Father hart a faery child

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William Butler Yeats



SHAWN BRUIN, their son

MAIRE BRUIN, wife of Shawn


SCENE: In the Barony of Kilmacowan, in the county of Sligo, at a remote time.
SETTING: a room with a hearth on the floor in the middle of a deep alcove on the right. There are benches in the alcove, and a table; a crucifix on the wall. The alcove is full of a glow of light from the fire. There is an open door facing the audience, to the left, and to the left of this a bench. Through the door one can see the forest. It is night, but the moon or a late sunset glimmers through the trees, and carries the eye far off into a vague, mysterious world.

MAURTEEN BRUIN, SHAWN BRUIN, and BRIDGET BRUIN sit in the alcove at the table, or about the fire. They are dressed in the costume of some remote time, and near them sits an old priest, FATHER HART, in the garb of a friar. There is food and drink upon the table. MAIRE BRUIN stands by the door, reading a yellow manuscript. If she looks up, she can see through the door into the wood.
BRIDGET BRUIN Because I bade her go and feed the calves,

She took that old book down out of the thatch

And has been doubled over it all day.

We should be deafened by her groans and moans

Had she to work as some do, Father Hart,

Get up at dawn like me, and mend and scour;

Or ride abroad in the boisterous night like you,

The pyx and blessed bread under your arm.

SHAWN BRUIN You are too cross.

BRIDGET BRUIN The young side with the young.

MAURTEEN BRUIN She quarrels with my wife a bit at times,

And is too deep just now in the old book!

But do not blame her greatly; she will grow

As quiet as a puff-ball in a tree

When but the moons of marriage dawn and die

For half a score of times.

FATHER HART Their hearts are wild

As be the hearts of birds, till children come.

BRIDGET BRUIN She would not mind the griddle, milk the cow,

Or even lay the knives and spread the cloth.

FATHER HART I never saw her read a book before;

What may it be?

MAURTEEN BRUIN I do not rightly know;

It has been in the thatch for fifty years.

My father told me my grandfather wrote it,

Killed a red heifer and bound it with the hide.

But draw your chair this way--supper is spread;

And little good he got out of the book,

Because it filled his house with roaming bards,

And roaming ballad-makers and the like,

And wasted all his goods.--Here is the wine:

The griddle bread's beside you, Father Hart.

Colleen, what have you got there in the book

That you must leave the bread to cool? Had I,

Or had my father, read or written books

There were no stocking stuffed with golden guineas

To come, when I am dead, to Shawn and you.

FATHER HART You should not fill your head with foolish dreams.

What are you reading?

MARIE BRUIN How a Princess Edane,

A daughter of a King of Ireland, heard

A voice singing on a May Eve like this,

And followed, half awake and half asleep,

Until she came into the Land of Faery,

Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,

Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,

Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue;

And she is still there, busied with a dance,

Deep in the dewy shadow of a wood,

Or where stars walk upon a mountain-top.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Persuade the colleen to put by the book:

My grandfather would mutter just such things,

And he was no judge of a dog or horse,

And any idle boy could blarney him:

Just speak your mind.

FATHER HART Put it away, my colleen.

God spreads the heavens above us like great wings,

And gives a little round of deeds and days,

And then come the wrecked angels and set snares,

And bait them with light hopes and heavy dreams,

Until the heart is puffed with pride and goes,

Half shuddering and half joyous, from God's peace:

And it was some wrecked angel, blind from tears,

Who flattered Edane's heart with merry words.

My colleen, I have seen some other girls

Restless and ill at ease, but years went by

And they grew like their neighbours and were glad

In minding children, working at the churn,

And gossiping of weddings and of wakes;

For life moves out of a red flare of dreams

Into a common light of common hours,

Until old age bring the red flare again.

MAURTEEN BRUIN That's true--but she's too young to know it's true.

BRIDGET BRUIN She's old enough to know that it is wrong

To mope and idle.

SHAWN BRUIN I've little blame for her;

And mother's tongue were harder still to bear,

But for her fancies: this is May Eve too,

When the good people post about the world,

And surely one may think of them to-night.

Maire, have you the primroses to fling

Before the door to make a golden path

For them to bring good luck into the house?

Remember, they may steal new-married brides

After the fall of twilight on May Eve.

(MAIRE BRUIN goes over to the window and takes flowers from the bowl and strews them outside the door.)

FATHER HART You do well, daughter, because God permits

Great power to the good people on May Eve.

SHAWN BRUIN They can work all their will with primroses;

Change them to golden money, or little flames

To burn up those who do them any wrong.

