Minute Irish Stories Set
|65. The Cow that Ate the Piper
There were three spalpeens coming home to Kerry from Limerick one time
after working there . On their way, they met a piper on the road.
“I’ll go along with ye,” said the piper. “All right,” they said.
The night was very cold, freezing hard, and they were going to perish.
They saw a dead man on the road with a new pair of shoes on his feet.
It is likely there will be a war at the end of the two thousand, that
was always foretold. And I hear the English are making ships that
will drive the same as diving ducks under the water. But as
to the Irish Americans, they would sweep the entire world; and England
is afraid of America, it being a neighbor.
67. She’s the White Flower of the Blackberry
She’s the white flower of the blackberry, she’s the sweet flower of the rasbery, she’s the best herb in excellence for the sight of the eyes.
She’s my pulse, she’s my secret, she’s the scented flower of the apple,
she’s summer in the cold time between Christmas and Easter.
68. The English Law
A man at Duras was telling me that the English will not be put down
till the time the sea will get dry, and it is as well, for without their
law in the country the Irish would have one another ate and killed.
But the Germans are like starlings going through the air, and the prophecy
of Columcille is coming true that the time would come when an old man would
be turned three times in the bed to know could he show garrison duties
in the barracks and to know could he go to the war when the
best soldiers would be gone. In the Crimea it was in a song that
the Russians were coming on ahead, and in no dread, but that the English
would put them to fear in no time.
69. The Man from Kilmacoliver
Now the Cross at Ahenny is in the graveyard, and a man from Kilmacoliver
was passing by one day (and he was so mean that his soul was as narrow
as a knitting needle, and if you had a cold in the head he would grudge
it to you) --well, when he saw the cross he said to himself:”That would
make a grand hone for my scythe, if I sawed off an arm of it.” He went
home and got his saw and he began to saw it off, and he looked up and saw
his house on the opposite hill at Kilmacoliver was on fire, and he dropped
his saw and ran to save his house, and when he got there it was no fire,
only the setting sun shining on the windows. Still and all, he would
not be warned, and he called his son, who was a young lad, to go back with
him. And the young lad was to carry back the arm of the Cross when it was
sawed off. And they went back, and he picked up the saw, and began
to saw again in the same notch, and as he sawed, drops of blood f ell from
the notch he had made and fell on him, and he gave one mighty skirl
that was heard as far as Mullinahone, and the echo of it as far as
Grangemockler and Toor, and even to Kilcash, and he fell down
with the falling sickness, and the young lad ran off for help. And
when the people came, he was wriggling like an eel, but no matter how he
twisted, the blood drops still fell on him, and each place they dropped
on was burned through to the bone, and in the latter end he died and it
was as well.
70. An Old Man’s Prophecy (1923)
I tell you the English will be back again and this Government put out.
It is certain they will come back. It is in Columcille’s prophecy.
There was a Lord one time was with O’Brien in Dromoland, and O’Brien
promised him whatever he would ask and he said, “Give me the house of Dromoland
and the lands.” So he agreed to that. But then he said he had some
request to make, and the Lord said he would give it. And he said, “Give
me the house and the lands of Dromoland back again”; and he had to give
it. That will be the way with the English. They gave up Ireland,
but they have their two eyes fixed on it, till they will get it back again.
71.The Four leafed Shamrock and the Cock
There was a great fair being held in Dingle one day long ago.
Tis a good many years ago, I think. All of the people were gathered
there as usual. Whoever else was there, there was a showman there,
and the trick that he had was ac cock walking down the street ahead
of him drawing a big, heavy beam tied to his leg. At least, all the
people thought that it was a beam, and everyone was running after him,
and as he went from street to street, the crowd was getting bigger all
the time . Each new person who saw the cock and the beam
joined in the procession. Then there came up the street a small old
man carrying a load of rushes on his back. He wondered what all the
people were looking at. All that he could see was a wisp of straw
being dragged along by a cock. The thought that everybody had gone
mad, and he asked them why they were following the cock like that.
