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Title: In the Shadow of the Glen
Author: Synge, J. M. (John Millington)
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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By J. M. Synge

 First performed at the Molesworth Hall, Dublin, October 8th, 1903.


DAN BURKE (_farmer and herd_)	George Roberts NORA BURKE (_his
wife_)	Maire Nic Shiubhlaigh MICHEAL DARA (_a young herd_)	P. J.
Kelly A TRAMP	W. G. Fay

SCENE.—_The last cottage at the head of a long glen in County Wicklow._

(_Cottage kitchen; turf fire on the right; a bed near it against the
wall with a body lying on it covered with a sheet. A door is at the
other end of the room, with a low table near it, and stools, or wooden
chairs. There are a couple of glasses on the table, and a bottle of
whisky, as if for a wake, with two cups, a teapot, and a home-made
cake. There is another small door near the bed. Nora Burke is moving
about the room, settling a few things, and lighting candles on the
table, looking now and then at the bed with an uneasy look. Some one
knocks softly at the door. She takes up a stocking with money from the
table and puts it in her pocket. Then she opens the door._)

(_Outside._) Good evening to you, lady of the house.

Good evening, kindly stranger, it’s a wild night, God help you, to be
out in the rain falling.

It is, surely, and I walking to Brittas from the Aughrim fair.

Is it walking on your feet, stranger?

On my two feet, lady of the house, and when I saw the light below I
thought maybe if you’d a sup of new milk and a quiet decent corner
where a man could sleep (_he looks in past her and sees the dead man._)
The Lord have mercy on us all!

It doesn’t matter anyway, stranger, come in out of the rain.

(_Coming in slowly and going towards the bed._) Is it departed he is?

It is, stranger. He’s after dying on me, God forgive him, and there I
am now with a hundred sheep beyond on the hills, and no turf drawn for
the winter.

(_Looking closely at the dead man._) It’s a queer look is on him for a
man that’s dead.

(_Half-humorously._) He was always queer, stranger, and I suppose them
that’s queer and they living men will be queer bodies after.

Isn’t it a great wonder you’re letting him lie there, and he is not
tidied, or laid out itself?

(_Coming to the bed._) I was afeard, stranger, for he put a black curse
on me this morning if I’ld touch his body the time he’ld die sudden, or
let any one touch it except his sister only, and it’s ten miles away
she lives in the big glen over the hill.

(_Looking at her and nodding slowly._) It’s a queer story he wouldn’t
let his own wife touch him, and he dying quiet in his bed.

He was an old man, and an odd man, stranger, and it’s always up on the
hills he was thinking thoughts in the dark mist. (_She pulls back a bit
of the sheet._) Lay your hand on him now, and tell me if it’s cold he
is surely.

Is it getting the curse on me you’ld be, woman of the house? I wouldn’t
lay my hand on him for the Lough Nahanagan and it filled with gold.

(_Looking uneasily at the body._) Maybe cold would be no sign of death
with the like of him, for he was always cold, every day since I knew
him,—and every night, stranger,—(_she covers up his face and comes away
from the bed_); but I’m thinking it’s dead he is surely, for he’s
complaining a while back of a pain in his heart, and this morning, the
time he was going off to Brittas for three days or four, he was taken
with a sharp turn. Then he went into his bed and he was saying it was
destroyed he was, the time the shadow was going up through the glen,
and when the sun set on the bog beyond he made a great lep, and let a
great cry out of him, and stiffened himself out the like of a dead

(_Crosses himself._) God rest his soul.

(_Pouring him out a glass of whisky._) Maybe that would do you better
than the milk of the sweetest cow in County Wicklow.

The Almighty God reward you, and may it be to your good health. (_He

(_Giving him a pipe and tobacco._) I’ve no pipes saving his own,
stranger, but they’re sweet pipes to smoke.

Thank you kindly, lady of the house.

Sit down now, stranger, and be taking your rest.

(_Filling a pipe and looking about the room._) I’ve walked a great way
through the world, lady of the house, and seen great wonders, but I
never seen a wake till this day with fine spirits, and good tobacco,
and the best of pipes, and no one to taste them but a woman only.