MARIE BRUIN (in a dreamy voice) I had no sooner flung them by the door

Than the wind cried and hurried them away;

And then a child came running in the wind

And caught them in her hands and fondled them:

Her dress was green: her hair was of red gold;

Her face was pale as water before dawn.

FATHER HART Whose child can this be?

MAURTEEN BRUIN No one's child at all.

She often dreams that someone has gone by

When there was nothing but a puff of wind.

MARIE BRUIN They will not bring good luck into the house,

For they have blown the primroses away;

Yet I am glad that I was courteous to them,

For are not they, likewise, children of God?

FATHER HART Colleen, they are the children of the fiend,

And they have power until the end of Time,

When God shall fight with them a great pitched battle

And hack them into pieces.

MARIE BRUIN He will smile,

Father, perhaps, and open His great door,

And call the pretty and kind into His house.

FATHER HART Did but the lawless angels see that door,

They would fall, slain by everlasting peace;

And when such angels knock upon our doors

Who goes with them must drive through the same storm.

(A knock at the door. MAIRE BRUIN _opens it and then goes to the dresser and fills a porringer with milk and ands it through the door, and takes it back empty and closes the door.)

MARIE BRUIN A little queer old woman cloaked in green,

Who came to beg a porringer of milk.

BRIDGET BRUIN The good people go asking milk and fire

Upon May Eve--Woe on the house that gives,

For they have power upon it for a year.

I knew you would bring evil on the house.


MARIE BRUIN Both the tongue and face were strange.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Some strangers came last week to Clover Hill;

She must be one of them.

BRIDGET BRUIN I am afraid.

MAURTEEN BRUIN The priest will keep all harm out of the house.

FATHER HART The cross will keep all harm out of the house

While it hangs there.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Come, sit beside me, colleen,

And put away your dreams of discontent,

For I would have you light up my last days

Like the good glow of the turf, and when I die

I will make you the wealthiest hereabout:

For hid away where nobody can find

I have a stocking full of yellow guineas.

BRIDGET BRUIN You are the fool of every pretty face,

And I must pinch and pare that my son's wife

May have all kinds of ribbons for her head.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Do not be cross; she is a right good girl!

The butter is by your elbow, Father Hart.

My colleen, have not Fate and Time and Change

Done well for me and for old Bridget there?

We have a hundred acres of good land,

And sit beside each other at the fire,

The wise priest of our parish to our right,

And you and our dear son to left of us.

To sit beside the board and drink good wine

And watch the turf smoke coiling from the fire

And feel content and wisdom in your heart,

This is the best of life; when we are young

We long to tread a way none trod before,

But find the excellent old way through love

And through the care of children to the hour

For bidding Fate and Time and Change good-bye.

(A knock at the door. MAIRE BRUIN opens it and then takes a sod of turf out of the hearth in the tongs and goes out through the door. SHAWN follows her and meets her coming in.)

SHAWN BRUIN What is it draws you to the chill o' the wood?

There is a light among the stems of the trees

That makes one shiver.

MARIE BRUIN A little queer old man

Made me a sign to show he wanted fire

To light his pipe.

BRIDGET BRUIN You've given milk and fire,

Upon the unluckiest night of the year, and brought,

For all you know, evil upon the house.

Before you married you were idle and fine,

And went about with ribbons on your head;

And now--no, father, I will speak my mind,

She is not a fitting wife for any man--

SHAWN BRUIN Be quiet, mother!

MAURTEEN BRUIN You are much too cross!

MARIE BRUIN What do I care if I have given this house,

Where I must hear all day a bitter tongue,

Into the power of faeries!

BRIDGET BRUIN You know well

How calling the good people by that name

Or talking of them over much at all

May bring all kinds of evil on the house.

MARIE BRUIN Come, faeries, take me out of this dull house!

Let me have all the freedom I have lost;

Work when I will and idle when I will!

Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,

For I would ride with you upon the wind,

Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,

And dance upon the mountains like a flame!

FATHER HART You cannot know the meaning of your words.

MARIE BRUIN Father, I am right weary of four tongues:

A tongue that is too crafty and too wise,

A tongue that is too godly and too grave,

A tongue that is more bitter than the tide,

And a kind tongue too full of drowsy love,

Of drowsy love and my captivity.

(SHAWN BRUIN comes over to her and leads her to the settle.)

SHAWN BRUIN Do not blame me: I often lie awake

Thinking that all things trouble your bright head--

How beautiful it is--such broad pale brows

Under a cloudy blossoming of hair!

Sit down beside me here--these are too old,

And have forgotten they were ever young.

