W. B. Yeats, ed. & sel., Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry (1888) [3]

[See Contents, supra.]

“Cusheen Loo”
Translated from the Irish by J. J. Callanan

[This song is supposed to have been sung by a young bride, who was forcibly detained in one of those forts which are so common in Ireland, and to which the good people are very fond of resorting. Under pretence of hushing her child to rest, she retired to the outside margin of the fort, and addressed the burthen of her song to a young woman whom she saw at a short distance, and whom she requested to inform her husband of her condition, and to desire him to bring the steel knife to dissolve the enchantment.] {34}

Sleep, my child! for the rustling trees,
Stirr’d by the breath of summer breeze,
And fairy songs of sweetest note,
Around us gently float.

Sleep! for the weeping flowers have shed
Their fragrant tears upon thy head,
The voice of love hath sooth’d thy rest,
And thy pillow is a mother’s breast.
                          Sleep, my child!

Weary hath pass’d the time forlorn,
Since to your mansion I was borne,
Tho’ bright the feast of its airy halls,
And the voice of mirth resounds from its walls.
                          Sleep, my child!

Full many a maid and blooming bride
Within that splendid dome abide,
And many a hoar and shrivell’d sage,
And many a matron bow’d with age.
                          Sleep, my child!

Oh! thou who hearest this song of fear,
To the mourner’s home these tidings bear.
Bid him bring the knife of the magic blade,
At whose lightning-flash the charm will fade.
                          Sleep, my child!

Haste! for tomorrow’s sun will see
The hateful spell renewed for me;
Nor can I from that home depart,
Till life shall leave my withering heart.
                          Sleep, my child!

Sleep, my child! for the rustling trees,
Stirr’d by the breath of summer breeze.
And fairy songs of sweetest note,
Around us gently float.

{35}

§

The White Trout: A Legend of Cong
S. Lover

There was wanst upon a time, long ago, a beautiful lady that lived in a castle upon the lake beyant, and they say she was promised to a king’s son, and they war to be married, when all of a sudden he was murthered, the crathur (Lord help us), and threwn into the lake above, and so, of course, he couldn’t keep his promise to the fair lady — and more’s the pity.
 Well, the story goes that she went out iv her mind, bekase av loosin’ the king’s son — for she was tendher-hearted, God help her, like the rest iv us! — and pined away after him, until at last, no one about seen her, good or bad; and the story wint that the fairies took her away.
 Well, sir, in coarse a’ time, the White Throut, God bless it, was seen in the sthrame beyant, and sure the people didn’t know what to think av the crathur, seein’ as how a white throut was never heard av afar, nor since; and years upon years the throut was there, just where you seen it this blessed minit, longer nor I can tell — aye throth, and beyant the memory a’ th’ ouldest in the village.
 At last the people began to think it must be a fairy; for what else could it be? — and no hurt nor harm was iver put an the white throut, until some wicked sinners of sojers kem to these parts, and laughed at all the people, and gibed and jeered them for thinkin’ a’ the likes; and one a’ them in partic’lar (bad luck to him; God forgi’ me for saying it!) swore he’d catch the throut and ate it for his dinner — the blackguard!
 Well, what would you think o’ the villainy of the sojer? Sure enough he catch the throut, and away wid him home, and puts an the fryin’-pan, and into it he pitches the purty little thing. The throut squeeled all as one as a christian crathur, and, my dear, you’d think the sojer id split his {36} sides laughin’ — for he was a harden’d villain; and when he thought one side was done, he turns it over to fry the other; and, what would you think, but the divil a taste of a burn was an it all at all; and sure the sojer thought it was a quare throut that could not be briled. “But,” says he, ’I’ll give it another turn by-and-by,” little thinkin’ what was in store for him, the haythen.
 Well, when he thought that side was done he turns it agin, and lo and behould you, the divil a taste more done that side was nor the other. “Bad luck to me,” says the sojer, “but that bates the world,” says he; “but I’ll thry you agin, my darlint,” says he, “as cunnin’ as you think yourself;” and so with that he turns it over, but not a sign of the fire was on the purty throut. “Well,” says the desperate villain — (for sure, sir, only he was a desperate villain entirely, he might know he was doing a wrong thing, seein’ that all his endeavours was no good) — “Well,” says he, “my jolly little throut, maybe you’re fried enough, though you don’t seem over well dress’d; but you may be better than you look, like a singed cat, and a tit-bit afther all,” says he; and with that he ups with his knife and fork to taste a piece a’ the throut; but, my jew’l, the minit he puts his knife into the fish, there was a murtherin’ screech, that you’d think the life id lave you if you hurd it, and away jumps the throut out av the fryin’-pan into the middle a’ the flure; and an the spot where it fell, up riz a lovely lady — the beautifullest crathur that eyes ever seen, dressed in white, and a band a’ goold in her hair, and a sthrame a’ blood runnin’ down her arm.
 “Look where you cut me, you villain,” says she, and she held out her arm to him — and, my dear, he thought the sight id lave his eyes.
 “Couldn’t you lave me cool and comfortable in the river where you snared me, and not disturb me in my duty?” says she.
 Well, he thrimbled like a dog in a wet sack, and at last he stammered out somethin’, and begged for his life, and ax’d her ladyship’s pardin, and said he didn’t know she was {37 on duty, or he was too good a sojer not to know betther nor to meddle wid her.
 “I was on duty, then,” says the lady; “I was watchin’ for my true love that is comin’ by wather to me,” says she, “an’ if he comes while I’m away, an’ that I miss iv him, I’ll turn you into a pinkeen, and I’ll hunt you up and down for evermore, while grass grows or wather runs.”
 Well the sojer thought the life id lave him, at the thoughts iv his bein’ turned into a pinkeen, and begged for mercy; and with that says the lady —
 “Renounce your evil coorses,” says she, “you villain, or you’ll repint it too late; be a good man for the futhur, and go to your duty [5] reg’lar, and now,” says she, “take me back and put me into the river again, where you found me.”
 “Oh, my lady,” says the sojer, “how could I have the heart to drownd a beautiful lady like you?”
 But before he could say another word, the lady was vanished, and there he saw the little throut an the ground. Well he put it in a clean plate, and away he runs for the bare life, for fear her lover would come while she was away; and he run, and he run, even till he came to the cave agin, and threw the throut into the river. The minit he did, the wather was as red as blood for a little while, by rayson av the cut, I suppose, until the sthrame washed the stain away; and to this day there’s a little red mark an the throut’s side, where it was cut. [6]
 Well, sir, from that day out the sojer was an altered man, and reformed his ways, and went to his duty reg’lar, and fasted three times a-week-though it was never fish he tuk an fastin’ days, for afther the fright he got, fish id never rest an his stomach — savin’ your presence.
 But anyhow, he was an altered man, as I said before, and in coorse o’ time he left the army, and turned hermit at last; and they say he used to pray evermore for the soul of the White Throut. {38}