Didn’t you hear me say it was only after dying on me he was when the
sun went down, and how would I go out into the glen and tell the
neighbours, and I a lone woman with no house near me?

(_Drinking._) There’s no offence, lady of the house?

No offence in life, stranger. How would the like of you, passing in the
dark night, know the lonesome way I was with no house near me at all?

(_Sitting down._) I knew rightly. (_He lights his pipe so that there is
a sharp light beneath his haggard face._) And I was thinking, and I
coming in through the door, that it’s many a lone woman would be afeard
of the like of me in the dark night, in a place wouldn’t be so lonesome
as this place, where there aren’t two living souls would see the little
light you have shining from the glass.

(_Slowly._) I’m thinking many would be afeard, but I never knew what
way I’d be afeard of beggar or bishop or any man of you at all. (_She
looks towards the window and lowers her voice._) It’s other things than
the like of you, stranger, would make a person afeard.

(_Looking round with a half-shudder._) It is surely, God help us all!

(_Looking at him for a moment with curiosity._) You’re saying that,
stranger, as if you were easy afeard.

(_Speaking mournfully._) Is it myself, lady of the house, that does be
walking round in the long nights, and crossing the hills when the fog
is on them, the time a little stick would seem as big as your arm, and
a rabbit as big as a bay horse, and a stack of turf as big as a
towering church in the city of Dublin? If myself was easily afeard, I’m
telling you, it’s long ago I’ld have been locked into the Richmond
Asylum, or maybe have run up into the back hills with nothing on me but
an old shirt, and been eaten with crows the like of Patch Darcy—the
Lord have mercy on him—in the year that’s gone.

(_With interest._) You knew Darcy?

Wasn’t I the last one heard his living voice in the whole world?

There were great stories of what was heard at that time, but would any
one believe the things they do be saying in the glen?

It was no lie, lady of the house.... I was passing below on a dark
night the like of this night, and the sheep were lying under the ditch
and every one of them coughing, and choking, like an old man, with the
great rain and the fog. Then I heard a thing talking—queer talk, you
wouldn’t believe at all, and you out of your dreams,—and “Merciful
God,” says I, “if I begin hearing the like of that voice out of the
thick mist, I’m destroyed surely.” Then I run, and I run, and I run,
till I was below in Rathvanna. I got drunk that night, I got drunk in
the morning, and drunk the day after,—I was coming from the races
beyond—and the third day they found Darcy.... Then I knew it was
himself I was after hearing, and I wasn’t afeard any more.

(_Speaking sorrowfully and slowly._) God spare Darcy, he’ld always look
in here and he passing up or passing down, and it’s very lonesome I was
after him a long while (_she looks over at the bed and lowers her
voice, speaking very clearly,_) and then I got happy again—if it’s ever
happy we are, stranger,—for I got used to being lonesome. (_A short
pause; then she stands up._)

Was there any one on the last bit of the road, stranger, and you coming
from Aughrim?

There was a young man with a drift of mountain ewes, and he running
after them this way and that.

(_With a half-smile._) Far down, stranger?

A piece only.

(_She fills the kettle and puts it on the fire._)

Maybe, if you’re not easy afeard, you’ld stay here a short while alone
with himself.

I would surely. A man that’s dead can do no hurt.

(_Speaking with a sort of constraint._) I’m going a little back to the
west, stranger, for himself would go there one night and another and
whistle at that place, and then the young man you’re after seeing—a
kind of a farmer has come up from the sea to live in a cottage
beyond—would walk round to see if there was a thing we’ld have to be
done, and I’m wanting him this night, the way he can go down into the
glen when the sun goes up and tell the people that himself is dead.

(_Looking at the body in the sheet._) It’s myself will go for him, lady
of the house, and let you not be destroying yourself with the great

You wouldn’t find your way, stranger, for there’s a small path only,
and it running up between two sluigs where an ass and cart would be
drowned. (_She puts a shawl over her head._) Let you be making yourself
easy, and saying a prayer for his soul, and it’s not long I’ll be
coming again.