72.The Wolf’s Prophecy
It chanced one day not long after the coming of the Gall from England
into Ireland there was a priest making his way through a wood of Meath.
And there came a man fornest him and bade him for the love of God to come
with him to confess his wife that was lying sick near that place.
So the priest turned with him and it was not long before he heard groaning
and complaining as would be heard form a woman but when he came where
she was lying it was a wolf he saw before him on the ground. The
priest was afeared when he saw that and he turned away; but the man and
wolf s poke with him and bade him not to be afeared but to turn and confess
her. Then the priest took heart and blessed him and sat down beside
her. And the wolf spoke to him and made her confession to the
priest and he anointed her. And when they had that done, the priest
began to thinking in himself that she that had that mislikeness upon her
and had grace to speak, might likely have grace and the gift of knowledge
in other things; and he asked her about the strangers that were come
into Ireland, and what way it would be with them.
73. Young Lad of the Braided Hair
Young lad of the braided hair, with whom I was a while together, you went this way last night and did not come to see me; I thought it would do you no harm if you came to seek me, and that a little kiss of yours would give me comfort if I were in the midst of a fever.
If I had wealth and money in my pocket I should have a short cut made to the door of my love’s house, hoping to God I should hear the sweet sound of his shoe; and fort many a day I have not slept but in hopes for the taste of your kiss.
And I thought my sweetheart, that you were the moon and the sun and I thought after that that you were the snow on the mountain, and I thought after that the at you were lightening from God, or that your were the Pole Star going before and behind me.
You promised me silk and satin, hoods and shoes with high heels, and
you promised after that you would follow me swimming; I am not like that,
but like a hawthorn in the gap every evening and every morning watching
my mother’s house.
74. The Three Questions
It was this codger and he was hired as a heardsboy to a bishop.
Things were bad in Ireland at the time: the enemy had come and conquered
the country and took the land and was killing before them, priest and people.
So this evening the heardsboy come home and he seen the bishop walking
up and down and looking very down-in-the-mouth. “My Lord Bishop,”
says the herdsboy, “what ails you? You look very downhearted?” “I’m
to die in the morning,” says the bishop. “How is that? Says the herdsboy.
“I’m to lose me head,” says the bishop. “The chief that took over this
country” he says, “sent for me this morning and give me three questions
to answer by the morra morning and if I’m not fit he’s to take the head
off me. “ “What’s the three questions, my lord?” says the herdsboy. “I
might be fit to help.” “You could not, “ says the bishop. “You might only
lose your own head as well.” Anyway he got the bishop to tell him,
and the herdsboy said that he would go in place of the bishop next morning
and to leave all to him. “You’ll only lose your
head, too “ says the bishop. Morning come and the herdsboy set off
and meets this big fellow and stands before him. “How are you?”
says he. “I’m herdsboy to the Lord Bishop,” says he.
“Why didn’t he come himself?” says he. “The Lord Bishop didn’t think it
worth his while,” says he, “to come himself to answer three simple questions.”
“Then if you’re not fit to answer them you ‘ll lose your head,” says this
big fellow. “Fair enough,” says the herdsboy. “Here’s my first
question then,” says the big fellow. “What’s the first thing I think
of in the morning when I rise?” “What you’ll eat,” says the herdsboy.
“That’s right,” says he. “Now here’s me second question: How
many loads of sand are there round the shores of Ireland?” “One,” says
the herdsboy, “if you had a cart big enough to hold it.” “Right, says the
big fellow. “And now here’s my third and last question: How much
am I worth?” “Twenty-nine pieces of silver,” says the herdsboy. “How do
you make that out?” “Well, our Lord God Himself was sold for thirty
pieces,” says the herdsboy, “and you can’t be as good as Him.” And he got
him and the bishop off.
