William Allingham - Two Poems: “The Fairies” & “The Winding Banks of Erne [Adieu to Ballyshannon”]

“The Fairies”  
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!
Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.
High on the hill-top
The old king sits;
He is now so old and gray
He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music
On cold starry nights,
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.
They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.
By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
Is any man so daring
As dig up them in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.
Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men
Wee folk, good folk,
Trouping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather.
Rep. in E. A. Sharp, ed., Lyra Celtica (Edinburgh 1896). See also T. R. Henn, The Lonely Tower: Studies in the Poetry of W. B. Yeats (London: Methuen 1950, 1965), who assigns the poem early in 1888 and writes of the ‘the infinitely greater metrical sublety that emerges even in the stock treatment and the simplesse of the younger poet’ - i.e., in “The Stolen Child”. (Henn, op. cit., p.115.)
[ top ]

The Winding Banks of Erne”:

Adieu to Belashanny, where I was bred and born;
Go where I may I’ll think of you, as sure as night and morn:
The kindly spot, the friendly town, where every one is known,
And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own;
There’s not a house or window, there’s not a field or hill,
But east or west, in foreign lands, I’ll recollect them still;
I leave my warm heart with you, though my back I’m forced to turn
Adieu to Belashanny and the winding banks of Erne.

No more on pleasant evenings we’ll saunter down the Mall,
When the trout is rising to the fly, the salmon to the fall.
The boat comes straining on her net, and heavily she creeps,
Cast off, cast off - she feels the oars, and to her berth she sweeps;
Now fore and aft keep hauling, and gathering up the clew,
Till a wave of silver salmon rolls in among the crew
Then they may sit with pipes alit, and many a joke and yarn;
Adieu to Belashanny, and the winding banks of Erne!

The music of the waterfall, the mirror of the tide,
When all the green-hill’d harbour is full from side to side,
From Portnasun to Bulliebawns, and round the Abbey bay,
From rocky Inis Saimer to Coolargit sandhills grey;
While far upon the southern line, to guard it like a wall,
The Leitrim mountains clothed in blue gaze calmly over all,
And watch the ship sail up or down, the red flag at her stern
Adieu to these, adieu to all the winding banks of Erne!

Farewell to you, Kildoney lads, and them that pull an oar,
A lugsail set, or haul a net, from the point of Mullaghmore;
From Killybegs to bold Slieve-League, that ocean mountain steep,
Six hundred yards in air aloft, six hundred in the deep;
From Dooran to the Fairy Bridge, and round by Tullen Strand,
Level and long, and white with waves, where gull and curlew stand;
Head out to sea, when on your lee the breakers you discern
Adieu to all the billowy coast and the winding banks of Erne!

Farewell, Coolmore, Bundoran! and your summer crowds that run
From inland homes to see with joy the Atlantic setting sun;
To breathe the buoyant salted air, and sport among the waves;
To gather shells on sandy beach, and tempt the gloomy caves;
To watch the flowing, ebbing tide, the boats, the crabs, the fish;
Young men and maids to meet and smile, and form a tender wish;
The sick and old in search of health, for all things have their turn
And I must quit my native shore and the winding banks of Erne!

Farewell to every white cascade from the Harbour to Belleck,
And every pool where fins may rest, and ivy-shaded creek;
The sloping fields, the lofty rocks, where ash and holly grow,
The one split yew-tree gazing on the curving flood below;
The Lough that winds through islands under Turaw mountain green
And Castle Caldwell’s stretching woods, with tranquil bays between;
And Breesie Hill, and many a pond among the heath and fern
For I must say adieu - adieu to the winding banks of Erne!

The thrush will call through Camlin groves the live-long summer day;
The waters run by mossy cliff, and banks with wild flowers gay;
The girls will bring their work and sing beneath a twisted thorn,
Or stray with sweethearts down the path among the growing corn;
Along the riverside they go, where I have often been
Oh, never shall I see again the days that I have seen!
A thousand chances are to one I never may return
Adieu to Belashanny, and the winding banks of Erne!

Adieu to evening dances, where merry neighbours meet,
And the fiddle says to boys and girls “get up and shake your feet!”
To shanachies and wise old talk of Erin’s days gone by
Who trenched the rath on such a hill, and where the bones may lie
Of saint, or king, or warrior chief; with tales of fairy power,
And tender ditties sweetly sung to pass the twilight hour.
The mournful song of exile is now for me to learn
Adieu, my dear companions on the winding banks of Erne!

Now measure from the Commons down to each end of the Purt,
Round the Abbey, Moy and Knather, - I wish no one any hurt;
The Main Street, Back Street, College Lane, the Mall and Portnasun
If any foes of mine are there, I pardon every one.
I hope that man and womankind will do the same by me;
For my heart is sore and heavy at voyaging the sea.
My loving friends I’ll bear in mind, and often fondly turn
To think of Belashanny and the winding banks of Erne!

If ever I’m a money’d man, I mean, please God, to cast
My golden anchor in the place where youthful years were past;
Though heads that now are black and brown must meanwhile gather grey,
New faces rise by every breath, and old ones drop away
Yet dearer still that Irish hill than all the world beside;
It’s home, sweet home, where’er I roam, through lands and waters wide;
And if the Lord allows me I surely will return
To my native Belashanny, and the winding banks of Erne!’

Rep. in Frank O’Connor, A Book of Ireland ( 1959 & Edns.)

[ close ]

[ top ]