[From Mona's Isle, 1844]
DOWN by the Curraghs of Lezayre,
One summers eve I strayd
(When free my youthful heart from care)
With my turf-cutting spade;
When on my way, as I did stray
Amongst the rushes green,
I met a maid, neatly arrayd,
Her age about sixteen:
Her hair in natures ringlets flowd
Upon the evening gale,
Her cheeks with maiden blushes glowd
Like roses in the vale;
Her homespun gown, of russet-brown,
Became her modest charms,
Its scollopd sleeves, like folding leaves,
Enwrapt her rosy arms.
I stood awhile, as if entranced,
This sylvan nymph to view,
As blythe and lightly she advanced
Amongst the falling dew ;
Her homely air, her features fair,
Her native manners mild,
Did all unite my love t excite
For this sweet natures child.
" How camest thou here alone to roves"
Said I, " my lovely maid ?"
" Im going homeward to yon grove
Within the woods," she said;
"For near that spot s my parents cot,
Which nature doth adorn
With woodbine bowers, and creeping flowers,
Hedged round with blooming thorn."
" Wilt thou not let me see thee home,
My sweet and lovely stranger?
For now to pass the dykes alone
Must sure be fraught with danger ;"
" Im not afraid," she calmly said,
" I ofttimes wander here
Amongst the hay, at close of day,
When flowers deck the year,
To hear the cuckoo in the glen
Chant forth its vernal note
The moorcock crowing in the fen
The wild-duck splash the moat;
But when the hem, amongst the fern,
Begins its nightly scream,
I bend my way, without delay,
Homeward across the stream."
Her frank address, and tender age,
Portrayd her virtuous heart,
And that she d not on lifes young stage
Yet playd a lovers part;
But like the rose when first it blows
To sip the morning ray,
Upon the bush, with virgin blush,
She did her charms display.
The glowing west proclaimd the day
Was drawing near a close,
The evening star, with glistning ray,
Oer North Barrule arose
The loud hoarse roar, from Jurbys shore,
Came wafted on the breeze,
The tame redbreast now sought its rest
Amongst the withy trees.
Each twinkling star the azure sky
Began to decorate,
The moon appeard to tower on high
In her nocturnal state ;
All nature lay beneath her ray
In calm and tranquil mood,
The ebon rook the moor forsook
To nestle with its brood
When I, and this sweet Manx young lass,
In pure simplicity,
Sat down upon the verdant grass
With joyful exstacy;
My heart beat high at evry sigh
That heaved her gentle breast,
While we beneath the willow-wreath
Our mutual love confest.
But O, what language can convey
The raptures ofmy mind,
When first I heard my Jenny say,
With accent sweet and kind,
" I here forego all else below
That nature can impart
To be through life thy constant wife
Then take this plighted heart !"
Now arm in arm, in sweet content,
Along the dewy mead
Towards her cot our steps we bent,
Amongst the yellow weed;
While through the night, so clear and bright,
The cottage-rush did gleam,
Throwing a shade along the glade
From its enlivening beam.
The sparrow flutterd mongst the thatch,
The ducks uprose their quack,
Whilst the good dame undid the latch,
And drew the casement back
At our approach towards the porch,
Ofjessamine and bay,
And while she smiled, said " 0 my child,
What s caused this long delay?
Your fathers out this hour or more
In search of you, my dear,
And Ive been sitting at the door
Trembling tween hope and fear;
I was afraid that you had strayd
Beyond the dykes alone;
But here comes dadI am so glad
To see you both at home!"
The good old cotter soon was seen
Close by the chimneyside,
And said, " Dear Jane, where hast thou been?
Ive sought thee far and wide;
Jane, say what made thee stay ?"
Then Jane with bashful look
Said, " Honourd dad,
I met this lad Down by Lough-Mallows brook,
Where I had strayd with thoughtless gait,
Alone, in musing mood,
Until I saw it was too late
To venture through the wood,
When with a kind and willing mind
He, though he knew me not,
Did take a short road and escort
Me safely to our cot."
"Well, well, who may the stranger be,
That has been thus so kind
As to conduct thee cross the lea,
When I could not thee find?
Now, Ill be bail his name is Quaile
I see it in his face ;" .
" As sure as life," exclaimd the wife,
" Hes something to that race."
