[From Manx Melodies, 1922]
O sad the lot of babe forlorn
That hath no home in earth or sky,
But sobs along the dark'ning broogh-
" A Babe without a Name am I !"
Scarce launched upon its earthly course,
It had no time to sin or pray;
But all unwelcome, undesired,
Its harmless life was cast away.
Unblest by sign of Holy Cross,
Whose weight, like Christ, it surely bore,
A sinless soul, through dreary space
Thrust out to wander evermore.
It sobs along the lonely broogh,
Where night and darkness fill the sky,
" Oh, pity me! Oh, pity me !
A Babe without a Name am I !"
Dark was the night and rough the road
The heiress in her anguish trod;
To frenzy wrought, her only thought
To hide her shame beneath the sod.
Ask not what woeful deed was done
Ere dimly dawned the sombre day;
What madness of despair sent forth
That dreadful cry above the bay!
The sea-mews rose and wheeled and crossed,
White wings against the dark brow'd hill;
And widening circles on the tide
Broke silently, and all was still.
At Earey-Cushlin blinds are drawn,
And whispers fill the stagnant air,
Wet footprints track the silent hall,
And seaweed drips from off the stair.
And on a day the mourners go,
And hymns are sung and prayers are said,
And in the churchyard's hallowed ground
They leave one more among the dead.
And should they grudge her hallowed ground
That knew not what despair was hers,
Nor dreamed what madness found her there
In that lone Keeill among the furze?
So Mass was sung and prayers were said,
And tender hearts wept tears of pain.
Perchance such tears might help to cleanse
A hopeless soul from sinful stain.
Sad fate was hers; yet might she hope,
Though ages long must pass before,
Through prayers and fears and burning tears
At last to reach the heavenly door.
And then-when purged by cleansing fires
She trembles toward the distant light,
Will she not think of that poor babe
Thrust out to wander through the night
So sad the lot of Babe unblest
That hath no home in heaven or earth,
But mourns in its cold winding sheet
About the place that gave it birth.
It may not reach to heaven above,
It may not rest in earth below;
Nor with its lighted taper pierce
The limbo of its outcast woe.
The grey tide leaps upon the rocks,
The sea-mews rise and cross and wheel,
And ever as the darkness falls
The Babe weeps lonely in the Keeill.
And in its trailing winding sheet
Sobs o'er the broogh its piteous cry
" Oh, pity me! oh, pity me !
A Babe without a Name am I ! "
The old man ceased, and in the pause,
We watched the smoke against the hill;
As in a dream he told his tale,
As in a dream we listened still.
His sea-blue eyes though dimmed by years
Saw far beyond our time and space,
And child-like faith in unseen things
Had smoothed the furrows in his face.
His simple creed--to do his best
As guardian of that treasured pile,
Whose ancient towers and ruined choirs
Stand crowned about Peel's holy Isle.
And leaning on his staff he sat
Beside us in the sunny nook,
Embrasured by cathedral walls
Whose stones were all his sacred book.
And then one spoke-" Ah, say not so
That sinless souls could thus be lest
To suffer for another's fault
Forever-of all hope bereft.
Such hapless souls might rather be
The nurslings of the saints on high,
And learn in gentler worlds than ours
The music of the earth and sky."
" Alas! " he said, " Those little ones
Who unbaptised have breathed and died,
May never reach the highest bliss-
But still-the Father's net is wide.
And you shall hear how this poor Babe
Was lifted from its grievous plight,
And, by the faith of two poor men,
Set free to reach the blessed Light."
From Niarbyl Point to Bradda Head
The great Bay Mooar lies broad and deep,
And here the fishers cast their nets,
While landward folic are lost in sleep.
With steady sweep of heavy oars,
From Dalby strand they make their way,
Before the lingering light has left
The crags of Cronk-ny-Iree Lhaa.
Sometimes the night is loud with storm,
Sometimes the creeping fog comes round,
And sometimes all the moonlit hours
Are holy with a peace profound.
Sometimes between the dusk and dark
The fishers see a glancing spark,
A tiny riding-light;
Now here-now there-
And now a pair,
And now a score,
Around them dancing bright.
And straightway all about them ride
The fairy nickeys on the tide;
And all the air is full of din,
And elfish voices, shrewd and thin,
And creak of spar,
And smell of tar,
And water washing up the side;
While here and there,
The gentle folk
Are well bespoke,
And room is left for them to ride
In safety on the gleaming tide.
And then a puff
Of wind comes by,
" Oie-vie, oie-vie!" the fairies cry.
And all around the sea is bare,
And not a boat is anywhere!
Two mates were drifting thus one night
In lonely silence on the Bay,
Such silence as old comrades know
That means more than a man can say.
Then spoke at last the younger man-
" The Babe is fretting sore to-night;
And pitiful it is to hear
Its cries up yonder on the height ! "
And then the twain began to speak
Of that sad story of the place;
And question why such things should be
And what could limit Saving Grace.
" For seemeth me," the elder said,
" That babe hath more than common loss,
For it was born on holy ground
Though never named with sign of cross."
" And seemeth me," he musing said,
" It must have been so nearly saved,
That even now it might be blest
If any man the deed had braved.
And surely God's own heart must ache
To hear it sobbing through the dark,
And long to have its christened soul
Beside Him in the sheltering ark.
Your tender babes are safe at home,
And cradled in their mother's prayers;
My sturdy sons to manhood grown,
Have long repaid my early cares.
The very hawks upon the hill
Watch their fierce brood through calm and storm;
And timid conies in the fern
Keep their soft younglings safe and warm.
And will not He who made them all
Watch o'er His little lost ones too,
And, maybe waited till this hour,
For us poor men His Will to do."
And then the other made reply-
" Let us christen the Babe if that be so,
And if we are doing the Will of the Lord
He will send us a token, that we shall know."
And these men of the sea stood up in the boat,
That under them gave, and rocked and swayed,
And their hearts o'erflowed with a mighty faith,
And they spake with God and were not afraid.
And they signed the Cross on the midnight air,
While the lifting billows rolled and fell,
And the star of night was their altar light,
And the deep sea sounded their vesper bell.
And the elder lifted his sea-worn hand,
And bared to the sky his rev'rent head;
While the younger followed him word by word.
And thus to the Babe they spoke and said-
" If thou'rt a boy thy name shall be Juan,
If thou'rt a girl thy name shall be Joan."
And the crying ceased and the Babe was still
And the sound of the sea was heard alone.
And a star shot up from the lone dark Keeill
And a soul flew free from the throes of night;
And their eyes were opened that they could see
The Babe's glad welcome to fields of light.
And they heard the music of harps on high
While the lifting billows rolled and fell,
Till the sun rose over the watching Cronk
And the deep sea sounded their matin bell.