Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A WEATHER PROPHET, by JANE BARLOW

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A WEATHER PROPHET, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The sun as clear as a raindrop of fire slipt
Last Line: Home.
Subject(s): Drowning; Prophecy & Prophets; Sailing & Sailors; Travel; Weather; Seamen; Sails; Journeys; Trips


THE sun as clear as a raindrop of fire slipt under the say this night,
That was still as the floor of the skies, lyin' smoothened over wid light,
And niver an oar's dip on it, nor a sail but a white gull's wing—
Ah sure not at all, not at all, I was thinkin' of no such a thing.
If the ships of the world sailed around us, like a cold-wreath beltin' the sun,
Musha, who on the Inish 'ud look where they la? unless only that one
Could just swim up agin through the waves wid the loadin' she had safe and
Till we'd see 'twas no more than an ugly dream that the childer were drowned.

To tell you the truth, I was thinkin' that a could might be soon comin' by,
Weeny and white, for a sign that the rest were gatherin' and darkenin' anigh;
But I'm watchin' the len'th of the day, that seems long since the childer went,
And there's sorra a breath on the blue—we must bide a while yet content.


I hear the folks sayin' down yonder I've little enough to do,
To be wishin' away the fine weather, ere the summer's rightly through.
Says Widdy Rourke: 'He's astray in his mind since the lost the little colleen,
So it's strange he talks.' But themselves are stranger, or they'd know the way
it's been.
For, arrah now, is it aught else but the fau't of this weary fine weather
Laves the Inish all desolit and lone, when the young ones troop off it together?
After the harvestin' work they go in the fields that are rep and mown
Far off on I dunno what townland—I'd as lief 'twas all wet bog and stone.
And always the saison they quit, the long days such a shinin' 'ill keep,
The dark of the night scarce holds room for a bit of a dream in you sleep,
Ere the cocks 'ill be crowin', and the hole in the wall's like an eye blinkin'
And you wake and forgit she's away, and next minyit remimber agin.
But the sorra a step they set back while the summer sun's in the skies,
So its heat has a heart of cold, and its light flares the dark in our eyes,
For lost we are, missin' the young and the strong that have left us behind,
Wee imps wit no wit to heed aught, and ould fools that have grieved ourselves
Till there's scarce a fut stirrin' on Achill can better than totter or creep,
And och then but the lonesome road runs long, ay, ay, and the hill lifts steep.


We wouldn't ha' let them away good or bad, if we'd done what was right;
There's no tellin' where childer 'ill go, when you trust them off out of your
You may think they've all manner of sinse, and be wond'rin' the way they're
Yet liker than not they'll git playin' some quare foolish trick of their own,
And be lost ere you know. sure we'd never a doubt, and they startin' that day,
They'd cross safe in the big sailin' boat up to Westport, the width of the Bay;
What 'ud ail them, wid wather and win' keepin' quiet as a baste lyin' down?
But the next thing we heard they'd capsized her, wid Norah on board her to


It's man a trouble slips by us wid only a hairs- breadth between:
Just a word 'ud ha' kep' her that mornin', but now thro' black night we might
And she'll heed us no more than you rock in the foam heeds the saygull's cry.
There was some of the lads was as plased to be goin' as young birds to fly,
And discoorsin' of all they'd a chance to be seein'; but Norah'd ha' stayed
If we'd bid her, and welcome. I'm thinkin' the crathur was three parts afraid,
Travellin' off all her lone. And what tuk her to go was her mind bein' bent
To earn us a trifle would help when the cold come agin us, and the rent;
And she'd talk of the full of me pipe, and her mother's odd grain of tay,
But we knew she'd be starved if she stayed, so, God guide us, we let her away.

And the last thing she done, she went round wid meself to our bit of ould shed,
Where the black him was hatchin' her clutch, and she seen if the crathur'd been
So the two of us stood lookin' veer the wall, while she picked up her bit,
Thinkin' different things. And says Norah: 'She 's better than ten days to sit;
But afore I've the chance to get home, 'tis grand chucks they'll be growin',
please God.'
Och, that come in me thoughts when I seen them this mornin' about on the sod,
Half a score of them, peckin' and pipin' and skytin' all manner of ways,
Wid th' ould hin stumpin' on thro' the lot of them, high-fut, as proud as you
For thinks I: 'Sure them scuts of black balls might ha' time to swell up by our
To the size of the aigles that roost in the clouds and the sun on Slievemore,
Ere we'll see Norah home; ay, she's drowned in the say lyin' bright there and
So I thought in me mind, but I felt in me heart that it couldn't be true.


I remimber the time me poor father was tuk on us, a great while ago,
And we waked him and buried him—Heaven be his bed—in Dugort down
And then back wid us home to th'ould house, that was strange-like and still when
we came.
And I said to meself he was gone, but I thought he'd be there all the same.
Till I streeled out at sunsettin', round to the field where we'd broken the lea,
That's a quare long stiff pull 'gin the steep of the hill, and 'twas often I'd
Where he follied th'ould horses, nid-noddin' their heads to the sky on the
Wid their big feet all tramplin' togither in pairs as they turned on the idge
Of the headland. So there in its furrow the plough lay, laned over on one side,
Wid its handle-crooks lookin' to feel in the air for the grip that 'ud guide;
And says I to meself: 'He'll ne'er hold them again till the whole world rusts
And wid that, on a suddint, I couldn't say how, but I knew he was dead.


