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The Fairy Changeling and Other Poems

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Dermod O’Byrne of Omah townIn his garden strode up and down;He pulled his beard, and he beat his breast;And this is his trouble and woe confessed:

“The good-folk came in the night, and theyHave stolen my bonny wean away;Have put in his place a changeling,A weashy, weakly, wizen thing!

“From the speckled hen nine eggs I stole,And lighting a fire of a glowing coal,I fried the shells, and I spilt the yolk;But never a word the stranger spoke:

“A bar of metal I heated redTo frighten the fairy from its bed,To put in the place of this fretting weanMy own bright beautiful boy again.

“But my wife had hidden it in her arms,And cried ‘For shame!’ on my fairy charms;She sobs, with the strange child on her breast:‘I love the weak, wee babe the best!’”

To Dermod O’Byrne’s, the tale to hear,The neighbours came from far and near:Outside his gate, in the long boreen,They crossed themselves, and said between

Their muttered prayers, “He has no luck!For sure the woman is fairy-struck,To leave her child a fairy guest,And love the weak, wee wean the best!”


“What ails you that you look so pale,O fisher of the sea?”“’Tis for a mournful tale I own,Fair maiden Marjorie.”

“What is the dreary tale to tell,O toiler of the sea?”“I cast my net into the waves,Sweet maiden Marjorie.

“I cast my net into the tide,Before I made for home;Too heavy for my hands to raise,I drew it through the foam.”

“What saw you that you look so pale,Sad searcher of the sea?”“A dead man’s body from the deepMy haul had brought to me!”

“And was he young, and was he fair?”“Oh, cruel to behold!In his white face the joy of lifeNot yet was grown a-cold.”

“Oh, pale you are, and full of prayerFor one who sails the sea.”“Because the dead looked up and spoke,Poor maiden Marjorie.”

“What said he, that you seem so sad,O fisher of the sea?(Alack! I know it was my love,Who fain would speak to me!)”

“He said, ‘Beware a woman’s mouth—A rose that bears a thorn.’”“Ah, me! these lips shall smile no moreThat gave my lover scorn.”

“He said, ‘Beware a woman’s eyes.They pierce you with their death.’”“Then falling tears shall make them blindThat robbed my dear of breath.”

“He said, ‘Beware a woman’s hair—A serpent’s coil of gold.’”“Then will I shear the cruel locksThat crushed him in their fold.”

“He said, ‘Beware a woman’s heartAs you would shun the reef.’”“So let it break within my breast,And perish of my grief.”

“He raised his hands; a woman’s nameThrice bitterly he cried:My net had parted with the strain;He vanished in the tide.”

“A woman’s name!  What name but mine,O fisher of the sea?”“A woman’s name, but not your name,Poor maiden Marjorie.”


Thrice in the night the priest aroseFrom broken sleep to kneel and pray.“Hush, poor ghost, till the red cock crows,And I a Mass for your soul may say.”

Thrice he went to the chamber cold,Where, stiff and still uncoffinèd,His brother lay, his beads he told,And “Rest, poor spirit, rest,” he said.

Thrice lay the old priest down to sleepBefore the morning bell should toll;But still he heard—and woke to weep—The crying of his brother’s soul.

All through the dark, till dawn was pale,The priest tossed in his misery,With muffled ears to hide the wail,The voice of that ghost’s agony.

At last the red cock flaps his wingsTo trumpet of a day new-born.The lark, awaking, soaring singsInto the bosom of the morn.

The priest before the altar stands,He hears the spirit call for peace;He beats his breast with shaking hands....