The Shadowy Waters

I walked among the seven woods of Coole,
Shan-walla, where a willow-bordered pond
Gathers the wild duck from the winter dawn;
Shady Kyle-dortha; sunnier Kyle-na-no,
Where many hundred squirrels are as happy
As though they had been hidden by green boughs
Where old age cannot find them; Pairc-na- lee,
Where hazel and ash and privet blind the paths;
Dim Pairc-na-carraig, where the wild bees fling
Their sudden fragrances on the green air;
Dim Pairc-na-tarav, where enchanted eyes
Have seen immortal, mild, proud shadows walk;
Dim Inchy wood, that hides badger and fox
And marten-cat, and borders that old wood
Wise Biddy Early called the wicked wood:
Seven odours, seven murmurs, seven woods.
I had not eyes like those enchanted eyes,
Yet dreamed that beings happier than men
Moved round me in the shadows, and at night
My dreams were cloven by voices and by fires;
And the images I have woven in this story
Of Forgael and Dectora and the empty waters
Moved round me in the voices and the fires,
And more I may not write of, for they that cleave
The waters of sleep can make a chattering tongue
Heavy like stone, their wisdom being half silence.
How shall I name you, immortal, mild, proud shadows?
I only know that all we know comes from you,
And that you come from Eden on flying feet.
Is Eden far away, or do you hide
From human thought, as hares and mice and coneys
That run before the reaping-hook and lie
In the last ridge of the barley? Do our woods
And winds and ponds cover more quiet woods,
More shining winds, more star-glimmering ponds?
Is Eden out of time and out of space?
And do you gather about us when pale light
Shining on water and fallen among leaves,
And winds blowing from flowers, and whirr of feathers
And the green quiet, have uplifted the heart?
I have made this poem for you, that men may read it
Before they read of Forgael and Dectora,
As men in the old times, before the harps began,
Poured out wine for the high invisible ones.
      September 1900


Edain came out of Midhir’s hill, and lay
Beside young Aengus in his tower of glass,
Where time is drowned in odour-laden winds
And Druid moons, and murmuring of boughs,
And sleepy boughs, and boughs where apples made
Of opal and ruby and pale chrysolite
Awake unsleeping fires; and wove seven strings,
Sweet with all music, out of his long hair,
Because her hands had been made wild by love.
When Midhir’s wife had changed her to a fly,
He made a harp with Druid apple-wood
That she among her winds might know he wept;
And from that hour he has watched over none
But faithful lovers.
Persons in the poem



The deck of an ancient ship. At the right of the stage is the mast, with a large square sail hiding a great deal of the sky and sea on that side. The tiller is at the left of the stage; it is a long oar coming through an opening in the bulwark. The deck rises in a series of steps behind the tiller, and the stern of the ship curves overhead. When the play opens there are four persons upon the deck. Aibric stands by the tiller. Forgael sleeps upon the raised portion of the deck towards the front of the stage. Two Sailors are standing near to the mast, on which a harp is hanging.

First Sailor. Has he not led us into these waste seas
    For long enough?
Second Sailor.          Aye, long and long enough.
First Sailor. We have not come upon a shore or ship
    These dozen weeks.
Second Sailor.             And I had thought to make
    A good round sum upon this cruise, and turn—
    For I am getting on in life—to something
    That has less ups and downs than robbery.
First Sailor. I am so tired of being bachelor
    I could give all my heart to that Red Moll
    That had but the one eye.
Second Sailor.                     Can no bewitchment
    Transform these rascal billows into women
    That I may drown myself?
First Sailor.                     Better steer home,
    Whether he will or no; and better still
    To take him while he sleeps and carry him
    And drop him from the gunnel.
Second Sailor.                 I dare not do it.
    Were’t not that there is magic in his harp,
    I would be of your mind; but when he plays it
    Strange creatures flutter up before one’s eyes,
    Or cry about one’s ears.
First Sailor.                     Nothing to fear.
Second Sailor. Do you remember when we sank that galley
    At the full moon?
First Sailor.                  He played all through the night.
Second Sailor. Until the moon had set; and when I looked
    Where the dead drifted, I could see a bird
    Like a grey gull upon the breast of each.
    While I was looking they rose hurriedly,
    And after circling with strange cries awhile
    Flew westward; and many a time since then
    I’ve heard a rustling overhead in the wind.
First Sailor. I saw them on that night as well as you.
    But when I had eaten and drunk myself asleep
    My courage came again.
Second Sailor.                   But that’s not all.
    The other night, while he was playing

  By PanEris using Melati.

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