Under the Round Tower

‘ALTHOUGH I’d lie lapped up in linen    
A deal I’d sweat and little earn    
If I should live as live the neighbours,’    
Cried the beggar, Billy Byrne;    
‘Stretch bones till the daylight come        
On great-grandfather’s battered tomb.’    
Upon a grey old battered tombstone    
In Glendalough beside the stream,    
Where the O’Byrnes and Byrnes are buried,    
He stretched his bones and fell in a dream    
Of sun and moon that a good hour    
Bellowed and pranced in the round tower;    
Of golden king and silver lady,    
Bellowing up and bellowing round,    
Till toes mastered a sweet measure,  
Mouth mastered a sweet sound,    
Prancing round and prancing up    
Until they pranced upon the top.    
That golden king and that wild lady    
Sang till stars began to fade,  
Hands gripped in hands, toes close together,    
Hair spread on the wind they made;    
That lady and that golden king    
Could like a brace of blackbirds sing.    
‘It’s certain that my luck is broken,’  
That rambling jailbird Billy said;    
‘Before nightfall I’ll pick a pocket    
And snug it in a feather-bed,    
I cannot find the peace of home    
On great-grandfather’s battered tomb.’

The Wild Swans at Coole. 1919.


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