The Celtic Twilight eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 120 pages of information about The Celtic Twilight.

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

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The Celtic Twilight from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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