 [These trout stories are common all over Ireland. Many holy wells are haunted by such blessed trout. There is a trout in a well on the border of Lough Gill, Sligo, that some paganish person put once on the gridiron. It carries the marks to this day. Long ago, the saint who sanctified the well put that trout there. Nowadays it is only visible to the pious, who have done due penance.]

§

 

“The Fairy Thorn” — An Ulster Ballad
Sir Samuel Ferguson

“Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning-wheel;
For your father’s on the hill, and your mother is asleep;
Come up above the crags, and we’ll dance a
       highland-reel
 Around the fairy thorn on the steep.”

At Anna Grace’s door ’twas thus the maidens cried,
Three merry maidens fair in kirtles of the green;
And Anna laid the rock and the weary wheel        aside,
 The fairest of the four, I ween.

They’re glancing through the glimmer of the
      quiet eve,
Away in milky wavings of neck and ankle
       bare;
The heavy-sliding stream in its sleepy song
       they leave,
And the crags in the ghostly air:

And linking hand in hand, and singing as they
      go,
The maids along the hill-side have ta’en their
      fearless way,
Till they come to where the rowan trees in
      lonely beauty grow
 Beside the Fairy Hawthorn grey. {39}

The Hawthorn stands between the ashes tall        and slim,
Like matron with her twin grand-daughters
      at her knee;
The rowan berries cluster o’er her low head
      grey and dim
In ruddy kisses sweet to see.

The merry maidens four have ranged them in
      a row,
Between each lovely couple a stately rowan
     stem,
And away in mazes wavy, like skimming birds
      they go,
Oh, never caroll’d bird like them!

But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze
That drinks away their voices in echoless
      repose,
And dreamily the evening has still’d the
      haunted braes,
And dreamier the gloaming grows.

And sinking one by one, like lark-notes from
    the sky
When the falcon’s shadow saileth across the
      open shaw,
Are hush’d the maiden’s voices, as cowering
      down they lie
In the flutter of their sudden awe.

For, from the air above, the grassy ground
      beneath,
And from the mountain-ashes and the old
      Whitethorn between,

A Power of faint enchantment doth through
      their beings breathe,
And they sink down together on the green.

They sink together silent, and stealing side
      by side,
They fling their lovely arms o’er their drooping
      necks so fair,
Then vainly strive again their naked arms to
      hide,
For their shrinking necks again are bare.

Thus clasp’d and prostrate all, with their
      heads together bow’d,
Soft o’er their bosom’s beating — the only
      human sound —
They hear the silky footsteps of the silent
      fairy crowd,
Like a river in the air, gliding round. {40}

No scream can any raise, no prayer can any
      say,
But wild, wild, the terror of the speechless
      three —
For they feel fair Anna Grace drawn silently
      away,
By whom they dare not look to see.

