Yeats' FAIRY AND FOLK TALES OF THE IRISH PEASANTRY

THE PRIEST OF COLOONY

W. B. Yeats

Good Father John O'Hart
  In penal days rode out
To a shoneen1 in his freelands,
  With his snipe marsh and his trout.

In trust took he John's lands,
  --Sleiveens2 were all his race--
And he gave them as dowers to his daughters,
  And they married beyond their place.

But Father John went up,
  And Father John went down;
And he wore small holes in his shoes,
  And he wore large holes in his gown.

All loved him, only the shoneen,
  Whom the devils have by the hair,
From their wives and their cats and their children,
  To the birds in the white of the air.

The birds, for he opened their cages,
  As he went up and down;
And he said with a smile, "Have peace, now,"
  And went his way with a frown.

But if when anyone died,
  Came keeners hoarser than rooks,
He bade them give over their keening,
  For he was a man of books.

And these were the works of John,
  When weeping score by score,
People came into Coloony,
  For he'd died at ninety-four.

There was no human keening;
  The birds from Knocknarea,
And the world round Knocknashee,
  Came keening in that day,--

Keening from Innismurry,
  Nor stayed for bit or sup;
This way were all reproved
  Who dig old customs up.

[Coloony is a few miles south of the town of Sligo. Father O'Hart lived there in the last century, and was greatly beloved. These lines accurately record the tradition. No one who has held the stolen land has prospered. It has changed owners many times.]

 

Footnotes

1. Shoneen--i.e., upstart.
2. Sleiveen--i.e., mean fellow.

Aran Islanders, J. Synge [1898] (public domain photograph)