Verse > Padraic Colum > Anthology of Irish Verse
Padraic Colum (1881–1972).  Anthology of Irish Verse.  1922.
53. The Lay of Prince Marvan
By Eleanor Hull (Translated)
THERE is a sheeling hidden in the wood
  Unknown to all save God;
An ancient ash-tree and a hazel-bush
  Their sheltering shade afford.
Around the doorway’s heather-laden porch        5
  Wild honeysuckles twine;
Prolific oaks, within the forest’s gloom,
  Shed mast upon fat swine.
Many a sweet familiar woodland path
  Comes winding to my door;        10
Lowly and humble is my hermitage,
  Poor, and yet not too poor.
From the high gable-end my lady’s throat
  Her trilling chant outpours,
Her sombre mantle, like the ousel’s coat,        15
  Shows dark above my doors.
From the high oakridge where the roe-deer leaps
  The river-banks between,
Renowned Mucraime and Red Roigne’s plains
  Lie wrapped in robes of green.        20
Here in the silence, where no care intrudes,
  I dwell at peace with God;
What gift like this hast thou to give, Prince Guaire,
  Were I to roam abroad?
The heavy branches of the green-barked yew        25
  That seem to bear the sky;
The spreading oak, that shields me from the storm,
  When winds rise high.
Like a great hostel, welcoming to all,
  My laden apple-tree;        30
Low in the hedge, the modest hazel-bush
  Drops ripest nuts for me.
Round the pure spring, that rises crystal clear,
  Straight from the rock,
Wild goats and swine, red fox, and grazing deer,        35
  At sundown flock.
The host of forest-dwellers of the soil
  Trysting at night;
To meet them foxes come, a peaceful troop,
  For my delight.        40
Like exiled princes, flocking to their home,
  They gather round;
Beneath the river bank great salmon leap,
  And trout abound.
Rich rowan clusters, and the dusky sloe,        45
  The bitter, dark blackthorn,
Ripe whortle-berries, nuts of amber hue,
  The cup-enclosed acorn.
A clutch of eggs, sweet honey, mead and ale,
  God’s goodness still bestows;        50
Red apples, and the fruitage of the heath,
  His constant mercy shows.
The goodly tangle of the briar-trail
  Climbs over all the hedge;
Far out of sight, the trembling waters wail        55
  Through rustling rush and sedge.
Luxuriant summer spreads its coloured cloak
  And covers all the land;
Bright blue-bells, sunk in woods of russet oak,
  Their blooms expand.        60
The movements of the bright red-breasted wren,
  A lovely melody
Above my house, the thrush and cuckoo’s strain
  A chorus wakes for me.
The little music-makers of the world        65
  Chafers and bees,
Drone answer to the tumbling torrent’s roar
  Beneath the trees.
From gable-ends, from every branch and stem,
  Sounds sweetest music now;        70
Unseen, in restless flight, the lively wren
  Flits ’neath the hazel-bough.
Deep in the firmament the sea-gulls fly,
  One widely-circling wreath;
The cheerful cuckoo’s call, the poult’s reply,        75
  Sound o’er the distant heath.
The lowing of the calves in summer-time,
  Best season of the year!
Across the fertile plain, pleasant the sound,
  Their call I hear.        80
Voice of the wind against the branchy wood
  Upon the deep blue sky;
Most musical the ceaseless waterfall,
  The swan’s shrill cry.
No hired chorus, trained to praise its chief,        85
  Comes welling up for me;
The music made for Christ the Ever-young,
  Sounds forth without a fee.
Though great thy wealth, Prince Guaire, happier live
  Those who can boast no hoard;        90
Who take at Christ’s hand that which He doth give
  As their award.
Far from life’s tumult and the din of strife
  I dwell with Him in peace,
Content and grateful, for Thy gifts, High Prince,        95
  Daily increase.
(GUAIRE replies)
Wisely thou choosest, Marvan; I a king
  Would lay my kingdom by,
With Colman’s glorious heritage I’d part
  To bear thee company!        100
Marvan the Hermit was the brother of Guaire, the King of Connacht. Once Guaire asked him why he would not come to live in the king’s house. The hermit’s answer makes the lay. Guire died in 662. Scholars say that the poem is of the tenth century.


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