They feel their tresses twine with her parting
      locks of gold
And the curls elastic falling as her head
       withdraws;
They feel her sliding arms from their tranced
       arms unfold,
But they may not look to see the cause:

For heavy on their senses the faint
       enchantment lies
Through all that night of anguish and perilous
       amaze;
And neither fear nor wonder can ope their
       quivering eyes,
Or their limbs from the cold ground raise,

Till out of night the earth has roll’d her dewy
       side,
With every haunted mountain and streamy
       vale below;
When, as the mist dissolves in the yellow
       morning tide,
The maidens’ trance dissolveth go.

Then fly the ghastly three as swiftly as they
       may,
And tell their tale of sorrow to anxious friends
       in vain —
They pined away and died within the year
       and day,
 And ne’er was Anna Grace seen again.

§

The Legend of Knockgrafton
T. Crofton Croker

There was once a poor man who lived in the fertile glen of Aherlow, at the foot of the gloomy Galtee mountains, and he had a great hump on his back: he looked just as if his body had been rolled up and placed upon his shoulders; and his head was pressed down with the weight so much that his chin, when he was sitting, used to rest upon his knees for support. The country people were rather shy of {41} meeting him in any lonesome place, for though, poor creature, he was as harmless and as inoffensive as a new-born infant, yet his deformity was so great that he scarcely appeared to be a human creature, and some ill-minded persons had set strange stories about him afloat. He was said to have a great knowledge of herbs and charms; but certain it was that he had a mighty skilful hand in plaiting straws and rushes into hats and baskets, which was the way he made his livelihood.
 Lusmore, for that was the nickname put upon him by reason of his always wearing a sprig of the fairy cap, or lusmore (the foxglove), in his little straw hat, would ever get a higher penny for his plaited work than any one else and perhaps that was the reason why some one, out of envy, had circulated the strange stories about him. Be that as it may, it happened that he was returning one evening from the pretty town of Cahir towards Cappagh, and as little Lusmore walked very slowly, on account of the great hump upon his back, it was quite dark when he came to the old moat of Knockgrafton, which stood on the right-hand side of his road. Tired and weary was he, and noways comfortable in his own mind at thinking how much farther he had to travel, and that he should be walking all the night; so he sat down under the moat to rest himself, and began looking mournfully enough upon the moon, which —

 “Rising in clouded majesty, at length
Apparent Queen, unveil’d her peerless light,
And o’er the dark her silver mantle threw”.

 Presently there rose a wild strain of unearthly melody upon the ear of little Lusmore; he listened, and he thought that he had never heard such ravishing music before. It was like the sound of many voices, each mingling and blending with the other so strangely that they seemed to be one, though all singing different strains, and the words of the song were these —

Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort {42}

when there would be a moment’s pause, and then the round of melody went on again.
 Lusmore listened attentively, scarcely drawing his breath lest he might lose the slightest note. He now plainly perceived that the singing was within the moat; and though at first it had charmed him so much, he began to get tired of hearing the same sound sung over and over so often without any change; so availing himself of the pause when Da Luan, Da Mort, had been sung three times, he took up the tune, and raised it with the words augus Da Dardeen, and then went on singing with the voices inside of the moat, Da Luan, Da Mort, finishing the melody, when the pause again came, with augus Da Dardeen.
 The fairies within Knockgrafton, for the song was a fairy melody, when they heard this addition to the tune, were so much delighted that, with instant resolve, it was determined to bring the mortal among them, whose musical skiff so far exceeded theirs, and little Lusmore was conveyed into their company with the eddying speed of a whirlwind.
 Glorious to behold was the sight that burst upon him as he came down through the moat, twirling round and round, with the lightness of a straw, to the sweetest music that kept time to his motion. The greatest honour was then paid him, for he was put above all the musicians, and he had servants tending upon him, and everything to his heart’s content, and a hearty welcome to all; and, in short, he was made as much of as if he had been the first man in the land.
 Presently Lusmore saw a great consultation going forward among the fairies, and, notwithstanding all their civility, he felt very much frightened, until one stepping out from the rest came up to him and said —

“Lusmore! Lusmore!
Doubt not, nor deplore,
For the hump which you bore
On your back is no more;
The Trooping Fairies
Look down on the floor,
And view it, Lusmore!” {43}