75. The Child from the Sea
One day in the olden times, a fisherman from Errismore was fishing for
gurnet. The day was very fine, and fish were plentiful. Toward
evening, the fisherman felt a great weight on his line and thought that
he had hooked a heavy fish. He started to haul it in, and when he
had it on board, what had he caught but a male child! His hair was
as red as the coat of a fox. The hook was stuck into his cheek.
The fisherman was very proud of his catch. The boy ran up under the forward
half of the boat and stayed there.
76. A Vain Pilgrimage
Coming to Rome, much labour and little profit! The King whom you seek
here, unless you bring Him with you will not find Him.
77. The Magic Pigs of Cruachu
...Out of (the magic cave of Cruachu)it also came these pigs. Neither
corn nor grass nor leaf would grow for seven years in any place that they
frequented. Wherever they would be counted, they would not stay, but if
anyone tried to count them they would go to another land. They were
never completely counted; but “There are three”, said one; “More seven”
said another; “There are nine” said another; Eleven pigs; Thirteen pigs”.
In that way it was impossible to count them. Moreover, they could
not be killed, for if they were shot at they would disappear. Once upon
a time Medhbh of Cruachu and Ailill went to count them, in Magh Mucraimhe.
The were counted by them then. Medhbh was in her chariot; one of
the pigs leaped over the chariot. “That pig is one too many, Medhbh”
s aid everyone. “Not this one” said Medhbh, seizing the pig’s leg, so that
its hide split on its forehead and it left the hide in her hand with the
leg; and it is not known where they went after that. Hence it is called
Magh Mucraimhe...(Plain of Pig-counting)
78. The Hour of Death
The old people used to say that in the olden times everybody knew
the exact time when he would die.
79. The Monk’s Mistress
80. Imperial Caesar Dead and Turned to Clay
The world has laid low, and the wind blows away like ashes Alexander,
Caesar, and all who were in their trust; grass-grown is Tara, and see Troy
now how it is--and the English themselves, perhaps they too will pass!
81. The Sailor and the Rat
Long ago there were people who were able to banish rats, if they were
doing damage. The used to have a charm for it, called the charm of
82. The Air Ship
One day the monks of Clonmacnoise were holding a meeting on the floor
of the church, and as they were at their deliberations there they saw a
ship sailing over them in the air, going as if it were on the sea.
When the crew of the ship saw the meeting and the inhabited place below
them, they dropped anchor, and the anchor came right down on to the floor
of the church, and the priests seized it. A man came down out of
the ship after the anchor, and he was swimming as if he were in the water,
till he reached the anchor; and they were dragging him down then.
“For God’s sake let me go! Said he, “for you are drowning me.” Then he
left them, swimming in the air as before, taking his anchor with him.
83. The Girl and The Sailor
Long ago a lot of women and girls used to go to Catherciveen to sell
buttermilk. There would often be ten or twelve churns
of the milk at the Cross and great demand for it.
84. The Burial of the Priest’s Concubine
This is a tale about a priest’s concubine when she died,
85. Drowned Giantess
A woman, whose breasts had not grown, was cast up on a sea shore in
Europe. She was fifty feet tall, that is from her shoulders to her
feet, and her chest was seven feet across. There was a purple cloak
on her. Her hands were tied behind her back and her head had been
cut off; and it was in this way that the wave cast her up on land.
86. Froech in the Dark Pool
...He went to come out of theater then. “Do not come out, said Ailill,
“till you bring me a branch of that mountain-ash on the bank of the river.
Beautiful I think its berries.” He went away then and broke a spray from
the tree, and carried it on his back through the water. And this
was what Findabhair used to say afterwards of any beautiful thing which
she saw, that she thought it more beautiful to see Froech across the dark
pool; the body so white and the hair so lovely, the face so shapely , the
eye so blue, and he a tender youth without fault or blemish, with face
narrow below and broad above, and he straight and spotless, and the branch
with the red berries between the throat and the white face...