But sure what would I see or hear tell could persuade me this summer 'll slip
And no chance to set eyes on the childer and Norah, the crathur, at last?
Sure, why else would we watch for the days gettin' dark, and the fields turnin'
And the win' keenin' could, if it warn't for a sign they were soon comin' back?
Troth, it's rael unnatural ould talk that long sorry I'd be to believe,
For the latest that ever they stayed, they were home again come Holy Eve;
And now Lady Day's by, there's no terrible time to be waitin' at all,
Though it lags like an ass wid a load lettin' on it's scarce able to crawl,
And somewhiles when you're wakin' at night, or out sittin' alone in the sun,
You'll misdoubt it stands still; yet for sartin, they're nigher every hour we
get done:
That's just raison and sinse. But she's wantin' the wit, I keep tellin' the
That consaits she's as apt to be seein' them come any day of her life,
Till she's never quit hearin' the step, thinkin' Norah's run up our boreen—
She'd a right to know better, when, look where you will, not a cloud's to be


For the young ones have always the notion we're sparin' them ready enough
In the clear plisant weather that smoothes over everythin' ugly and rough,
Wid the warmth on the shore, and the light on the say. Ay bedad, they think
How'd they tell that these days they ne'er see do be all cruel lonesome and
So the shine of the sun, where they says to themselves we'll be sittin' content,
Shuts us out of their minds in a manner, as if it was bound to purvent
Harm from happenin' us here; and it's aisy forgettin' your folks for a while,
If you dread them no mischief, but, faith, if you do, every step seems a mile
That you tread beyond reach, wid the fear in your heart like the tug of a tether
To choke you back home. And the childer know well when we're gettin' bad
It's the hard times on Achill, wid mists on the say, and polthogues on the land,
And the blasts risin' up in your face like a wall you can't touch wid your hand,
When the turf's melted down in the bog, and the praties washed out of the earth,
And the floor's like a beach wid the tide flowin' in, and a lough on the hearth,
And the win' fit to reive off th'ould thatch like dry leaves off the roof of a
Till all's flooded and flittered, and nothin' you've left that's a thraneen of
So the childer'll be fretted to hear the storm risin', wherever they are—
Some folk says wid the Saints, and it's maybe no lie, but that's terrible
And they'll think how it's home agin, lendin' a hand here, by rights they should
Sure now Norah's the greatest opinion at all of her mother and me;
If she knew we were perished and starved, and herself livin' happy apart,
All the say's waves rolled over her head wouldn't drown the grief out of her


So the next time the storm takes to rise an outrageous loud whillaballoo,
I can tell well enough anyway what poor Norah 'll be safe to go do;
Ay, she wouldn't bide aisy, the win'll turn her home, as it drives in a wave,
Tho' she's come where the highest you could name are the people she's bound to
ax lave.
Our Lady herself it might be, wid heaven's blue in the folds of her gown,
And a glimmerin' of stars flown together, and lit on her head in a crown,
And poor Norah's her screed of red skirt, and her mother's ould little black
Goin' barefut—no matter for that, she'll make bold and spake up to them
And be thankin' them kindly, no fear but she will, she's a mannerly child,
And she'll tell them she's wanted at home now the saison's got stormy and
Ah, since ever you left us, acushla, we're wantin' the sight of your face—
And she'll say there's not one but herself to be doin' a turn in our place,
For her mother's complainin' this long while, and her father's gone failed like
and ould,
And she's 'fraid of her life they'll be gettin' their death in the wet and the
But if aught went agin them, and she far away, sure the heart of her'd break.
Then the rest of the childer'd be sayin': 'True for her,' each word that she'd
And the sorra a Saint'll bid them lave us all desolit here and forlorn—
Ay, the storm's our best chance in this world, and it's comin' as sure as we're


That's the raison I'll watch a while yet, for the haze might be gatherin' to-
If 'twas only a breath, it's a grand sign for win': or a cloud trailin' white
On the dark of the ridge, caught and tore into flakes like sheep's wool on a
Then we'd have a good chance. But some folk do keep hopin' wid no chance at all,
Like Rose Byrne, that goes callin' her sons to come back, mopin' round on the
And herself there, that has me annoyed hearin' steps runnin' up to the door.
Och, it's cross wid the crathur I be, and she ailin' and wantin' the wit;
Howane'er, when we've Norah agin, every trouble in our lives we'll forgit.
And it won't be so long now, plase God, till a change'll be comin'. Some day
The sun's self 'ill be lost o'er our heads afore ever he drops in the say,
And the moanin' away on the wather 'll come near till it roars and it raves,
For the win'll grip the lan' and get swirlin' it round in the clouds and the
And the storm 'ill lep out on us, ragin' and wild, thro' the mists and the foam,
Blindin', and deafenin', and takin' our breath—and bringin' the childer

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