(_Moving uneasily._) Maybe if you’d a piece of a grey thread and a
sharp needle—there’s great safety in a needle, lady of the house—I’ld
be putting a little stitch here and there in my old coat, the time I’ll
be praying for his soul, and it going up naked to the saints of God.

(_Takes a needle and thread from the front of her dress and gives it to
him._) There’s the needle, stranger, and I’m thinking you won’t be
lonesome, and you used to the back hills, for isn’t a dead man itself
more company than to be sitting alone, and hearing the winds crying,
and you not knowing on what thing your mind would stay?

(_Slowly._) It’s true, surely, and the Lord have mercy on us all!

(_Nora goes out. The Tramp begins stitching one of the tags in his
coat, saying the “De Profundis” under his breath. In an instant the
sheet is drawn slowly down, and Dan Burke looks out. The Tramp moves
uneasily, then looks up, and springs to his feet with a movement of

(_With a hoarse voice._) Don’t be afeard, stranger; a man that’s dead
can do no hurt.

(_Trembling._) I meant no harm, your honour; and won’t you leave me
easy to be saying a little prayer for your soul?

(_A long whistle is heard outside._)

(_Sitting up in his bed and speaking fiercely._) Ah, the devil mend
her.... Do you hear that, stranger? Did ever you hear another woman
could whistle the like of that with two fingers in her mouth? (_He
looks at the table hurriedly._) I’m destroyed with the drouth, and let
you bring me a drop quickly before herself will come back.

(_Doubtfully._) Is it not dead you are?

How would I be dead, and I as dry as a baked bone, stranger?

(_Pouring out the whisky._) What will herself say if she smells the
stuff on you, for I’m thinking it’s not for nothing you’re letting on
to be dead?

It is not, stranger, but she won’t be coming near me at all, and it’s
not long now I’ll be letting on, for I’ve a cramp in my back, and my
hip’s asleep on me, and there’s been the devil’s own fly itching my
nose. It’s near dead I was wanting to sneeze, and you blathering about
the rain, and Darcy (_bitterly_)—the devil choke him—and the towering
church. (_Crying out impatiently._) Give me that whisky. Would you have
herself come back before I taste a drop at all?

(_Tramp gives him the glass._)

(_After drinking._) Go over now to that cupboard, and bring me a black
stick you’ll see in the west corner by the wall.

(_Taking a stick from the cupboard_) Is it that?

It is, stranger; it’s a long time I’m keeping that stick for I’ve a bad
wife in the house.

(_With a queer look._) Is it herself, master of the house, and she a
grand woman to talk?

It’s herself, surely, it’s a bad wife she is—a bad wife for an old man,
and I’m getting old, God help me, though I’ve an arm to me still. (_He
takes the stick in his hand._) Let you wait now a short while, and it’s
a great sight you’ll see in this room in two hours or three. (_He stops
to listen._) Is that somebody above?

(_Listening._) There’s a voice speaking on the path.

Put that stick here in the bed and smooth the sheet the way it was
lying. (_He covers himself up hastily._) Be falling to sleep now and
don’t let on you know anything, or I’ll be having your life. I wouldn’t
have told you at all but it’s destroyed with the drouth I was.

(_Covering his head._) Have no fear, master of the house. What is it I
know of the like of you that I’ld be saying a word or putting out my
hand to stay you at all?

(_He goes back to the fire, sits down on a stool with his back to the
bed and goes on stitching his coat._)

(_Under the sheet, querulously._) Stranger.

(_Quickly._) Whisht, whisht. Be quiet I’m telling you, they’re coming
now at the door.

(_Nora comes in with Micheal Dara, a tall, innocent young man behind

I wasn’t long at all, stranger, for I met himself on the path.

You were middling long, lady of the house.

There was no sign from himself?

No sign at all, lady of the house.

(_To Micheal._) Go over now and pull down the sheet, and look on
himself, Micheal Dara, and you’ll see it’s the truth I’m telling you.

I will not, Nora, I do be afeard of the dead.

(_He sits down on a stool next the table facing the tramp. Nora puts
the kettle on a lower hook of the pot hooks, and piles turf under it._)

(_Turning to Tramp._) Will you drink a sup of tea with myself and the
young man, stranger, or (_speaking more persuasively_) will you go into
the little room and stretch yourself a short while on the bed, I’m
thinking it’s destroyed you are walking the length of that way in the
great rain.