 When these words were said, poor little Lusmore felt himself so light, and so happy, that he thought he could have bounded at one jump over the moon, like the cow in the history of the cat and the fiddle; and he saw, with inexpressible pleasure, his hump tumble down upon the ground from his shoulders. He then tried to lift up his head, and he did so with becoming caution, fearing that he might knock it against the ceiling of the grand hall, where he was; he looked round and round again with the greatest wonder and delight upon everything, which appeared more and more beautiful; and, overpowered at beholding such a resplendent scene, his head grew dizzy, and his eyesight became dim. At last he fell, into a sound sleep, and when he awoke he found it was broad daylight, the sun shining brightly, and the birds singing sweetly; and that he was lying just at the foot of the moat of Knockgrafton, with the cows and sheep grazing peaceably round about him. The first thing Lusmore did, after saying his prayers, was to put his hand behind to feel for his hump, but no sign of one was there on his back, and he looked at himself with great pride, for he had now become a well-shaped dapper little fellow, and more than that, found himself in a full suit of new clothes, which he concluded the fairies had made for him.
 Towards Cappagh he went, stepping out as lightly, and springing up at every step as if he had been all his life a dancing-master. Not a creature who met Lusmore knew him without his hump, and he had a great work to persuade every one that he was the same man — in truth he was not, so far as the outward appearance went.
 Of course it was not long before the story of Lusmore’s hump got about, and a great wonder was made of it. Through the country, for miles round, it was the talk of every one high and low.
 One morning, as Lusmore was sitting contented enough at his cabin door, up came an old woman to him, and asked him if he could direct her to Cappagh.
 “I need give you no directions, my good woman,” said {44} Lusmore, “for this is Cappagh; and whom may you want here?”
 “I have come,” said the woman, “out of Decie’s country, in the county of Waterford, looking after one Lusmore, who, I have heard tell, had his hump taken off by the fairies; for there is a son of a gossip of mine who has got a hump on him that will be his death; and maybe, if he could use the. same charm as Lusmore, the hump may be taken off him. And now I have told you the reason of my coming so far: ’tis to find out about this charm, if I can.”
 Lusmore, who was ever a good-natured little fellow, told the woman all the particulars, how he had raised the tune for the fairies at Knockgrafton, how his hump had been removed from his shoulders, and how he had got a new suit of clothes into the bargain.
 The woman thanked him very much, and then went away quite happy and easy in her mind. When she came back to her gossip’s house, in the county of Waterford, she told her everything that Lusmore had said, and they put the little hump-backed man, who was a peevish and cunning creature from his birth, upon a car, and took him all the way across the country. It was a long journey, but they did not care for that, so the hump was taken from off him; and they brought him, just at nightfall, and left him under the old moat of Knockgrafton.
 Jack Madden, for that was the humpy man’s name, had not been sitting there long when he heard the tune going on within the moat much sweeter than before; for the fairies were singing it the way Lusmore had settled their music for them, and the song was going on: Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, augus Da Dardeen, without ever stopping. Jack Madden, who was in a great hurry to get quit of his hump, never thought of waiting until the fairies had done, or watching for a fit opportunity to raise the tune higher again than Lusmore had; so having heard them sing it over seven times without stopping, out he bawls, never minding the time or the humour {45} of the tune, or how he could bring his words in properly, augus Da Dardeen, augus Da Hena, thinking that if one day was good two were better; and that if Lusmore had one new suit of clothes given him, he should have two.
 No sooner had the words passed his lips than he was taken up and whisked into the moat with prodigious force; and the fairies came crowding round him with great anger, screeching and screaming, and roaring out, “Who spoiled our tune? who spoiled our tune?” and one stepped up to him above all the rest, and said —

“Jack Madden! Jack Madden!
Your words came so bad in
The tune we felt glad in; —
This castle you’re had in,
That your life we may sadden;
Here’s two humps for Jack Madden!”

And twenty of the strongest fairies brought Lusmore’s hump, and put it down upon poor Jack’s back, over his own, where it became fixed as firmly as if it was nailed on with twelve-penny nails, by the best carpenter that ever drove one. Out of their castle they then kicked him; and in the morning, when Jack Madden’s mother and her gossip came to look after their little man, they found him half dead, lying at the foot of the moat, with the other hump upon his back. Well to be sure, how they did look at each other! but they were afraid to say anything, lest a hump might be put upon their own shoulders. Home they brought the unlucky Jack Madden with them, as downcast in their hearts and their looks as ever two gossips were; and what through the weight of his other hump, and the long journey, he died soon after, leaving, they say, his heavy curse to any one who would go to listen to fairy tunes again.

§

 {46}

A Donegal Fairy
Miss Letitia MacClintock

Ay, it’s a bad thing to displeasure the gentry, sure enough — they can be unfriendly if they’re angered, an’ they can be the very best o’ gude neighbours if they’re treated kindly.
  My mother’s sister was her lone in the house one day, wi’ a big pot o’ water boiling on the fire, and ane o’ the wee folk fell down the chimney, and slipped wi’ his leg in the hot water.
 He let a terrible squeal out o’ him, an’ in a minute the house was full o’ wee crathurs pulling him out o’ the pot, an’ carrying him across the floor.
 “Did she scald you?” my aunt heard them saying to him.
 “Na, na, it was mysel’ scalded my ainsel’,” quoth the wee fellow.
 “A weel, a weel,” says they. “If it was your ainsel scalded yoursel’, we’ll say nothing, but if she had scalded you, we’d ha’ made her pay.”

