THE OLD WOMAN OF BEARA
Digdi was the name of the Old Woman of Beara.
It is of Corca Dubne she was and she had her youth seven times over, and every man that had lvied with her died of old age, and her grandsons and great grandsons were tribes and races.
And through a hundred years she wore upon her head the veil Cuimire had blessed.
Then age and weakness came upon her and it is what she said:
"Ebbtide to me as to the sea; old age brings me reproach; I used to wear a shift that was always new; today I have not even a cast one.
"It is riches you are loving, it is not men; it was men we loved inthe time we were living.
"There were dear men on whose plains we used to be driving; it is good the time we passed with them; it is little we were broken afterwards.
"when my arms were seen, it is long and thin they are; once they used to be fondling, they used to be around great kings.
"The young girls give a welcome to Beltaine when it comes to them; sorrow is more fitting for me, an old pitiful hag.
"I have no pleasant talk; no sheep are killed for my wedding; it is little but my hair is grey; it is many colours I had over it when I used to be drinking good ale.
"I have no envy agains the old, but only against women; I myself am spent with old age, while women's heads are still yellow.
"The stone of the kings on Feman; the chair of Ronan in Bregia; it is long since storms have wrecked them, they are old mouldering gravestones.
"The wave of the great sea is speaking; the winter is stricking us with it; I do not look to welcome today ,Fermuid son of Mugh.
"I know what they are doing; they are rowing through the reeds of the ford of Alma; it is cold is the place where they sleep.
"the summer of youth where we were has been spent along with its harvest; winter age that drowns everyone, its beginning has come upon me.
"It is beautiful was my green cloak, my king liked to see it on me;
It is noble was the man that stirrd it; he put wool on it when it was bare.
"Amen , great is the pity, every acorn has to drop.
After feasting with shinning candles, to be in the darkness of a prayer house.
"I was once living with kings, drinking mead and wine; today I am drinking whey water among withered old women.
"There are three floods that come to the dun of Ard Ruide:
A flood of fighting men, a flood of horses, a flood of the hounds of Lugaids son.
"The flood wave and the two swift ebb tides; what the flood wave brings you in, the ebb wave sweeps out of your hand.
"The flood tide will not reach to the silence of my kitchen; though many are my company in the darkness,a hand has been laid upon them all.
"My flood tide! It is well I have kept my knowledge.
It is Jesus Son of Mary keeps me happy at the ebbtide;
"It is far is the island of the great sea where the flood reaches, after the ebb;
I do not look for flood to reach to me after the ebb tide.
"There is hardly a little place I can know again when I see it;
That used to be on the flood tide is all on the ebb today!"
From the Book of Saints and Wonders as written down by Lady Gregory of Coole Parke
from the memory of the People of Ireland
first published by Dun Emer Press, 1906
The folktales of the people collected from the workhouses and at the firesides of the cottagers most of whom could neither read nor write. They were the people on the land.
Lady Gregory ,an Assendany settler family, had taught herself the Gaelic speech and could both read and write it and therefore was able to understand and capture the cadence of the peasant speech with its repetiour of oral histories and tales of holy wells, prophesies, superstitions, antidota of saints and heros, miracles, revealtions, myths talking animal tales, giants, wizards and the ossian fianna tales.
These peasant folk shanasies also had an oral suppy of country music and bardic lore some never captured but some now in the National Librarys Irish folktale and music collections and at the folk Music collection of University College Cork colleced under the Republic of Irelands rule.
There is an additional collection of these materials collected under asendancy rule at Trinity College Dublin.
Beara Penenila is located in the Kerry 5 fingers of Ireland on the south sea .
It is west of Bantry Bay and east of the Kenmare River.
The home of the Suilibain Beara.
copyright September 20 2010
published September 20 2010