Is it to go away and leave you, and you having a wake, lady of the
house? I will not surely. (_He takes a drink from his glass which he
has beside him._) And it’s none of your tea I’m asking either.

(_He goes on stitching. Nora makes the tea._)

(_After looking at the tramp rather scornfully for a moment._) That’s a
poor coat you have, God help you, and I’m thinking it’s a poor tailor
you are with it.

If it’s a poor tailor I am, I’m thinking it’s a poor herd does be
running back and forward after a little handful of ewes the way I seen
yourself running this day, young fellow, and you coming from the fair.

(_Nora comes back to the table._)

(_To Micheal in a low voice._) Let you not mind him at all, Micheal
Dara, he has a drop taken and it’s soon he’ll be falling asleep.

It’s no lie he’s telling, I was destroyed surely. They were that wilful
they were running off into one man’s bit of oats, and another man’s bit
of hay, and tumbling into the red bogs till it’s more like a pack of
old goats than sheep they were. Mountain ewes is a queer breed, Nora
Burke, and I’m not used to them at all.

(_Settling the tea things._) There’s no one can drive a mountain ewe
but the men do be reared in the Glen Malure, I’ve heard them say, and
above by Rathvanna, and the Glen Imaal, men the like of Patch Darcy,
God spare his soul, who would walk through five hundred sheep and miss
one of them, and he not reckoning them at all.

(_Uneasily._) Is it the man went queer in his head the year that’s

It is surely.

(_Plaintively._) That was a great man, young fellow, a great man I’m
telling you. There was never a lamb from his own ewes he wouldn’t know
before it was marked, and he’ld run from this to the city of Dublin and
never catch for his breath.

(_Turning round quickly._) He was a great man surely, stranger, and
isn’t it a grand thing when you hear a living man saying a good word of
a dead man, and he mad dying?

It’s the truth I’m saying, God spare his soul.

(_He puts the needle under the collar of his coat, and settles himself
to sleep in the chimney-corner. Nora sits down at the table; their
backs are turned to the bed._)

(_Looking at her with a queer look._) I heard tell this day, Nora
Burke, that it was on the path below Patch Darcy would be passing up
and passing down, and I heard them say he’ld never past it night or
morning without speaking with yourself.

(_In a low voice._) It was no lie you heard, Micheal Dara.

I’m thinking it’s a power of men you’re after knowing if it’s in a
lonesome place you live itself.

(_Giving him his tea._) It’s in a lonesome place you do have to be
talking with some one, and looking for some one, in the evening of the
day, and if it’s a power of men I’m after knowing they were fine men,
for I was a hard child to please, and a hard girl to please (_she looks
at him a little sternly_), and it’s a hard woman I am to please this
day, Micheal Dara, and it’s no lie I’m telling you.

(_Looking over to see that the tramp is asleep, and then pointing to
the dead man._) Was it a hard woman to please you were when you took
himself for your man?

What way would I live and I an old woman if I didn’t marry a man with a
bit of a farm, and cows on it, and sheep on the back hills?

(_Considering._) That’s true, Nora, and maybe it’s no fool you were,
for there’s good grazing on it, if it is a lonesome place, and I’m
thinking it’s a good sum he’s left behind.

(_Taking the stocking with money from her pocket, and putting it on the
table._) I do be thinking in the long nights it was a big fool I was
that time, Micheal Dara, for what good is a bit of a farm with cows on
it, and sheep on the back hills, when you do be sitting looking out
from a door the like of that door, and seeing nothing but the mists
rolling down the bog, and the mists again, and they rolling up the bog,
and hearing nothing but the wind crying out in the bits of broken trees
were left from the great storm, and the streams roaring with the rain.

(_Looking at her uneasily._) What is it ails you, this night, Nora
Burke? I’ve heard tell it’s the like of that talk you do hear from men,
and they after being a great while on the back hills.

