The Ballad of Father Gilligan

The Ballad of Father Gilligan  (1892) 
by William Butler Yeats

 The old priest Peter Gilligan
 Was weary night and day
 For half his flock were in their beds
 Or under green sods lay.

 Once, while he nodded in a chair
 At the moth-hour of the eve
 Another poor man sent for him,
 And he began to grieve.

 'I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
 For people die and die;
 And after cried he, 'God forgive!
 My body spake not I!'

 He knelt, and leaning on the chair
 He prayed and fell asleep;
 And the moth-hour went from the fields,
 And stars began to peep.

 They slowly into millions grew,
 And leaves shook in the wind
 And God covered the world with shade
 And whispered to mankind.

 Upon the time of sparrow chirp
 When the moths came once more,
 The old priest Peter Gilligan
 Stood upright on the floor.

 'Mavrone, mavrone! The man has died
 While I slept in the chair.'
 He roused his horse out of its sleep
 And rode with little care.

 He rode now as he never rode,
 By rocky lane and fen;
 The sick man's wife opened the door,
 'Father! you come again!'

 'And is the poor man dead?' he cried
 'He died an hour ago.'
 The old priest Peter Gilligan
 In grief swayed to and fro.

 'When you were gone, he turned and died,
 As merry as a bird.'
 The old priest Peter Gilligan
 He knelt him at that word.

 'He Who hath made the night of stars
 For souls who tire and bleed,
 Sent one of this great angels down,
 To help me in my need.

 'He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
 With planets in His care
 Had pity on the least of things
 Asleep upon a chair.'—

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.


The author died in 1939, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.