Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK
TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
T. Crofton Croker
People may have heard of the
renowned adventures of Daniel O'Rourke, but how
few are there who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was
neither more nor less than having slept under the walls of the Pooka's
tower. I knew the man well. He lived at the bottom of Hungry Hill, just at
the right-hand side of the road as you go towards Bantry. An old man was he, at
the time he told me the story, with grey hair and a red nose; and it was on the
25th of June 1813 that I heard it from his own lips, as he sat smoking his pipe
under the old poplar tree, on as fine an evening as ever shone from the sky. I
was going to visit the caves in Dursey Island, having spent the morning at
"I am often axed to tell it, sir," said he, "so that this is not the
first time. The master's son, you see, had come from beyond foreign parts in
France and Spain, as young gentlemen used to go before Buonaparte or any such
was heard of; and sure enough there was a dinner given to all the people on the
ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor. The ould gentlemen were
the gentlemen after all, saving your honour's presence. They'd swear at a body a
little, to be sure, and, may be, give one a cut of a whip now and then, but we
were no losers by it in the end; and they were so easy and civil, and kept such
rattling houses, and thousands of welcomes; and there was no grinding for rent,
and there was hardly a tenant on the estate that did not taste of his landlord's
bounty often and often in a year; but now it's another thing. No matter for
that, sir, for I'd better be telling you my story.
"Well, we had everything of the best, and plenty of it; and we ate, and we
drank, and we danced, and the young master by the same token danced with Peggy
Barry, from the Bohereen--a lovely young couple they were, though they are both
low enough now. To make a long story short, I got, as a body may say, the same
thing as tipsy almost, for I can't remember ever at all, no ways, how it was I
left the place; only I did leave it, that's certain. Well, I thought, for all
that, in myself, I'd just step to Molly Cronohan's, the fairy woman, to speak a
word about the bracket heifer that was bewitched; and so as I was crossing the
steppingstones of the ford of Ballyashenogh, and was looking up at the stars and
blessing myself--for why? it was Lady-day--I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the water. 'Death alive!'
thought I, 'I'll be drowned now!' However, I began swimming, swimming away for
the dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of
me can tell how, upon a dissolute island.
"I wandered and wandered about there, without knowing where I wandered, until
at last I got into a big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day, or your
fair lady's eyes, sir (with your pardon for mentioning her), and I looked east
and west, and north and south, and every way, and nothing did I see but bog,
bog, bog--I could never find out how I got into it; and my heart grew cold with
fear, for sure and certain I was that it would be my berrin place. So I
sat down upon a stone which, as good luck would have it, was close by me, and I
began to scratch my head, and sing the Ullagone--when all of a sudden the
moon grew black, and I looked up, and saw something for all the world as if it
was moving down between me and it, and I could not tell what it was. Down it
came with a pounce, and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an
eagle? as fine a one as ever flew from the kingdom of Kerry. So he looked at me
in the face, and says he to me, 'Daniel O'Rourke,' says he, 'how do you do?'
'Very well, I thank you, sir,' says I; 'I hope you're well;' wondering out of my
senses all the time how an eagle came to speak like a Christian. 'What brings
you here, Dan,' says he. 'Nothing at all, sir,' says I; 'only I wish I was safe
home again.' 'Is it out of the island you want to go, Dan?' says he. '`Tis, sir,
says I: so I up and told him how I had taken a drop too much, and fell into the
water; how I swam to the island; and how I got into the bog and did not know my
way out of it. 'Dan,' says he, after a minute's thought, 'though it is very
improper for you to get drunk on Lady-day, yet as you are a decent sober man,
who 'tends mass well, and never fling stones at me or mine, nor cries out after
us in the fields--my life for yours,' says he; 'so get up on my back, and grip
me well for fear you'd fall off, and I'll fly you out of the bog.' 'I am
afraid,' says I, 'your honour's making game of me; for who ever heard of riding a horseback on an eagle before?' '`Pon
the honour of a gentleman,' says he, putting his right foot on his breast, 'I am
quite in earnest: and so now either take my offer or starve in the bog-besides,
I see that your weight is sinking the stone.'
"It was true enough as he said, for I found the stone every minute going from
under me. I had no choice; so thinks I to myself, faint heart never won fair
lady, and this is fair persuadance. 'I thank your honour,' says I, 'for the loan
of your civility; and I'll take your kind offer.' I therefore mounted upon the
back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat, and up he flew in
the air like a lark. Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me.
