the custom is, for the departure of
the soul. These strange openings and closings and knockings were
warnings and reminders from the spirits who attend the dying.

The house ghost is usually a harmless and well-meaning creature. It is
put up with as long as possible. It brings good luck to those who live
with it. I remember two children who slept with their mother and
sisters and brothers in one small room. In the room was also a ghost.
They sold herrings in the Dublin streets, and did not mind the ghost
much, because they knew they would always sell their fish easily while
they slept in the "ha'nted" room.

I have some acquaintance among the ghost-seers of western villages.
The Connaught tales are very different from those of Leinster. These
H----- spirits have a gloomy, matter-of-fact way with them. They come to
announce a death, to fulfil some obligation, to revenge a wrong, to pay
their bills even--as did a fisherman's daughter the other day--and then
hasten to their rest. All things they do decently and in order. It is
demons, and not ghosts, that transform themselves into white cats or
black dogs. The people who tell the tales are poor, serious-minded
fishing people, who find in the doings of the ghosts the fascination of
fear. In the western tales is a whimsical grace, a curious extravagance.
The people who recount them live in the most wild and beautiful scenery,
under a sky ever loaded and fantastic with flying clouds. They are
farmers and labourers, who do a little fishing now and then. They do not
fear the spirits too much to feel an artistic and humorous pleasure in
their doings. The ghosts themselves share in their quaint hilarity. In
one western town, on whose deserted wharf the grass grows, these spirits
have so much vigour that, when a misbeliever ventured to sleep in a
haunted house, I have been told they flung him through the window, and
his bed after him. In the surrounding villages the creatures use the
most strange disguises. A dead old gentleman robs the cabbages of his
own garden in the shape of a large rabbit. A wicked sea-captain stayed
for years inside the plaster of a cottage wall, in the shape of a snipe,
making the most horrible noises. He was only dislodged when the wall was
broken down; then out of the solid plaster the snipe rushed away whistling.



"DUST HATH CLOSED HELEN'S EYE"


I

I have been lately to a little group of houses, not many enough to be
called a village, in the barony of Kiltartan in County Galway, whose
name, Ballylee, is known through all the west of Ireland. There is the
old square castle, Ballylee, inhabited by a farmer and his wife, and a
cottage where their daughter and their son-in-law live, and a little
mill with an old miller, and old ash-trees throwing green shadows upon
a little river and great stepping-stones. I went there two or three
times last year to talk to the miller about Biddy Early, a wise woman
that lived in Clare some years ago, and about her saying, "There is a
cure for all evil between the two mill-wheels of Ballylee," and to find
out from him or another whether she meant the moss between the running
waters or some other herb. I have been there this summer, and I shall
be there again before it is autumn, because Mary Hynes, a beautiful
woman whose name is still a wonder by turf fires, died there sixty
years ago; for our feet would linger where beauty has lived its life of
sorrow to make us understand that it is not of the world. An old man
brought me a little way from the mill and the castle, and down a long,
narrow boreen that was nearly lost in brambles and sloe bushes, and he
said, "That is the little old foundation of the house, but the most of
it is taken for building walls, and the goats have ate those bushes
that are growing over it till they've got cranky, and they won't grow
any more. They say she was the handsomest girl in Ireland, her skin was
like dribbled snow"--he meant driven snow, perhaps,--"and she had
blushes in her cheeks. She had five handsome brothers, but all are gone
now!" I talked to him about a poem in Irish, Raftery, a famous poet,
made about her, and how it said, "there is a strong cellar in
Ballylee." He said the strong cellar was the great hole where the river
sank underground, and he brought me to a deep pool, where an otter
hurried away under a grey boulder, and told me that many fish came up
out of the dark water at early morning "to taste the fresh water coming
down from the hills."

I first heard of the poem from an old woman who fives about two miles
further up the river, and who remembers Raftery and Mary Hynes. She
says, "I never saw anybody so handsome as she was, and I never will
till I die," and that he was nearly blind, and had "no way of living
but to go round and to mark some house to go to, and then all the
neighbours would gather to hear. If you treated him well he'd praise
you, but if you did not, he'd fault you in Irish. He was the greatest
poet in Ireland, and he'd make a song about that bush if he chanced to
stand under it. There was a bush he stood under from the rain, and he
made verses praising it, and then when the water came through he made
verses dispraising it." She sang the poem to a friend and to myself in
Irish, and every word was audible and expressive, as the words in a
song were always, as I think, before music grew too proud to be the
garment of words, flowing and changing with the flowing and changing of
their energies. The poem is not as natural as the best Irish poetry of
the last century, for the thoughts are arranged in a too obviously
traditional form, so the old poor half-blind man who made it has to
speak as if he were a rich farmer offering the best of everything to
the woman he loves, but it has naive and tender phrases. The friend
that was with me has made some of the translation, but some of it has
been made by the country people themselves. I think it has more of the
simplicity of the Irish verses than one finds in most translations.


    Going to Mass by the will of God,
    The day came wet and the wind rose;
    I met Mary Hynes at the cross of Kiltartan,
    And I fell in love with her then and there.

    I spoke to her kind and mannerly,
    As by report was her own way;
    And she said, "Raftery, my mind is easy,
    You may come to-day to Ballylee."

    When I heard her offer I did not linger,
    When her talk went to my heart my heart rose.
    We had only to go across the three fields,
    We had daylight with us to Ballylee.

    The table was laid with glasses and a quart measure,
    She had fair hair, and she sitting beside me;
    And she said, "Drink, Raftery, and a hundred welcomes,
    There is a strong cellar in Ballylee."

    O star of light and O sun in harvest,
    O amber hair, O my share of the world,
    Will you come with me upon Sunday
    Till we agree together before all the people?

    I would not grudge you a song every Sunday evening,
    Punch on the table, or wine if you would drink it,
    But, O King of Glory, dry the roads before me,
    Till I find the way to Ballylee.

    There is sweet air on the side of the hill
    When you are looking down upon Ballylee;
    When you are walking in the valley picking nuts and blackberries,
    There is music of the birds in it and music of the Sidhe.

    What is the worth of greatness till you have the light
    Of the flower of the branch that is by your side?
    There is no god to deny it or to try and hide it,
    She is the sun in the heavens who wounded my heart.

    There was no part of Ireland I did not travel,
    From the rivers to the tops of the mountains,
    To the edge of Lough Greine whose mouth is hidden,
    And I saw no beauty but was behind hers.

    Her hair was shining, and her brows were shining too;
    Her face was like herself, her mouth pleasant and sweet.
    She is the pride, and I give her the branch,
    She is the shining flower of Ballylee.

    It is Mary Hynes, this calm and easy woman,
    Has beauty in her mind and in her face.
    If a hundred clerks were gathered together,
    They could not write down a half of her ways.


An old weaver, whose son is supposed to go away among the Sidhe (the
faeries) at night, says, "Mary Hynes was the most beautiful thing ever
made. My mother used to tell me about her, for she'd be at every
hurling, and wherever she was she was dressed in white. As many as
eleven men asked her in marriage in one day, but she wouldn't have any
of them. There was a lot of men up beyond Kilbecanty one night, sitting
together drinking, and talking of her, and one of them got up and set
out to go to Ballylee and see her; but Cloon Bog was open then, and
when he came to it he fell into the water, and they found him dead
there in the morning. She died of the fever that was before the
famine." Another old man says he was only a child when he saw her, but
he remembered that "the strongest man that was among us, one John
Madden, got his death of the head of her, cold he got crossing rivers
in the night-time to get to Ballylee." This is perhaps the man the
other remembered, for tradition gives the one thing many shapes. There
is an old woman who remembers her, at Derrybrien among the Echtge
hills, a vast desolate place, which has changed little since the old
poem said, "the stag upon the cold summit of Echtge hears the cry of
the wolves," but still mindful of many poems and of the dignity of
ancient speech. She says, "The sun and the moon never shone on anybody
so handsome, and her skin was so white that it looked blue, and she had
two little blushes on her cheeks." And an old wrinkled woman who lives
close by Ballylee, and has told me many tales of the Sidhe, says, "I
often saw Mary Hynes, she was handsome indeed. She had two bunches of
curls beside her cheeks, and they were the colour of silver. I saw Mary
Molloy that was drowned in the river beyond, and Mary Guthrie that was
in Ardrahan, but she took the sway of them both, a very comely
creature. I was at her wake too--she had seen too much of the world.
She was a kind creature. One day I was coming home through that field
beyond, and I was tired, and who should come out but the Poisin Glegeal
(the shining flower), and she gave me a glass of new milk." This old
woman meant no more than some beautiful bright colour by the colour of
silver, for though I knew an old man--he is dead now--who thought she
might know "the cure for all the evils in the world," that the Sidhe
knew, she has seen too little gold to know its colour. But a man by the
shore at Kinvara, who is too young to remember Mary Hynes, says,
"Everybody says there is no one at all to be seen now so handsome; it
is said she had beautiful hair, the colour of gold. She was poor, but
her clothes every day were the same as Sunday, she had such neatness.
And if she went to any kind of a meeting, they would all be killing one
another for a sight of her, and there was a great many in love with
her, but she died young. It is said that no one that has a song made
about them will ever live long."

Those who are much admired are, it is held, taken by the Sidhe, who
can use ungoverned feeling for their own ends, so that a father, as an
old herb doctor told me once, may give his child into their hands, or a
husband his wife. The admired and desired are only safe if one says
"God bless them" when one's eyes are upon them. The old woman that sang
the song thinks, too, that Mary Hynes was "taken," as the phrase is,
"for they have taken many that are not handsome, and why would they not
take her? And people came from all parts to look at her, and maybe
there were some that did not say 'God bless her.'" An old man who lives
by the sea at Duras has as little doubt that she was taken, "for there
are some living yet can remember her coming to the pattern[FN#3] there
beyond, and she was said to be the handsomest girl in Ireland." She
died young because the gods loved her, for the Sidhe are the gods, and
it may be that the old saying, which we forget to understand literally,
meant her manner of death in old times. These poor countrymen and
countrywomen in their beliefs, and in their emotions, are many years
nearer to that old Greek world, that set beauty beside the fountain of
things, than are our men of learning. She "had seen too much of the
world"; but these old men and women, when they tell of her, blame
another and not her, and though they can be hard, they grow gentle as
the old men of Troy grew gentle when Helen passed by on the walls.


[FN#3]  A "pattern," or "patron," is a festival in honour of a saint.


The poet who helped her to so much fame has himself a great fame
throughout the west of Ireland. Some think that Raftery was half blind,
and say, "I saw Raftery, a dark man, but he had sight enough to see
her," or the like, but some think he was wholly blind, as he may have
been at the end of his life. Fable makes all things perfect in their
kind, and her blind people must never look on the world and the sun. I
asked a man I met one day, when I was looking for a pool na mna Sidhe
where women of faery have been seen, bow Raftery could have admired
Mary Hynes so much f he had been altogether blind? He said, "I think
Raftery was altogether blind, but those that are blind have a way of
seeing things, and have the power to know more, and to feel more, and
to do more, and to guess more than those that have their sight, and a
certain wit and a certain wisdom is given to them." Everybody, indeed,
will tell you that he was very wise, for was he not only blind but a
poet? The weaver whose words about Mary Hynes I have already given,
says, "His poetry was the gift of the Almighty, for there are three
things that are the gift of the Almighty--poetry and dancing and
principles. That is why in the old times an ignorant man coming down
from the hillside would be better behaved and have better learning than
a man with education you'd meet now, for they got it from God"; and a
man at Coole says, "When he put his finger to one part of his head,
everything would come to him as if it was written in a book"; and an
old pensioner at Kiltartan says, "He was standing under a bush one
time, and he talked to it, and it answered him back in Irish. Some say
it was the bush that spoke, but it must have been an enchanted voice in
it, and it gave him the knowledge of all the things of the world. The
bush withered up afterwards, and it is to be seen on the roadside now
between this and Rahasine." There is a poem of his about a bush, which
I have never seen, and it may have come out of the cauldron of fable in
this shape.

A friend of mine met a man once who had been with him when he died,
but the people say that he died alone, and one Maurteen Gillane told
Dr. Hyde that all night long a light was seen streaming up to heaven
from the roof of the house where he lay, and "that was the angels who
were with him"; and all night long there was a great light in the
hovel, "and that was the angels who were waking him. They gave that
honour to him because he was so good a poet, and sang such religious
songs." It may be that in a few years Fable, who changes mortalities to
immortalities in her cauldron, will have changed Mary Hynes and Raftery
to perfect symbols of the sorrow of beauty and of the magnificence and
penury of dreams.


1900.



II

When I was in a northern town awhile ago, I had a long talk with a man
who had lived in a neighbouring country district when he was a boy. He
told me that when a very beautiful girl was born in a family that had
not been noted for good looks, her beauty was thought to have come from
the Sidhe, and to bring misfortune with it. He went over the names of
several beautiful girls that he had known, and said that beauty had
never brought happiness to anybody. It was a thing, he said, to be
proud of and afraid of. I wish I had written out his words at the time,
for they were more picturesque than my memory of them.


1902.



A KNIGHT OF THE SHEEP


Away to the north of Ben Bulben and Cope's mountain lives "a strong
farmer," a knight of the sheep they would have called him in the Gaelic
days. Proud of his descent from one of the most fighting clans of the
Middle Ages, he is a man of force alike in his words and in his deeds.
There is but one man that swears like him, and this man lives far away
upon the mountain. "Father in Heaven, what have I done to deserve
this?" he says when he has lost his pipe; and no man but he who lives
on the mountain can rival his language on a fair day over a bargain. He
is passionate and abrupt in his movements, and when angry tosses his
white beard about with his left hand.

One day I was dining with him when the servant-maid announced a
certain Mr. O'Donnell. A sudden silence fell upon the old man and upon
his two daughters. At last the eldest daughter said somewhat severely
to her father, "Go and ask him to come in and dine." The old man went
out, and then came in looking greatly relieved, and said, "He says he
will not dine with us." "Go out," said the daughter, "and ask him into
the back parlour, and give him some whiskey." Her father, who had just
finished his dinner, obeyed sullenly, and I heard the door of the back
parlour--a little room where the daughters sat and sewed during the
evening--shut to behind the men. The daughter then turned to me and
said, "Mr. O'Donnell is the tax-gatherer, and last year he raised our
taxes, and my father was very angry, and when he came, brought him into
the dairy, and sent the dairy-woman away on a message, and then swore
at him a great deal. 'I will teach you, sir,' O'Donnell replied, 'that
the law can protect its officers'; but my father reminded him that he
had no witness. At last my father got tired, and sorry too, and said he
would show him a short way home. When they were half-way to the main
road they came on a man of my father's who was ploughing, and this
somehow brought back remembrance of the wrong. He sent the man away on
a message, and began to swear at the tax-gatherer again. When I heard
of it I was disgusted that he should have made such a fuss over a
miserable creature like O'Donnell; and when I heard a few weeks ago
that O'Donnell's only son had died and left him heart-broken, I
resolved to make my father be kind to him next time he came."

She then went out to see a neighbour, and I sauntered towards the back
parlour. When I came to the door I heard angry voices inside. The two
men were evidently getting on to the tax again, for I could hear them
bandying figures to and fro. I opened the door; at sight of my face the
farmer was reminded of his peaceful intentions, and asked me if I knew
where the whiskey was. I had seen him put it into the cupboard, and was
able therefore to find it and get it out, looking at the thin, grief-
struck face of the tax-gatherer. He was rather older than my friend,
and very much more feeble and worn, and of a very different type. He
was not like him, a robust, successful man, but rather one of those
whose feet find no resting-place upon the earth. I recognized one of
the children of reverie, and said, "You are doubtless of the stock of
the old O'Donnells. I know well the hole in the river where their
treasure lies buried under the guard of a serpent with many heads."
"Yes, sur," he replied, "I am the last of a line of princes."

We then fell to talking of many commonplace things, and my friend did
not once toss up his beard, but was very friendly. At last the gaunt
old tax-gatherer got up to go, and my friend said, "I hope we will have
a glass together next year." "No, no," was the answer, "I shall be dead
next year." "I too have lost sons," said the other in quite a gentle
voice. "But your sons were not like my son." And then the two men
parted, with an angry flush and bitter hearts, and had I not cast
between them some common words or other, might not have parted, but
have fallen rather into an angry discussion of the value of their dead
sons. If I had not pity for all the children of reverie I should have
let them fight it out, and would now have many a wonderful oath to
record.

The knight of the sheep would have had the victory, for no soul that
wears this garment of blood and clay can surpass him. He was but once
beaten; and this is his tale of how it was. He and some farm hands were
playing at cards in a small cabin that stood against the end of a big
barn. A wicked woman had once lived in this cabin. Suddenly one of the
players threw down an ace and began to swear without any cause. His
swearing was so dreadful that the others stood up, and my friend said,
"All is not right here; there is a spirit in him." They ran to the door
that led into the barn to get away as quickly as possible. The wooden
bolt would not move, so the knight of the sheep took a saw which stood
against the wall near at hand, and sawed through the bolt, and at once
the door flew open with a bang, as though some one had been holding it,
and they fled through.



AN ENDURING HEART


One day a friend of mine was making a sketch of my Knight of the
Sheep. The old man's daughter was sitting by, and, when the
conversation drifted to love and lovemaking, she said, "Oh, father,
tell him about your love affair." The old man took his pipe out of his
mouth, and said, "Nobody ever marries the woman he loves," and then,
with a chuckle, "There were fifteen of them I liked better than the
woman I married," and he repeated many women's names. He went on to
tell how when he was a lad he had worked for his grandfather, his
mother's father, and was called (my friend has forgotten why) by his
grandfather's name, which we will say was Doran. He had a great friend,
whom I shall call John Byrne; and one day he and his friend went to
Queenstown to await an emigrant ship, that was to take John Byrne to
America. When they were walking along the quay, they saw a girl sitting
on a seat, crying miserably, and two men standing up in front of her
quarrelling with one another. Doran said, "I think I know what is
wrong. That man will be her brother, and that man will be her lover,
and the brother is sending her to America to get her away from the
lover. How she is crying! but I think I could console her myself."
Presently the lover and brother went away, and Doran began to walk up
and down before her, saying, "Mild weather, Miss," or the like. She
answered him in a little while, and the three began to talk together.
The emigrant ship did not arrive for some days; and the three drove
about on outside cars very innocently and happily, seeing everything
that was to be seen. When at last the ship came, and Doran had to break
it to her that he was not going to America, she cried more after him
than after the first lover. Doran whispered to Byrne as he went aboard
ship, "Now, Byrne, I don't grudge her to you, but don't marry young."

