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Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
 
57. The Woman of Beare
 
By Stephen Gwynn (Translated)
 
 
EBBING, the wave of the sea
Leaves, where it wantoned before
Wan and naked the shore,
Heavy the clotted weed.
And my heart, woe is me!        5
Ebbs a wave of the sea.
 
I am the woman of Beare.
Foul am I that was fair,
Gold-embroidered smocks I had,
Now in rags am hardly clad.        10
 
Arms, now so poor and thin,
Staring bone and shrunken skin,
Once were lustrous, once caressed
Chiefs and warriors to their rest.
 
Not the sage’s power, nor lone        15
Splendour of an aged throne,
Wealth I envy not, nor state.
Only women folk I hate.
 
On your heads, while I am cold,
Shines the sun of living gold        20
Flowers shall wreathe your necks in May:
For me, every month is grey.
 
Yours the bloom: but ours the fire,
Even out of dead desire.
Wealth, not men, ye love; but when        25
Life was in us, we loved men.
 
Fair the men, and wild the manes
Of their coursers on the plains;
Wild the chariots rocked, when we
Raced by them for mastery.        30
 
Lone is Femen: Vacant, bare
Stands in Bregon Ronan’s chair.
And the slow tooth of the sky
Frets the stones where my dead lie.
 
The wave of the great sea talks;        35
Through the forest winter stalks;
Not to-day by wood and sea
Comes King Diarmuid here to me.
 
I know what my King does.
Through the shivering reeds, across        40
Fords no mortal strength may breast,
He rows—to how chill a rest!
 
Amen, Time ends all.
Every acorn has to fall.
Bright at feasts the candles were,        45
Dark is here the house of prayer.
 
I, that when the hour was mine
Drank with kings the mead and wine,
Drink whey-water now, in rags
Praying among shrivelled hags.        50
 
Amen, let my drink be whey,
Let me do God’s wil all day—
And, as upon God I call,
Turn my blood to angry gall.
 
Ebb, flood, and ebb: I know        55
Well the ebb, and well the flow,
And the second ebb, all three—
Have they not come home to me!
 
Came the flood that had for waves
Monarchs, mad to be my slaves,        60
Crested as by foam with bounds
Of wild steeds and leaping hounds.
 
Comes no more that flooding tide
To my silent dark fireside.
Guests are many in my hall,        65
But a hand has touched them all.
 
Well is with the isle that feels
Now the ocean backward steals:
But to me my ebbing blood
Brings again no forward flood.        70
 
Ebbing, the wave of the sea
Leaves, where it wantoned before,
Changed past knowing the shore,
Lean and lonely and grey.
And far and farther from me        75
Ebbs the wave of the sea.
 
In folk romance the woman of Beare is one of the four oldest living creatures in the world. But the woman whose utterance is given here is not the character out of the folk romance—she is a courtesan like Villon’s Helm-maker. This poem, Kuno Meyer says, is of the tenth century.
 

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