Up--up--up, God knows how far up he flew. 'Why then,' said I to him--thinking he
did not know the right road home--very civilly, because why? I was in his power
entirely; 'sir,' says I, 'please your honour's glory, and with humble submission
to your better judgment, if you'd fly down a bit, you're now just over my cabin,
and I could be put down there, and many thanks to your worship.'
"'Arrah, Dan,' said he, 'do you think me a fool? Look down in the next
field, and don't you see two men and a gun? By my word it would be no joke to be
shot this way, to oblige a drunken blackguard that I picked up off of a
could stone in a bog.' 'Bother you,' said I to myself, but I did not
speak out, for where was the use? Well, sir, up he kept, flying, flying, and I
asking him every minute to fly down, and all to no use. 'Where in the world are
you going, sir?' says I to him. 'Hold your tongue, Dan,' says he: 'mind your own
business, and don't be interfering with the business of other people.' 'Faith,
this is my business I think,' says I. 'Be quiet, Dan,' says he: so I said no
"At last where should we come to, but to the moon itself. Now you can't see
it from this, but there is, or there was in my time, a reaping-hook sticking out
of the side of the moon, this way (drawing the figure thus
on the ground with
the end of his stick).
"'Dan,' said the eagle, 'I'm tired with this long fly; I had
no notion 'twas so far.' 'And my lord, sir,' said I, 'who in the world
axed you to fly so far--was it I? did not I beg and pray and beseech you
to stop half an hour ago?' 'There's no use talking, Dan,' said he; 'I'm tired
bad enough, so you must get off, and sit down on the moon until I rest myself.'
'Is it sit down on the moon?' said I; 'is it upon that little round thing, then?
why, then, sure I'd fall off in a minute, and be kilt and spilt, and
smashed all to bits; you are a vile deceiver--so you are.' 'Not at all, Dan,'
said he; 'you can catch fast hold of the reaping-hook that's sticking out of the
side of the moon, and 'twill keep you up.' 'I won't then,' said I. 'May be not,'
said he, quite quiet. 'If you don't, my man, I shall just give you a shake, and
one slap of my wing, and send you down to the ground, where every bone in your
body will be smashed as small as a drop of dew on a cabbage in the morning.'
'Why, then, I'm in a fine way,' said I to myself, 'ever to have come along with
the likes of you;' and so giving him a hearty curse in Irish, for fear he'd know
what I said, I got off his back with a heavy heart, took hold of the
reaping-hook, and sat down upon the moon, and a mighty cold seat it was, I can
tell you that.
"When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, 'Good
morning to you, Daniel O'Rourke,' said be; 'I think I've nicked you fairly now.
You robbed my nest last year' ('twas true enough for him, but how he found out
is hard to say), 'and in return you are freely welcome to cool your heels
dangling upon the moon like a cockthrow.'
"'Is that all, and is this the way you leave me, you brute, you,' says I.
'You ugly unnatural baste, and is this the way you serve me at last? Bad
luck to yourself, with your hook'd nose, and to all your breed, you blackguard.'
'Twas all to no manner of use; he spread out his great big wings, burst out a
laughing, and flew away like lightning. I bawled after him to stop; but I might
have called and bawled for ever, without his minding me. Away he went, and I
never saw him from that day to this--sorrow fly away with him! You may
be sure I was in a disconsolate condition. and kept roaring out for the
bare grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon,
creaking on its hinges as if it had not been opened for a month before, I
suppose they never thought of greasing 'em, and out there walks--who do you
think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.
"'Good morrow to you, Daniel O'Rourke,' said he; 'how do you do?' 'Very well,
thank your honour,' said I. 'I hope your honour's well.' 'What brought you here,
Dan?' said he. So I told him how I was a little overtaken in liquor at the
master's, and how I was cast on a dissolute island, and how I lost my way
in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle promised to fly me out of it, and how,
instead of that, he had fled me up to the moon.
"'Dan,' said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done,
'you must not stay here.' 'Indeed, sir,' says I, '`tis much against my will I'm
here at all; but how am I to go back?' 'That's your business,' said he; 'Dan,
mine is to tell you that here you must not stay; so be off in less than no
time.' 'I'm doing no harm,' says I, 'only holding on hard by the reaping-hook,
lest I fall off.' 'That's what you must not do, Dan,' says he. 'Pray, sir,' says
I, 'may I ask how many you are in family, that you would not give a poor
traveller lodging: I'm sure 'tis not often you're troubled with strangers coming
to see you, for 'tis a long way.' 'I'm by myself, Dan,' says he; 'but you'd
better let go the reaping-hook.' 'Faith, and with your leave,' says I, 'I'll not
let go the grip, and the more you bids me, the more I won't let go;--so I will.'
