A Taste of Ireland's Poets | Early Verses | Middle Ages to Modern | Joseph Mary Plunkett | W.B. Yeats |
Lettermullan, County Galway, Ireland
Childless
by Giolla Brighde MacNamee (late 13th century)

Blessed Trinity have pity!
   You can give the blind man sight,
Fill the rocks with waving grasses--
   Give my house a child tonight.

You can bend the woods with blossom,
   What is there you cannot do?
All the branches burst with leafage,
   What's a little child to you?

Corn from shoot and oak from acorn
   Miracles of life awake,
Harvest from a fist of seedlings--
  Is a child so hard to make?

Childless men although they prosper
   Are praised only when they are up,
Sterile grace however lovely
   Is a seed that yields no crop.

There is no hell, no lasting torment
   But to be childless at the end,
A naked stone in grassy places,
   A man who leaves no love behind.

God I ask for two things only,
   Heaven when my life is done,
Payment as befits a poet--
   For my poem pay a son.

Plead with Him, O Mother Mary,
   Let Him grant the child I crave,
Womb that spun God's human tissue,
   I no human issue leave.

Brigid after whom they named me,
   Beg a son for my reward,
Let no poet empty-handed
   Leave the dwelling of his lord.

(translated by Frank O'Connor)

 

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(c) 2001 Don Schwager