In The Seven Woods Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age

In The Seven Woods
Being Poems Chiefly of the Irish Heroic Age

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I have heard the pigeons of the Seven Woods

Make their faint thunder, and the garden bees

Hum in the lime tree flowers; and put away

The unavailing outcries and the old bitterness

That empty the heart. I have forgot awhile

Tara uprooted, and new commonness

Upon the throne and crying about the streets

And hanging its paper flowers from post to post,

Because it is alone of all things happy.

I am contented for I know that Quiet

Wanders laughing and eating her wild heart

Among pigeons and bees, while that Great Archer,

Who but awaits His hour to shoot, still hangs

A cloudy quiver over Parc-na-Lee.

August, 1902.



Maeve the great queen was pacing to and fro,

Between the walls covered with beaten bronze,

In her high house at Cruachan; the long hearth,

Flickering with ash and hazel, but half showed

Where the tired horse-boys lay upon the rushes,

Or on the benches underneath the walls,

In comfortable sleep; all living slept

But that great queen, who more than half the night

Had paced from door to fire and fire to door.

Though now in her old age, in her young age

She had been beautiful in that old way

That’s all but gone; for the proud heart is gone

And the fool heart of the counting-house fears all

But soft beauty and indolent desire.

She could have called over the rim of the world

Whatever woman’s lover had hit her fancy,

And yet had been great bodied and great limbed,

Fashioned to be the mother of strong children;

And she’d had lucky eyes and a high heart,

And wisdom that caught fire like the dried flax,

At need, and made her beautiful and fierce,

Sudden and laughing.

O unquiet heart,

Why do you praise another, praising her,

As if there were no tale but your own tale

Worth knitting to a measure of sweet sound?

Have I not bid you tell of that great queen

Who has been buried some two thousand years?

When night was at its deepest, a wild goose

Cried from the porter’s lodge, and with long clamour

Shook the ale horns and shields upon their hooks;

But the horse-boys slept on, as though some power

Had filled the house with Druid heaviness;

And wondering who of the many changing Sidhe

Had come as in the old times to counsel her,

Maeve walked, yet with slow footfall being old,

To that small chamber by the outer gate.

The porter slept although he sat upright

With still and stony limbs and open eyes.

Maeve waited, and when that ear-piercing noise

Broke from his parted lips and broke again,

She laid a hand on either of his shoulders,

And shook him wide awake, and bid him say

Who of the wandering many-changing ones

Had troubled his sleep. But all he had to say

Was that, the air being heavy and the dogs

More still than they had been for a good month,

He had fallen asleep, and, though he had dreamed nothing,

He could remember when he had had fine dreams.

It was before the time of the great war

Over the White-Horned Bull, and the Brown Bull.

She turned away; he turned again to sleep

That no god troubled now, and, wondering

What matters were afoot among the Sidhe,

Maeve walked through that great hall, and with a sigh

Lifted the curtain of her sleeping room,

Remembering that she too had seemed divine

To many thousand eyes, and to her own

One that the generations had long waited

That work too difficult for mortal hands

Might be accomplished....