(_Putting out the money on the table._) It’s a bad night, and a wild
night, Micheal Dara, and isn’t it a great while I am at the foot of the
back hills, sitting up here boiling food for himself, and food for the
brood sow, and baking a cake when the night falls? (_She puts up the
money, listlessly, in little piles on the table._) Isn’t it a long
while I am sitting here in the winter and the summer, and the fine
spring, with the young growing behind me and the old passing, saying to
myself one time, to look on Mary Brien who wasn’t that height (_holding
out her hand_), and I a fine girl growing up, and there she is now with
two children, and another coming on her in three months or four. (_She

(_Moving over three of the piles._) That’s three pounds we have now,
Nora Burke.

(_Continuing in the same voice._) And saying to myself another time, to
look on Peggy Cavanagh, who had the lightest hand at milking a cow that
wouldn’t be easy, or turning a cake, and there she is now walking round
on the roads, or sitting in a dirty old house, with no teeth in her
mouth, and no sense and no more hair than you’ld see on a bit of a hill
and they after burning the furze from it.

That’s five pounds and ten notes, a good sum, surely!... It’s not that
way you’ll be talking when you marry a young man, Nora Burke, and they
were saying in the fair my lambs were the best lambs, and I got a grand
price, for I’m no fool now at making a bargain when my lambs are good.

What was it you got?

Twenty pound for the lot, Nora Burke.... We’ld do right to wait now
till himself will be quiet awhile in the Seven Churches, and then
you’ll marry me in the chapel of Rathvanna, and I’ll bring the sheep up
on the bit of a hill you have on the back mountain, and we won’t have
anything we’ld be afeard to let our minds on when the mist is down.

(_Pouring him out some whisky._) Why would I marry you, Mike Dara?
You’ll be getting old and I’ll be getting old, and in a little while
I’m telling you, you’ll be sitting up in your bed—the way himself was
sitting—with a shake in your face, and your teeth falling, and the
white hair sticking out round you like an old bush where sheep do be
leaping a gap.

(_Dan Burke sits up noiselessly from under the sheet, with his hand to
his face. His white hair is sticking out round his head._)

(_Goes on slowly without hearing him._) It’s a pitiful thing to be
getting old, but it’s a queer thing surely. It’s a queer thing to see
an old man sitting up there in his bed with no teeth in him, and a
rough word in his mouth, and his chin the way it would take the bark
from the edge of an oak board you’ld have building a door.... God
forgive me, Micheal Dara, we’ll all be getting old, but it’s a queer
thing surely.

It’s too lonesome you are from living a long time with an old man,
Nora, and you’re talking again like a herd that would be coming down
from the thick mist (_he puts his arm round her_), but it’s a fine life
you’ll have now with a young man, a fine life surely....

(_Dan sneezes violently. Micheal tries to get to the door, but before
he can do so, Dan jumps out of the bed in queer white clothes, with his
stick in his hand, and goes over and puts his back against it._)

Son of God deliver us.

(_Crosses himself, and goes backward across the room._)

(_Holding up his hand at him._) Now you’ll not marry her the time I’m
rotting below in the Seven Churches, and you’ll see the thing I’ll give
you will follow you on the back mountains when the wind is high.

(_To Nora._) Get me out of it, Nora, for the love of God. He always did
what you bid him, and I’m thinking he would do it now.

(_Looking at the Tramp._) Is it dead he is or living?

(_Turning towards her._) It’s little you care if it’s dead or living I
am, but there’ll be an end now of your fine times, and all the talk you
have of young men and old men, and of the mist coming up or going down.
(_He opens the door._) You’ll walk out now from that door, Nora Burke,
and it’s not to-morrow, or the next day, or any day of your life, that
you’ll put in your foot through it again.

(_Standing up._) It’s a hard thing you’re saying for an old man, master
of the house, and what would the like of her do if you put her out on
the roads?

Let her walk round the like of Peggy Cavanagh below, and be begging
money at the cross-road, or selling songs to the men. (_To Nora._) Walk
out now, Nora Burke, and it’s soon you’ll be getting old with that
life, I’m telling you; it’s soon your teeth’ll be falling and your
head’ll be the like of a bush where sheep do be leaping a gap.

