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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘Riders to the Sea’
By John Millington Synge (1871–1909)
 
MAURYA  [speaking very slowly]—I’ve seen the fearfullest thing any person has seen, since the day Bride Dara seen the dead man with the child in his arms.  1
  Cathleen and Nora—Uah.
[They crouch down in front of the old woman at the fire.]
  2
  Nora—Tell us what it is you seen.  3
  Maurya—I went down to the spring well, and I stood there saying a prayer to myself. Then Bartley came along, and he riding on the red mare with the gray pony behind him.  [She puts up her hands, as if to hide something from her eyes.]  The Son of God spare us, Nora!  4
  Cathleen—What is it you seen.  5
  Maurya—I seen Michael himself.  6
  Cathleen  [speaking softly]—You did not, mother. It wasn’t Michael you seen, for his body is after being found in the far north, and he’s got a clean burial by the grace of God.  7
  Maurya  [a little defiantly]—I’m after seeing him this day, and he riding and galloping. Bartley came first on the red mare; and I tried to say “God speed you,” but something choked the words in my throat. He went by quickly; and “The blessing of God on you,” says he, and I could say nothing. I looked up then, and I crying, at the gray pony, and there was Michael upon it—with fine clothes on him, and new shoes on his feet.  8
  Cathleen  [begins to keen]—It’s destroyed we are from this day. It’s destroyed, surely.  9
  Nora—Didn’t the young priest say the Almighty God wouldn’t leave her destitute with no son living?  10
  Maurya  [in a low voice, but clearly]—It’s little the like of him knows of the sea…. Bartley will be lost now, and let you call in Eamon and make me a good coffin out of the white boards, for I won’t live after them. I’ve had a husband, and a husband’s father, and six sons in this house—six fine men, though it was a hard birth I had with every one of them and they coming to the world—and some of them were found and some of them were not found, but they’re gone now the lot of them…. There were Stephen, and Shawn, were lost in the great wind, and found after in the Bay of Gregory of the Golden Mouth, and carried up the two of them on the one plank, and in by that door.
[She pauses for a moment, the girls start as if they heard something through the door that is half open behind them.]
  11
  Nora  [in a whisper]—Did you hear that, Cathleen? Did you hear a noise in the north-east?  12
  Cathleen  [in a whisper]—There’s some one after crying out by the seashore.  13
  Maurya  [continues without hearing anything]—There was Sheamus and his father, and his own father again, were lost in a dark night, and not a stick or sign was seen of them when the sun went up. There was Patch after was drowned out of a curragh that turned over. I was sitting here with Bartley, and he a baby, lying on my two knees, and I seen two women, and three women, and four women coming in, and they crossing themselves, and not saying a word. I looked out then, and there were men coming after them, and they holding a thing in the half of a red sail, and water dripping out of it—it was a dry day, Nora—and leaving a track to the door.
[She pauses again with her hand stretched out towards the door.  It opens softly and old women begin to come in, crossing themselves on the threshold, and kneeling down in front of the stage with red petticoats over their heads.]
  14
  Maurya  [half in a dream, to Cathleen]—Is it Patch, or Michael, or what is it at all?  15
  Cathleen—Michael is after being found in the far north, and when he is found there how could he be here in this place?  16
  Maurya—There does be a power of young men floating round in the sea, and what way would they know if it was Michael they had, or another man like him, for when a man is nine days in the sea, and the wind blowing, it’s hard set his own mother would be to say what man was it.  17
  Cathleen—It’s Michael, God spare him, for they’re after sending us a bit of his clothes from the far north.
[She reaches out and hands Maurya the clothes that belonged to Michael.  Maurya stands up slowly, and takes them in her hands.  Nora looks out.]
  18
  Nora—They’re carrying a thing among them and there’s water dripping out of it and leaving a track by the big stones.  19
  Cathleen  [in a whisper to the women who have come in]—Is it Bartley it is?  20
  One of the Women—It is surely, God rest his soul!
[Two younger women come in and pull out the table.  Then men carry in the body of Bartley, laid on a plank, with a bit of a sail over it, and lay it on the table.]
  21
  Cathleen  [to the women, as they are doing so]—What way was he drowned?  22
  One of the Women—The gray pony knocked him into the sea,—and he was washed out where there is a great surf on the white rocks.
[Maurya has gone over and knelt down at the head of the table.  The women are keening softly and swaying themselves with a slow movement.  Cathleen and Nora kneel at the other end of the table.  The men kneel near the door.]
  23
  Maurya  [raising her head and speaking as if she did not see the people around her]—They’re all gone now, and there isn’t anything more the sea can do to me…. I’ll have no call now to be up crying and praying when the wind breaks from the south, and you can hear the surf is in the east, and the surf is in the west, making a great stir with the two noises, and they hitting one on the other. I’ll have no call now to be going down and getting Holy Water in the dark nights after Samhain, and I won’t care what way the sea is when the other women will be keening.  [To Nora.]  Give me the Holy Water, Nora, there’s a small sup still on the dresser.
[Nora gives it to her.]
  24
  Maurya  [drops Michael’s clothes across Bartley’s feet, and sprinkles the Holy Water over him.]—It isn’t that I haven’t said prayers in the dark night till you wouldn’t know what ’ld be saying; but it’s a great rest I’ll have now, and it’s time surely. It’s a great rest I’ll have now, and great sleeping in the long nights after Samhain if it’s only a bit of wet flour we do have to eat, and maybe a fish that would be stinking.
[She kneels down again, crossing herself, and saying prayers under her breath.]
  25
  Cathleen  [to an old man]—Maybe yourself and Eamon would make a coffin when the sun rises. We have fine white boards herself bought, God help her, thinking Michael would be found, and I have a new cake you can eat while you’ll be working.  26
  The Old Man  [looking at the boards]—Are there nails with them?  27
  Cathleen—There are not, Colum; we didn’t think of the nails.  28
  Another Man—It’s a great wonder she wouldn’t think of the nails, and all the coffins she’s seen made already.  29
  Cathleen—It’s getting old she is, and broken.
[Maurya stands up again very slowly and spreads out the pieces of Michael’s clothes beside the body, sprinkling them with the last of the Holy Water.]
  30
  Nora  [in a whisper to Cathleen]—She’s quiet now and easy; but the day Michael was drowned you could hear her crying out from this to the spring well. It’s fonder she was of Michael, and would any one have thought that?  31
  Cathleen  [slowly and clearly]—An old woman will be soon tired with anything she will do, and isn’t it nine days herself is after crying and keening, and making great sorrow in the house?  32
  Maurya  [puts the empty cup mouth downwards on the table, and lays her hands together on Bartley’s feet]—They’re all together this time, and the end is come. May the Almighty God have mercy on Bartley’s soul, and on Michael’s soul, and on the souls of Sheamus and Patch, and Stephen and Shawn  [bending her head]; and may He have mercy on my soul, Nora, and on the soul of every one is left living in the world!
[She pauses, and the keen rises a little more loudly from the women, then sinks away.]
  33
  Maurya  [continuing]—Michael has a clean burial in the far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley will have a fine coffin out of the white boards, and a deep grave surely. What more can we want than that? No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.
[She kneels down again and the curtain falls slowly.]
  34
 
 
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