"Yes, you are right, good dame," said I,
" That is my fathers name,
Though not the one that I go by,
Nor like unto the same;
Im calld by all, both great and small,
Hard by the fair-field of Lezayre,
The heira1 of the Dure."
"Tha dera Gee graas than heira beg !"2
Said she, in native tongue,
"For well I knew your mother, Peg,
Long since when we were young;
At church or fair none could compare
With her throughout the isle,
She was the pride of all Kirk-Bride,
And round for many a mile;
And well I do remember yet,
That on her wedding-day
She rode a steed as black as jet
Your father rode a bay;
And many a lad so gaily clad,
And many a lass were there,
So neatly dressd all in their best,
The wedding-feast to share:
And he who won the race3 I think,
If I do not mistake,
Was Johnny-Rob of Ballacrink,
Who broke the wedding.cake
Over the bride as she did glide
In through the festive door,
While all in haste the pieces chased
Along the banquet-floor:
And it was on that very night
That first I dreamt of John,
Een now it makes my heart grow light
At thoughts of days by-gone!
A neighbouring lass, close by Balfass,
To me the cake did bring,
It was a slice which had been thrice
Passd through the wedding-ring:
To place the cake beneath my head,
Repeating oer the charm,
I backwardly walkd to my bed,
Not fearing any harm;
The night was dark, and not a spark
Of light was in the room,
Tho yet, withal, I on the wall
Saw Johnnys figure loom!
I knew him well, and I was blest,
For he of all mankind
Could ease the throbbing of my breast,
And please my youthful mind;
Eer since that day, I well can say,
I neer the hour did rue
We joind our hands in wedlocks bands,
And made my dream out true.
Now we ye been married
John, how long? I almost now forget;"
" How long ?" said he, in accent strong,
" Why twenty years, my Bet ;
Twas at the fair of Kirk-Lezayre,
Just twenty years ago,
I first thee met, my good dame Bet,
Which surely thou must know:
But what care we for time, my dame,
We re both yet strong and hale,
Thou still at churn and wheel the same,
And I at plough and flail:
Theres not a pair in Kirk Lezayre
That s more content than we,
We re blessd with health, and ample wealth
Our farm, tho small, is free
Which all shall come, my Jane, to thee,
When we depart this life,
And een before, my girl," said he,
" Shouldst thou become a wife;
For who can say but perhaps you may
Marry a farming-man,
Who may have skill the farm to till,
When I no longer can."
I took this opportunity
The secret to disclose,
And, with all due humility,
I from my seat arose,
And said, " Kind sir,
I much revere Your candid open mind,
With such a friend my life Id end,
In peace with all mankind.
Would my request, sir, be in vain,
In craving your consent
Unto my union with your Jane,
To crown this days event ?
For we this night our vows did plight,
Upon the Curragh-green,
To love through life as man and wife,
Let what may intervene."
"Well, well, if such the case, my lad,
Then I must hold my tongue,
But still I cannot say Im glad,
For Jane is far too young;
Tho she the reel, and spinning-wheel,
Can use with womans skill,
But whats still best, mongst all the rest,
She does it with good will.
All that is left for me to say,
Since Jane has given consent,
Of what she s said in haste to-day
I hope she ll neer repent:
You both are young, who knows how long
You may be of this mind?
For love possessd soon cools the breast,
If not of genuine kind."
But such was not our mutual love
Nor yet our earnest kiss
For that short hour within the grove
Began a life of bliss ;
Tho years have fled since we did wed,
Each others fate to share,
We ye not forgot that blissful spot
The Curraghs of Lezayre!
Thus passd of yore their happy homely life,
The honest cotter and his frugal wife,
The thrifty lass and unassuming swain,
Strangers alike to Cares corroding pain,
Ere foreign trade and luxury began
To dispossess the peasantry of Man
Of their paternal cot and peaceful home,
As strangers on the unfeeling world to roam:
Till then, Contentment cheerd their humble cot,
And Truth resignd them to their earthly lot;
Their honest hearts hadnever learnd to pant
For the foul draught of artificial want,
But satisfied with what their Mona gave,
They glided from the cradle to the grave.
1 The heir of an estate.
2 May God grant grace to the young heir
3 It is a custom in the island, at a wedding, for two young men to run race on their road home from church, and he who is the winner has the honour to break the wedding-cake into small pieces, and scatter them out of a plate over the head of the bride as she enters the door of the banquet room, which ceremony is supposed to strengthen the dreaming charm,.