MARIE BRUIN Oh, you are the great door-post of this house,

And I, the red nasturtium, climbing up.

(She takes SHAWN'S hand, but looks shyly at the priest and lets it go.)

FATHER HART Good daughter, take his hand--by love alone

God binds us to Himself and to the hearth

And shuts us from the waste beyond His peace,

From maddening freedom and bewildering light.

SHAWN BRUIN Would that the world were mine to give it you

With every quiet hearth and barren waste,

The maddening freedom of its woods and tides,

And the bewildering light upon its hills.

MARIE BRUIN Then I would take and break it in my hands

To see you smile watching it crumble away.

SHAWN BRUIN Then I would mould a world of fire and dew

With no one bitter, grave, or over wise,

And nothing marred or old to do you wrong,

And crowd the enraptured quiet of the sky

With candles burning to your lonely face.

MARIE BRUIN Your looks are all the candles that I need.

SHAWN BRUIN Once a fly dancing in a beam of the sun,

Or the light wind blowing out of the dawn,

Could fill your heart with dreams none other knew,

But now the indissoluble sacrament

Has mixed your heart that was most proud and cold

With my warm heart forever; and sun and moon

Must fade and heaven be rolled up like a scroll;

But your white spirit still walk by my spirit.

(A VOICE sings in the distance.)

MARIE BRUIN Did you hear something call? Oh, guard me close,

Because I have said wicked things to-night;

And seen a pale-faced child with red-gold hair,

And longed to dance upon the winds with her.

A VOICE (close to the door)

The wind blows out of the gates of the day,

The wind blows over the lonely of heart

And the lonely of heart is withered away,

While the faeries dance in a place apart, S

haking their milk-white feet in a ring,

Tossing their milk-white arms in the air;

For they hear the wind laugh, and murmur and sing

Of a land where even the old are fair,

And even the wise are merry of tongue;

But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,

"When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,

The lonely of heart is withered away!"

MAURTEEN BRUIN I am right happy, and would make all else

Be happy too. I hear a child outside,

And will go bring her in out of the cold.

(He opens the door. A CHILD dressed in pale green and with red-gold hair comes into the house.)

THE CHILD I tire of winds and waters and pale lights!

MAURTEEN BRUIN You are most welcome. It is cold out there;

Who would think to face such cold on a May Eve?

THE CHILD And when I tire of this warm little house

There is one here who must away, away,

To where the woods, the stars, and the white streams

Are holding a continual festival.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Oh, listen to her dreamy and strange talk.

Come to the fire.

THE CHILD I will sit upon your knee,

For I have run from where the winds are born,

And long to rest my feet a little while. (She sits upon his knee.)

BRIDGET BRUIN How pretty you are!

MAURTEEN BRUIN Your hair is wet with dew!

BRIDGET BRUIN I will warm your chilly feet.

(She takes the child's feet in her hands.)

MAURTEEN BRUIN You must have come

A long, long way, for I have never seen

Your pretty face, and must be tired and hungry;

Here is some bread and wine.

THE CHILD The wine is bitter.

Old mother, have you no sweet food for me?

BRIDGET BRUIN I have some honey! (She goes into the next room.)

MAURTEEN BRUIN You are a dear child;

The mother was quite cross before you came.

(BRIDGET returns with the honey, and goes to the dresser and fills a porringer with milk.)

BRIDGET BRUIN She is the child of gentle people; look

At her white hands and at her pretty dress.

I've brought you some new milk, but wait awhile,

And I will put it by the fire to warm,

For things well fitted for poor folk like us

Would never please a high-born child like you.

THE CHILD Old mother, my old mother, the green dawn

Brightens above while you blow up the fire;

And evening finds you spreading the white cloth.

The young may lie in bed and dream and hope,

But you work on because your heart is old.

BRIDGET BRUIN The young are idle.

THE CHILD Old father, you are wise

And all the years have gathered in your heart

To whisper of the wonders that are gone.

The young must sigh through many a dream and hope,

But you are wise because your heart is old.

MAURTEEN BRUIN Oh, who would think to find so young a child

Loving old age and wisdom?

(BRIDGET gives her more bread and honey.)

THE CHILD No more, mother.

MAURTEEN BRUIN What a small bite! The milk is ready now;

What a small sip!

THE CHILD Put on my shoes, old mother,

For I would like to dance now I have eaten.

The reeds are dancing by Coolaney lake,

And I would like to dance until the reeds

And the white waves have danced themselves to sleep.

BRIDGET (Having put on her shoes, she gets off the old man's knees and is about to dance, but suddenly sees the crucifix and shrieks and covers her eyes.)

