Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TERENCE MACRAN, by JANE BARLOW



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TERENCE MACRAN, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Musha, mrs. Dinneen! How's yourself
Last Line: An' there's maybe a sugarstick yit in me pocket, moorneen, if you thry.
Subject(s): Children - Lost; Death; Dead, The


I

MUSHA, Mrs. Dinneen! How's yourself, ma'am, this long time? I'm finely, thank
God,
Barrin' whiles just a touch of the cramp. I'd a right to not sit on the sod?
But this win's dhried the wet, an' the could of the air's warm enough in the
sun,
So I thought I'd wait here on the bank till the school-hour widin there is done;
For you see it's the first day at all me poor Mick's little Katty's went
in—
She'll be five come next May, and her granny'd a notion 'twas time she'd begin.
But the sugarsticks, ma'am, she had swallied, and I coaxin' her on down our
lane,
They'd surprise you; the full pretty nigh of me pocket she's finished up clane.
'Cause if ever she got her mouth empty, she'd out wid the wofullest roar
To go home to her granny, so what should I do but keep givin' her more?
It's herself is the great little rogue. But I waited for 'fraid comin' out,
Left alone be herself wid the childer all bawlin' an' bangin' about,
She'd be scared. Not that Katty's too aisily frighted, the sorra a bit:
There's 'most nothin' she puts me in mind of so much as a wee blue-capped tit,
That hops undher your feet lettin' on it consaits it's no littler than you,
And 'ill fluff itself out like an aigle at a thrush that could snap it in two.
Sure, just now, whin I tuk her to lave wid the misthress inside there—that
looks
Like a plisant young slip of a lass, an' she wrote Katty's name in her
books—
An' sez she, civil-spoken an' frindly: 'A scholar we'll have her ere long,
An' she'll like to be gettin' her letters, an' learnin' a bit of a song;
An' you'll be a good girleen for sartin',' sez she. But sez Katty: 'I wount.'
Troth, she had me ashamed wid her thin; but the misthress seemed makin' no
count,
On'y laughin' a bit. An' bedad if she looked to find wit fairly grown
In a crathur like Katty, I'd think she worn't throubled wid much of her own.

II

Was you iver to see the new school? Woman dear, it's a won'erful sight:
Such a sizeable room, wid the childher in rows on the forrms, sittin' quite
As the plants in a ridge of pitaties, the crathurs, an' scrawmin' away
At their slates an' their sums, and I dunno what else. But our ould Ah, Bay,
Say,
Takes a quare dale of taichin' these times, ma'am. Sure look at the place there
inside,
That's as big as the chapel, wid boards to the flure, and its windies so wide
They'd hould half the sky's light, an' the grand yella blinds, an' the figures
and all
Wrote that plain you could read them a mile on the black affair up 'gin the
wall;
An' the counthries in maps hangin' round—but whoiver done thim, I'd ha'
said
Made a botch of it; very belike he invinted thim out of his head,
For the sorra a look of the lan' I got off thim. 'Here's Mayo,' sez she;
Faith, 'twas just an ould jaggety patch wid green edges, for aught I could see.
But the offer's a wee thrifle betther he thried at the blue of the say;
I'll ha' noticed it somethin' that colour odd whiles of a smooth shiny day.
Howane'er, it's small thanks to the childher if they grow up as cute as ould
crows,
After all the conthrivance for taichin' thim iverythin' there in their rows,
Till they couldn't help learnin' if nothin' they done on'y sit in the class,
Same as goin' to chapel of a mornin' you couldn't miss hearin' the Mass.

III

Sure I won'er what Terence Macran 'ud ha' said to it now, he that had
Our ould school, and the on'y one sivin mile round us, when I was a lad.
Och, the divil a table or a forrm you'd ha' found in the classes he kep'.
But the highest ould thatch iver sthraked, an' the widest ould flure iver swep',
Terence had: for his school was out yonder above on the side of the hill,
All the same all these years; I could show you the place he'd be sittin' in
still.
If you take up the grass-slope behind us, an' folly along be the path
Till the dyke cuts across it, and slip down the hollow, you're in the ould Rath.
It's a many a time I've throoped off there along wid the other gossoons,
And it's many a time we come late, mitchin' round to go pick musheroons,
While ould Terence was waitin' as cross as a weasel up undher the hedge,
Till we'd come wid our turves and our Readin'-made-aisys. The bank round the
edge
Of the Rath's mostly planted wid furzes an' blackthorns, an' furze for a screen
Is worth double of thorns, that be shady an' plisant as long as they're green,
But no betther in winther than crooky dark claws makin' grabs in the air,
Whin the furze 'ill be thick as a stook of good thatch ivery day of the year.
So we'd git a grand shelter; but, sure, since their iligant school-house was
built,
If you bid thim sit out on the hillside, they'd think they were murdhered an'
kilt.