When the story got to this, the farmer's daughter joined In mockingly
with, "I suppose you said that for Byrne's good, father." But the old
man insisted that he had said it for Byrne's good; and went on to tell
how, when he got a letter telling of Byrne's engagement to the girl, he
wrote him the same advice. Years passed by, and he heard nothing; and
though he was now married, he could not keep from wondering what she
was doing. At last he went to America to find out, and though he asked
many people for tidings, he could get none. More years went by, and his
wife was dead, and he well on in years, and a rich farmer with not a
few great matters on his hands. He found an excuse in some vague
business to go out to America again, and to begin his search again. One
day he fell into talk with an Irishman in a railway carriage, and asked
him, as his way was, about emigrants from this place and that, and at
last, "Did you ever hear of the miller's daughter from Innis Rath?" and
he named the woman he was looking for. "Oh yes," said the other, "she
is married to a friend of mine, John MacEwing. She lives at such-and-
such a street in Chicago." Doran went to Chicago and knocked at her
door. She opened the door herself, and was "not a bit changed." He gave
her his real name, which he had taken again after his grandfather's
death, and the name of the man he had met in the train. She did not
recognize him, but asked him to stay to dinner, saying that her husband
would be glad to meet anybody who knew that old friend of his. They
talked of many things, but for all their talk, I do not know why, and
perhaps he did not know why, he never told her who he was. At dinner he
asked her about Byrne, and she put her head down on the table and began
to cry, and she cried so he was afraid her husband might be angry. He
was afraid to ask what had happened to Byrne, and left soon after,
never to see her again.

When the old man had finished the story, he said, "Tell that to Mr.
Yeats, he will make a poem about it, perhaps." But the daughter said,
"Oh no, father. Nobody could make a poem about a woman like that."
Alas! I have never made the poem, perhaps because my own heart, which
has loved Helen and all the lovely and fickle women of the world, would
be too sore. There are things it is well not to ponder over too much,
things that bare words are the best suited for.


1902.



THE SORCERERS


In Ireland we hear but little of the darker powers,[FN#4] and come
across any who have seen them even more rarely, for the imagination of
the people dwells rather upon the fantastic and capricious, and fantasy
and caprice would lose the freedom which is their breath of life, were
they to unite them either with evil or with good. And yet the wise are
of opinion that wherever man is, the dark powers who would feed his
rapacities are there too, no less than the bright beings who store
their honey in the cells of his heart, and the twilight beings who flit
hither and thither, and that they encompass him with a passionate and
melancholy multitude. They hold, too, that he who by long desire or
through accident of birth possesses the power of piercing into their
hidden abode can see them there, those who were once men or women full
of a terrible vehemence, and those who have never lived upon the earth,
moving slowly and with a subtler malice. The dark powers cling about
us, it is said, day and night, like bats upon an old tree; and that we
do not hear more of them is merely because the darker kinds of magic
have been but little practised. I have indeed come across very few
persons in Ireland who try to communicate with evil powers, and the few
I have met keep their purpose and practice wholly hidden from those
among whom they live. They are mainly small clerks and the like, and
meet for the purpose of their art in a room hung with black hangings.
They would not admit me into this room, but finding me not altogether
ignorant of the arcane science, showed gladly elsewhere what they would
do. "Come to us," said their leader, a clerk in a large flour-mill,
"and we will show you spirits who will talk to you face to face, and in
shapes as solid and heavy as our own."


[FN#4]  I know better now. We have the dark powers much more than I
thought, but not as much as the Scottish, and yet I think the
imagination of the people does dwell chiefly upon the fantastic and
capricious.


I had been talking of the power of communicating in states of trance
with the angelical and faery beings,--the children of the day and of
the twilight--and he had been contending that we should only believe
in what we can see and feel when in our ordinary everyday state of
mind. "Yes," I said, "I will come to you," or some such words; "but I
will not permit myself to become entranced, and will therefore know
whether these shapes you talk of are any the more to be touched and
felt by the ordinary senses than are those I talk of." I was not
denying the power of other beings to take upon themselves a clothing of
mortal substance, but only that simple invocations, such as he spoke
of, seemed unlikely to do more than cast the mind into trance, and
thereby bring it into the presence of the powers of day, twilight, and
darkness.

"But," he said, "we have seen them move the furniture hither and
thither, and they go at our bidding, and help or harm people who know
nothing of them." I am not giving the exact words, but as accurately as
I can the substance of our talk.

On the night arranged I turned up about eight, and found the leader
sitting alone in almost total darkness in a small back room. He was
dressed in a black gown, like an inquisitor's dress in an old drawing,
that left nothing of him visible: except his eyes, which peered out
through two small round holes. Upon the table in front of him was a
brass dish of burning herbs, a large bowl, a skull covered with painted
symbols, two crossed daggers, and certain implements shaped like quern
stones, which were used to control the elemental powers in some fashion
I did not discover. I also put on a black gown, and remember that it
did not fit perfectly, and that it interfered with my movements
considerably. The sorcerer then took a black cock out of a basket, and
cut its throat with one of the daggers, letting the blood fall into the
large bowl. He opened a book and began an invocation, which was
certainly not English, and had a deep guttural sound. Before he had
finished, another of the sorcerers, a man of about twenty-five, came
in, and having put on a black gown also, seated himself at my left
band. I had the invoker directly in front of me, and soon began to find
his eyes, which glittered through the small holes in his hood,
affecting me in a curious way. I struggled hard against their
influence, and my head began to ache. The invocation continued, and
nothing happened for the first few minutes. Then the invoker got up and
extinguished the light in the hall, so that no glimmer might come
through the slit under the door. There was now no light except from the
herbs on the brass dish, and no sound except from the deep guttural
murmur of the invocation.

Presently the man at my left swayed himself about, and cried out, "O
god! O god!" I asked him what ailed him, but he did not know he had
spoken. A moment after he said he could see a great serpent moving
about the room, and became considerably excited. I saw nothing with any
definite shape, but thought that black clouds were forming about me. I
felt I must fall into a trance if I did not struggle against it, and
that the influence which was causing this trance was out of harmony
with itself, in other words, evil. After a struggle I got rid of the
black clouds, and was able to observe with my ordinary senses again.
The two sorcerers now began to see black and white columns moving about
the room, and finally a man in a monk's habit, and they became greatly
puzzled because I did not see these things also, for to them they were
as solid as the table before them. The invoker appeared to be gradually
increasing in power, and I began to feel as if a tide of darkness was
pouring from him and concentrating itself about me; and now too I
noticed that the man on my left hand had passed into a death-like
trance. With a last great effort I drove off the black clouds; but
feeling them to be the only shapes I should see without passing into a
trance, and having no great love for them, I asked for lights, and
after the needful exorcism returned to the ordinary world.

I said to the more powerful of the two sorcerers--"What would happen
if one of your spirits had overpowered me?" "You would go out of this
room," he answered, "with his character added to your own." I asked
about the origin of his sorcery, but got little of importance, except
that he had learned it from his father. He would not tell me more, for
he had, it appeared, taken a vow of secrecy.

For some days I could not get over the feeling of having a number of
deformed and grotesque figures lingering about me. The Bright Powers
are always beautiful and desirable, and the Dim Powers are now
beautiful, now quaintly grotesque, but the Dark Powers express their
unbalanced natures in shapes of ugliness and horror.



THE DEVIL


My old Mayo woman told me one day that something very bad had come
down the road and gone into the house opposite, and though she would
not say what it was, I knew quite well. Another day she told me of two
friends of hers who had been made love to by one whom they believed to
be the devil. One of them was standing by the road-side when he came by
on horseback, and asked her to mount up behind him, and go riding. When
she would not he vanished. The other was out on the road late at night
waiting for her young man, when something came flapping and rolling
along the road up to her feet. It had the likeness of a newspaper, and
presently it flapped up into her face, and she knew by the size of it
that it was the Irish Times. All of a sudden it changed into a young
man, who asked her to go walking with him. She would not, and he
vanished.

I know of an old man too, on the slopes of Ben Bulben, who found the
devil ringing a bell under his bed, and he went off and stole the
chapel bell and rang him out. It may be that this, like the others, was
not the devil at all, but some poor wood spirit whose cloven feet had
got him into trouble.



HAPPY AND UNHAPPY THEOLOGIANS


I

A mayo woman once said to me, "I knew a servant girl who hung herself
for the love of God. She was lonely for the priest and her
society,[FN#5] and hung herself to the banisters with a scarf. She was
no sooner dead than she became white as a lily, and if it had been
murder or suicide she would have become black as black. They gave her
Christian burial, and the priest said she was no sooner dead than she
was with the Lord. So nothing matters that you do for the love of God."
I do not wonder at the pleasure she has in telling this story, for she
herself loves all holy things with an ardour that brings them quickly
to her lips. She told me once that she never hears anything described
in a sermon that she does not afterwards see with her eyes. She has
described to me the gates of Purgatory as they showed themselves to her
eyes, but I remember nothing of the description except that she could
not see the souls in trouble but only the gates. Her mind continually
dwells on what is pleasant and beautiful. One day she asked me what
month and what flower were the most beautiful. When I answered that I
did not know, she said, "the month of May, because of the Virgin, and
the lily of the valley, because it never sinned, but came pure out of
the rocks," and then she asked, "what is the cause of the three cold
months of winter?" I did not know even that, and so she said, "the sin
of man and the vengeance of God." Christ Himself was not only blessed,
but perfect in all manly proportions in her eyes, so much do beauty and
holiness go together in her thoughts. He alone of all men was exactly
six feet high, all others are a little more or a little less.


[FN#5]  The religious society she had belonged to.


Her thoughts and her sights of the people of faery are pleasant and
beautiful too, and I have never heard her call them the Fallen Angels.
They are people like ourselves, only better-looking, and many and many
a time she has gone to the window to watch them drive their waggons
through the sky, waggon behind waggon in long line, or to the door to
hear them singing and dancing in the Forth. They sing chiefly, it
seems, a song called "The Distant Waterfall," and though they once
knocked her down she never thinks badly of them. She saw them most
easily when she was in service in King's County, and one morning a
little while ago she said to me, "Last night I was waiting up for the
master and it was a quarter-past eleven. I heard a bang right down on
the table. 'King's County all over,' says I, and I laughed till I was
near dead. It was a warning I was staying too long. They wanted the
place to themselves." I told her once of somebody who saw a faery and
fainted, and she said, "It could not have been a faery, but some bad
thing, nobody could faint at a faery. It was a demon. I was not afraid
when they near put me, and the bed under me, out through the roof. I
wasn't afraid either when you were at some work and I heard a thing
coming flop-flop up the stairs like an eel, and squealing. It went to
all the doors. It could not get in where I was. I would have sent it
through the universe like a flash of fire. There was a man in my place,
a tearing fellow, and he put one of them down. He went out to meet it
on the road, but he must have been told the words. But the faeries are
the best neighbours. If you do good to them they will do good to you,
but they don't like you to be on their path." Another time she said to
me, "They are always good to the poor."


II

There is, however, a man in a Galway village who can see nothing but
wickedness. Some think him very holy, and others think him a little
crazed, but some of his talk reminds one of those old Irish visions of
the Three Worlds, which are supposed to have given Dante the plan of
the Divine Comedy. But I could not imagine this man seeing Paradise. He
is especially angry with the people of faery, and describes the faun-
like feet that are so common among them, who are indeed children of
Pan, to prove them children of Satan. He will not grant that "they
carry away women, though there are many that say so," but he is certain
that they are "as thick as the sands of the sea about us, and they
tempt poor mortals."

He says, "There is a priest I know of was looking along the ground
like as if he was hunting for something, and a voice said to him, 'If
you want to see them you'll see enough of them,' and his eyes were
opened and he saw the ground thick with them. Singing they do be
sometimes, and dancing, but all the time they have cloven feet." Yet he
was so scornful of unchristian things for all their dancing and singing
that he thinks that "you have only to bid them begone and they will go.
It was one night," he says, "after walking back from Kinvara and down
by the wood beyond I felt one coming beside me, and I could feel the
horse he was riding on and the way he lifted his legs, but they do not
make a sound like the hoofs of a horse. So I stopped and turned around
and said, very loud, 'Be off!' and he went and never troubled me after.
And I knew a man who was dying, and one came on his bed, and he cried
out to it, 'Get out of that, you unnatural animal!' and it left him.
Fallen angels they are, and after the fall God said, 'Let there be
Hell,' and there it was in a moment." An old woman who was sitting by
the fire joined in as he said this with "God save us, it's a pity He
said the word, and there might have been no Hell the day," but the seer
did not notice her words. He went on, "And then he asked the devil what
would he take for the souls of all the people. And the devil said
nothing would satisfy him but the blood of a virgin's son, so he got
that, and then the gates of Hell were opened." He understood the story,
it seems, as if it were some riddling old folk tale.

"I have seen Hell myself. I had a sight of it one time in a vision. It
had a very high wall around it, all of metal, and an archway, and a
straight walk into it, just like what 'ud be leading into a gentleman's
orchard, but the edges were not trimmed with box, but with red-hot
metal. And inside the wall there were cross-walks, and I'm not sure
what there was to the right, but to the left there were five great
furnaces, and they full of souls kept there with great chains. So I
turned short and went away, and in turning I looked again at the wall,
and I could see no end to it.

"And another time I saw Purgatory. It seemed to be in a level place,
and no walls around it, but it all one bright blaze, and the souls
standing in it. And they suffer near as much as in Hell, only there are
no devils with them there, and they have the hope of Heaven.

"And I heard a call to me from there, 'Help me to come out o' this!'
And when I looked it was a man I used to know in the army, an Irishman,
and from this county, and I believe him to be a descendant of King
O'Connor of Athenry.

"So I stretched out my hand first, but then I called out, 'I'd be
burned in the flames before I could get within three yards of you.' So
then he said, 'Well, help me with your prayers,' and so I do.

"And Father Connellan says the same thing, to help the dead with your
prayers, and he's a very clever man to make a sermon, and has a great
deal of cures made with the Holy Water he brought back from Lourdes."


1902.



THE LAST GLEEMAN


Michael Moran was born about 1794 off Black Pitts, in the Liberties of
Dublin, in Faddle Alley. A fortnight after birth he went stone blind
from illness, and became thereby a blessing to his parents, who were
soon able to send him to rhyme and beg at street corners and at the
bridges over the Liffey. They may well have wished that their quiver
were full of such as he, for, free from the interruption of sight, his
mind became a perfect echoing chamber, where every movement of the day
and every change of public passion whispered itself into rhyme or
quaint saying. By the time he had grown to manhood he was the admitted
rector of all the ballad-mongers of the Liberties. Madden, the weaver,
Kearney, the blind fiddler from Wicklow, Martin from Meath, M'Bride
from heaven knows where, and that M'Grane, who in after days, when the
true Moran was no more, strutted in borrowed plumes, or rather in
borrowed rags, and gave out that there had never been any Moran but
himself, and many another, did homage before him, and held him chief of
all their tribe. Nor despite his blindness did he find any difficulty
in getting a wife, but rather was able to pick and choose, for he was
just that mixture of ragamuffin and of genius which is dear to the
heart of woman, who, perhaps because she is wholly conventional
herself, loves the unexpected, the crooked, the bewildering. Nor did he
lack, despite his rags, many excellent things, for it is remembered
that he ever loved caper sauce, going so far indeed in his honest
indignation at its absence upon one occasion as to fling a leg of
mutton at his wife. He was not, however, much to look at, with his
coarse frieze coat with its cape and scalloped edge, his old corduroy
trousers and great brogues, and his stout stick made fast to his wrist
by a thong of leather: and he would have been a woeful shock to the
gleeman MacConglinne, could that friend of kings have beheld him in
prophetic vision from the pillar stone at Cork. And yet though the
short cloak and the leather wallet were no more, he was a true gleeman,
being alike poet, jester, and newsman of the people. In the morning
when he had finished his breakfast, his wife or some neighbour would
read the newspaper to him, and read on and on until he interrupted
with, "That'll do--I have me meditations"; and from these meditations
would come the day's store of jest and rhyme. He had the whole Middle
Ages under his frieze coat.

He had not, however, MacConglinne's hatred of the Church and clergy,
for when the fruit of his meditations did not ripen well, or when the
crowd called for something more solid, he would recite or sing a
metrical tale or ballad of saint or martyr or of Biblical adventure. He
would stand at a street comer, and when a crowd had gathered would
begin in some such fashion as follows (I copy the record of one who
knew him)--"Gather round me, boys, gather round me. Boys, am I standin'
in puddle? am I standin' in wet?" Thereon several boys would cry, "Ali,
no! yez not! yer in a nice dry place. Go on with St. Mary; go on with
Moses"--each calling for his favourite tale. Then Moran, with a
suspicious wriggle of his body and a clutch at his rags, would burst
out with "All me buzzim friends are turned backbiters"; and after a
final "If yez don't drop your coddin' and diversion I'll lave some of
yez a case," by way of warning to the boys, begin his recitation, or
perhaps still delay, to ask, "Is there a crowd round me now? Any
blackguard heretic around me?" The best-known of his religious tales
was St. Mary of Egypt, a long poem of exceeding solemnity, condensed
from the much longer work of a certain Bishop Coyle. It told how a fast
woman of Egypt, Mary by name, followed pilgrims to Jerusalem for no
good purpose, and then, turning penitent on finding herself withheld
from entering the Temple by supernatural interference, fled to the
desert and spent the remainder of her life in solitary penance. When at
last she was at the point of death, God sent Bishop Zozimus to hear her
confession, give her the last sacrament, and with the help of a lion,
whom He sent also, dig her grave. The poem has the intolerable cadence
of the eighteenth century, but was so popular and so often called for
that Moran was soon nicknamed Zozimus, and by that name is he
remembered. He had also a poem of his own called Moses, which went a
little nearer poetry without going very near. But he could ill brook
solemnity, and before long parodied his own verses in the following
ragamuffin fashion:


    In Egypt's land, contagious to the Nile,
    King Pharaoh's daughter went to bathe in style.
    She tuk her dip, then walked unto the land,
    To dry her royal pelt she ran along the strand.
    A bulrush tripped her, whereupon she saw
    A smiling babby in a wad o' straw.
    She tuk it up, and said with accents mild,
    "'Tare-and-agers, girls, which av yez owns the child?"


