Ireland, Mother of Priests

The fishwife sits by the side
Of her childing bed,
Her fire is deserted and sad,
Her beads are long said;
Her tears ebb and flow with the sea,
Her grief on the years,
But little she looks to the tide,
And little she hears
For children in springtime play round
Her sorrowing heart,
To win them their feeding she loves
To hunger apart;
Her children in summer she counts
Awhile for her own
But winter is ever the same,
The loved ones are flown.
Far over the sea they are gone,
Far out of her ken
They travel the furthest of seas
As fishers of men.
Yet never a word to her sons
To keep them at home,
And never a motherly cry
Goes over the foam
She sits with her head in her hands,
Her eyes on the flame,
And thinks of the others that played,
Yet left her the same,
With vesture she wove on the loom
Four-coloured to be,
And lanterns she trimmed with her hair
To light them to sea.
Oh, far have the living ones gone,
And further the dead,
For spirits come never to watch
The fisherwife’s bed;
And sonless she sits at the hearth,
And peers in the flame,
She knows that their fishing must come
As ever it came
A fishing that never set home,
But seaways it led,
For God who has taken her sons
Has buried her dead.

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