Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, CAOCH THE PIPER, by JOHN KEEGAN

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CAOCH THE PIPER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: One winter's day, long, long ago
Last Line: God rest you! Caoch o'leary.
Subject(s): Blindness; Music & Musicians; Visually Handicapped

ONE winter's day, long, long ago,
When I was a little fellow,
A piper wandered to our door,
Grey-headed, blind, and yellow:
And, oh! how glad was my young heart,
Though earth and sky looked dreary,
To see the stranger and his dog --
Poor 'Pinch' and Caoch O'Leary.

And when he stowed away his 'bag,'
Cross-barred with green and yellow,
I thought and said, 'In Ireland's ground
There's not so fine a fellow.'
And Fineen Burke, and Shaun Magee,
And Eily, Kate, and Mary,
Rushed in, with panting haste, to see
And welcome Caoch O'Leary.

O! God be with those happy times!
O! God be with my childhood!
When I, bare-headed, roamed all day --
Bird-nesting in the wild-wood.
I'll not forget those sunny hours,
However years may vary;
I'll not forget my early friends,
Nor honest Caoch O'Leary.

Poor Caoch, and 'Pinch,' slept well that night,
And in the morning early
He called me up to hear him play
'The wind that shakes the barley';
And then he stroked my flaxen hair,
And cried, 'God mark my deary!'
And how I wept when he said, 'Farewell,
And think of Caoch O'Leary!'

And seasons came and went, and still
Old Caoch was not forgotten,
Although we thought him dead and gone,
And in the cold grave rotten;
And often, when I walked and talked
With Eily, Kate, and Mary,
We thought of childhood's rosy hours,
And prayed for Caoch O'Leary.

Well -- twenty summers had gone past,
And June's red sun was sinking,
When I, a man, sat by my door,
Of twenty sad things thinking.
A little dog came up the way,
His gait was slow and weary,
And at his tail a lame man limped --
'Twas 'Pinch' and Caoch O'Leary!

Old Caoch, but, oh! how woe-begone!
His form is bowed and bending,
His fleshless hands are stiff and wan,
Ay -- Time is even blending
The colours on his threadbare 'bag' --
And 'Pinch' is twice as hairy
And 'thin-spare' as when first I saw
Himself and Caoch O'Leary.

'God's blessing here!' the wanderer cried,
'Far, far be hell's black viper;
Does anybody hereabouts
Remember Caoch the Piper?'
With swelling heart I grasped his hand;
The old man murmured, 'Deary,
Are you the silky-headed child
That loved poor Caoch O'Leary?'

'Yes, yes,' I said -- the wanderer wept
As if his heart was breaking --
'And where, a vic machree,' he sobbed,
'Is all the merrymaking
I found here twenty years ago?'
'My tale,' I sighed, 'might weary;
Enough to say -- there's none but me
To welcome Caoch O'Leary.'

'Vo, vo, vo!' the old man cried,
And wrung his hands in sorrow,
'Pray let me in, astor machree,
And I'll go home to-morrow.
My "peace is made"; I'll calmly leave
This world so cold and dreary;
And you shall keep my pipes and dog,
And pray for Caoch O'Leary.'

With 'Pinch' I watched his bed that night;
Next day his wish was granted:
He died; and Father James was brought,
And the Requiem Mass was chanted.
The neighbours came; we dug his grave
Near Eily, Kate, and Mary,
And there he sleeps his last sweet sleep.
God rest you! Caoch O'Leary.

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