His humorous rhymes were, however, more often quips and cranks at the
expense of his contemporaries. It was his delight, for instance, to
remind a certain shoemaker, noted alike for display of wealth and for
personal uncleanness, of his inconsiderable origin in a song of which
but the first stanza has come down to us:


    At the dirty end of Dirty Lane,
    Liv'd a dirty cobbler, Dick Maclane;
    His wife was in the old king's reign
        A stout brave orange-woman.
    On Essex Bridge she strained her throat,
    And six-a-penny was her note.
    But Dickey wore a bran-new coat,
        He got among the yeomen.
    He was a bigot, like his clan,
    And in the streets he wildly sang,
    O Roly, toly, toly raid, with his old jade.


He had troubles of divers kinds, and numerous interlopers to face and
put down. Once an officious peeler arrested him as a vagabond, but was
triumphantly routed amid the laughter of the court, when Moran reminded
his worship of the precedent set by Homer, who was also, he declared, a
poet, and a blind man, and a beggarman. He had to face a more serious
difficulty as his fame grew. Various imitators started up upon all
sides. A certain actor, for instance, made as many guineas as Moran did
shillings by mimicking his sayings and his songs and his getup upon the
stage. One night this actor was at supper with some friends, when
dispute arose as to whether his mimicry was overdone or not. It was
agreed to settle it by an appeal to the mob. A forty-shilling supper at
a famous coffeehouse was to be the wager. The actor took up his station
at Essex Bridge, a great haunt of Moran's, and soon gathered a small
crowd. He had scarce got through "In Egypt's land, contagious to the
Nile," when Moran himself came up, followed by another crowd. The
crowds met in great excitement and laughter. "Good Christians," cried
the pretender, "is it possible that any man would mock the poor dark
man like that?"

"Who's that? It's some imposhterer," replied Moran.

"Begone, you wretch! it's you'ze the imposhterer. Don't you fear the
light of heaven being struck from your eyes for mocking the poor dark
man?"

"Saints and angels, is there no protection against this? You're a most
inhuman-blaguard to try to deprive me of my honest bread this way,"
replied poor Moran.

"And you, you wretch, won't let me go on with the beautiful poem.
Christian people, in your charity won't you beat this man away? he's
taking advantage of my darkness."

The pretender, seeing that he was having the best of it, thanked the
people for their sympathy and protection, and went on with the poem,
Moran listening for a time in bewildered silence. After a while Moran
protested again with:

"Is it possible that none of yez can know me? Don't yez see it's
myself; and that's some one else?"

"Before I can proceed any further in this lovely story," interrupted
the pretender, "I call on yez to contribute your charitable donations
to help me to go on."

"Have you no sowl to be saved, you mocker of heaven?" cried Moran, Put
completely beside himself by this last injury--"Would you rob the poor
as well as desave the world? O, was ever such wickedness known?"

"I leave it to yourselves, my friends," said the pretender, "to give
to the real dark man, that you all know so well, and save me from that
schemer," and with that he collected some pennies and half-pence. While
he was doing so, Moran started his Mary of Egypt, but the indignant
crowd seizing his stick were about to belabour him, when they fell back
bewildered anew by his close resemblance to himself. The pretender now
called to them to "just give him a grip of that villain, and he'd soon
let him know who the imposhterer was!" They led him over to Moran, but
instead of closing with him he thrust a few shillings into his hand,
and turning to the crowd explained to them he was indeed but an actor,
and that he had just gained a wager, and so departed amid much
enthusiasm, to eat the supper he had won.

In April 1846 word was sent to the priest that Michael Moran was
dying. He found him at 15 (now 14 1/2) Patrick Street, on a straw bed,
in
a room full of ragged ballad-singers come to cheer his last moments.
After his death the ballad-singers, with many fiddles and the like,
came again and gave him a fine wake, each adding to the merriment
whatever he knew in the way of rann, tale, old saw, or quaint rhyme. He
had had his day, had said his prayers and made his confession, and why
should they not give him a hearty send-off? The funeral took place the
next day. A good party of his admirers and friends got into the hearse
with the coffin, for the day was wet and nasty. They had not gone far
when one of them burst out with "It's cruel cowld, isn't it?" "Garra',"
replied another, "we'll all be as stiff as the corpse when we get to
the berrin-ground." "Bad cess to him," said a third; "I wish he'd held
out another month until the weather got dacent." A man called Carroll
thereupon produced a half-pint of whiskey, and they all drank to the
soul of the departed. Unhappily, however, the hearse was over-weighted,
and they had not reached the cemetery before the spring broke, and the
bottle with it.

Moran must have felt strange and out of place in that other kingdom he
was entering, perhaps while his friends were drinking in his honour.
Let us hope that some kindly middle region was found for him, where he
can call dishevelled angels about him with some new and more rhythmical
form of his old


    Gather round me, boys, will yez
    Gather round me?
    And hear what I have to say
    Before ould Salley brings me
    My bread and jug of tay;


and fling outrageous quips and cranks at cherubim and seraphim.
Perhaps he may have found and gathered, ragamuffin though he be, the
Lily of High Truth, the Rose of Far-sought Beauty, for whose lack so
many of the writers of Ireland, whether famous or forgotten, have been
futile as the blown froth upon the shore.



REGINA, REGINA PIGMEORUM, VENI


One night a middle-aged man, who had lived all his life far from the
noise of cab-wheels, a young girl, a relation of his, who was reported
to be enough of a seer to catch a glimpse of unaccountable lights
moving over the fields among the cattle, and myself, were walking along
a far western sandy shore. We talked of the Forgetful People as the
faery people are sometimes called, and came in the midst of our talk to
a notable haunt of theirs, a shallow cave amidst black rocks, with its
reflection under it in the wet sea sand. I asked the young girl if she
could see anything, for I had quite a number of things to ask the
Forgetful People. She stood still for a few minutes, and I saw that she
was passing into a kind of waking trance, in which the cold sea breeze
no longer troubled her, nor the dull boom of the sea distracted her
attention. I then called aloud the names of the great faeries, and in a
moment or two she said that she could hear music far inside the rocks,
and then a sound of confused talking, and of people stamping their feet
as if to applaud some unseen performer. Up to this my other friend had
been walking to and fro some yards off, but now he passed close to us,
and as he did so said suddenly that we were going to be interrupted,
for he heard the laughter of children somewhere beyond the rocks. We
were, however, quite alone. The spirits of the place had begun to cast
their influence over him also. In a moment he was corroborated by the
girl, who said that bursts of laughter had begun to mingle with the
music, the confused talking, and the noise of feet. She next saw a
bright light streaming out of the cave, which seemed to have grown much
deeper, and a quantity of little people,[FN#6] in various coloured
dresses, red predominating, dancing to a tune which she did not
recognize.


[FN#6]  The people and faeries in Ireland are sometimes as big as we
are, sometimes bigger, and sometimes, as I have been told, about three
feet high. The Old Mayo woman I so often quote, thinks that it is
something in our eyes that makes them seem big or little.


I then bade her call out to the queen of the little people to come and
talk with us. There was, however, no answer to her command. I therefore
repeated the words aloud myself, and in a moment a very beautiful tall
woman came out of the cave. I too had by this time fallen into a kind
of trance, in which what we call the unreal had begun to take upon
itself a masterful reality, and was able to see the faint gleam of
golden ornaments, the shadowy blossom of dim hair. I then bade the girl
tell this tall queen to marshal her followers according to their
natural divisions, that we might see them. I found as before that I had
to repeat the command myself. The creatures then came out of the cave,
and drew themselves up, if I remember rightly, in four bands. One of
these bands carried quicken boughs in their hands, and another had
necklaces made apparently of serpents' scales, but their dress I cannot
remember, for I was quite absorbed in that gleaming woman. I asked her
to tell the seer whether these caves were the greatest faery haunts in
the neighbourhood. Her lips moved, but the answer was inaudible. I bade
the seer lay her hand upon the breast of the queen, and after that she
heard every word quite distinctly. No, this was not the greatest faery
haunt, for there was a greater one a little further ahead. I then asked
her whether it was true that she and her people carried away mortals,
and if so, whether they put another soul in the place of the one they
had taken? "We change the bodies," was her answer. "Are any of you ever
born into mortal life?" "Yes." "Do I know any who were among your
people before birth?" "You do." "Who are they?" "It would not be lawful
for you to know." I then asked whether she and her people were not
"dramatizations of our moods"? "She does not understand," said my
friend, "but says that her people are much like human beings, and do
most of the things human beings do." I asked her other questions, as to
her nature, and her purpose in the universe, but only seemed to puzzle
her. At last she appeared to lose patience, for she wrote this message
for me upon the sands--the sands of vision, not the grating sands under
our feet--"Be careful, and do not seek to know too much about us."
Seeing that I had offended her, I thanked her for what she had shown
and told, and let her depart again into her cave. In a little while the
young girl awoke out of her trance, and felt again the cold wind of the
world, and began to shiver.

I tell these things as accurately as I can, and with no theories to
blur the history. Theories are poor things at the best, and the bulk of
mine have perished long ago. I love better than any theory the sound of
the Gate of Ivory, turning upon its hinges, and hold that he alone who
has passed the rose-strewn threshold can catch the far glimmer of the
Gate of Horn. It were perhaps well for us all if we would but raise the
cry Lilly the astrologer raised in Windsor Forest, "Regina, Regina
Pigmeorum, Veni," and remember with him, that God visiteth His children
in dreams. Tall, glimmering queen, come near, and let me see again the
shadowy blossom of thy dim hair.



"AND FAIR, FIERCE WOMEN"


One day a woman that I know came face to face with heroic beauty, that
highest beauty which Blake says changes least from youth to age, a
beauty which has been fading out of the arts, since that decadence we
call progress, set voluptuous beauty in its place. She was standing at
the window, looking over to Knocknarea where Queen Maive is thought to
be buried, when she saw, as she has told me, "the finest woman you ever
saw travelling right across from the mountain and straight to her." The
woman had a sword by her side and a dagger lifted up in her hand, and
was dressed in white, with bare arms and feet. She looked "very strong,
but not wicked," that is, not cruel. The old woman had seen the Irish
giant, and "though he was a fine man," he was nothing to this woman,
"for he was round, and could not have stepped out so soldierly"; "she
was like Mrs.-----" a stately lady of the neighbourhood, "but she had
no stomach on her, and was slight and broad in the shoulders, and was
handsomer than any one you ever saw; she looked about thirty." The old
woman covered her eyes with her hands, and when she uncovered them the
apparition had vanished. The neighbours were "wild with her," she told
me, because she did not wait to find out if there was a message, for
they were sure it was Queen Maive, who often shows herself to the
pilots. I asked the old woman if she had seen others like Queen Maive,
and she said, "Some of them have their hair down, but they look quite
different, like the sleepy-looking ladies one sees in the papers. Those
with their hair up are like this one. The others have long white
dresses, but those with their hair up have short dresses, so that you
can see their legs right up to the calf." After some careful
questioning I found that they wore what might very well be a kind of
buskin; she went on, "They are fine and dashing looking, like the men
one sees riding their horses in twos and threes on the slopes of the
mountains with their swords swinging." She repeated over and over,
"There is no such race living now, none so finely proportioned," or the
like, and then said, "The present Queen[FN#7] is a nice, pleasant-
looking woman, but she is not like her. What makes me think so little
of the ladies is that I see none as they be," meaning as the spirits.
"When I think of her and of the ladies now, they are like little
children running about without knowing how to put their clothes on
right. Is it the ladies? Why, I would not call them women at all." The
other day a friend of mine questioned an old woman in a Galway
workhouse about Queen Maive, and was told that "Queen Maive was
handsome, and overcame all her enemies with a bawl stick, for the hazel
is blessed, and the best weapon that can be got. You might walk the
world with it," but she grew "very disagreeable in the end--oh very
disagreeable. Best not to be talking about it. Best leave it between
the book and the hearer." My friend thought the old woman had got some
scandal about Fergus son of Roy and Maive in her head.


[FN#7]  Queen Victoria.


And I myself met once with a young man in the Burren Hills who
remembered an old poet who made his poems in Irish and had met when he
was young, the young man said, one who called herself Maive, and said
she was a queen "among them," and asked him if he would have money or
pleasure. He said he would have pleasure, and she gave him her love for
a time, and then went from him, and ever after he was very mournful.
The young man had often heard him sing the poem of lamentation that he
made, but could only remember that it was "very mournful," and that he
called her "beauty of all beauties."


1902.



ENCHANTED WOODS


I

Last summer, whenever I had finished my day's work, I used to go
wandering in certain roomy woods, and there I would often meet an old
countryman, and talk to him about his work and about the woods, and
once or twice a friend came with me to whom he would open his heart
more readily than to me, He had spent all his life lopping away the
witch elm and the hazel and the privet and the hornbeam from the paths,
and had thought much about the natural and supernatural creatures of
the wood. He has heard the hedgehog--"grainne oge," he calls him--
"grunting like a Christian," and is certain that he steals apples by
rolling about under an apple tree until there is an apple sticking to
every quill. He is certain too that the cats, of whom there are many in
the woods, have a language of their own--some kind of old Irish. He
says, "Cats were serpents, and they were made into cats at the time of
some great change in the world. That is why they are hard to kill, and
why it is dangerous to meddle with them. If you annoy a cat it might
claw or bite you in a way that would put poison in you, and that would
be the serpent's tooth." Sometimes he thinks they change into wild
cats, and then a nail grows on the end of their tails; but these wild
cats are not the same as the marten cats, who have been always in the
woods. The foxes were once tame, as the cats are now, but they ran away
and became wild. He talks of all wild creatures except squirrels--whom
he hates--with what seems an affectionate interest, though at times his
eyes will twinkle with pleasure as he remembers how he made hedgehogs
unroll themselves when he was a boy, by putting a wisp of burning straw
under them.

I am not certain that he distinguishes between the natural and
supernatural very clearly. He told me the other day that foxes and cats
like, above all, to be in the "forths" and lisses after nightfall; and
he will certainly pass from some story about a fox to a story about a
spirit with less change of voice than when he is going to speak about a
marten cat--a rare beast now-a-days. Many years ago he used to work in
the garden, and once they put him to sleep in a garden-house where
there was a loft full of apples, and all night he could hear people
rattling plates and knives and forks over his head in the loft. Once,
at any rate, be has seen an unearthly sight in the woods. He says, "One
time I was out cutting timber over in Inchy, and about eight o'clock
one morning when I got there I saw a girl picking nuts, with her hair
hanging down over her shoulders, brown hair, and she had a good, clean
face, and she was tall and nothing on her head, and her dress no way
gaudy but simple, and when she felt me coming she gathered herself up
and was gone as if the earth had swallowed her up. And I followed her
and looked for her, but I never could see her again from that day to
this, never again." He used the word clean as we would use words like
fresh or comely.

Others too have seen spirits in the Enchanted Woods. A labourer told
us of what a friend of his had seen in a part of the woods that is
called Shanwalla, from some old village that was before the weed. He
said, "One evening I parted from Lawrence Mangan in the yard, and he
went away through the path in Shanwalla, an' bid me goodnight. And two
hours after, there he was back again in the yard, an' bid me light a
candle that was in the stable. An' he told me that when he got into
Shanwalla, a little fellow about as high as his knee, but having a head
as big as a man's body, came beside him and led him out of the path an'
round about, and at last it brought him to the lime-kiln, and then it
vanished and left him."

A woman told me of a sight that she and others had seen by a certain
deep pool in the river. She said, "I came over the stile from the
chapel, and others along with me; and a great blast of wind came and
two trees were bent and broken and fell into the river, and the splash
of water out of it went up to the skies. And those that were with me
saw many figures, but myself I only saw one, sitting there by the bank
where the trees fell. Dark clothes he had on, and he was headless."

A man told me that one day, when he was a boy, he and another boy went
to catch a horse in a certain field, full of boulders and bushes of
hazel and creeping juniper and rock-roses, that is where the lake side
is for a little clear of the woods. He said to the boy that was with
him, "I bet a button that if I fling a pebble on to that bush it will
stay on it," meaning that the bush was so matted the pebble would not
be able to go through it. So he took up "a pebble of cow-dung, and as
soon as it hit the bush there came out of it the most beautiful music
that ever was heard." They ran away, and when they had gone about two
hundred yards they looked back and saw a woman dressed in white,
walking round and round the bush. "First it had the form of a woman,
and then of a man, and it was going round the bush."


II

I often entangle myself in argument more complicated than even those
paths of Inchy as to what is the true nature of apparitions, but at
other times I say as Socrates said when they told him a learned opinion
about a nymph of the Illissus, "The common opinion is enough for me." I
believe when I am in the mood that all nature is full of people whom we
cannot see, and that some of these are ugly or grotesque, and some
wicked or foolish, but very many beautiful beyond any one we have ever
seen, and that these are not far away when we are walking in pleasant
and quiet places. Even when I was a boy I could never walk in a wood
without feeling that at any moment I might find before me somebody or
something I had long looked for without knowing what I looked for. And
now I will at times explore every little nook of some poor coppice with
almost anxious footsteps, so deep a hold has this imagination upon me.
You too meet with a like imagination, doubtless, somewhere, wherever
your ruling stars will have it, Saturn driving you to the woods, or the
Moon, it may be, to the edges of the sea. I will not of a certainty
believe that there is nothing in the sunset, where our forefathers
imagined the dead following their shepherd the sun, or nothing but some
vague presence as little moving as nothing. If beauty is not a gateway
out of the net we were taken in at our birth, it will not long be
beauty, and we will find it better to sit at home by the fire and
fatten a lazy body or to run hither and thither in some foolish sport
than to look at the finest show that light and shadow ever made among
green leaves. I say to myself, when I am well out of that thicket of
argument, that they are surely there, the divine people, for only we
who have neither simplicity nor wisdom have denied them, and the simple
of all times and the wise men of ancient times have seen them and even
spoken to them. They live out their passionate lives not far off, as I
think, and we shall be among them when we die if we but keep our
natures simple and passionate. May it not even be that death shall
unite us to all romance, and that some day we shall fight dragons among
blue hills, or come to that whereof all romance is but


    Foreshadowings mingled with the images
    Of man's misdeeds in greater days than these,


as the old men thought in The Earthly Paradise when they were in good
spirits.