What is that ugly thing on the black cross?

FATHER HART You cannot know how naughty your words are!

That is our Blessed Lord!

THE CHILD Hide it away!

BRIDGET BRUIN I have begun to be afraid, again!

THE CHILD Hide it away!

MAURTEEN BRUIN That would be wickedness!

BRIDGET BRUIN That would be sacrilege!

THE CHILD The tortured thing! Hide it away!

MAURTEEN BRUIN Her parents are to blame.

FATHER HART That is the image of the Son of God.

(THE CHILD puts her arm around his neck and kisses him.)

THE CHILD Hide it away! Hide it away!


FATHER HART Because you are so young and little a child

I will go take it down.

THE CHILD Hide it away,

And cover it out of sight and out of mind.

(FATHER HART takes it down and carries it towards the inner room.)

FATHER HART Since you have come into this barony

I will instruct you in our blessed faith:

Being a clever child you will soon learn.

(To the others)

We must be tender with all budding things.

Our Maker let no thought of Calvary

Trouble the morning stars in their first song.

(Puts the crucifix in the inner room.)

THE CHILD Here is level ground for dancing. I will dance.

The wind is blowing on the waving reeds,

The wind is blowing on the heart of man.

(She dances, swaying about like the reeds.)

MAIRE (to SHAWN BRUIN) Just now when she came near I thought I heard

Other small steps beating upon the floor,

And a faint music blowing in the wind,

Invisible pipes giving her feet the time.

SHAWN BRUIN I heard no step but hers.

MARIE BRUIN Look to the bolt! Because the unholy powers are abroad.

MAURTEEN BRUIN (to THE CHILD) Come over here, and if you promise me

Not to talk wickedly of holy things

I will give you something.

THE CHILD Bring it me, old father!

(MAURTEEN BRUIN goes into the next room.)

FATHER HART I will have queen cakes when you come to me!

(MAURTEEN BRUIN _returns and lays a piece of money on the table. THE CHILD makes a gesture of refusal.)

MAURTEEN BRUIN It will buy lots of toys; see how it glitters!

THE CHILD Come, tell me, do you love me?


THE CHILD Ah! but you love this fireside!

FATHER HART I love you.

When the Almighty puts so great a share

Of His own ageless youth into a creature,

To look is but to love.

THE CHILD But you love Him above.

BRIDGET BRUIN She is blaspheming.

THE CHILD (to MAIRE) And do you love me?

MARIE BRUIN I--I do not know.

THE CHILD You love that great tall fellow over there:

Yet I could make you ride upon the winds,

Run on the top of the dishevelled tide,

And dance upon the mountains like a flame!

MARIE BRUIN Queen of the Angels and kind Saints, defend us!

Some dreadful fate has fallen: a while ago

The wind cried out and took the primroses,

And she ran by me laughing in the wind,

And I gave milk and fire, and she came in

And made you hide the blessed crucifix.

FATHER HART You fear because of her wild, pretty prattle;

She knows no better. (To THE CHILD) Child, how old are you?

THE CHILD When winter sleep is abroad my hair grows thin,

My feet unsteady. When the leaves awaken

My mother carries me in her golden arms.

I will soon put on my womanhood and marry

The spirits of wood and water, but who can tell

When I was born for the first time? I think

I am much older than the eagle cock

That blinks and blinks on Ballygawley Hill,

And he is the oldest thing under the moon.

FATHER HART She is of the faery people.

THE CHILD I am Brig's daughter.

I sent my messengers for milk and fire,

And then I heard one call to me and came.

(They all except SHAWN _and_ MAIRE BRUIN gather behind the priest for protection.)

SHAWN (rising) Though you have made all these obedient,

You have not charmed my sight, and won from me

A wish or gift to make you powerful;

I'll turn you from the house.

FATHER HART No, I will face her.

THE CHILD Because you took away the crucifix

I am so mighty that there's none can pass

Unless I will it, where my feet have danced

Or where I've twirled my finger tops.

(SHAWN _tries to approach her and cannot._)

MAURTEEN Look, look!

There something stops him--look how he moves his hands

As though he rubbed them on a wall of glass.

FATHER HART I will confront this mighty spirit alone.

(They cling to him and hold him back.)

THE CHILD (while she strews primroses)

No one whose heart is heavy with human tears

Can cross these little cressets of the wood.

FATHER HART Be not afraid, the Father is with us,

And all the nine angelic hierarchies,

The Holy Martyrs and the Innocents,

The adoring Magi in their coats of mail,

And He who died and rose on the third day,

And Mary with her seven times wounded heart.

