[From Mona's Isle, 1844]


DOWN by the Curraghs of Lezayre,
One summer’s eve I stray’d
(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 array’d,
Her age about sixteen:

Her hair in nature’s ringlets flow’d
Upon the evening gale,
Her cheeks with maiden blushes glow’d
Like roses in the vale;
Her homespun gown, of russet-brown,
Became her modest charms,
Its scollop’d 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 nature’s child.

" How camest thou here alone to roves"
Said I, " my lovely maid ?"
" I’m 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 ;"—
" I’m 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,
Portray’d her virtuous heart,
And that she ‘d not on life’s young stage
Yet play’d a lover’s 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 proclaim’d the day
Was drawing near a close,
The evening star, with glist’ning ray,
O’er North Barrule arose—
The loud hoarse roar, from Jurby’s 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 appear’d 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 ev’ry 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 flutter’d ‘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 father’s out this hour or more
In search of you, my dear,
And I’ve been sitting at the door
Trembling ‘tween hope and fear;
I was afraid that you had stray’d
Beyond the dykes alone;
But here comes dad—I 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?
I’ve sought thee far and wide;
But come,
Jane, say what made thee stay ?"
Then Jane with bashful look
Said, " Honour’d dad,
I met this lad Down by Lough-Mallow’s brook,

Where I had stray’d 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, I’ll be bail his name is Quaile—
I see it in his face ;"— .
" As sure as life," exclaim’d the wife,
" He’s something to that race."

"Yes, you are right, good dame," said I,
" That is my father’s name,
Though not the one that I go by,
Nor like unto the same;
I’m call’d 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 dress’d 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,—
E’en 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
Pass’d through the wedding-ring:

To place the cake beneath my head,
Repeating o’er the charm,
I backwardly walk’d 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 Johnny’s 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;
E’er since that day, I well can say,
I ne’er the hour did rue
We join’d our hands in wedlock’s 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:
There’s not a pair in Kirk Lezayre
That ‘s more content than we,
We ‘re bless’d 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 e’en 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 I’d 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 day’s 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 I’m glad,
For Jane is far too young;
Tho’ she the reel, and spinning-wheel,
Can use with woman’s skill,
But what’s 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 ne’er repent:
You both are young, who knows how long
You may be of this mind?
For love possess’d 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 other’s fate to share,
We ‘ye not forgot that blissful spot—
The Curraghs of Lezayre!

Thus pass’d of yore their happy homely life,
The honest cotter and his frugal wife,
The thrifty lass and unassuming swain,
Strangers alike to Care’s 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 cheer’d their humble cot,
And Truth resign’d them to their earthly lot;
Their honest hearts hadnever learn’d 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,.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000