1902



MIRACULOUS CREATURES


There are marten cats and badgers and foxes in the Enchanted Woods,
but there are of a certainty mightier creatures, and the lake hides
what neither net nor fine can take. These creatures are of the race of
the white stag that flits in and out of the tales of Arthur, and of the
evil pig that slew Diarmuid where Ben Bulben mixes with the sea wind.
They are the wizard creatures of hope and fear, they are of them that
fly and of them that follow among the thickets that are about the Gates
of Death. A man I know remembers that his father was one night in the
wood Of Inchy, "where the lads of Gort used to be stealing rods. He was
sitting by the wall, and the dog beside him, and he heard something
come running from Owbawn Weir, and he could see nothing, but the sound
of its feet on the ground was like the sound of the feet of a deer. And
when it passed him, the dog got between him and the wall and scratched
at it there as if it was afraid, but still he could see nothing but
only hear the sound of hoofs. So when it was passed he turned and came
away home. Another time," the man says, "my father told me he was in a
boat out on the lake with two or three men from Gort, and one of them
had an eel-spear, and he thrust it into the water, and it hit
something, and the man fainted and they had to carry him out of the
boat to land, and when he came to himself he said that what he struck
was like a calf, but whatever it was, it was not fish!" A friend of
mine is convinced that these terrible creatures, so common in lakes,
were set there in old times by subtle enchanters to watch over the
gates of wisdom. He thinks that if we sent our spirits down into the
water we would make them of one substance with strange moods Of ecstasy
and power, and go out it may be to the conquest of the world. We would,
however, he believes, have first to outface and perhaps overthrow
strange images full of a more powerful life than if they were really
alive. It may be that we shall look at them without fear when we have
endured the last adventure, that is death.


1902.



ARISTOTLE OF THE BOOKS


The friend who can get the wood-cutter to talk more readily than he
will to anybody else went lately to see his old wife. She lives in a
cottage not far from the edge of the woods, and is as full of old talk
as her husband. This time she began to talk of Goban, the legendary
mason, and his wisdom, but said presently, "Aristotle of the Books,
too, was very wise, and he had a great deal of experience, but did not
the bees get the better of him in the end? He wanted to know how they
packed the comb, and he wasted the better part of a fortnight watching
them, and he could not see them doing it. Then he made a hive with a
glass cover on it and put it over them, and he thought to see. But when
he went and put his eyes to the glass, they had it all covered with wax
so that it was as black as the pot; and he was as blind as before. He
said he was never rightly kilt till then. They had him that time
surely!"


1902.



THE SWINE OF THE GODS


A few years ago a friend of mine told me of something that happened to
him when he was a. young man and out drilling with some Connaught
Fenians. They were but a car-full, and drove along a hillside until
they came to a quiet place. They left the car and went further up the
hill with their rifles, and drilled for a while. As they were coming
down again they saw a very thin, long-legged pig of the old Irish sort,
and the pig began to follow them. One of them cried out as a joke that
it was a fairy pig, and they all began to run to keep up the joke. The
pig ran too, and presently, how nobody knew, this mock terror became
real terror, and they ran as for their lives. When they got to the car
they made the horse gallop as fast as possible, but the pig still
followed. Then one of them put up his rifle to fire, but when he looked
along the barrel he could see nothing. Presently they turned a corner
and came to a village. They told the people of the village what had
happened, and the people of the village took pitchforks and spades and
the like, and went along the road with them to drive the pig away. When
they turned the comer they could not find anything.


1902.



A VOICE


One day I was walking over a bit of marshy ground close to Inchy Wood
when I felt, all of a sudden, and only for a second, an emotion which I
said to myself was the root of Christian mysticism. There had swept
over me a sense of weakness, of dependence on a great personal Being
somewhere far off yet near at hand. No thought of mine had prepared me
for this emotion, for I had been pre-occupied with Aengus and Edain, and
with Mannanan, son of the sea. That night I awoke lying upon my back
and hearing a voice speaking above me and saying, "No human soul is
like any other human soul, and therefore the love of God for any human
soul is infinite, for no other soul can satisfy the same need in God."
A few nights after this I awoke to see the loveliest people I have ever
seen. A young man and a young girl dressed in olive-green raiment, cut
like old Greek raiment, were standing at my bedside. I looked at the
girl and noticed that her dress was gathered about her neck into a kind
of chain, or perhaps into some kind of stiff embroidery which
represented ivy-leaves. But what filled me with wonder was the
miraculous mildness of her face. There are no such faces now. It was
beautiful, as few faces are beautiful, but it had neither, one would
think, the light that is in desire or in hope or in fear or in
speculation. It was peaceful like the faces of animals, or like
mountain pools at evening, so peaceful that it was a little sad. I
thought for a moment that she might be the beloved of Aengus, but how
could that hunted, alluring, happy, immortal wretch have a face like
this? Doubtless she was from among the children of the Moon, but who
among them I shall never know.


1902.



KIDNAPPERS


A little north of the town of Sligo, on the southern side of Ben
Bulben, some hundreds of feet above the plain, is a small white square
in the limestone. No mortal has ever touched it with his hand; no sheep
or goat has ever browsed grass beside it. There is no more inaccessible
place upon the earth, and few more encircled by awe to the deep
considering. It is the door of faery-land. In the middle of night it
swings open, and the unearthly troop rushes out. All night the gay
rabble sweep to and fro across the land, invisible to all, unless
perhaps where, in some more than commonly "gentle" place--Drumcliff or
Drum-a-hair--the nightcapped heads of faery-doctors may be thrust from
their doors to see what mischief the "gentry" are doing. To their
trained eyes and ears the fields are covered by red-hatted riders, and
the air is full of shrill voices--a sound like whistling, as an ancient
Scottish seer has recorded, and wholly different from the talk of the
angels, who "speak much in the throat, like the Irish," as Lilly, the
astrologer, has wisely said. If there be a new-born baby or new-wed
bride in the neighbourhood, the nightcapped "doctors" will peer with
more than common care, for the unearthly troop do not always return
empty-handed. Sometimes a new-wed bride or a new-born baby goes with
them into their mountains; the door swings to behind, and the new-born
or the new-wed moves henceforth in the bloodless land of Faery; happy
enough, but doomed to melt out at the last judgment like bright vapour,
for the soul cannot live without sorrow. Through this door of white
stone, and the other doors of that land where geabheadh tu an sonas aer
pighin ("you can buy joy for a penny"), have gone kings, queens, and
princes, but so greatly has the power of Faery dwindled, that there are
none but peasants in these sad chronicles of mine.

Somewhere about the beginning of last century appeared at the western
corner of Market Street, Sligo, where the butcher's shop now is, not a
palace, as in Keats's Lamia, but an apothecary's shop, ruled over by a
certain unaccountable Dr. Opendon. Where he came from, none ever knew.
There also was in Sligo, in those days, a woman, Ormsby by name, whose
husband had fallen mysteriously sick. The doctors could make nothing of
him. Nothing seemed wrong with him, yet weaker and weaker he grew. Away
went the wife to Dr. Opendon. She was shown into the shop parlour. A
black cat was sitting straight up before the fire. She had just time to
see that the side-board was covered with fruit, and to say to herself,
"Fruit must be wholesome when the doctor has so much," before Dr.
Opendon came in. He was dressed all in black, the same as the cat, and
his wife walked behind him dressed in black likewise. She gave him a
guinea, and got a little bottle in return. Her husband recovered that
time. Meanwhile the black doctor cured many people; but one day a rich
patient died, and cat, wife, and doctor all vanished the night after.
In a year the man Ormsby fell sick once more. Now he was a goodlooking
man, and his wife felt sure the "gentry" were coveting him. She went
and called on the "faery-doctor" at Cairnsfoot. As soon as he had heard
her tale, he went behind the back door and began muttering, muttering,
muttering-making spells. Her husband got well this time also. But after
a while he sickened again, the fatal third time, and away went she once
more to Cairnsfoot, and out went the faery-doctor behind his back door
and began muttering, but soon he came in and told her it was no use--
her husband would die; and sure enough the man died, and ever after
when she spoke of him Mrs. Ormsby shook her head saying she knew well
where he was, and it wasn't in heaven or hell or purgatory either. She
probably believed that a log of wood was left behind in his place, but
so bewitched that it seemed the dead body of her husband.

She is dead now herself, but many still living remember her. She was,
I believe, for a time a servant or else a kind of pensioner of some
relations of my own.

Sometimes those who are carried off are allowed after many years--
seven usually--a final glimpse of their friends. Many years ago a woman
vanished suddenly from a Sligo garden where she was walking with her
husband. When her son, who was then a baby, had grown up he received
word in some way, not handed down, that his mother was glamoured by
faeries, and imprisoned for the time in a house in Glasgow and longing
to see him. Glasgow in those days of sailing-ships seemed to the
peasant mind almost over the edge of the known world, yet he, being a
dutiful son, started away. For a long time he walked the streets of
Glasgow; at last down in a cellar he saw his mother working. She was
happy, she said, and had the best of good eating, and would he not eat?
and therewith laid all kinds of food on the table; but he, knowing well
that she was trying to cast on him the glamour by giving him faery
food, that she might keep him with her, refused and came home to his
people in Sligo.

Some five miles southward of Sligo is a gloomy and tree-bordered pond,
a great gathering-place of water-fowl, called, because of its form, the
Heart Lake. It is haunted by stranger things than heron, snipe, or wild
duck. Out of this lake, as from the white square stone in Ben Bulben,
issues an unearthly troop. Once men began to drain it; suddenly one of
them raised a cry that he saw his house in flames. They turned round,
and every man there saw his own cottage burning. They hurried home to
find it was but faery glamour. To this hour on the border of the lake
is shown a half-dug trench--the signet of their impiety. A little way
from this lake I heard a beautiful and mournful history of faery
kidnapping. I heard it from a little old woman in a white cap, who
sings to herself in Gaelic, and moves from one foot to the other as
though she remembered the dancing of her youth.

A young man going at nightfall to the house of his just married bride,
met in the way a jolly company, and with them his bride. They were
faeries, and had stolen her as a wife for the chief of their band. To
him they seemed only a company of merry mortals. His bride, when she
saw her old love, bade him welcome, but was most fearful lest be should
eat the faery food, and so be glamoured out of the earth into that
bloodless dim nation, wherefore she set him down to play cards with
three of the cavalcade; and he played on, realizing nothing until he
saw the chief of the band carrying his bride away in his arms.
Immediately he started up, and knew that they were faeries; for slowly
all that jolly company melted into shadow and night. He hurried to the
house of his beloved. As he drew near came to him the cry of the
keeners. She had died some time before he came. Some noteless Gaelic
poet had made this into a forgotten ballad, some odd verses of which my
white-capped friend remembered and sang for me.

Sometimes one hears of stolen people acting as good genii to the
living, as in this tale, heard also close by the haunted pond, of John
Kirwan of Castle Hacket. The Kirwans[FN#8] are a family much rumoured
of in peasant stories, and believed to be the descendants of a man and
a spirit. They have ever been famous for beauty, and I have read that
the mother of the present Lord Cloncurry was of their tribe.


[FN#8]  I have since heard that it was not the Kirwans, but their
predecessors at Castle Hacket, the Hackets themselves, I think, who
were descended from a man and a spirit, and were notable for beauty. I
imagine that the mother of Lord Cloncurry was descended from the
Hackets. It may well be that all through these stories the name of
Kirwan has taken the place of the older name. Legend mixes everything
together in her cauldron.


John Kirwan was a great horse-racing man, and once landed in Liverpool
with a fine horse, going racing somewhere in middle England. That
evening, as he walked by the docks, a slip of a boy came up and asked
where he was stabling his horse. In such and such a place, he answered.
"Don't put him there," said the slip of a boy; "that stable will be
burnt to-night." He took his horse elsewhere, and sure enough the
stable was burnt down. Next day the boy came and asked as reward to
ride as his jockey in the coming race, and then was gone. The race-time
came round. At the last moment the boy ran forward and mounted, saying,
"If I strike him with the whip in my left hand I will lose, but if in
my right hand bet all you are worth." For, said Paddy Flynn, who told
me the tale, "the left arm is good for nothing. I might go on making
the sign of the cross with it, and all that, come Christmas, and a
Banshee, or such like, would no more mind than if it was that broom."
Well, the slip of a boy struck the horse with his right hand, and John
Kirwan cleared the field out. When the race was over, "What can I do
for you now?" said he. "Nothing but this," said the boy: "my mother has
a cottage on your land-they stole me from the cradle. Be good to her,
John Kirwan, and wherever your horses go I will watch that no ill
follows them; but you will never see me more." With that he made
himself air, and vanished.

Sometimes animals are carried off--apparently drowned animals more
than others. In Claremorris, Galway, Paddy Flynn told me, lived a poor
widow with one cow and its calf. The cow fell into the river, and was
washed away. There was a man thereabouts who went to a red-haired woman
--for such are supposed to be wise in these things--and she told him to
take the calf down to the edge of the river, and hide himself and
watch. He did as she had told him, and as evening came on the calf
began to low, and after a while the cow came along the edge of the
river and commenced suckling it. Then, as he had been told, he caught
the cow's tail. Away they went at a great pace across hedges and
ditches, till they came to a royalty (a name for the little circular
ditches, commonly called raths or forts, that Ireland is covered with
since Pagan times). Therein he saw walking or sitting all the people
who had died out of his village in his time. A woman was sitting on the
edge with a child on her knees, and she called out to him to mind what
the red-haired woman had told him, and he remembered she had said,
Bleed the cow. So he stuck his knife into the cow and drew blood. That
broke the spell, and he was able to turn her homeward. "Do not forget
the spancel," said the woman with the child on her knees; "take the
inside one." There were three spancels on a bush; he took one, and the
cow was driven safely home to the widow.

There is hardly a valley or mountainside where folk cannot tell you of
some one pillaged from amongst them. Two or three miles from the Heart
Lake lives an old woman who was stolen away in her youth. After seven
years she was brought home again for some reason or other, but she had
no toes left. She had danced them off. Many near the white stone door
in Ben Bulben have been stolen away.

It is far easier to be sensible in cities than in many country places
I could tell you of. When one walks on those grey roads at evening by
the scented elder-bushes of the white cottages, watching the faint
mountains gathering the clouds upon their heads, one all too readily
discovers, beyond the thin cobweb veil of the senses, those creatures,
the goblins, hurrying from the white square stone door to the north, or
from the Heart Lake in the south.



THE UNTIRING ONES


It is one of the great troubles of life that we cannot have any
unmixed emotions. There is always something in our enemy that we like,
and something in our sweetheart that we dislike. It is this
entanglement of moods which makes us old, and puckers our brows and
deepens the furrows about our eyes. If we could love and hate with as
good heart as the faeries do, we might grow to be long-lived like them.
But until that day their untiring joys and sorrows must ever be one-
half of their fascination. Love with them never grows weary, nor can
the circles of the stars tire out their dancing feet. The Donegal
peasants remember this when they bend over the spade, or sit full of
the heaviness of the fields beside the griddle at nightfall, and they
tell stories about it that it may not be forgotten. A short while ago,
they say, two faeries, little creatures, one like a young man, one like
a young woman, came to a farmer's house, and spent the night sweeping
the hearth and setting all tidy. The next night they came again, and
while the farmer was away, brought all the furniture up-stairs into one
room, and having arranged it round the walls, for the greater grandeur
it seems, they began to dance. They danced on and on, and days and days
went by, and all the country-side came to look at them, but still their
feet never tired. The farmer did not dare to live at home the while;
and after three months he made up his mind to stand it no more, and
went and told them that the priest was coming. The little creatures
when they heard this went back to their own country, and there their
joy shall last as long as the points of the rushes are brown, the
people say, and that is until God shall burn up the world with a kiss.

But it is not merely faeries who know untiring days, for there have
been men and women who, falling under their enchantment, have attained,
perhaps by the right of their God-given spirits, an even more than
faery abundance of life and feeling. It seems that when mortals have
gone amid those poor happy leaves of the Imperishable Rose of Beauty,
blown hither and thither by the winds that awakened the stars, the dim
kingdom has acknowledged their birthright, perhaps a little sadly, and
given them of its best. Such a mortal was born long ago at a village in
the south of Ireland. She lay asleep in a cradle, and her mother sat by
rocking her, when a woman of the Sidhe (the faeries) came in, and said
that the child was chosen to be the bride of the prince of the dim
kingdom, but that as it would never do for his wife to grow old and die
while he was still in the first ardour of his love, she would be gifted
with a faery life. The mother was to take the glowing log out of the
fire and bury it in the garden, and her child would live as long as it
remained unconsumed. The mother buried the log, and the child grew up,
became a beauty, and married the prince of the faeries, who came to her
at nightfall. After seven hundred years the prince died, and another
prince ruled in his stead and married the beautiful peasant girl in his
turn; and after another seven hundred years he died also, and another
prince and another husband came in his stead, and so on until she had
had seven husbands. At last one day the priest of the parish called
upon her, and told her that she was a scandal to the whole
neighbourhood with her seven husbands and her long life. She was very
sorry, she said, but she was not to blame, and then she told him about
the log, and he went straight out and dug until he found it, and then
they burned it, and she died, and was buried like a Christian, and
everybody was pleased. Such a mortal too was Clooth-na-bare,[FN#9] who
went all over the world seeking a lake deep enough to drown her faery
life, of which she had grown weary, leaping from hill to lake and lake
to hill, and setting up a cairn of stones wherever her feet lighted,
until at last she found the deepest water in the world in little Lough
Ia, on the top of the Birds' Mountain at Sligo.


