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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

EARLY IRISH TRIADS, by                    
First Line: Three slender ones whereon the whole earth swings
Last Line: "the church's, and the privileged poet's own"


Three slender ones whereon the whole Earth swings:
The thin milk stream that in the keeler sings,
The thin green blade that from the cornfield springs,
The thin grey thread the housewife's shuttle flings.

Three finenesses that foulness keep from sight:
Fine manners in the most misfeatured wight,
Fine shapes of art by servile fingers moulded,
Fine wisdom from a hunch-back's brain unfolded.

Three fewnesses that better are than plenty:
A fewness of fine words--but one in twenty--
A fewness of milch-cows, when grass is shrinking;
Fewness of friends when beer is best for drinking.

Three graceless sisters in the bond of unity
Are lightness, flightiness and importunity.

Three clouds, the most obscuring Wisdom's glance:
Forgetfulness, half-knowledge, ignorance.

Three signs of ill-bred folk in every nation:
A visit lengthened to a visitation,
Staring, and over-much interrogation

Three keys that most unlock our secret thinking
Are love and trustfulness and over-drinking.

Three the receivers are of stolen goods:
A cloak, the cloak of night, the cloak of woods.

Three unions, each of peace a proved miscarriage:
Confederate feats, joint ploughland, bonds of marriage.

Three excellencies of our dress are these:
Elegance, durability and ease.

Three aged sisters, not too hard to guess,
Are groaning, chastity and ugliness.

Three glories of a gathering free from strife:
Swift hound, proud steed and beautiful young wife.

The world's three laughing stocks (be warned and wiser!)
An angry man, a jealous and a miser.

Three powers advantaging a Chieftain most
Are Peace and Justice and an armed host.
Three worst of snares upon a Chieftain's way:
Sloth, treachery and evil counsel they!

Three ruins of a tribe to west or east:
A lying Chief, false Brehon, lustful Priest.

The rudest three of all the sons of earth:
A youngster of an old man making mirth,
A strong man at a sick man poking fun,
A wise man gibing at a foolish one.

Three signs that show a fop; the comb-track in his hair,
The track of his nice teeth upon his nibbled fare,
His cane track in the dust, oft as he takes the air.

Three sparks that light the fire of love are these:
Glamour of face, and grace, and speech of ease.

Three steadinesses of wise womanhood:
A steady tongue, through evil as through good;
A steady chastity, whoso else shall stray;
Steady house-service, all and every day.

Three signs of increase: kine that low,
When milk unto their calves they owe;
The hammer on the anvil's brow,
The pleasant swishing of the plough.

Three sisters false: I would! I might! I may!
Three timorous brothers: Hearken! Hush! and Stay!

Three coffers of a depth unknown
Are His who occupies the throne,
The Church's, and the privileged Poet's own.





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