Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Songs, Hymns, and Lyrics

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Songs, Hymns, and Lyrics.
Father Gilligan
By William Butler Yeats (1865–1939)
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!”
And then, half-lying on the chair,
  He knelt, prayed, 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 came 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 lake 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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