[FN#9]  Doubtless Clooth-na-bare should be Cailleac Bare, which would
mean the old Woman Bare. Bare or Bere or Verah or Dera or Dhera was a
very famous person, perhaps the mother of the Gods herself. A friend of
mine found her, as he thinks frequenting Lough Leath, or the Grey Lake
on a mountain of the Fews. Perhaps Lough Ia is my mishearing, or the
storyteller's mispronunciation of Lough Leath, for there are many Lough
Leaths.


The two little creatures may well dance on, and the woman of the log
and Clooth-na-bare sleep in peace, for they have known untrammelled
hate and unmixed love, and have never wearied themselves with "yes" and
"no," or entangled their feet with the sorry net of "maybe" and
"perhaps." The great winds came and took them up into themselves.



EARTH, FIRE AND WATER


Some French writer that I read when I was a boy, said that the desert
went into the heart of the Jews in their wanderings and made them what
they are. I cannot remember by what argument he proved them to be even
yet the indestructible children of earth, but it may well be that the
elements have their children. If we knew the Fire Worshippers better we
might find that their centuries of pious observance have been rewarded,
and that the fire has given them a little of its nature; and I am
certain that the water, the water of the seas and of lakes and of mist
and rain, has all but made the Irish after its image. Images form
themselves in our minds perpetually as if they were reflected in some
pool. We gave ourselves up in old times to mythology, and saw the Gods
everywhere. We talked to them face to face, and the stories of that
communion are so many that I think they outnumber all the like stories
of all the rest of Europe. Even to-day our country people speak with
the dead and with some who perhaps have never died as we understand
death; and even our educated people pass without great difficulty into
the condition of quiet that is the condition of vision. We can make our
minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may
see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a
clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet. Did not
the wise Porphyry think that all souls come to be born because of
water, and that "even the generation of images in the mind is from
water"?


1902.



THE OLD TOWN


I fell, one night some fifteen years ago, into what seemed the power
of faery.

I had gone with a young man and his sister--friends and relations of
my own--to pick stories out of an old countryman; and we were coming
home talking over what he had told us. It was dark, and our
imaginations were excited by his stories of apparitions, and this may
have brought us, unknown to us, to the threshold, between sleeping and
waking, where Sphinxes and Chimaeras sit open-eyed and where there are
always murmurings and whisperings. I cannot think that what we saw was
an imagination of the waking mind. We had come under some trees that
made the road very dark, when the girl saw a bright light moving slowly
across the road. Her brother and myself saw nothing, and did not see
anything until we had walked for about half-an-hour along the edge of
the river and down a narrow lane to some fields where there was a
ruined church covered with ivy, and the foundations of what was called
"the Old Town," which had been burned down, it was said, in Cromwell's
day. We had stood for some few minutes, so far as I can recollect,
looking over the fields full of stones and brambles and elder-bushes,
when I saw a small bright light on the horizon, as it seemed, mounting
up slowly towards the sky; then we saw other faint lights for a minute
or two, and at last a bright flame like the flame of a torch moving
rapidly over the river. We saw it all in such a dream, and it seems all
so unreal, that I have never written of it until now, and hardly ever
spoken of it, and even when thinking, because of some unreasoning
impulse, I have avoided giving it weight in the argument. Perhaps I
have felt that my recollections of things seen when the sense of
reality was weakened must be untrustworthy. A few months ago, however,
I talked it over with my two friends, and compared their somewhat
meagre recollections with my own. That sense of unreality was all the
more wonderful because the next day I heard sounds as unaccountable as
were those lights, and without any emotion of unreality, and I remember
them with perfect distinctness and confidence. The girl was sitting
reading under a large old-fashioned mirror, and I was reading and
writing a couple of yards away, when I heard a sound as if a shower of
peas had been thrown against the mirror, and while I was looking at it
I heard the sound again, and presently, while I was alone in the room,
I heard a sound as if something much bigger than a pea had struck the
wainscoting beside my head. And after that for some days came other
sights and sounds, not to me but to the girl, her brother, and the
servants. Now it was a bright light, now it was letters of fire that
vanished before they could be read, now it was a heavy foot moving
about in the seemingly empty house. One wonders whether creatures who
live, the country people believe, wherever men and women have lived in
earlier times, followed us from the ruins of the old town? or did they
come from the banks of the river by the trees where the first light
had shone for a moment?


1902.



THE MAN AND HIS BOOTS


There was a doubter in Donegal, and he would not hear of ghosts or
sheogues, and there was a house in Donegal that had been haunted as
long as man could remember, and this is the story of how the house got
the better of the man. The man came into the house and lighted a fire
in the room under the haunted one, and took off his boots and set them
On the hearth, and stretched out his feet and warmed him self. For a
time he prospered in his unbelief; but a little while after the night
had fallen, and everything had got very dark, one of his boots began to
move. It got up off the floor and gave a kind of slow jump towards the
door, and then the other boot did the same, and after that the first
boot jumped again. And thereupon it struck the man that an invisible
being had got into his boots, and was now going away in them. When the
boots reached the door they went up-stairs slowly, and then the man
heard them go tramp, tramp round the haunted room over his head. A few
minutes passed, and he could hear them again upon the stairs, and after
that in the passage outside, and then one of them came in at the door,
and the other gave a jump past it and came in too. They jumped along
towards him, and then one got up and hit him, and afterwards the other
hit him, and then again the first hit him, and so on, until they drove
him out of the room, and finally out of the house. In this way he was
kicked out by his own boots, and Donegal was avenged upon its doubter.
It is not recorded whether the invisible being was a ghost or one of
the Sidhe, but the fantastic nature of the vengeance is like the work
of the Sidhe who live in the heart of fantasy.



A COWARD


One day I was at the house of my friend the strong farmer, who lives
beyond Ben Bulben and Cope's mountain, and met there a young lad who
seemed to be disliked by the two daughters. I asked why they disliked
him, and was; told he was a coward. This interested me, for some whom
robust children of nature take to be cowards are but men and women with
a nervous system too finely made for their life and work. I looked at
the lad; but no, that pink-and-white face and strong body had nothing
of undue sensibility. After a little he told me his story. He had lived
a wild and reckless life, until one day, two years before, he was
coming home late at night, and suddenly fell himself sinking in, as it
were, upon the ghostly world. For a moment he saw the face of a dead
brother rise up before him, and then he turned and ran. He did not stop
till he came to a cottage nearly a mile down the road. He flung himself
against the door with so much of violence that he broke the thick
wooden bolt and fell upon the floor. From that day he gave up his wild
life, but was a hopeless coward. Nothing could ever bring him to look,
either by day or night, upon the spot where he had seen the face, and
he often went two miles round to avoid it; nor could, he said, "the
prettiest girl in the country" persuade him to see her home after a
party if he were alone. He feared everything, for he had looked at the
face no man can see unchanged-the imponderable face of a spirit.



THE THREE O'BYRNES AND THE EVIL FAERIES


In the dim kingdom there is a great abundance of all excellent things.
There is more love there than upon the earth; there is more dancing
there than upon the earth; and there is more treasure there than upon
the earth. In the beginning the earth was perhaps made to fulfil the
desire of man, but now it has got old and fallen into decay. What
wonder if we try and pilfer the treasures of that other kingdom!

A friend was once at a village near Sleive League. One day he was
straying about a rath called "Cashel Nore." A man with a haggard face
and unkempt hair, and clothes falling in pieces, came into the rath and
began digging. My friend turned to a peasant who was working near and
asked who the man was. "That is the third O'Byrne," was the answer. A
few days after he learned this story: A great quantity of treasure had
been buried in the rath in pagan times, and a number of evil faeries
set to guard it; but some day it was to be found and belong to the
family of the O'Byrnes. Before that day three O'Byrnes must find it and
die. Two had already done so. The first had dug and dug until at last
he had got a glimpse of the stone coffin that contained it, but
immediately a thing like a huge hairy dog came down the mountain and
tore him to pieces. The next morning the treasure had again vanished
deep into the earth. The second O'Byrne came and dug and dug until he
found the coffer, and lifted the lid and saw the gold shining within.
He saw some horrible sight the next moment, and went raving mad and
soon died. The treasure again sank out of sight. The third O'Byrne is
now digging. He believes that he will die in some terrible way the
moment he finds the treasure, but that the spell will be broken, and
the O'Byrne family made rich for ever, as they were of old.

A peasant of the neighbourhood once saw the treasure. He found the
shin-bone of a hare lying on the grass. He took it up; there was a hole
in it; he looked through the hole, and saw the gold heaped up under the
ground. He hurried home to bring a spade, but when he got to the rath
again he could not find the spot where he had seen it.



DRUMCLIFF AND ROSSES


Drumcliff and Rosses were, are, and ever shall be, please Heaven!
places of unearthly resort. I have lived near by them and in them, time
after time, and have gathered thus many a crumb of faery lore.
Drumcliff is a wide green valley, lying at the foot of Ben Bulben, the
mountain in whose side the square white door swings open at nightfall
to loose the faery riders on the world. The great St. Columba himself,
the builder of many of the old ruins in the valley, climbed the
mountains on one notable day to get near heaven with his prayers.
Rosses is a little sea-dividing, sandy plain, covered with short grass,
like a green tablecloth, and lying in the foam midway between the round
cairn-headed Knocknarea and "Ben Bulben, famous for hawks":


    But for Benbulben and Knocknarea
    Many a poor sailor'd be cast away,


as the rhyme goes.

At the northern corner of Rosses is a little promontory of sand and
rocks and grass: a mournful, haunted place. No wise peasant would fall
asleep under its low cliff, for he who sleeps here may wake "silly,"
the "good people" having carried off his soul. There is no more ready
shortcut to the dim kingdom than this plovery headland, for, covered
and smothered now from sight by mounds of sand, a long cave goes
thither "full of gold and silver, and the most beautiful parlours and
drawing-rooms." Once, before the sand covered it, a dog strayed in, and
was heard yelping helplessly deep underground in a fort far inland.
These forts or raths, made before modern history had begun, cover all
Rosses and all Columkille. The one where the dog yelped has, like most
others, an underground beehive chamber in the midst. Once when I was
poking about there, an unusually intelligent and "reading" peasant who
had come with me, and waited outside, knelt down by the opening, and
whispered in a timid voice, "Are you all right, sir?" I had been some
little while underground, and he feared I had been carried off like the
dog.

No wonder he was afraid, for the fort has long been circled by ill-
boding rumours. It is on the ridge of a small hill, on whose northern
slope lie a few stray cottages. One night a farmer's young son came
from one of them and saw the fort all flaming, and ran towards it, but
the "glamour" fell on him, and he sprang on to a fence, cross-legged,
and commenced beating it with a stick, for he imagined the fence was a
horse, and that all night long he went on the most wonderful ride
through the country. In the morning he was still beating his fence, and
they carried him home, where he remained a simpleton for three years
before he came to himself again. A little later a farmer tried to level
the fort. His cows and horses died, and an manner of trouble overtook
him, and finally he himself was led home, and left useless with "his
head on his knees by the fire to the day of his death."

A few hundred yards southwards of the northern angle of Rosses is
another angle having also its cave, though this one is not covered with
sand. About twenty years ago a brig was wrecked near by, and three or
four fishermen were put to watch the deserted hulk through the
darkness. At midnight they saw sitting on a stone at the cave's mouth
two red-capped fiddlers fiddling with all their might. The men fled. A
great crowd of villagers rushed down to the cave to see the fiddlers,
but the creatures had gone.

To the wise peasant the green hills and woods round him are full of
never-fading mystery. When the aged countrywoman stands at her door in
the evening, and, in her own words, "looks at the mountains and thinks
of the goodness of God," God is all the nearer, because the pagan
powers are not far: because northward in Ben Bulben, famous for hawks,
the white square door swings open at sundown, and those wild
unchristian riders rush forth upon the fields, while southward the
White Lady, who is doubtless Maive herself, wanders under the broad
cloud nightcap of Knocknarea. How may she doubt these things, even
though the priest shakes his head at her? Did not a herd-boy, no long
while since, see the White Lady? She passed so close that the skirt of
her dress touched him. "He fell down, and was dead three days." But
this is merely the small gossip of faerydom--the little stitches that
join this world and the other.

One night as I sat eating Mrs. H-----'s soda-bread, her husband told
me a longish story, much the best of all I heard in Rosses. Many a poor
man from Fin M'Cool to our own days has had some such adventure to tell
of, for those creatures, the "good people," love to repeat themselves.
At any rate the story-tellers do. "In the times when we used to travel
by the canal," he said, "I was coming down from Dublin. When we came to
Mullingar the canal ended, and I began to walk, and stiff and fatigued
I was after the slowness. I had some friends with me, and now and then
we walked, now and then we rode in a cart. So on till we saw some girls
milking cows, and stopped to joke with them. After a while we asked
them for a drink of milk. 'We have nothing to put it in here,' they
said, 'but come to the house with us.' We went home with them, and sat
round the fire talking. After a while the others went, and left me,
loath to stir from the good fire. I asked the girls for something to
eat. There was a pot on the fire, and they took the meat out and put it
on a plate, and told me to eat only the meat that came off the head.
When I had eaten, the girls went out, and I did not see them again. It
grew darker and darker, and there I still sat, loath as ever to leave
the good fire, and after a while two men came in, carrying between them
a corpse. When I saw them, coming I hid behind the door. Says one to
the other, putting the corpse on the spit, 'Who'll turn the spit? Says
the other, 'Michael H-----, come out of that and turn the meat.' I came
out all of a tremble, and began turning the spit. 'Michael H------,'
says the one who spoke first, 'if you let it burn we'll have to put you
on the spit instead'; and on that they went out. I sat there trembling
and turning the corpse till towards midnight. The men came again, and
the one said it was burnt, and the other said it was done right. But
having fallen out over it, they both said they would do me no harm that
time; and, sitting by the fire, one of them cried out: 'Michael H-----,
can you tell me a story?' 'Divil a one,' said I. On which he caught me
by the shoulder, and put me out like a shot. It was a wild blowing
night. Never in all my born days did I see such a night-the darkest
night that ever came out of the heavens. I did not know where I was for
the life of me. So when one of the men came after me and touched me on
the shoulder, with a 'Michael H----, can you tell a story now?' 'I
can,' says I. In he brought me; and putting me by the fire, says:
'Begin.' 'I have no story but the one,' says I, 'that I was sitting
here, and you two men brought in a corpse and put it on the spit, and
set me turning it.' 'That will do,' says he; 'ye may go in there and
lie down on the bed.' And I went, nothing loath; and in the morning
where was I but in the middle of a green field!"

"Drumcliff" is a great place for omens. Before a prosperous fishing
season a herring-barrel appears in the midst of a storm-cloud; and at a
place called Columkille's Strand, a place of marsh and mire, an ancient
boat, with St. Columba himself, comes floating in from sea on a
moonlight night: a portent of a brave harvesting. They have their dread
portents too. Some few seasons ago a fisherman saw, far on the horizon,
renowned Hy Brazel, where he who touches shall find no more labour or
care, nor cynic laughter, but shall go walking about under shadiest
boscage, and enjoy the conversation of Cuchullin and his heroes. A
vision of Hy Brazel forebodes national troubles.

Drumcliff and Rosses are chokeful of ghosts. By bog, road, rath,
hillside, sea-border they gather in all shapes: headless women, men in
armour, shadow hares, fire-tongued hounds, whistling seals, and so on.
A whistling seal sank a ship the other day. At Drumcliff there is a
very ancient graveyard. The Annals of the Four Masters have this verse
about a soldier named Denadhach, who died in 871: "A pious soldier of
the race of Con lies under hazel crosses at Drumcliff." Not very long
ago an old woman, turning to go into the churchyard at night to pray,
saw standing before her a man in armour, who asked her where she was
going. It was the "pious soldier of the race of Con," says local
wisdom, still keeping watch, with his ancient piety, over the
graveyard. Again, the custom is still common hereabouts of sprinkling
the doorstep with the blood of a chicken on the death of a very young
child, thus (as belief is) drawing into the blood the evil spirits from
the too weak soul. Blood is a great gatherer of evil spirits. To cut
your hand on a stone on going into a fort is said to be very dangerous.

There is no more curious ghost in Drumcliff or Rosses than the snipe-
ghost. There is a bush behind a house in a village that I know well:
for excellent reasons I do not say whether in Drumcliff or Rosses or on
the slope of Ben Bulben, or even on the plain round Knocknarea. There
is a history concerning the house and the bush. A man once lived there
who found on the quay of Sligo a package containing three hundred
pounds in notes. It was dropped by a foreign sea captain. This my man
knew, but said nothing. It was money for freight, and the sea captain,
not daring to face his owners, committed suicide in mid-ocean. Shortly
afterwards my man died. His soul could not rest. At any rate, strange
sounds were heard round his house, though that had grown and prospered
since the freight money. The wife was often seen by those still alive
out in the garden praying at the bush I have spoken of, for the shade
of the dead man appeared there at times. The bush remains to this day:
once portion of a hedge, it now stands by itself, for no one dare put
spade or pruning-knife about it. As to the strange sounds and voices,
they did not cease till a few years ago, when, during some repairs, a
snipe flew out of the solid plaster and away; the troubled ghost, say
the neighbours, of the note-finder was at last dislodged.

My forebears and relations have lived near Rosses and Drumcliff these
many years. A few miles northward I am wholly a stranger, and can find
nothing. When I ask for stories of the faeries, my answer is some such
as was given me by a woman who lives near a white stone fort--one of
the few stone ones in Ireland--under the seaward angle of Ben Bulben:
"They always mind their own affairs and I always mind mine": for it is
dangerous to talk of the creatures. Only friendship for yourself or
knowledge of your forebears will loosen these cautious tongues. My
friend, "the sweet Harp-String" (I give no more than his Irish name for
fear of gaugers), has the science of unpacking the stubbornest heart,
but then he supplies the potheen-makers with grain from his own fields.
Besides, he is descended from a noted Gaelic magician who raised the
"dhoul" in Great Eliza's century, and he has a kind of prescriptive
right to hear tell of all kind of other-world creatures. They are
almost relations of his, if all people say concerning the parentage of
magicians be true.



