Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Walled Out

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Walled Out

By Jane Barlow (1857–1917)

From ‘Bogland Studies’

AN’ wanst we were restin’ a bit in the sun on the smooth hillside,

Where the grass felt warm to your hand as the fleece of a sheep, for wide,

As ye’d look overhead an’ around, ’twas all a-blaze and a-glow,

An’ the blue was blinkin’ up from the blackest bog-holes below;

An’ the scent o’ the bogmint was sthrong on the air, an’ never a sound

But the plover’s pipe that ye’ll seldom miss by a lone bit o’ ground.

An’ he laned—Misther Pierce—on his elbow, an’ stared at the sky as he smoked,

Till just in an idle way he sthretched out his hand an’ sthroked

The feathers o’ wan of the snipe that was kilt an’ lay close by on the grass;

An’ there was the death in the crathur’s eyes like a breath upon glass.

An’ sez he, “It’s quare to think that a hole ye might bore wid a pin

’Ill be wide enough to let such a power o’ darkness in

On such a power o’ light; an’ it’s quarer to think,” sez he,

“That wan o’ these days the like is bound to happen to you an’ me.”

Thin Misther Barry, he sez: “Musha, how’s wan to know but there’s light

On t’other side o’ the dark, as the day comes afther the night?”

An’ “Och,” says Misther Pierce, “what more’s our knowin’—save the mark—

Than guessin’ which way the chances run, an’ thinks I they run to the dark;

Or else agin now some glint of a bame’d ha’ come slithered an’ slid;

Sure light’s not aisy to hide, an’ what for should it be hid?”

Up he stood with a sort o’ laugh: “If on light,” sez he, “ye’re set,

Let’s make the most o’ this same, as it’s all that we’re like to get.”

Thim were his words, as I minded well, for often afore an’ sin,

The ’dintical thought ’ud bother me head that seemed to bother him thin;

An’ many’s the time I’d be wond’rin’ whatever it all might mane,

The sky, an’ the lan’, an’ the bastes, an’ the rest o’ thim plain as plain,

And all behind an’ beyant thim a big black shadow let fall;

Ye’ll sthrain the sight out of your eyes, but there it stands like a wall.

“An’ there,” sez I to meself, “we’re goin’ wherever we go,

But where we’ll be whin we git there it’s never a know I know.”

Thin whiles I thought I was maybe a sthookawn to throuble me mind

Wid sthrivin’ to comprehind onnathural things o’ the kind;

An’ Quality, now, that have larnin’, might know the rights o’ the case,

But ignorant wans like me had betther lave it in pace.

Priest, tubbe sure, an’ Parson, accordin’ to what they say,

The whole matther’s plain as a pikestaff an’ clear as the day,

An’ to hear thim talk of a world beyant, ye’d think at the laste

They’d been dead an’ buried half their lives, an’ had thramped it from west to aist;

An’ who’s for above an’ who’s for below they’ve as pat as if they could tell

The name of every saint in heaven an’ every divil in hell,

But cock up the lives of thimselves to be settlin’ it all to their taste—

I sez, and the wife she sez I’m no more nor a haythin baste—

For mighty few o’ thim’s rael Quality, musha, they’re mostly a pack

O’ playbians, each wid a tag to his name an’ a long black coat to his back;

An’ it’s on’y romancin’ they are belike; a man must stick be his trade,

An’ they git their livin’ by lettin’ on they know how wan’s sowl is made.

And in chapel or church they’re bound to know somethin’ for sure, good or bad,

Or where’d be the sinse o’ their preachin’ an’ prayers an’ hymns an’ howlin’ like mad?

So who’d go mindin’ o’ thim? barrin’ women, in coorse, an’ wanes,

That believe ’most aught ye tell thim, if they don’t understand what it manes—

Bedad, if it worn’t the nathur o’ women to want the wit,

Parson and Priest I’m a-thinkin’ might shut up their shop an’ quit.

But, och, it’s lost an’ disthracted the crathurs ’ud be without

Their bit of divarsion on Sundays whin all o’ thim gits about,

Cluth’rin’ an’ pluth’rin’ together like hins, an’ a-roostin’ in rows,

An’ meetin’ their frins an’ their neighbors, and wearin’ their dacint clothes,

An’ sure it’s quare that the clergy can’t ever agree to keep

Be tellin’ the same thrue story, sin’ they know such a won’erful heap;

For many a thing Priest tells ye that Parson sez is a lie,

An’ which has a right to be wrong, the divil a much know I,

For all the differ I see ’twixt the pair o’ thim ’d fit in a nut:

Wan for the Union, an’ wan for the League, an’ both o’ thim bitther as sut.

But Misther Pierce, that’s a gintleman born, an’ has college larnin’ and all,

There he was starin’ no wiser than me where the shadow stands like a wall.