Padraic Colum

Here you will find the Long Poem Polonius and the Ballad Singers of poet Padraic Colum

Polonius and the Ballad Singers

A gaunt built woman and her son-in-law? 
A broad-faced fellow, with such flesh as shows 
Nothing but easy nature?and his wife, 
The woman?s daughter, who spills all her talk 
Out of a wide mouth, but who has eyes as gray 
As Connemara, where the mountain-ash 
Shows berries red indeed: they enter now? 
Our country singers! 
?Sing, my good woman, sing us some romance 
That has been round your chimney-nooks so long 
?Tis nearly native; something blown here 
And since made racy?like yon tree, I might say, 
Native by influence if not by species, 
Shaped by our winds. You understand, I think?? 
?I?ll sing the song, sir.? 
To-night you see my face? 
Maybe nevermore you?ll gaze 
On the one that for you left his friends and kin; 
For by the hard commands 
Of the lord that rules these lands 
On a ship I?ll be borne from Cruckaunfinn! 
Oh, you know your beauty bright 
Has made him think delight 
More than from any fair one he will gain; 
Oh, you know that all his will 
Strains and strives around you till 
As the hawk upon his hand you are as tame! 
Then she to him replied: 
I?ll no longer you deny, 
And I?ll let you have the pleasure of my charms; 
For to-night I?ll be your bride, 
And whatever may betide 
It?s we will lie in one another?s arms! 
?You should not sing 
With body doubled up and face aside? 
There is a climax here?`It?s we will lie?? 
Hem?passionate! And what does your daughter sing?? 
?A song I like when I do climb bare hills? 
?Tis all about a hawk.? 
No bird that sits on rock or bough 
Has such a front as thine; 
No king that has made war his trade 
Such conquest in his eyne! 
I mark thee rock-like on the rock 
Where none can see a shape. 
I climb, but thou dost climb with wings, 
And like a wish escape, 
She said? 
And like a wish escape! 
No maid that kissed his bonny mouth 
Of another mouth was glad; 
Such pride was in our chieftain?s eyes, 
Such countenance he had! 
But since they made him fly the rocks, 
Thou, creature, art my quest. 
Then lift me with thy steady eyes. 
If then to tear my breast, 
She said? 
If then to tear my breast! 
?The songs they have 
Are the last relics of the feudal world: 
Women will keep them?byzants, doubloons, 
When men will take up songs that are as new 
As dollar bills. What song have you, young man? 
?A song my father had, sir. It was sent him 
From across the sea, and there was a letter with it, 
Asking my father to put it to a tune 
And sing it all roads. He did that, in troth, 
And five pounds of tobacco were sent with the song 
To fore-reward him. I?ll sing it for you now? 
The Baltimore Exile. 
? The house I was bred in?ah, does it remain? 
Low walls and loose thatch standing lone in the rain, 
With the clay of the walls coming through with its stain, 
Like the blackbird?s left nest in the briar! 
Does a child there give heed to the song of the lark, 
As it lifts and it drops till the fall of the dark, 
When the heavy-foot kine trudge home from the paurk, 
Or do none but the red-shank now listen? 
The sloe-bush, I know, grows close to the well, 
And its long-lasting blossoms are there, I can tell, 
When the kid that was yeaned when the first ones befell 
Can jump to the ditch that they grow on! 
But there?s silence on all. Then do none ever pass 
On the way to the fair or the pattern or mass? 
Do the gray-coated lads drive the ball through the grass 
And speed to the sweep of the hurl? 
O youths of my land! Then will no Bolivar 
Ever muster your ranks for delivering war? 
Will your hopes become fixed and beam like a star? 
Will they pass like the mists from your fields? 
The swan and the swallows, the cuckoo and crake, 
May visit my land and find hillside and lake. 
And I send my song. I?ll not see her awake? 
I?m too old a bird to uncage now! 
?Silver?s but lead in exchange for songs, 
But take it and spend it.? 
?We will. And may we meet your honor?s like 
Every day?s end.? 
?A tune is more lasting than the voice of the birds.? 
?A song is more lasting than the riches of the world.?