THE THICK SKULL OF THE FORTUNATE


I

Once a number of Icelandic peasantry found a very thick skull in the
cemetery where the poet Egil was buried. Its great thickness made them
feel certain it was the skull of a great man, doubtless of Egil
himself. To be doubly sure they put it on a wall and hit it hard blows
with a hammer. It got white where the blows fell but did not break, and
they were convinced that it was in truth the skull of the poet, and
worthy of every honour. In Ireland we have much kinship with the
Icelanders, or "Danes" as we call them and all other dwellers in the
Scandinavian countries. In some of our mountainous and barren places,
and in our seaboard villages, we still test each other in much the same
way the Icelanders tested the head of Egil. We may have acquired the
custom from those ancient Danish pirates, whose descendants the people
of Rosses tell me still remember every field and hillock in Ireland
which once belonged to their forebears, and are able to describe Rosses
itself as well as any native. There is one seaboard district known as
Roughley, where the men are never known to shave or trim their wild red
beards, and where there is a fight ever on foot. I have seen them at a
boat-race fall foul of each other, and after much loud Gaelic, strike
each other with oars. The first boat had gone aground, and by dint of
hitting out with the long oars kept the second boat from passing, only
to give the victory to the third. One day the Sligo people say a man
from Roughley was tried in Sligo for breaking a skull in a row, and
made the defence not unknown in Ireland, that some heads are so thin
you cannot be responsible for them. Having turned with a look of
passionate contempt towards the solicitor who was prosecuting, and
cried, "that little fellow's skull if ye were to hit it would go like
an egg-shell," he beamed upon the judge, and said in a wheedling voice,
"but a man might wallop away at your lordship's for a fortnight."


II

I wrote all this years ago, out of what were even then old memories.
I was in Roughley the other day, and found it much like other desolate
places. I may have been thinking of Moughorow, a much wilder place, for
the memories of one's childhood are brittle things to lean upon.


1902.



THE RELIGION OF A SAILOR


A sea captain when he stands upon the bridge, or looks out from his
deck-house, thinks much about God and about the world. Away in the
valley yonder among the corn and the poppies men may well forget all
things except the warmth of the sun upon the face, and the kind shadow
under the hedge; but he who journeys through storm and darkness must
needs think and think. One July a couple of years ago I took my supper
with a Captain Moran on board the S.S. Margaret, that had put into a
western river from I know not where. I found him a man of many notions
all flavoured with his personality, as is the way with sailors. He
talked in his queer sea manner of God and the world, and up through all
his words broke the hard energy of his calling.

"Sur," said he, "did you ever hear tell of the sea captain's prayer?"

"No," said I; "what is it?"

"It is," he replied, "'O Lord, give me a stiff upper lip.'"

"And what does that mean?"

"It means," he said, "that when they come to me some night and wake me
up, and say, 'Captain, we're going down,' that I won't make a fool o'
meself. Why, sur, we war in mid Atlantic, and I standin' on the bridge,
when the third mate comes up to me looking mortial bad. Says he,
'Captain, all's up with us.' Says I, 'Didn't you know when you joined
that a certain percentage go down every year?' 'Yes, sur,' says he; and
says I, 'Arn't you paid to go down?' 'Yes, sur,' says he; and says I,
'Then go down like a man, and be damned to you!"'



CONCERNING THE NEARNESS TOGETHER OF HEAVEN, EARTH, AND PURGATORY


In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far
apart. I have heard of a ghost that was many years in a tree and many
years in the archway of a bridge, and my old Mayo woman says, "There is
a bush up at my own place, and the people do be saying that there are
two souls doing their penance under it. When the wind blows one way the
one has shelter, and when it blows from the north the other has the
shelter. It is twisted over with the way they be rooting under it for
shelter. I don't believe it, but there is many a one would not pass by
it at night." Indeed there are times when the worlds are so near
together that it seems as if our earthly chattels were no more than the
shadows of things beyond. A lady I knew once saw a village child
running about with a long trailing petticoat upon her, and asked the
creature why she did not have it cut short. "It was my grandmother's,"
said the child; "would you have her going about yonder with her
petticoat up to her knees, and she dead but four days?" I have read a
story of a woman whose ghost haunted her people because they had made
her grave-clothes so short that the fires of purgatory burned her
knees. The peasantry expect to have beyond the grave houses much like
their earthly homes, only there the thatch will never grow leaky, nor
the white walls lose their lustre, nor shall the dairy be at any time
empty of good milk and butter. But now and then a landlord or an agent
or a gauger will go by begging his bread, to show how God divides the
righteous from the unrighteous.


1892 and 1902.



THE EATERS OF PRECIOUS STONES


Sometimes when I have been shut off from common interests, and have
for a little forgotten to be restless, I get waking dreams, now faint
and shadow-like, now vivid and solid-looking, like the material world
under my feet. Whether they be faint or vivid, they are ever beyond the
power of my will to alter in any way. They have their own will, and
sweep hither and thither, and change according to its commands. One day
I saw faintly an immense pit of blackness, round which went a circular
parapet, and on this parapet sat innumerable apes eating precious
stones out of the palms of their hands. The stones glittered green and
crimson, and the apes devoured them with an insatiable hunger. I knew
that I saw the Celtic Hell, and my own Hell, the Hell of the artist,
and that all who sought after beautiful and wonderful things with too
avid a thirst, lost peace and form and became shapeless and common. I
have seen into other people's hells also, and saw in one an infernal
Peter, who had a black face and white lips, and who weighed on a
curious double scales not only the evil deeds committed, but the good
deeds left undone, of certain invisible shades. I could see the scales
go up and down, but I could not see the shades who were, I knew,
crowding about him. I saw on another occasion a quantity of demons of
all kinds of shapes--fish-like, serpent-like, ape-like, and dog-like
--sitting about a black pit such as that in my own Hell, and looking at
a moon--like reflection of the Heavens which shone up from the depths
of the pit.



OUR LADY OF THE HILLS


When we were children we did not say at such a distance from the post-
office, or so far from the butcher's or the grocer's, but measured
things by the covered well in the wood, or by the burrow of the fox in
the hill. We belonged then to God and to His works, and to things come
down from the ancient days. We would not have been greatly surprised
had we met the shining feet of an angel among the white mushrooms upon
the mountains, for we knew in those days immense despair, unfathomed
love--every eternal mood,--but now the draw-net is about our feet. A
few miles eastward of Lough Gill, a young Protestant girl, who was both
pretty herself and prettily dressed in blue and white, wandered up
among those mountain mushrooms, and I have a letter of hers telling how
she met a troop of children, and became a portion of their dream. When
they first saw her they threw themselves face down in a bed of rushes,
as if in a great fear; but after a little other children came about
them, and they got up and followed her almost bravely. She noticed
their fear, and presently stood still and held out her arms. A little
girl threw herself into them with the cry, "Ah, you are the Virgin out
o' the picture!" "No," said another, coming near also, "she is a sky
faery, for she has the colour of the sky." "No," said a third, "she is
the faery out of the foxglove grown big." The other children, however,
would have it that she was indeed the Virgin, for she wore the Virgin's
colours. Her good Protestant heart was greatly troubled, and she got
the children to sit down about her, and tried to explain who she was,
but they would have none of her explanation. Finding explanation of no
avail, she asked had they ever heard of Christ? "Yes," said one; "but
we do not like Him, for He would kill us if it were not for the
Virgin." "Tell Him to be good to me," whispered another into her ear.
"We would not let me near Him, for dad says I am a divil," burst out a
third.

She talked to them a long time about Christ and the apostles, but was
finally interrupted by an elderly woman with a stick, who, taking her
to be some adventurous hunter for converts, drove the children away,
despite their explanation that here was the great Queen of Heaven come
to walk upon the mountain and be kind to them. When the children had
gone she went on her way, and had walked about half-a-mile, when the
child who was called "a divil" jumped down from the high ditch by the
lane, and said she would believe her "an ordinary lady" if she had "two
skirts," for "ladies always had two skirts." The "two skirts" were
shown, and the child went away crestfallen, but a few minutes later
jumped down again from the ditch, and cried angrily, "Dad's a divil,
mum's a divil, and I'm a divil, and you are only an ordinary lady," and
having flung a handful of mud and pebbles ran away sobbing. When my
pretty Protestant had come to her own home she found that she had
dropped the tassels of her parasol. A year later she was by chance upon
the mountain, but wearing now a plain black dress, and met the child
who had first called her the Virgin out o' the picture, and saw the
tassels hanging about the child's neck, and said, "I am the lady you
met last year, who told you about Christ." "No, you are not! no, you
are not! no, you are not!" was the passionate reply. And after all, it
was not my pretty Protestant, but Mary, Star of the Sea, still walking
in sadness and in beauty upon many a mountain and by many a shore, who
cast those tassels at the feet of the child. It is indeed fitting that
man pray to her who is the mother of peace, the mother of dreams, and
the mother of purity, to leave them yet a little hour to do good and
evil in, and to watch old Time telling the rosary of the stars.



THE GOLDEN AGE


A while ago I was in the train, and getting near Sligo. The last time
I had been there something was troubling me, and I had longed for a
message from those beings or bodiless moods, or whatever they be, who
inhabit the world of spirits. The message came, for one night I saw
with blinding distinctness a black animal, half weasel, half dog,
moving along the top of a stone wall, and presently the black animal
vanished, and from the other side came a white weasel-like dog, his
pink flesh shining through his white hair and all in a blaze of light;
and I remembered a pleasant belief about two faery dogs who go about
representing day and night, good and evil, and was comforted by the
excellent omen. But now I longed for a message of another kind, and
chance, if chance there is, brought it, for a man got into the carriage
and began to play on a fiddle made apparently of an old blacking-box,
and though I am quite unmusical the sounds filled me with the strangest
emotions. I seemed to hear a voice of lamentation out of the Golden
Age. It told me that we are imperfect, incomplete, and no more like a
beautiful woven web, but like a bundle of cords knotted together and
flung into a comer. It said that the world was once all perfect and
kindly, and that still the kindly and perfect world existed, but buried
like a mass of roses under many spadefuls of earth. The faeries and the
more innocent of the spirits dwelt within it, and lamented over our
fallen world in the lamentation of the wind-tossed reeds, in the song
of the birds, in the moan of the waves, and in the sweet cry of the
fiddle. It said that with us the beautiful are not clever and the
clever are not beautiful, and that the best of our moments are marred
by a little vulgarity, or by a pin-prick out of sad recollection, and
that the fiddle must ever lament about it all. It said that if only
they who live in the Golden Age could die we might be happy, for the
sad voices would be still; but alas! alas! they must sing and we must
weep until the Eternal gates swing open.

We were now getting into the big glass-roofed terminus, and the
fiddler put away his old blacking-box and held out his hat for a
copper, and then opened the door and was gone.



A REMONSTRANCE WITH SCOTSMEN FOR HAVING SOURED THE DISPOSITION OF
THEIR GHOSTS AND FAERIES


Not only in Ireland is faery belief still extant. It was only the
other day I heard of a Scottish farmer who believed that the lake in
front of his house was haunted by a water-horse. He was afraid of it,
and dragged the lake with nets, and then tried to pump it empty. It
would have been a bad thing for the water-horse had he found him. An
Irish peasant would have long since come to terms with the creature.
For in Ireland there is something of timid affection between men and
spirits. They only ill-treat each other in reason. Each admits the
other side to have feelings. There are points beyond which neither will
go. No Irish peasant would treat a captured faery as did the man
Campbell tells of. He caught a kelpie, and tied her behind him on his
horse. She was fierce, but he kept her quiet by driving an awl and a
needle into her. They came to a river, and she grew very restless,
fearing to cross the water. Again he drove the awl and needle into her.
She cried out, "Pierce me with the awl, but keep that slender, hair-
like slave (the needle) out of me." They came to an inn. He turned the
light of a lantern on her; immediately she dropped down like a falling
star, and changed into a lump of jelly. She was dead. Nor would they
treat the faeries as one is treated in an old Highland poem. A faery
loved a little child who used to cut turf at the side of a faery hill.
Every day the faery put out his hand from the hill with an enchanted
knife. The child used to cut the turf with the knife. It did not take
long, the knife being charmed. Her brothers wondered why she was done
so quickly. At last they resolved to watch, and find out who helped
her. They saw the small hand come out of the earth, and the little
child take from it the knife. When the turf was all cut, they saw her
make three taps on the ground with the handle. The small hand came out
of the hill. Snatching the knife from the child, they cut the hand off
with a blow. The faery was never again seen. He drew his bleeding arm
into the earth, thinking, as it is recorded, he had lost his hand
through the treachery of the child.

In Scotland you are too theological, too gloomy. You have made even
the Devil religious. "Where do you live, good-wyf, and how is the
minister?" he said to the witch when he met her on the high-road, as it
came out in the trial. You have burnt all the witches. In Ireland we
have left them alone. To be sure, the "loyal minority" knocked out the
eye of one with a cabbage-stump on the 31st of March, 1711, in the town
of Carrickfergus. But then the "loyal minority" is half Scottish. You
have discovered the faeries to be pagan and wicked. You would like to
have them all up before the magistrate. In Ireland warlike mortals have
gone amongst them, and helped them in their battles, and they in turn
have taught men great skill with herbs, and permitted some few to hear
their tunes. Carolan slept upon a faery rath. Ever after their tunes
ran in his head, and made him the great musician he was. In Scotland
you have denounced them from the pulpit. In Ireland they have been
permitted by the priests to consult them on the state of their souls.
Unhappily the priests have decided that they have no souls, that they
will dry up like so much bright vapour at the last day; but more in
sadness than in anger they have said it. The Catholic religion likes to
keep on good terms with its neighbours.

These two different ways of looking at things have influenced in each
country the whole world of sprites and goblins. For their gay and
graceful doings you must go to Ireland; for their deeds of terror to
Scotland. Our Irish faery terrors have about them something of make-
believe. When a peasant strays into an enchanted hovel, and is made to
turn a corpse all night on a spit before the fire, we do not feel
anxious; we know he will wake in the midst of a green field, the dew on
his old coat. In Scotland it is altogether different. You have soured
the naturally excellent disposition of ghosts and goblins. The piper
M'Crimmon, of the Hebrides, shouldered his pipes, and marched into a
sea cavern, playing loudly, and followed by his dog. For a long time
the people could hear the pipes. He must have gone nearly a mile, when
they heard the sound of a struggle. Then the piping ceased suddenly.
Some time went by, and then his dog came out of the cavern completely
flayed, too weak even to howl. Nothing else ever came out of the
cavern. Then there is the tale of the man who dived into a lake where
treasure was thought to be. He saw a great coffer of iron. Close to the
coffer lay a monster, who warned him to return whence he came. He rose
to the surface; but the bystanders, when they heard he had seen the
treasure, persuaded him to dive again. He dived. In a little while his
heart and liver floated up, reddening the water. No man ever saw the
rest of his body.

These water-goblins and water-monsters are common in Scottish folk-
lore. We have them too, but take them much less dreadfully. Our tales
turn all their doings to favour and to prettiness, or hopelessly
humorize the creatures. A hole in the Sligo river is haunted by one of
these monsters. He is ardently believed in by many, but that does not
prevent the peasantry playing with the subject, and surrounding it with
conscious fantasies. When I was a small boy I fished one day for
congers in the monster hole. Returning home, a great eel on my
shoulder, his head flapping down in front, his tail sweeping the ground
behind, I met a fisherman of my acquaintance. I began a tale of an
immense conger, three times larger than the one I carried, that had
broken my line and escaped. "That was him," said the fisherman. "Did
you ever hear how he made my brother emigrate? My brother was a diver,
you know, and grubbed stones for the Harbour Board. One day the beast
comes up to him, and says, 'What are you after?' 'Stones, sur,' says
he. 'Don't you think you had better be going?' 'Yes, sur,' says he. And
that's why my brother emigrated. The people said it was because he got
poor, but that's not true."

You--you will make no terms with the spirits of fire and earth and air
and water. You have made the Darkness your enemy. We--we exchange
civilities with the world beyond.



WAR


When there was a rumour of war with France a while ago, I met a poor
Sligo woman, a soldier's widow, that I know, and I read her a sentence
out of a letter I had just had from London: "The people here are mad
for war, but France seems inclined to take things peacefully," or some
like sentence. Her mind ran a good deal on war, which she imagined
partly from what she had heard from soldiers, and partly from tradition
of the rebellion of '98, but the word London doubled her interest, for
she knew there were a great many people in London, and she herself had
once lived in "a congested district." "There are too many over one
another in London. They are getting tired of the world. It is killed
they want to be. It will be no matter; but sure the French want nothing
but peace and quietness. The people here don't mind the war coming.
They could not be worse than they are. They may as well die soldierly
before God. Sure they will get quarters in heaven." Then she began to
say that it would be a hard thing to see children tossed about on
bayonets, and I knew her mind was running on traditions of the great
rebellion. She said presently, "I never knew a man that was in a battle
that liked to speak of it after. They'd sooner be throwing hay down
from a hayrick." She told me how she and her neighbours used to be
sitting over the fire when she was a girl, talking of the war that was
coming, and now she was afraid it was coming again, for she had dreamed
that all the bay was "stranded and covered with seaweed." I asked her
if it was in the Fenian times that she had been so much afraid of war
coming. But she cried out, "Never had I such fun and pleasure as in the
Fenian times. I was in a house where some of the officers used to be
staying, and in the daytime I would be walking after the soldiers'
band, and at night I'd be going down to the end of the garden watching
a soldier, with his red coat on him, drilling the Fenians in the field
behind the house. One night the boys tied the liver of an old horse,
that had been dead three weeks, to the knocker, and I found it when I
opened the door in the morning." And presently our talk of war shifted,
as it had a way of doing, to the battle of the Black Pig, which seems
to her a battle between Ireland and England, but to me an Armageddon
which shall quench all things in the Ancestral Darkness again, and from
this to sayings about war and vengeance. "Do you know," she said, "what
the curse of the Four Fathers is? They put the man-child on the spear,
and somebody said to them, 'You will be cursed in the fourth generation
after you,' and that is why disease or anything always comes in the
fourth generation."