(THE CHILD ceases strewing the primroses, and kneels upon the settle beside MAIRE and puts her arms about her neck.)

Cry, daughter, to the Angels and the Saints.

THE CHILD You shall go with me, newly married bride,

And gaze upon a merrier multitude;

White-armed Nuala, Aengus of the birds,

Feacra of the hurtling foam, and him

Who is the ruler of the Western Host,

Finvarra, and their Land of Heart's Desire,

Where beauty has no ebb, decay no flood,

But joy is wisdom, Time an endless song.

I kiss you and the world begins to fade.

FATHER HART Daughter, I call you unto home and love!

THE CHILD Stay, and come with me, newly married bride,

For, if you hear him, you grow like the rest:

Bear children, cook, be mindful of the churn,

And wrangle over butter, fowl, and eggs,

And sit at last there, old and bitter of tongue,

Watching the white stars war upon your hopes.

SHAWN Awake out of that trance, and cover up

Your eyes and ears.

FATHER HART She must both look and listen,

For only the soul's choice can save her now.

Daughter, I point you out the way to heaven.

THE CHILD But I can lead you, newly married bride,

Where nobody gets old and crafty and wise,

Where nobody gets old and godly and grave,

Where nobody gets old and bitter of tongue,

And where kind tongues bring no captivity;

For we are only true to the far lights

We follow singing, over valley and hill.

FATHER HART By the dear name of the one crucified,

I bid you, Maire Bruin, come to me.

THE CHILD I keep you in the name of your own heart!

(She leaves the settle, and stooping takes up a mass of primroses and kisses them.)

We have great power to-night, dear golden folk,

For he took down and hid the crucifix.

And my invisible brethren fill the house;

I hear their footsteps going up and down.

Oh, they shall soon rule all the hearts of men

And own all lands; last night they merrily danced

About his chapel belfry! (To MAIRE) Come away,

I hear my brethren bidding us away!

FATHER HART I will go fetch the crucifix again.

(They hang about him in terror and prevent him from moving.)

BRIDGET BRUIN The enchanted flowers will kill us if you go.

MAURTEEN BRUIN They turn the flowers to little twisted flames.

SHAWN BRUIN The little twisted flames burn up the heart.

THE CHILD I hear them crying, "Newly married bride,

Come to the woods and waters and pale lights."

MARIE BRUIN I will go with you.

FATHER HART She is lost, alas!

THE CHILD (standing by the door)

But clinging mortal hope must fall from you:

For we who ride the winds, run on the waves

And dance upon the mountains, are more light

Than dewdrops on the banners of the dawn.

MARIE BRUIN Oh, take me with you.

(SHAWN BRUIN goes over to her.)

SHAWN BRUIN Beloved, do not leave me!

Remember when I met you by the well

And took your hand in mine and spoke of love.

MARIE BRUIN Dear face! Dear voice!

THE CHILD Come, newly married bride!

MARIE BRUIN I always loved her world--and yet--and yet--

(Sinks into his arms.)

THE CHILD (from the door) White bird, white bird, come with me, little bird.

MARIE BRUIN She calls to me!

THE CHILD Come with me, little bird!

MARIE BRUIN I can hear songs and dancing!

SHAWN BRUIN Stay with me!

MARIE BRUIN I think that I would stay--and yet--and yet--

THE CHILD Come, little bird with crest of gold!

MARIE BRUIN (very softly) And yet--

THE CHILD Come, little bird with silver feet!

(MAIRE dies, and the child goes.)

SHAWN BRUIN She is dead!

BRIDGET BRUIN Come from that image: body and soul are gone.

You have thrown your arms about a drift of leaves

Or bole of an ash tree changed into her image.

FATHER HART Thus do the spirits of evil snatch their prey

Almost out of the very hand of God;

And day by day their power is more and more,

And men and women leave old paths, for pride

Comes knocking with thin knuckles on the heart.

A VOICE (singing outside)

The wind blows out of the gates of the day,

The wind blows over the lonely of heart,

And the lonely of heart is withered away

While the faeries dance in a place apart,

Shaking their milk-white feet in a ring,

Tossing their milk-white arms in the air;

For they hear the wind laugh and murmur and sing

Of a land where even the old are fair,

And even the wise are merry of tongue;

But I heard a reed of Coolaney say,

"When the wind has laughed and murmured and sung,

The lonely of heart is withered away."
(The song is taken up by many voices, who sing loudly, as if in triumph. Some of the voices seem to come from within the house_)


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