IV

And 'twas could enough whiles, wid the pours overhead, and the wet undher fut,
Or frost white on the grass, or black clouds peltin' hail-stones as big as a
nut.
Yet the bitterest blast iver blew maybe'd do you a rael good turn,
If you'd come to a bit in your spellin' you'd niver been bothered to learn,
For 'twas quare if you couldn't conthrive, wid the win' to lay hould of your
laves—
Our old books did be always in flitthers—and sthrew thim about like wrecked
shaves,
So afore you'd done skytin' to gather the lot litthered round on the grass,
He'd be apt to ha' tuk up wid somebody else and let your lesson pass.
And 'twas plisant enough of a mornin' in summer wid dew on the ground,
An' the sun in the dew flashin' sparkles like rainbows turned stars all around,
An' the scint of the cowslips an' clover like honey where'er the win"d blow,
An' the corncrake far off, an' the larks singin' high, an' the bees hummin' low.
Sure we'd find out a dale of divarsion 'ud shorten the time we'd to bide,
An' in that we'd the pull I'm a-thinkin' o'er the spalpeens on forrms there
inside,
If it's thim has the betther of us in the matter of storms an' polthogues.
For the bank where we sat 'ud be creepin' wid quare little ants and
keerhouges,
An' dowlduffs—that's a kind of ould divil you see be the cock of their
tails;
Or a butterfly'd flutther in raich, on its wings like the weeny white sails;
Or we'd thry set a couple of grasshoppers leppin' along in a race.
Thin if Terence had e'er a quick lad that 'ud learn at the divil's own pace,
It's discoorsin' they'd stay half the day, till you'd think their two heads 'ud
be dazed,
And he'd clane forgit ivery one else. So the rest of us done what we plased.

V

But they've grand regulatin' these times of the lessons down here in the
schools,
An' they've settled a plan to percaive if the taichers is keepin' the rules;
That's the raison a gintleman comes from the College aich twelvemonth or so,
Wid the heighth of all manner of learnin' to see what the school childher know.
And it's thin there's the great work whativer; you might think the assizes was
set,
An' the young ones all standin' their trial, to hear the quare questions they'll
get.
An' the way of it is: for aich scholar who'll out wid the answers they want,
Somethin's ped to the taicher, but sorra the bawbee for any that can't:
So if taichers thried harder to put the right answers in every brat's head,
Divil thank thim to do their endeavours, whin they find it's the way to get ped.
But ould Terence now, he that well knew if the finest insthructions we learned,
Till King Solomon's self was a joke to us, ne'er a doit more he'd ha' earned,
Whin he chanced on a cute sort of lad, you'd suppose 'twas a fortin he'd found;
More sot up he'd scarce be wid his taichin' if it brought him a clare hunderd
pound.
An' the next best to that he'd be plased wid a lot of us squattin' together,
Hummin'-buzzin' away at our book like the bees in the bloom of the heather,
For he liked a big school, tho' it's many a time 'ud he vow an' declare
That poor Thady the Fool had more wit than the most of what bosthoons came
there.
And a dacint ould innicint crathur, that couldn't ha' tould his own name,
Was poor Thady. I dunno what notion of schoolin' he had, but he came,
And wid e'er an ould lafe he could hould upside-down it's continted he'd sit
Be the hour; he was wishful to learn, Terence said, if he'd on'y the wit,
But ourselves that had plinty 'ud liefer be skytin' about on the hill
Like the scuts of young rabbits than takin' the trouble to on'y bide still.
And thrue for him bedad. But that same's the conthráry quare way things
'ill fall,
For whin folk's grown contint to sit quiet, they've no chances of learnin' at
all,
Or who'll taich thim? Yet one way or other, wid all the divarsion we tuk,
We got most of us readin' an' writin' ere ould Terence's turn of bad luck.