1902.



THE QUEEN AND THE FOOL


I have heard one Hearne, a witch-doctor, who is on the border of Clare
and Galway, say that in "every household" of faery "there is a queen
and a fool," and that if you are "touched" by either you never recover,
though you may from the touch of any other in faery. He said of the
fool that he was "maybe the wisest of all," and spoke of him as dressed
like one of the "mummers that used to be going about the country."
Since then a friend has gathered me some few stories of him, and I have
heard that he is known, too, in the highlands. I remember seeing a
long, lank, ragged man sitting by the hearth in the cottage of an old
miller not far from where I am now writing, and being told that he was
a fool; and I find from the stories that my friend has gathered that he
is believed to go to faery in his sleep; but whether he becomes an
Amadan-na-Breena, a fool of the forth, and is attached to a household
there, I cannot tell. It was an old woman that I know well, and who has
been in faery herself, that spoke of him. She said, "There are fools
amongst them, and the fools we see, like that Amadan of Ballylee, go
away with them at night, and so do the woman fools that we call
Oinseachs (apes)." A woman who is related to the witch-doctor on the
border of Clare, and who can Cure people and cattle by spells, said,
"There are some cures I can't do. I can't help any one that has got a
stroke from the queen or the fool of the forth. I knew of a woman that
saw the queen one time, and she looked like any Christian. I never
heard of any that saw the fool but one woman that was walking near
Gort, and she called out, 'There's the fool of the forth coming after
me.' So her friends that were with her called out, though they could
see nothing, and I suppose he went away at that, for she got no harm.
He was like a big strong man, she said, and half naked, and that is all
she said about him. I have never seen any myself, but I am a cousin of
Hearne, and my uncle was away twenty-one years." The wife of the old
miller said, "It is said they are mostly good neighbours, but the
stroke of the fool is what there is no cure for; any one that gets that
is gone. The Amadan-na-Breena we call him!" And an old woman who lives
in the Bog of Kiltartan, and is very poor, said, "It is true enough,
there is no cure for the stroke of the Amadan-na-Breena. There was an
old man I knew long ago, he had a tape, and he could tell what diseases
you had with measuring you; and he knew many things. And he said to me
one time, 'What month of the year is the worst?' and I said, 'The month
of May, of course.' 'It is not,' he said; 'but the month of June, for
that's the month that the Amadan gives his stroke!' They say he looks
like any other man, but he's leathan (wide), and not smart. I knew a
boy one time got a great fright, for a lamb looked over the wall at him
with a beard on it, and he knew it was the Amadan, for it was the month
of June. And they brought him to that man I was telling about, that had
the tape, and when he saw him he said, 'Send for the priest, and get a
Mass said over him.' And so they did, and what would you say but he's
living yet and has a family! A certain Regan said, 'They, the other
sort of people, might be passing you close here and they might touch
you. But any that gets the touch of the Amadan-na-Breena is done for.'
It's true enough that it's in the month of June he's most likely to
give the touch. I knew one that got it, and he told me about it
himself. He was a boy I knew well, and he told me that one night a
gentleman came to him, that had been his land-lord, and that was dead.
And he told him to come along with him, for he wanted him to fight
another man. And when he went he found two great troops of them, and
the other troop had a living man with them too, and he was put to fight
him. And they had a great fight, and he got the better of the other
man, and then the troop on his side gave a great shout, and he was left
home again. But about three years after that he was cutting bushes in a
wood and he saw the Amadan coming at him. He had a big vessel in his
arms, and it was shining, so that the boy could see nothing else; but
he put it behind his back then and came running, and the boy said he
looked wild and wide, like the side of the hill. And the boy ran, and
he threw the vessel after him, and it broke with a great noise, and
whatever came out of it, his head was gone there and then. He lived for
a while after, and used to tell us many things, but his wits were gone.
He thought they mightn't have liked him to beat the other man, and he
used to be afraid something would come on him." And an old woman in a
Galway workhouse, who had some little knowledge of Queen Maive, said
the other day, "The Amadan-na-Breena changes his shape every two days.
Sometimes he comes like a youngster, and then he'll come like the worst
of beasts, trying to give the touch he used to be. I heard it said of
late he was shot, but I think myself it would be hard to shoot him."

I knew a man who was trying to bring before his mind's eye an image of
Aengus, the old Irish god of love and poetry and ecstasy, who changed
four of his kisses into birds, and suddenly the image of a man with a
cap and bells rushed before his mind's eye, and grew vivid and spoke
and called itself "Aengus' messenger." And I knew another man, a truly
great seer, who saw a white fool in a visionary garden, where there was
a tree with peacocks' feathers instead of leaves, and flowers that
opened to show little human faces when the white fool had touched them
with his coxcomb, and he saw at another time a white fool sitting by a
pool and smiling and watching the images of many fair women floating up
from the pool.

What else can death be but the beginning of wisdom and power and
beauty? and foolishness may be a kind of death. I cannot think it
wonderful that many should see a fool with a shining vessel of some
enchantment or wisdom or dream too powerful for mortal brains in "every
household of them." It is natural, too, that there should be a queen to
every household of them, and that one should hear little of their
kings, for women come more easily than men to that wisdom which ancient
peoples, and all wild peoples even now, think the only wisdom. The
self, which is the foundation of our knowledge, is broken in pieces by
foolishness, and is forgotten in the sudden emotions of women, and
therefore fools may get, and women do get of a certainty, glimpses of
much that sanctity finds at the end of its painful journey. The man who
saw the white fool said of a certain woman, not a peasant woman, "If I
had her power of vision I would know all the wisdom of the gods, and
her visions do not interest her." And I know of another woman, also not
a peasant woman, who would pass in sleep into countries of an unearthly
beauty, and who never cared for anything but to be busy about her house
and her children; and presently an herb doctor cured her, as he called
it. Wisdom and beauty and power may sometimes, as I think, come to
those who die every day they live, though their dying may not be like
the dying Shakespeare spoke of. There is a war between the living and
the dead, and the Irish stories keep harping upon it. They will have it
that when the potatoes or the wheat or any other of the fruits of the
earth decay, they ripen in faery, and that our dreams lose their wisdom
when the sap rises in the trees, and that our dreams can make the trees
wither, and that one hears the bleating of the lambs of faery in
November, and that blind eyes can see more than other eyes. Because the
soul always believes in these, or in like things, the cell and the
wilderness shall never be long empty, or lovers come into the world who
will not understand the verse--


    Heardst thou not sweet words among
    That heaven-resounding minstrelsy?
    Heardst thou not that those who die
    Awake in a world of ecstasy?
    How love, when limbs are interwoven,
    And sleep, when the night of life is cloven,
    And thought to the world's dim boundaries clinging,
    And music when one's beloved is singing,
    Is death?


1901.



THE FRIENDS OF THE PEOPLE OF FAERY


Those that see the people of faery most often, and so have the most of
their wisdom, are often very poor, but often, too, they are thought to
have a strength beyond that of man, as though one came, when one has
passed the threshold of trance, to those sweet waters where Maeldun saw
the dishevelled eagles bathe and become young again.

There was an old Martin Roland, who lived near a bog a little out of
Gort, who saw them often from his young days, and always towards the
end of his life, though I would hardly call him their friend. He told
me a few months before his death that "they" would not let him sleep at
night with crying things at him in Irish, and with playing their pipes.
He had asked a friend of his what he should do, and the friend had told
him to buy a flute, and play on it when they began to shout or to play
on their pipes, and maybe they would give up annoying him; and he did,
and they always went out into the field when he began to play. He
showed me the pipe, and blew through it, and made a noise, but he did
not know how to play; and then he showed me where he had pulled his
chimney down, because one of them used to sit up on it and play on the
pipes. A friend of his and mine went to see him a little time ago, for
she heard that "three of them" had told him he was to die. He said they
had gone away after warning him, and that the children (children they
had "taken," I suppose) who used to come with them, and play about the
house with them, had "gone to some other place," because "they found
the house too cold for them, maybe"; and he died a week after he had
said these things.

His neighbours were not certain that he really saw anything in his old
age, but they were all certain that he saw things when he was a young
man. His brother said, "Old he is, and it's all in his brain the things
he sees. If he was a young man we might believe in him." But he was
improvident, and never got on with his brothers. A neighbour said, "The
poor man, they say they are mostly in his head now, but sure he was a
fine fresh man twenty years ago the night he saw them linked in two
lots, like young slips of girls walking together. It was the night they
took away Fallon's little girl." And she told how Fallon's little girl
had met a woman "with red hair that was as bright as silver," who took
her away. Another neighbour, who was herself "clouted over the ear" by
one of them for going into a fort where they were, said, "I believe
it's mostly in his head they are; and when he stood in the door last
night I said, 'The wind does be always in my ears, and the sound of it
never stops,' to make him think it was the same with him; but he says,
'I hear them singing and making music all the time, and one of them is
after bringing out a little flute, and it's on it he's playing to
them.' And this I know, that when he pulled down the chimney where he
said the piper used to be sitting and playing, he lifted up stones, and
he an old man, that I could not have lifted when I was young and
strong."

A friend has sent me from Ulster an account of one who was on terms of
true friendship with the people of faery. It has been taken down
accurately, for my friend, who had heard the old woman's story some
time before I heard of it, got her to tell it over again, and wrote it
out at once. She began by telling the old woman that she did not like
being in the house alone because of the ghosts and fairies; and the old
woman said, "There's nothing to be frightened about in faeries, miss.
Many's the time I talked to a woman myself that was a faery, or
something of the sort, and no less and more than mortal anyhow. She
used to come about your grandfather's house--your mother's grandfather,
that is--in my young days. But you'll have heard all about her." My
friend said that she had heard about her, but a long time before, and
she wanted to hear about her again; and the old woman went on, "Well
dear, the very first time ever I heard word of her coming about was
when your uncle--that is, your mother's uncle--Joseph married, and
building a house for his wife, for he brought her first to his
father's, up at the house by the Lough. My father and us were living
nigh hand to where the new house was to be built, to overlook the men
at their work. My father was a weaver, and brought his looms and all
there into a cottage that was close by. The foundations were marked
out, and the building stones lying about, but the masons had not come
yet; and one day I was standing with my mother foment the house, when
we sees a smart wee woman coming up the field over the burn to us. I
was a bit of a girl at the time, playing about and sporting myself, but
I mind her as well as if I saw her there now!" My friend asked how the
woman was dressed, and the old woman said, "It was a gray cloak she had
on, with a green cashmere skirt and a black silk handkercher tied round
her head, like the country women did use to wear in them times." My
friend asked, "How wee was she?" And the old woman said, "Well now, she
wasn't wee at all when I think of it, for all we called her the Wee
Woman. She was bigger than many a one, and yet not tall as you would
say. She was like a woman about thirty, brown-haired and round in the
face. She was like Miss Betty, your grandmother's sister, and Betty was
like none of the rest, not like your grandmother, nor any of them. She
was round and fresh in the face, and she never was married, and she
never would take any man; and we used to say that the Wee Woman--her
being like Betty--was, maybe, one of their own people that had been
took off before she grew to her full height, and for that she was
always following us and warning and foretelling. This time she walks
straight over to where my mother was standing. 'Go over to the Lough
this minute!'--ordering her like that--'Go over to the Lough, and tell
Joseph that he must change the foundation of this house to where I'll
show you fornent the thornbush. That is where it is to be built, if he
is to have luck and prosperity, so do what I'm telling ye this minute.'
The house was being built on 'the path' I suppose--the path used by the
people of faery in their journeys, and my mother brings Joseph down and
shows him, and he changes the foundations, the way he was bid, but
didn't bring it exactly to where was pointed, and the end of that was,
when he come to the house, his own wife lost her life with an accident
that come to a horse that hadn't room to turn right with a harrow
between the bush and the wall. The Wee Woman was queer and angry when
next she come, and says to us, 'He didn't do as I bid him, but he'll
see what he'll see."' My friend asked where the woman came from this
time, and if she was dressed as before, and the woman said, "Always the
same way, up the field beyant the burn. It was a thin sort of shawl she
had about her in summer, and a cloak about her in winter; and many and
many a time she came, and always it was good advice she was giving to
my mother, and warning her what not to do if she would have good luck.
There was none of the other children of us ever seen her unless me; but
I used to be glad when I seen her coming up the bum, and would run out
and catch her by the hand and the cloak, and call to my mother, 'Here's
the Wee Woman!' No man body ever seen her. My father used to be wanting
to, and was angry with my mother and me, thinking we were telling lies
and talking foolish like. And so one day when she had come, and was
sitting by the fireside talking to my mother, I slips out to the field
where he was digging. 'Come up,' says I, 'if ye want to see her. She's
sitting at the fireside now, talking to mother.' So in he comes with me
and looks round angry like and sees nothing, and he up with a broom
that was near hand and hits me a crig with it. 'Take that now!' says
he, 'for making a fool of me!' and away with him as fast as he could,
and queer and angry with me. The Wee Woman says to me then, 'Ye got
that now for bringing people to see me. No man body ever seen me, and
none ever will.'

"There was one day, though, she gave him a queer fright anyway,
whether he had seen her or not. He was in among the cattle when it
happened, and he comes up to the house all trembling like. 'Don't let
me hear you say another word of your Wee Woman. I have got enough of
her this time.' Another time, all the same, he was up Gortin to sell
horses, and before he went off, in steps the Wee Woman and says she to
my mother, holding out a sort of a weed, 'Your man is gone up by
Gortin, and there's a bad fright waiting him coming home, but take this
and sew it in his coat, and he'll get no harm by it.' My mother takes
the herb, but thinks to herself, 'Sure there's nothing in it,' and
throws it on the floor, and lo and behold, and sure enough! coming home
from Gortin, my father got as bad a fright as ever he got in his life.
What it was I don't right mind, but anyway he was badly damaged by it.
My mother was in a queer way, frightened of the Wee Woman, after what
she done, and sure enough the next time she was angry. 'Ye didn't
believe me,' she said, 'and ye threw the herb I gave ye in the fire,
and I went far enough for it.' There was another time she came and told
how William Hearne was dead in America. 'Go over,' she says, 'to the
Lough, and say that William is dead, and he died happy, and this was
the last Bible chapter ever he read,' and with that she gave the verse
and chapter. 'Go,' she says, 'and tell them to read them at the next
class meeting, and that I held his head while he died.' And sure enough
word came after that how William had died on the day she named. And,
doing as she did about the chapter and hymn, they never had such a
prayer-meeting as that. One day she and me and my mother was standing
talking, and she was warning her about something, when she says of a
sudden, 'Here comes Miss Letty in all her finery, and it's time for me
to be off.' And with that she gave a swirl round on her feet, and
raises up in the air, and round and round she goes, and up and up, as
if it was a winding stairs she went up, only far swifter. She went up
and up, till she was no bigger than a bird up against the clouds,
singing and singing the whole time the loveliest music I ever heard in
my life from that day to this. It wasn't a hymn she was singing, but
poetry, lovely poetry, and me and my mother stands gaping up, and all
of a tremble. 'What is she at all, mother?' says I. 'Is it an angel she
is, or a faery woman, or what?' With that up come Miss Letty, that was
your grandmother, dear, but Miss Letty she was then, and no word of her
being anything else, and she wondered to see us gaping up that way,
till me and my mother told her of it. She went on gay-dressed then, and
was lovely looking. She was up the lane where none of us could see her
coming forward when the Wee Woman rose up in that queer way, saying,
'Here comes Miss Letty in all her finery.' Who knows to what far
country she went, or to see whom dying?

"It was never after dark she came, but daylight always, as far as I
mind, but wanst, and that was on a Hallow Eve night. My mother was by
the fire, making ready the supper; she had a duck down and some apples.
In slips the Wee Woman, 'I'm come to pass my Hallow Eve with you,' says
she. 'That's right,' says my mother, and thinks to herself, 'I can give
her her supper nicely.' Down she sits by the fire a while. 'Now I'll
tell you where you'll bring my supper,' says she. 'In the room beyond
there beside the loom--set a chair in and a plate.' 'When ye're
spending the night, mayn't ye as well sit by the table and eat with the
rest of us?' 'Do what you're bid, and set whatever you give me in the
room beyant. I'll eat there and nowhere else.' So my mother sets her a
plate of duck and some apples, whatever was going, in where she bid,
and we got to our supper and she to hers; and when we rose I went in,
and there, lo and behold ye, was her supper-plate a bit ate of each
portion, and she clean gone!"


1897.



DREAMS THAT HAVE NO MORAL


The friend who heard about Maive and the hazel-stick went to the
workhouse another day. She found the old people cold and wretched,
"like flies in winter," she said; but they forgot the cold when they
began to talk. A man had just left them who had played cards in a rath
with the people of faery, who had played "very fair"; and one old man
had seen an enchanted black pig one night, and there were two old
people my friend had heard quarrelling as to whether Raftery or
Callanan was the better poet. One had said of Raftery, "He was a big
man, and his songs have gone through the whole world. I remember him
well. He had a voice like the wind"; but the other was certain "that
you would stand in the snow to listen to Callanan." Presently an old
man began to tell my friend a story, and all listened delightedly,
bursting into laughter now and then. The story, which I am going to
tell just as it was told, was one of those old rambling moralless
tales, which are the delight of the poor and the hard driven, wherever
life is left in its natural simplicity. They tell of a time when
nothing had consequences, when even if you were killed, if only you had
a good heart, somebody would bring you to life again with a touch of a
rod, and when if you were a prince and happened to look exactly like
your brother, you might go to bed with his queen, and have only a
little quarrel afterwards. We too, if we were so weak and poor that
everything threatened us with misfortune, would remember, if foolish
people left us alone, every old dream that has been strong enough to
fling the weight of the world from its shoulders.

There was a king one time who was very much put out because he had no
son, and he went at last to consult his chief adviser. And the chief
adviser said, "It's easy enough managed if you do as I tell you. Let
you send some one," says he, "to such a place to catch a fish. And when
the fish is brought in, give it to the queen, your wife, to eat."