(_He pauses: she looks round at Micheal._)

(_Timidly._) There’s a fine Union below in Rathdrum.

The like of her would never go there.... It’s lonesome roads she’ll be
going and hiding herself away till the end will come, and they find her
stretched like a dead sheep with the frost on her, or the big spiders,
maybe, and they putting their webs on her, in the butt of a ditch.

(_Angrily._) What way will yourself be that day, Daniel Burke? What way
will you be that day and you lying down a long while in your grave? For
it’s bad you are living, and it’s bad you’ll be when you’re dead. (_She
looks at him a moment fiercely, then half turns away and speaks
plaintively again._) Yet, if it is itself, Daniel Burke, who can help
it at all, and let you be getting up into your bed, and not be taking
your death with the wind blowing on you, and the rain with it, and you
half in your skin.

It’s proud and happy you’ld be if I was getting my death the day I was
shut of yourself. (_Pointing to the door._) Let you walk out through
that door, I’m telling you, and let you not be passing this way if it’s
hungry you are, or wanting a bed.

(_Pointing to Micheal._) Maybe himself would take her.

What would he do with me now?

Give you the half of a dry bed, and good food in your mouth.

Is it a fool you think him, stranger, or is it a fool you were born
yourself? Let her walk out of that door, and let you go along with her,
stranger—if it’s raining itself—for it’s too much talk you have surely.

(_Going over to Nora._) We’ll be going now, lady of the house—the rain
is falling, but the air is kind and maybe it’ll be a grand morning by
the grace of God.

What good is a grand morning when I’m destroyed surely, and I going out
to get my death walking the roads?

You’ll not be getting your death with myself, lady of the house, and I
knowing all the ways a man can put food in his mouth.... We’ll be going
now, I’m telling you, and the time you’ll be feeling the cold, and the
frost, and the great rain, and the sun again, and the south wind
blowing in the glens, you’ll not be sitting up on a wet ditch, the way
you’re after sitting in the place, making yourself old with looking on
each day, and it passing you by. You’ll be saying one time, “It’s a
grand evening, by the grace of God,” and another time, “It’s a wild
night, God help us, but it’ll pass surely.” You’ll be saying—

(_Goes over to them crying out impatiently._) Go out of that door, I’m
telling you, and do your blathering below in the glen.

(_Nora gathers a few things into her shawl._)

(_At the door._) Come along with me now, lady of the house, and it’s
not my blather you’ll be hearing only, but you’ll be hearing the herons
crying out over the black lakes, and you’ll be hearing the grouse and
the owls with them, and the larks and the big thrushes when the days
are warm, and it’s not from the like of them you’ll be hearing a talk
of getting old like Peggy Cavanagh, and losing the hair off you, and
the light of your eyes, but it’s fine songs you’ll be hearing when the
sun goes up, and there’ll be no old fellow wheezing, the like of a sick
sheep, close to your ear.

I’m thinking it’s myself will be wheezing that time with lying down
under the Heavens when the night is cold; but you’ve a fine bit of
talk, stranger, and it’s with yourself I’ll go. (_She goes towards the
door, then turns to Dan._) You think it’s a grand thing you’re after
doing with your letting on to be dead, but what is it at all? What way
would a woman live in a lonesome place the like of this place, and she
not making a talk with the men passing? And what way will yourself live
from this day, with none to care for you? What is it you’ll have now
but a black life, Daniel Burke, and it’s not long I’m telling you, till
you’ll be lying again under that sheet, and you dead surely.

(_She goes out with the Tramp. Micheal is slinking after them, but Dan
stops him._)

Sit down now and take a little taste of the stuff, Micheal Dara.
There’s a great drouth on me, and the night is young.

(_Coming back to the table._) And it’s very dry I am, surely, with the
fear of death you put on me, and I after driving mountain ewes since
the turn of the day.

(_Throwing away his stick._) I was thinking to strike you, Micheal
Dara, but you’re a quiet man, God help you, and I don’t mind you at

(_He pours out two glasses of whisky, and gives one to Micheal._)

Your good health, Micheal Dara.

God reward you, Daniel Burke, and may you have a long life, and a quiet
life, and good health with it. (_They drink._)


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