{47}

§

THE TROOPING FAIRIES

Changlings

Sometimes the fairies fancy mortals, and carry them away into their own country, leaving instead some sickly fairy child, or a log of wood so bewitched that it seems to be a mortal pining away, and dying, and being buried. Most commonly they steal children. If you “over look a child”, that is look on it with envy, the fairies have it in their power. Many things can be done to find out if a child’s a changeling, but there is one infallible thing — lay it on the fire with this formula, “Burn, burn, burn — if of the devil, burn; but if of God and the saints, be safe from harm” (given by Lady Wilde). Then if it be a changeling it will rush up the chimney with a cry, for, according to Giraldus Cambrensis, “fire is the greatest of enemies to every sort of phantom, in so much that those who have seen apparitions fall into a swoon as soon as they are sensible of the brightness of fire”.
 Sometimes the creature is got rid of in a more gentle way. It is on record that once when a mother was leaning over a wizened changeling the latch lifted and a fairy came in, carrying home again the wholesome stolen baby. “It was the others,” she said, “who stole it.” As for her, she wanted her own child.
 Those who are carried away are happy, according to some accounts, having plenty of good living and music and mirth. Others say, however, that they are continually longing for their earthly friends. Lady Wilde gives a gloomy tradition that there are two kinds of fairies — one kind merry and gentle, the other evil, and sacrificing every year a life to Satan, for which purpose they steal mortals. No other Irish writer gives this tradition — if such fairies there be, they must be among the solitary spirits — Pookas, Fir Darrigs, and the like.

{48}

The Brewery of Egg-shells
T. Crofton Croker

Mrs. Sullivan fancied that her youngest child had been exchanged by “fairies theft”, and certainly appearances warranted such a conclusion; for in one night her healthy, blue-eyed boy had become shrivelled up into almost nothing, and never ceased squalling and crying. This naturally made poor Mrs. Sullivan very unhappy; and all the neighbours, by way of comforting her, said that her own child was, beyond any kind of doubt, with the good people, and that one of themselves was put in his place.
 Mrs. Sullivan of course could not disbelieve what every one told her, but she did not wish to hurt the thing; for although its face was so withered, and its body wasted away to a mere skeleton, it had still a strong resemblance to her own boy. She, therefore, could not find it in her heart to roast it alive on the griddle, or to bum its nose off with the red-hot tongs, or to throw it out in the snow on the road-side, notwithstanding these, and several like proceedings, were strongly recommended to her for the recovery of her child.
 One day who should Mrs. Sullivan meet but a cunning woman, well known about the country by the name of Ellen Leah (or Grey Ellen). She had the gift, however she got it, of telling where the dead were, and what was good for the rest of their souls; and could charm away warts and wens, and do a great many wonderful things of the same nature.
 “You’re in grief this morning, Mrs. Sullivan,” were the first words of Ellen Leah to her.
 “You may say that, Ellen,” said Mrs. Sullivan, “and good cause I have to be in grief, for there was my own fine child whipped off from me out of his cradle, without as much as “by your leave’ or ’ask your pardon’, and an ugly dony bit of a shrivelled-up fairy put in his place; no wonder, then, that you see me in grief, Ellen.” {49}
 “Small blame to you, Mrs. Sullivan,” said Ellen Leah, “but are you sure ’tis a fairy?”
 “Sure!” echoed Mrs. Sullivan, “sure enough I am to my sorrow, and can I doubt my own two eyes? Every mother’s soul must feel for me!”
 “Will you take an old woman’s advice?” said Ellen Leah, fixing her wild and mysterious gaze upon the unhappy mother; and, after a pause, she added, “but maybe you’ll call it foolish?”
 “Can you get me back my child, my own child, Ellen?” said Mrs. Sullivan with great energy.
 “If you do as I bid you,” returned Ellen Leah, “you’ll know.” Mrs. Sullivan was silent in expectation, and Ellen continued, “Put down the big pot, full of water, on the fire, and make it boil like mad; then got a dozen new-laid eggs, break them, and keep the shells, but throw away the rest; when that is done, put the shells in the pot of boiling water, and you will soon know whether it is your own boy or a fairy. If you find that it is a fairy in the cradle, take the red-hot poker and cram it down his ugly throat, and you will not have much trouble with him after that I promise you.”
 Home went Mrs. Sullivan, and did as Ellen Leah desired. She put the pot on the fire, and plenty of turf under it, and set the water boiling at such a rate, that if ever water was red-hot, it surely was.
 The child was lying, for a wonder, quite easy and quiet in the cradle, every now and then cocking his eye, that would twinkle as keen as a star in a frosty night, over at the great fire, and the big pot upon it; and he looked on with great attention at Mrs. Sullivan breaking the eggs and putting down the egg-shells to boil. At last he asked, with the voice of a very old man, “What are you doing mammy?”
 Mrs. Sullivan’s heart, as she said herself, was up in her mouth ready to choke her, at hearing the child speak. But she contrived to put the poker in the fire, and to answer, without making any wonder at the words, “I’m brewing, a vick” (my son). {20}
 “And what are you brewing, mammy?” said the little imp, whose supernatural gift of speech now proved beyond question that he was a fairy substitute.
 “I wish the poker was red,” thought Mrs. Sullivan; but it was a large one, and took a long time heating; so she determined to keep him in talk until the poker was in a proper state to thrust down his throat, and therefore repeated the question.
 “Is it what I’m brewing, a vick,” said she, “you want to know?”
 “Yes, mammy: what are you brewing?” returned the fairy.
 “Egg-shells, a vick,” said Mrs. Sullivan.
 “Oh!” shrieked the imp, starting up in the cradle, and clapping his hands together, “I’m fifteen hundred years in the world, and I never saw a brewery of egg-shells before!” The poker was by this time quite red, and Mrs. Sullivan, seizing it, ran furiously towards the cradle; but somehow or other her foot slipped, and she fell flat on the floor, and the poker flew out of her hand to the other end of the house. However, she got up without much loss of time and went to the cradle, intending to pitch the wicked thing that was in it into the pot of boiling water, when there she saw her own child in a sweet sleep, one of his soft round arms rested upon the pillow — his features were as placid as if their repose had never been disturbed, save the rosy mouth, which moved with a gentle and regular breathing.