'You had better, Dan,' says he again. 'Why, then, my little fellow,' says I,
taking the whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, 'there are two
words to that bargain; and I'll not budge, but you may if you like.' 'We'll see
how that is to be,' says he; and back he went, giving the door such a great bang
after him (for it was plain he was huffed) that I thought the moon and all would
fall down with it.
"Well, I was preparing myself to try strength with him,
when back again he comes, with the kitchen cleaver in his hand, and, without
saying a word, he gives two bangs to the handle of the reaping-hook that was
keeping me up, and whap! it came in two. 'Good morning to you, Dan,' says
the spiteful little old blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a
bit of the handle in my hand; 'I thank you for your visit, and fair weather
after you, Daniel.' I had not time to make any answer to him, for I was tumbling
over and over, and rolling and rolling, at the rate of a fox-hunt. 'God help
me!' says I, 'but this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this
time of night: I am now sold fairly.' The word was not out of my mouth when
whiz! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock of wild geese, all the way
from my own bog of Ballyasheenogh, else how should they know me? The
ould gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to
me, 'Is that you, Dan? 'The same,' said I, not a bit daunted now at what he
said, for I was by this time used to all kinds of bedevilment, and,
besides, I knew him of ould. 'Good morrow to you,' says he, 'Daniel
O'Rourke, how are you in health this morning?' 'Very well, sir,' says I, 'I
thank you kindly,' drawing my breath, for I was mightily in want of some. 'I
hope your honour's the same.' 'I think 'tis falling you are, Daniel,' says he.
'You may say that, sir,' says I. 'And where are you going all the way so fast?'
said the gander. So I told him how I had taken the drop, and how I came on the
island, and how I lost my way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle flew me
up to the moon, and how the man in the moon turned me out. 'Dan,' said he, 'I'll
save you: put out your hand and catch me by the leg, and I'll fly you home.'
'Sweet is your hand in a pitcher of honey, my jewel,' says I, though all the
time I thought within my self that I don't much trust you; but there was no
help, so I caught the gander by the leg, and away I and the other geese flew
after him as fast as hops.
"We flew, and we flew, and we flew, until we came right over the wide ocean.
I knew it well, for I saw Cape Clear to my right hand, sticking up out of the
water. 'Ah, my lord,' said I to the goose, for I thought it best to keep a civil tongue in
my head any way, 'fly to land if you please.' 'It is impossible, you see, Dan,'
said he, 'for a while, because you see we are going to Arabia.' 'To Arabia!'
said I; 'that's surely some place in foreign parts, far away. Oh! Mr. Goose: why
then, to be sure, I'm a man to be pitied among you.' 'Whist, whist, you fool,'
said he, 'hold your tongue; I tell you Arabia is a very decent sort of place, as
like West Carbery as one egg is like another, only there is a little more sand
"Just as we were talking, a ship hove in sight, scudding so beautiful before
the wind. 'Ah! then, sir, said I, 'will you drop me on the ship, if you please?'
'We are not fair over it,' said he; 'if I dropped you now you would go splash
into the sea.' 'I would not,' says I; 'I know better than that, for it is just
clean under us, so let me drop now at once.'
"'If you must, you must,' said he; 'there, take your own way;' and he opened
his claw, and faith he was right--sure enough I came down plump into the very
bottom of the salt sea! Down to the very bottom I went, and I gave myself up
then for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself after his
night's sleep, and he looked me full in the face, and never the word did he say,
but lifting up his tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water
till there wasn't a dry stitch upon my whole carcass! and I heard somebody
saying--'twas a voice I knew, too--'Get up you drunken brute, off o' that'; and
with that I woke up, and there was Judy with a tub full of water, which she was
splashing all over me--for, rest her soul! though she was a good wife, she never
could bear to see me in drink, and had a bitter hand of her own.
"'Get up,' said she again: 'and of all places in the parish would no place
sarve your turn to lie down upon but under the ould walls of
Carrigapooka? an uneasy resting I am sure you had of it.' And sure enough I had:
for I was fairly bothered out of my senses with eagles, and men of the moons,
and flying ganders, and whales, driving me through bogs, and up to the
moon, and down to the bottom of the green ocean.
If I was in drink ten times over, long would it be before I'd lie down in the
same spot again, I know that."