Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK
TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY
THE PIPER AND THE
Translated literally from the Irish of the Leabhar
In the old times, there was a
half fool living in Dunmore, in the county
Galway, and although he was excessively fond of music, he was unable to learn
more than one tune, and that was the "Black Rogue." He used to get a good deal
of money from the gentlemen, for they used to get sport out of him. One night
the piper was coming home from a house where there had been a dance, and he half
drunk. When he came to a little bridge that was up by his mother's house, he
squeezed the pipes on, and began playing the "Black Rogue" (an rÃ³gaire dubh).
The PÃºca came behind him, and flung him up on his own back. There were long
horns on the PÃºca, and the piper got a good grip of them, and then he said--
"Destruction on you, you nasty beast, let me home. I have a ten-penny piece
in my pocket for my mother, and she wants snuff."
"Never mind your mother," said the PÃºca, "but keep your hold. If you fall,
you will break your neck and your pipes." Then the PÃºca said to him, "Play up
for me the 'Shan Van Vocht' (an t-seann-bhean bhocht)."
"I don't know it," said the piper.
"Never mind whether you do or you don't," said the PÃºca. "Play up, and I'll
make you know."
The piper put wind in his bag, and he played such music as made himself
"Upon my word, you're a fine music-master," says the piper then; "but tell me
where you're for bringing me."
"There's a great feast in the house of the Banshee, on the top of Croagh
Patric tonight," says the PÃºca, "and I'm for bringing you there to play music,
and, take my word, you'll get the price of your trouble."
"By my word, you'll save me a journey, then," says the
piper, "for Father William put a journey to Croagh Patric on me, because I
stole the white gander from him last Martinmas."
The PÃºca rushed him across hills and bogs and rough places, till he brought
him to the top of Croagh Patric. Then the PÃºca struck three blows with his foot,
and a great door opened, and they passed in together, into a fine room.
The piper saw a golden table in the middle of the room, and hundreds of old
women (cailleacha) sitting round about it. The old woman rose up, and said, "A
hundred thousand welcomes to you, you PÃºca of November (na Samhna). Who is this
you have brought with you?"
"The best piper in Ireland," says the PÃºca.
One of the old women struck a blow on the ground, and a door opened in the
side of the wall, and what should the piper see coming out but the white gander
which he had stolen from Father William.
"By my conscience, then," says the piper, "myself and my mother ate every
taste of that gander, only one wing, and I gave that to Moy-rua (Red Mary), and
it's she told the priest I stole his gander."
The gander cleaned the table, and carried it away, and the PÃºca said, "Play
up music for these ladies."
The piper played up, and the old women began dancing, and they were dancing
till they were tired. Then the PÃºca said to pay the piper, and every old woman
drew out a gold piece, and gave it to him.
"By the tooth of Patric," said he, "I'm as rich as the son of a lord."
"Come with me," says the PÃºca, "and I'll bring you home."
They went out then, and just as he was going to ride on the PÃºca, the gander
came up to him, and gave him a new set of pipes. The PÃºca was not long until he
brought him to Dunmore, and he threw the piper off at the little bridge, and
then he told him to go home, and says to him, "You have two things now that you
never had before--you have sense and music (ciall agus ceÃ³l).
The piper went home, and he knocked at his mother's door, saying, "Let me in,
I'm as rich as a lord, and I'm the best piper in Ireland."
"You're drunk," said the mother.
"No, indeed," says the piper, "I haven't drunk a drop."
The mother let him in, and he gave her the gold pieces, and, "Wait now," says
he, "till you hear the music, I'll play."
He buckled on the pipes, but instead of music, there came a sound as if all
the geese and ganders in Ireland were screeching together. He awakened the
neighbours and they all were mocking him, until he put on the old pipes, and
then he played melodious music for them; and after that he told them all he had
gone through that night.
The next morning, when his mother went to look at the gold pieces, there was
nothing there but the leaves of a plant.
The piper went to the priest, and told him his story, but the priest would
not believe a word from him, until he put the pipes on him, and then the
screeching of the ganders and geese began.
"Leave my sight, you thief," said the priest.
But nothing would do the piper till he would put the old pipes on him to show
the priest that his story was true.
He buckled on the old pipes, and he played melodious music, and from that day
till the day of his death, there was never a piper in the county Galway was as
good as he was.