§

“The Fairy Nurse”
by Edward Walsh
 

Sweet babe! a golden cradle holds thee,
And soft the snow-white fleece enfolds thee;
In airy bower I’ll watch thy sleeping,
Where branchy trees to the breeze are sweeping.
                   Shuheen, sho, lulo lo!

When mothers languish broken-hearted,
When young wives are from husbands parted,
Ah! little think the keeners lonely,
They weep some time-worn fairy only.
                   Shuheen, sho, lulo lo!

Within our magic halls of brightness,
Trips many a foot of snowy whiteness;
Stolen maidens, queens of fairy —
And kings and chiefs a sluagh-shee airy,
                   Shuheen, sho, lulo lo!

Rest thee, babe! I love thee dearly,
And as thy mortal mother nearly;
Ours is the swiftest steed and proudest,
That moves where the tramp of the host is loudest.
                   Shuheen, sho, lulo lo!

Rest thee, babe! for soon thy slumbers
Shall flee at the magic koelshie’s numbers; [7]
In airy bower I’ll watch thy sleeping,
Where branchy trees to the breeze are sweeping.
                   Shuheen, sho, lulo lo!


§

 

Jamie Freel and the Young Lady
A Donegal Tale
Miss Letitia MacClintock

Down in Fannet, in times gone by, lived Jamie Freel and his mother. Jamie was the widow’s sole support; his strong arm worked for her untiringly, and as each Saturday night came round, he poured his wages into her lap, thanking her dutifully for the halfpence which she returned him for tobacco.
 He was extolled by his neighbours as the best son ever known or heard of. But he had neighbours, of whose opinion he was ignorant — neighbours who lived pretty close to him, whom he had never seen, who are, indeed, rarely seen by mortals, except on May eves and Halloweens.
 An old ruined castle, about a quarter of a mile from his cabin, was said to be the abode of the “wee folk”. Every Halloween were the ancient windows lighted up, and passers-by saw little figures flitting to and fro inside the building, while they heard the music of pipes and flutes.
 It was well known that fairy revels took place; but nobody had the courage to intrude on them.
 Jamie had often watched the little figures from a distance, and listened to the charming music, wondering what the inside of the castle was like; but one Halloween he got up and took his cap, saying to his mother, “I’m awa’ to the castle to seek my fortune.”
 “What!” cried she, “would you venture there? you that’s the poor widow’s one son! Dinna be sae venturesome an’ foolitch, Jamie! They’ll kill you, an’ then what’ll come o’ me?”
 “Never fear, mother; nae harm ’ill happen me, but I maun gae.”
 He set out, and as he crossed the potato-field, came in sight of the castle, whose windows were ablaze with light, that seemed to turn the russet leaves, still clinging to the crabtree branches, into gold. {53}
 Halting in the grove at one side of the ruin, he listened to the elfin revelry, and the laughter and singing made him all the more determined to proceed.
 Numbers of little people, the largest about the size of a child of five years old, were dancing to the music of flutes and fiddles, while others drank and feasted.
 “Welcome, Jamie Freel! welcome, welcome, Jamie!” cried the company, perceiving their visitor. The word “Welcome” was caught up and repeated by every voice in the castle.
 Time flew, and Jamie was enjoying himself very much, when his hosts said, “We’re going to ride to Dublin tonight to steal a young lady. Will you come too, Jamie Freel?”
 “Aye, that will I!” cried the rash youth, thirsting for adventure.
 A troop of horses stood at the door. Jamie mounted and his steed rose with him into the air. He was presently flying over his mother’s cottage, surrounded by the elfin troop, and on and on they went, over bold mountains, over little hills, over the deep Lough Swilley, over towns and cottages, when people were burning nuts, and eating apples, and keeping merry Halloween. It seemed to Jamie that they flew all round Ireland before they got to Dublin.
 “This is Derry,” said the fairies, flying over the cathedral spire; and what was said by one voice was repeated by all the rest, till fifty little voices were crying out, “Derry! Derry! Derry!”
 In like manner was Jamie informed as they passed over each town on the route, and at length he heard the silvery voices cry, “Dublin! Dublin!”
 It was no mean dwelling that was to be honoured by the fairy visit, but one of the finest houses in Stephen’s Green.
 The troop dismounted near a window, and Jamie saw a beautiful face, on a pillow in a splendid bed. He saw the young lady lifted and carried away, while the stick which was dropped in her place on the bed took her exact form. {54}
 The lady was placed before one rider and carried a short way, then given another, and the names of the towns were cried out as before.
 They were approaching home. Jamie heard “Rathmullan”, “Milford”, “Tamney”, and then he knew they were near his own house.
 “You’ve all had your turn at carrying the young lady,” said he. “Why wouldn’t I get her for a wee piece?”
 “Ay, Jamie,” replied they, pleasantly, “you may take your turn at carrying her, to be sure.”
 Holding his prize very tightly, he dropped down near his mother’s door.