VI

'Twas one day he caught could sittin' out there above, and it teemin' wid rain,
'Cause Pat Blake, that was great at his figures, kep' axin' him things to
explain;
So he outs wid his bit of white chalk, and all sorts of consthructions he draws
On the smooth of the earth where the grass-sods were cut up in patches for
scraws;
And he sted there discoorsin' away wid his lines and his circles an' such,
No more heedin' the wet than a speckle-faced sheep, or not maybe so much.
But that's how he got fairly disthroyed in his chest wid a quare furrin could;
If it's ouldish he was lyin' down, up he riz agin oulder than ould,
Not the same man at all was he, body an' bones, but grown feeble an' failed,
An' that moidhered an' strange, he was wrong in his head whatsoiver he ailed.
For he'd often forget what he meant to ha' said, whin he'd scarcely begun,
Or he'd sit in a maze takin' no sort of heed what we left or we done.
So thin after a bit whin we all of us seen he was able for naught,
Musha, where was the sinse of our wastin' our time lettin' on to be taught?
An' there prisently wasn't a scholar he had, but kep' stayin' away.
Still ould Terence 'ud come to the Rath, and he'd bide there the len'th of the
day,
Lookin' out for his school that came next him nor nigh him as long as he'd wait,
And he frettin' belike to himself, and awond'rin' what made us so late.
Ne'er a fut he'd stir home while the sun shone above him to light him a hope,
Till the hill-shadow laned o'er the glen, an' crawled up to his feet on the
slope;
And he'd off wid him thin to a shielin' near by, where a lodgin' he had,
Clane disheartened he'd be wid it all, some one tould me, he thought it so bad.

VII

But one evenin' be chance young Pat Blake and meself was stravadin' around,
And we come where you look down above the ould Rath from a high bit of ground;
And sure there was ould Terence himself sittin' still on the watch for his
school,
An' the sorra a sowl in it, on'y fornint him just Thady the Fool,
That had got some ould wisp of a book he was houldin', and hummin' galore,
Tho' he couldn't conthrive, do his best, what 'ud aquil the couple of score
Would be in it somewhiles. And I doubt but ould Terence was vexed in his mind
To be missin' the rest of us all for no raison he iver could find;
'Deed it's rael discouraged he was, you might see, and 'most ready to cry,
Sittin' there wid himself and his throubles out undher the width of the sky,
An' naught heedin' unless 'twas the win' that wint rufflin' his hair white as
down
On the head of an ould dandelion set round in a fluff like a crown.
So Pat watched him awhile, and: 'Me sowl from the divil,' he sez, aisy and low,
'It's poor Thady the Fool has more sinse than us all.' And sez I: 'He has so.'
An' sez Pat: 'Well, ould Terence to-morra,' sez he, 'be the powers of smoke,
He'll be taichin' a big school whativer, or else somedbodies' heads 'ill get
broke.'

VIII

An' next mornin' he planned it. Himself was the up-standin' fair-spoken lad,
So a many 'ud do aught he axed thim; but if he was crossed, he'd be mad,
So the others 'ud do what he bid thim. That's how be some manner of manes
He got plinty of spalpeens persuaded, an' throopin' along up the lanes
To th'ould school at the Rath. Such a power, sure, of scholars as niver was
seen,
And we all brought our Readin'-made-aisys, an' squatted around on the green.
And our turf-sods we piled in a sizeable stack there be Terence's place,
Where he sat quite contint—ay bedad, he'd scarce room on the whole of his
face
For the smile at the sight of us all, and the sound of us dronin' away.
'Whethen childher, you're great at the learnin',' sez he, 'and industhrious this
day.'
He said that, ma'am, and school breakin' up, whin the sunset was red on the air;
And next day not a one of us all but was glad we'd had wit to go there;
For his folk thought he'd on'y slep' on a bit late, lyin' still in his bed;
But we'd plase him no more in this world—rest his sowl—sure th' ould
crathur was dead.

IX

Ah, it's that was the bell rang widin there—school's up, they'll be gettin'
about,
All the childher, this now. Ay, they're openin' the door, here they are tumblin'
out
Like the wasps at their hole in the bank. But where's Katty? She's not there at
all.
What's delayin' her? Maybe she's someways behind, bein' on'y so small.
I'll go look.—No, she's yonder, she's out right enough. Och, the bould
little toad,
Did you notice the dhrive, ma'am, she hit Murty Doyle,' cause he got in her
road,
And he twyste her own size? Come here, Katty acushla; I've waited, you see,
To be bringin' you home agin. Gimme your bag, and I'll mind it, machree.
Sure you wouldn't be wantin' to stop here? You've iligant places to play
Up at home. Come along till we look what at all Granny has for the tay.
Keep a hould of me hand, there's a jewel, and just step on the path where it's
dhry—
An' there's maybe a sugarstick yit in me pocket, moorneen, if you thry.






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