Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
 
19. The Ballad of Father Gilligan
 
By William Butler Yeats
 
 
THE old priest, Peter Gilligan,
Was weary night and day;
For half his flock were in their beds,
Or under green sods lay.
 
Once, while he nodded on a chair,        5
At the moth-hour of eve,
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.
 
“I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die”;        10
And after cried he, “God forgive!
My body spake, not I!”
 
He knelt, and leaning on the chair
He prayed and fell asleep,
And the moth-hour went from the fields,        15
And stars began to peep.
 
They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind,
And God covered the world with shade,
And whispered to mankind.        20
 
Upon the time of sparrow chirp
When the moths come once more,
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
Stood upright on the floor.
 
“Mavrone, mavrone! the man has died,        25
While I slept on the chair.”
He roused his horse out of its sleep,
And rode with little care.
 
He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;        30
The sick man’s wife opened the door:
“Father! you come again.”
 
“And is the poor man dead?” he cried.
“He died an hour ago.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,        35
In grief swayed to and fro.
 
“When you were gone, he turned and died
As merry as a bird.”
The old priest, Peter Gilligan,
He knelt him at that word.        40
 
“He who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of His great angels down
To help me in my need.
 
“He who is wrapped in purple robes,        45
With planets in His care,
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.”
 

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