 “Jamie Freel, Jamie Freel! is that the way you treat us?” cried they, and they too dropped down near the door.
 Jamie held fast, though he knew not what he was holding, for the little folk turned the lady into all sorts of strange shapes. At one moment she was a black dog, barking and trying to bite; at another, a glowing bar of iron, which yet had no heat; then, again, a sack of wool.
 But still Jamie held her, and the baffled elves were turning away, when a tiny woman, the smallest of the party, exclaimed, “Jamie Freel has her awa’ frae us, but he sall hae nae gude o’ her, for I’ll mak’ her deaf and dumb,” and she threw something over the young girl.
 While they rode off disappointed, Jamie lifted the latch and went in.
 “Jamie, man!” cried his mother, “You’ve been awa’ all night; what have they done on you?”
 “Naething bad, mother; I ha’ the very best of gude luck. Here’s a beautiful young lady I ha’ brought you for company.”
 “Bless us an’ save us!” exclaimed the mother, and for some minutes she was so astonished that she could not think of anything else to say.
 Jamie told his story of the night’s adventure, ending by saying, “Surely you wouldna have allowed me to let her gang with them to be lost forever?” {55}
 “But a lady, Jamie! How can a lady eat we’er poor diet, and live in we’er poor way? I ax you that, you foolitch fellow?”
 “Weel, mother, sure it’s better for her to be here nor over yonder,” and he pointed in the direction of the castle.
 Meanwhile, the deaf and dumb girl shivered in her light clothing, stepping close to the humble turf fire.
 “Poor crathur, she’s quare and handsome! Nae wonder they set their hearts on her,” said the old woman, gazing at her guest with pity and admiration. “We maun dress her first; but what, in the name o’ fortune, hae I fit for the likes o’ her to wear?”
 She went to her press in “the room”, and took out her Sunday gown of brown drugget; she then opened a drawer and drew forth a pair of white stockings, a long snowy garment of fine linen, and a cap, her “dead dress”, as she called it.
 These articles of attire had long been ready for a certain triste ceremony, in which she would some day fill the chief part, and only saw the light occasionally, when they were hung out to air; but she was willing to give even these to the fair trembling visitor, who was turning in dumb sorrow and wonder from her to Jamie, and from Jamie back to her.
 The poor girl suffered herself to be dressed, and then sat down on a “creepie” in the chimney corner, and buried her face in her hands.
 “What’ll we do to keep up a lady like thou?” cried the old woman.
 “I’ll work for you both, mother,” replied the son.
 “An’ how could a lady live on we’er poor diet?” she repeated.
 “I’ll work for her,” was all Jamie’s answer.
 He kept his word. The young lady was very sad for a long time, and tears stole down her checks many an evening while the old woman spun by the fire, and Jamie made salmon nets, an accomplishment lately acquired by him, in hopes of adding to the comfort of his guest. {56}
 But she was always gentle, and tried to smile when she perceived them looking at her; and by degrees she adapted herself to their ways and mode of life. It was not very long before she began to feed the pig, mash potatoes and meal for the fowls, and knit blue worsted socks.
 So a year passed, and Halloween came round again. “Mother,” said Jamie, taking down his cap, “I’m off to the ould castle to seek my fortune.”
 “Are you mad, Jamie?” cried his mother, in terror; “sure they’ll kill you this time for what you done on them last year.”’
 Jamie made light of her fears and went his way.
 As he reached the crab-tree grove, he saw bright lights in the castle windows as before, and heard loud talking. Creeping under the window, he heard the wee folk say, “That was a poor trick Jamie Freel played us this night last year, when he stole the nice young lady from us.”
 “Ay,” said the tiny woman, “an’ I punished him for it, for there she sits, a dumb image by his hearth; but he does na’ know that three drops out o’ this glass I hold in my hand wad gi’e her her hearing and her speeches back again.”
 Jamie’s heart beat fast as he entered the hall. Again he was greeted by a chorus of welcomes from the company — “Here comes Jamie Freel! welcome, welcome, Jamie!”
 As soon as the tumult subsided, the little woman said, “You be to drink our health, Jamie, out o’ this glass in my hand.”
 Jamie snatched the glass from her and darted to the door. He never knew how he reached his cabin, but he arrived there breathless, and sank on a stove by the fire.
 “You’re kilt surely this time, my poor boy,” said his mother.
 “No, indeed, better luck than ever this time!” and he gave the lady three drops of the liquid that still remained at the bottom of the glass, notwithstanding his mad race over the potato-field. {57}
 The lady began to speak, and her first words were words of thanks to Jamie.
 The three inmates of the cabin had so much to say to one another, that long after cock-crow, when the fairy music had quite ceased, they were talking round the fire.
 “Jamie,” said the lady, “be pleased to get me paper and pen and ink, that I may write to my father, and tell him what has become of me.”