So the king sent as he was told, and the fish was caught and brought
in, and he gave it to the cook, and bade her put it before the fire,
but to be careful with it, and not to let any blob or blister rise on
it. But it is impossible to cook a fish before the fire without the
skin of it rising in some place or other, and so there came a blob on
the skin, and the cook put her finger on it to smooth it down, and then
she put her finger into her mouth to cool it, and so she got a taste of
the fish. And then it was sent up to the queen, and she ate it, and
what was left of it was thrown out into the yard, and there was a mare
in the yard and a greyhound, and they ate the bits that were thrown out.

And before a year was out, the queen had a young son, and the cook had
a young son, and the mare had two foals, and the greyhound had two pups.

And the two young sons were sent out for a while to some place to be
cared, and when they came back they adviser and said, "Tell me some way
that I can know were so much like one another no person could know
which was the queen's son and which was the cook's. And the queen was
vexed at that, and she went to the chief which is my own son, for I
don't like to be giving the same eating and drinking to the cook's son
as to my own." "It is easy to know that," said the chief adviser, "if
you will do as I tell you. Go you outside, and stand at the door they
will be coming in by, and when they see you, your own son will bow his
head, but the cook's son will only laugh."

So she did that, and when her own son bowed his head, her servants put
a mark on him that she would know him again. And when they were all
sitting at their dinner after that, she said to Jack, that was the
cook's son, "It is time for you to go away out of this, for you are not
my son." And her own son, that we will call Bill, said, "Do not send
him away, are we not brothers?" But Jack said, "I would have been long
ago out of this house if I knew it was not my own father and mother
owned it." And for all Bill could say to him, he would not stop. But
before he went, they were by the well that was in the garden, and he
said to Bill, "If harm ever happens to me, that water on the top of the
well will be blood, and the water below will be honey."

Then he took one of the pups, and one of the two horses, that was
foaled after the mare eating the fish, and the wind that was after him
could not catch him, and he caught the wind that was before him. And he
went on till he came to a weaver's house, and he asked him for a
lodging, and he gave it to him. And then he went on till he came to a
king's house, and he sent in at the door to ask, "Did he want a
servant?" "All I want," said the king, "is a boy that will drive out
the cows to the field every morning, and bring them in at night to be
milked." "I will do that for you," said Jack; so the king engaged him.

In the morning Jack was sent out with the four-and-twenty cows, and
the place he was told to drive them to had not a blade of grass in it
for them, but was full of stones. So Jack looked about for some place
where there would be better grass, and after a while he saw a field
with good green grass in it, and it belonging to a giant. So he knocked
down a bit of the wall and drove them in, and he went up himself into
an apple-tree and began to eat the apples. Then the giant came into the
field. "Fee-faw-fum," says he, "I smell the blood of an Irishman. I see
you where you are, up in the tree," he said; "you are too big for one
mouthful, and too small for two mouthfuls, and I don't know what I'll
do with you if I don't grind you up and make snuff for my nose." "As
you are strong, be merciful," says Jack up in the tree. "Come down out
of that, you little dwarf," said the giant, "or I'll tear you and the
tree asunder." So Jack came down. "Would you sooner be driving red-hot
knives into one another's hearts," said the giant, "or would you sooner
be fighting one another on red-hot flags?" "Fighting on red-hot flags
is what I'm used to at home," said Jack, "and your dirty feet will be
sinking in them and my feet will be rising." So then they began the
fight. The ground that was hard they made soft, and the ground that was
soft they made hard, and they made spring wells come up through the
green flags. They were like that all through the day, no one getting
the upper hand of the other, and at last a little bird came and sat on
the bush and said to Jack, "If you don't make an end of him by sunset,
he'll make an end of you." Then Jack put out his strength, and he
brought the giant down on his knees. "Give me my life," says the giant,
"and I'll give you the three best gifts." "What are those?" said Jack.
"A sword that nothing can stand against, and a suit that when you put
it on, you will see everybody, and nobody will see you, and a pair of
shoes that will make you ran faster than the wind blows." "Where are
they to be found?" said Jack. "In that red door you see there in the
hill." So Jack went and got them out. "Where will I try the sword?"
says he. "Try it on that ugly black stump of a tree," says the giant.
"I see nothing blacker or uglier than your own head," says Jack. And
with that he made one stroke, and cut off the giant's head that it went
into the air, and he caught it on the sword as it was coming down, and
made two halves of it. "It is well for you I did not join the body
again," said the head, "or you would have never been able to strike it
off again." "I did not give you the chance of that," said Jack. And he
brought away the great suit with him.

So he brought the cows home at evening, and every one wondered at all
the milk they gave that night. And when the king was sitting at dinner
with the princess, his daughter, and the rest, he said, "I think I only
hear two roars from beyond to-night in place of three."

The next morning Jack went out again with the cows, and he saw another
field full of grass, and he knocked down the wall and let the cows in.
All happened the same as the day before, but the giant that came this
time had two heads, and they fought together, and the little bird came
and spoke to Jack as before. And when Jack had brought the giant down,
he said, "Give me my life, and I'll give you the best thing I have."
"What is that?" says Jack. "It's a suit that you can put on, and you
will see every one but no one can see you." "Where is it?" said Jack.
"It's inside that little red door at the side of the hill." So Jack
went and brought out the suit. And then he cut off the giant's two
heads, and caught them coming down and made four halves of them. And
they said it was well for him he had not given them time to join the
body.

That night when the cows came home they gave so much milk that all the
vessels that could be found were filled up.

The next morning Jack went out again, and all happened as before, and
the giant this time had four heads, and Jack made eight halves of them.
And the giant had told him to go to a little blue door in the side of
the hill, and there he got a pair of shoes that when you put them on
would go faster than the wind.

That night the cows gave so much milk that there were not vessels
enough to hold it, and it was given to tenants and to poor people
passing the road, and the rest was thrown out at the windows. I was
passing that way myself, and I got a drink of it.

That night the king said to Jack, "Why is it the cows are giving so
much milk these days? Are you bringing them to any other grass?" "I am
not," said Jack, "but I have a good stick, and whenever they would stop
still or lie down, I give them blows of it, that they jump and leap
over walls and stones and ditches; that's the way to make cows give
plenty of milk."

And that night at the dinner, the king said, "I hear no roars at all."

The next morning, the king and the princess were watching at the
window to see what would Jack do when he got to the field. And Jack
knew they were there, and he got a stick, and began to batter the cows,
that they went leaping and jumping over stones, and walls, and ditches.
"There is no lie in what Jack said," said the king then.

Now there was a great serpent at that time used to come every seven
years, and he had to get a kines daughter to eat, unless she would have
some good man to fight for her. And it was the princess at the place
Jack was had to be given to it that time, and the king had been feeding
a bully underground for seven years, and you may believe he got the
best of everything, to be ready to fight it.

And when the time came, the princess went out, and the bully with her
down to the shore, and when they got there what did he do, but to tie
the princess to a tree, the way the serpent would be able to swallow
her easy with no delay, and he himself went and hid up in an ivy-tree.
And Jack knew what was going on, for the princess had told him about
it, and had asked would he help her, but he said he would not. But he
came out now, and he put on the suit he had taken from the first giant,
and he came by the place the princess was, but she didn't know him. "Is
that right for a princess to be tied to a tree?" said Jack. "It is not,
indeed," said she, and she told him what had happened, and how the
serpent was coming to take her. "If you will let me sleep for awhile
with my head in your lap," said Jack, "you could wake me when it is
coming." So he did that, and she awakened him when she saw the serpent
coming, and Jack got up and fought with it, and drove it back into the
sea. And then he cut the rope that fastened her, and he went away. The
bully came down then out of the tree, and he brought the princess to
where the king was, and he said, "I got a friend of mine to come and
fight the serpent to-day, where I was a little timorous after being so
long shut up underground, but I'll do the fighting myself to-morrow."

The next day they went out again, and the same thing happened, the
bully tied up the princess where the serpent could come at her fair and
easy, and went up himself to hide in the ivy-tree. Then Jack put on the
suit he had taken from the second giant, and he walked out, and the
princess did not know him, but she told him all that had happened
yesterday, and how some young gentleman she did not know had come and
saved her. So Jack asked might he lie down and take a sleep with his
head in her lap, the way she could awake him. And an happened the same
way as the day before. And the bully gave her up to the king, and said
he had brought another of his friends to fight for her that day.

The next day she was brought down to the shore as before, and a great
many people gathered to see the serpent that was coming to bring the
king's daughter away. And Jack brought out the suit of clothes he had
brought away from the third giant, and she did not know him, and they
talked as before. But when he was asleep this time, she thought she
would make sure of being able to find him again, and she took out her
scissors and cut off a piece of his hair, and made a little packet of
it and put it away. And she did another thing, she took off one of the
shoes that was on his feet.

And when she saw the serpent coming she woke him, and he said, "This
time I will put the serpent in a way that he will eat no more king's
daughters." So he took out the sword he had got from the giant, and he
put it in at the back of the serpent's neck, the way blood and water
came spouting out that went for fifty miles inland, and made an end of
him. And then he made off, and no one saw what way he went, and the
bully brought the princess to the king, and claimed to have saved her,
and it is he who was made much of, and was the right-hand man after
that.

But when the feast was made ready for the wedding, the princess took
out the bit of hair she had, and she said she would marry no one but
the man whose hair would match that, and she showed the shoe and said
that she would marry no one whose foot would not fit that shoe as well.
And the bully tried to put on the shoe, but so much as his toe would
not go into it, and as to his hair, it didn't match at all to the bit
of hair she had cut from the man that saved her.

So then the king gave a great ball, to bring all the chief men of the
country together to try would the shoe fit any of them. And they were
all going to carpenters and joiners getting bits of their feet cut off
to try could they wear the shoe, but it was no use, not one of them
could get it on.

Then the king went to his chief adviser and asked what could he do.
And the chief adviser bade him to give another ball, and this time he
said, "Give it to poor as well as rich."

So the ball was given, and many came flocking to it, but the shoe
would not fit any one of them. And the chief adviser said, "Is every
one here that belongs to the house?" "They are all here," said the
king, "except the boy that minds the cows, and I would not like him to
be coming up here."

Jack was below in the yard at the time, and he heard what the king
said, and he was very angry, and he went and got his sword and came
running up the stairs to strike off the king's head, but the man that
kept the gate met him on the stairs before he could get to the king,
and quieted him down, and when he got to the top of the stairs and the
princess saw him, she gave a cry and ran into his arms. And they tried
the shoe and it fitted him, and his hair matched to the piece that had
been cut off. So then they were married, and a great feast was given
for three days and three nights.

And at the end of that time, one morning there came a deer outside the
window, with bells on it, and they ringing. And it called out, "Here is
the hunt, where is the huntsman and the hound?" So when Jack heard that
he got up and took his horse and his hound and went hunting the deer.
When it was in the hollow he was on the hill, and when it was on the
hill he was in the hollow, and that went on all through the day, and
when night fell it went into a wood. And Jack went into the wood after
it, and all he could see was a mud-wall cabin, and he went in, and
there he saw an old woman, about two hundred years old, and she sitting
over the fire. "Did you see a deer pass this way?" says Jack. "I did
not," says she, "but it's too late now for you to be following a deer,
let you stop the night here." "What will I do with my horse and my
hound?" said Jack. "Here are two ribs of hair," says she, "and let you
tie them up with them." So Jack went out and tied up the horse and the
hound, and when he came in again the old woman said, "You killed my
three sons, and I'm going to kill you now," and she put on a pair of
boxing-gloves, each one of them nine stone weight, and the nails in
them fifteen inches long. Then they began to fight, and Jack was
getting the worst of it. "Help, hound!" he cried out, then "Squeeze
hair," cried out the old woman, and the rib of hair that was about the
hound's neck squeezed him to death. "Help, horse!" Jack called out,
then, "Squeeze hair," called out the old woman, and the rib of hair
that was about the horse's neck began to tighten and squeeze him to
death. Then the old woman made an end of Jack and threw him outside the
door.

To go back now to Bill. He was out in the garden one day, and he took
a look at the well, and what did he see but the water at the top was
blood, and what was underneath was honey. So he went into the house
again, and he said to his mother, "I will never eat a second meal at
the same table, or sleep a second night in the same bed, till I know
what is happening to Jack."

So he took the other horse and hound then, and set off, over the hills
where cock never crows and horn never sounds, and the devil never blows
his bugle. And at last he came to the weaver's house, and when he went
in, the weaver says, "You are welcome, and I can give you better
treatment than I did the last time you came in to me," for she thought
it was Jack who was there, they were so much like one another. "That is
good," said Bill to himself, "my brother has been here." And he gave
the weaver the full of a basin of gold in the morning before he left.

Then he went on till he came to the king's house, and when he was at
the door the princess came running down the stairs, and said, "Welcome
to you back again." And all the people said, "It is a wonder you have
gone hunting three days after your marriage, and to stop so long away."
So he stopped that night with the princess, and she thought it was her
own husband all the time.

And in the morning the deer came, and bells ringing on her, under the
windows, and called out, "The hunt is here, where are the huntsmen and
the hounds?" Then Bill got up and got his horse and his hound, and
followed her over hills and hollows till they came to the wood, and
there he saw nothing but the mud-wall cabin and the old woman sitting
by the fire, and she bade him stop the night there, and gave him two
ribs of hair to tie his horse and his hound with. But Bill was wittier
than Jack was, and before he went out, he threw the ribs of hair into
the fire secretly. When he came in the old woman said, "Your brother
killed my three sons, and I killed him, and I'll kill you along with
him." And she put her gloves on, and they began the fight, and then
Bill called out, "Help, horse." "Squeeze hair," called the old woman;
"I can't squeeze, I'm in the fire," said the hair. And the horse came
in and gave her a blow of his hoof. "Help, hound," said Bill then.
"Squeeze, hair," said the old woman; "I can't, I'm in the fire," said
the second hair. Then the bound put his teeth in her, and Bill brought
her down, and she cried for mercy. "Give me my life," she said, "and
I'll tell you where you'll get your brother again, and his hound and
horse." "Where's that?" said Bill. "Do you see that rod over the fire?"
said she; "take it down and go outside the door where you'll see three
green stones, and strike them with the rod, for they are your brother,
and his horse and hound, and they'll come to life again." "I will, but
I'll make a green stone of you first," said Bill, and he cut off her
head with his sword.

Then he went out and struck the stones, and sure enough there were
Jack, and his horse and hound, alive and well. And they began striking
other stones around, and men came from them, that had been turned to
stones, hundreds and thousands of them.

Then they set out for home, but on the way they had some dispute or
some argument together, for Jack was not well pleased to hear he had
spent the night with his wife, and Bill got angry, and he struck Jack
with the rod, and turned him to a green stone. And he went home, but
the princess saw he had something on his mind, and he said then, "I
have killed my brother." And he went back then and brought him to life,
and they lived happy ever after, and they had children by the
basketful, and threw them out by the shovelful. I was passing one time
myself, and they called me in and gave me a cup of tea.


1902.



BY THE ROADSIDE


Last night I went to a wide place on the Kiltartan road to listen to
some Irish songs. While I waited for the singers an old man sang about
that country beauty who died so many years ago, and spoke of a singer
he had known who sang so beautifully that no horse would pass him, but
must turn its head and cock its ears to listen. Presently a score of
men and boys and girls, with shawls over their beads, gathered under
the trees to listen. Somebody sang Sa Muirnin Diles, and then somebody
else Jimmy Mo Milestor, mournful songs of separation, of death, and of
exile. Then some of the men stood up and began to dance, while another
lilted the measure they danced to, and then somebody sang Eiblin a
Ruin, that glad song of meeting which has always moved me more than
other songs, because the lover who made it sang it to his sweetheart
under the shadow of a mountain I looked at every day through my
childhood. The voices melted into the twilight and were mixed into the
trees, and when I thought of the words they too melted away, and were
mixed with the generations of men. Now it was a phrase, now it was an
attitude of mind, an emotional form, that had carried my memory to
older verses, or even to forgotten mythologies. I was carried so far
that it was as though I came to one of the four rivers, and followed it
under the wall of Paradise to the roots of the trees of knowledge and
of life. There is no song or story handed down among the cottages that
has not words and thoughts to carry one as far, for though one can know
but a little of their ascent, one knows that they ascend like medieval
genealogies through unbroken dignities to the beginning of the world.
Folk art is, indeed, the oldest of the aristocracies of thought, and
because it refuses what is passing and trivial, the merely clever and
pretty, as certainly as the vulgar and insincere, and because it has
gathered into itself the simplest and most unforgetable thoughts of the
generations, it is the soil where all great art is rooted. Wherever it
is spoken by the fireside, or sung by the roadside, or carved upon the
lintel, appreciation of the arts that a single mind gives unity and
design to, spreads quickly when its hour is come.

In a society that has cast out imaginative tradition, only a few
people--three or four thousand out of millions--favoured by their own
characters and by happy circumstance, and only then after much labour,
have understanding of imaginative things, and yet "the imagination is
the man himself." The churches in the Middle Age won all the arts into
their service because men understood that when imagination is
impoverished, a principal voice--some would say the only voice--for the
awakening of wise hope and durable faith, and understanding charity,
can speak but in broken words, if it does not fall silent. And so it
has always seemed to me that we, who would re-awaken imaginative
tradition by making old songs live again, or by gathering old stories
into books, take part in the quarrel of Galilee. Those who are Irish
and would spread foreign ways, which, for all but a few, are ways of
spiritual poverty, take part also. Their part is with those who were of
Jewry, and yet cried out, "If thou let this man go thou art not
Caesar's friend."


1901.



INTO THE TWILIGHT


    Out-worn heart, in a time out-worn,
    Come clear of the nets of wrong and right;
    Laugh, heart, again in the gray twilight;
    Sigh, heart, again in the dew of the morn.
    Thy mother Eire is always young,
    Dew ever shining and twilight gray,
    Though hope fall from thee or love decay
    Burning in fires of a slanderous tongue.
    Come, heart, where hill is heaped upon hill,
    For there the mystical brotherhood
    Of hollow wood and the hilly wood
    And the changing moon work out their will.
    And God stands winding his lonely horn;
    And Time and World are ever in flight,
    And love is less kind than the gray twilight,
    And hope is less dear than the dew of the morn.





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