 She wrote, but weeks passed, and she received no answer. Again and again she wrote, and still no answer.
 At length she said, “You must come with me to Dublin, Jamie, to find my father.”
 “I ha’ no money to hire a car for you,” he replied, “an’ how can you travel to Dublin on your foot?”
 But she implored him so much that he consented to set out with her, and walk all the way from Fannet to Dublin. It was not as easy as the fairy journey; but at last they rang the bell at the door of the house in Stephen’s Green.
 “Tell my father that his daughter is here,” said she to the servant who opened the door.
 “The gentleman that lives here has no daughter, my girl. He had one, but she died better nor a year ago.”
 “Do you not know me, Sullivan?”
 “No, poor girl, I do not.”
 “Let me see the gentleman. I only ask to see him.”
 “Well, that’s not much to ax; we’ll see what can be done.”
 In a few moments the lady’s father came to the door.
 “Dear father,” said she, “don’t you know me?”
 “How dare you call me father?” cried the old gentleman, angrily. “You are an impostor. I have no daughter.”
 “Look in my face, father, and surely you’ll remember me.”
 “My daughter is dead and buried. She died a long, long time ago.” The old gentleman’s voice changed from anger to sorrow. “You can go,” he concluded. {58}
 “Stop, dear father, till you look at this ring on my finger. Look at your name and mine engraved on it.”
 “It certainly is my daughter’s ring; but I do not know how you came by it I fear in no honest way.”
 “Call my mother, she will be sure to know me,” said the poor girl, who, by this time, was crying bitterly.
 “My poor wife is beginning to forget her sorrow. She seldom speaks of her daughter now. Why should I renew her grief by reminding her of her loss?”
 But the young lady persevered, till at last the mother was sent for.
 “Mother,” she began, when the old lady came to the door, “don’t you know your daughter?”
 “I have no daughter; my daughter died and was buried a long, long time ago.”
 “Only look in my face, and surely you’ll know me.”
 The old lady shook her head.
 “You have all forgotten me; but look at this mole on my neck. Surely, mother, you know me now?”
 “Yes, yes,” said the mother, “my Gracie had a mole on her neck like that; but then I saw her in her coffin, and saw the lid shut down upon her.”
 It became Jamie’s turn to speak, and he gave the history of the fairy journey, of the theft of the young lady, of the figure he had seen laid in its place, of her life with his mother in Fannet, of last Halloween, and of the three drops that had released her from her enchantment.
 She took up the story when he paused, and told how kind the mother and son had been to her.
 The parents could not make enough of Jamie. They treated him with every distinction, and when he expressed his wish to return to Fannet, said they did not know what to, do to show their gratitude.
 But an awkward complication arose. The daughter would not let him go without her. “If Jamie goes, I’ll go too,” she said. “He saved me from the fairies, and has worked for me ever since. If it had not been for him, dear {59} father and mother, you would never have seen me again. If he goes, I’ll go too.”
 This being her resolution, the old gentleman said that Jamie should become his son-in-law. The mother was brought from Fannet in a coach and four, and there was a splendid wedding.
 They all lived together in the grand Dublin house, and Jamie was heir to untold wealth at his father-in-law’s death. 

§

 

“The Stolen Child”
W. B. Yeats

Where dips the rocky highland
   Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
   Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats.
There we’ve hid our fairy vats
Full of berries,
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
            you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
   The dim grey sands with light,
Far off by farthest Rosses
   We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands, and mingling glances,
   Till the moon has taken flight; {60}
To and fro we leap,
   And chase the frothy bubbles,
   While the world is full of troubles
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
            you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
   From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes,
   That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout,
   And whispering in their ears;
     We give them evil dreams,
Leaning softly out
   From ferns that drop their tears
     Of dew on the young streams.
Come! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping then
            you can understand.

Away with us, he’s going,
   The solemn-eyed;
He’ll hear no more the lowing
   Of the calves on the warm hill-side.
Or the kettle on the hob
   Sing peace into his breast;
Or see the brown mice bob
   Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than
            he can understand.

 

§


Notes
5. The Irish peasant calls his attendance at the confessional “going to his duty”.
6. The fish has really a red spot on its side.
7. Ceól-sidhe — i.e., fairy music.


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