87. Columcille’s Coffin
After Colm was sentenced to exile, he sailed away from Derry for Scotland.
He wasn’t even allowed to look back as he went. He came to Iona and
spent his life converting pagans over there .
88. Froech and the Fairy Women
...They heard a sound of wailing throughout Cruachu; and three times
fifty women were seen with purple tunics and green hoods, and silver bracelets
round their arms. People went to meet them to find out why they were
lamenting “For Froech son of Idhath” said one of the women, “the darling
boy of the king of the fairy hills of Ireland”. Then Froech heard their
wail. “Take me out,” said he to his followers, “that is the wail of my
mother and of the womenfolk of Boann.” He was taken out thereupon and brought
to them. The women came round him, and took him away to the fairy
hill of Cruachu. The next evening they saw him come back, with fifty
women around him, whole and hale without blemish or wound. All the
women were of like age and shape and like loveliness and like beauty
and like straightness and like figure, in the dress of the fairy women,
so that there was no telling one from the other. The people
were almost smothered
89. Sunshine through the Window
Pleasant to me is the glittering of the sun today upon these margins
because it flickers so
90. Midhir’s Invitation to the Earthly Paradise
“Fair woman, will you go with me to a wonderful land where music is ? The hair is like the primrose tip there, and the whole body is the colour of snow.
There, there is neither “mine” nor “thine”; white are the teeth there, black the eyebrows; a delight to the eye is the full number of our hosts; every cheek there is the colour of the foxglove.
The ridge of every moor is purple, a delight to the eye are the blackbird’s eggs; thought the plain of Ireland is fair to see, it is like a desert once you know the Great Plain.
Fine though you think the ale of Ireland, the ale of the Great Land is more heady ; a wonderful land is the land I tell of, the young do not die there before the old.
Sweet mild streams flow through the land, choice mead and wine; matchless people without blemish, conception without sin, without guilt.
We see everyone on all sides and no one sees us; it is the darkness of Adam’s trespass that screens us from being counted.
Woman, if you come to my mighty people a crown of gold shall be on your
head; honey wine, ale, fresh milk, and beer you shall have there with me,
91. Iubhdh/an’s Fairy House
I have a house in the land to the north, one half of it of red gold, the lower half of silver.
Its porch is of white bronze and its threshold of copper, and of the wings of white-yellow birds is its thatch, I think.
Its candlesticks are golden, with a candle of great purity, with a gem of precious stone in the very middle of the house.
But for myself and the high-queen, none of us are sad; a household there without old age, with yellow curly-created hair.
Every man is a chess-player, there are good companies there without
exclusion; the house is not closed against man or woman going to it.
92. At the Battle of Magh Mucraimhe
...Moreover, the air above them was black meanwhile with devils waiting
for the wretched souls, to drag them to Hell. There were no angels
there, except only two and they were above the head of Art wherever he
went in the army because of the just character of that rightful prince.
Then either of the two armies made for the other. Fierce was the
onslaught they made on either side. Bitter sights were seen there-- the
white fog of chalk and lime going up to the clouds from the shields and
targets as they were struck with the edges of swords and the points of
spears and arrows which were skillfully parried by the heroes; the bleating
and shattering of the bosses, as they were belabored with swords and stones;
the noise of the pelting weapons; the gushing and shedding of blood and
gore from the limbs of the champions and the sides of the warriors...
93. Eating a Mouse Includes its Tail
...”That is true,” said the king. “This is Lughaidh, and it is
through fear of me that they do not name themselves”....”Well Now”,
said the king, “kill me a batch of mice”. Then he put a mouse in the food
served to each man, raw and bloody, with the hair on, and this was set
before them; and they were told they would be killed unless they ate the
mice. They grew very pale at that. Never had a more distressing
vexation been put upon them. “How are they ?” said the king. “They
are miserable, with their plates before them”. ...”Tell them they shall
be killed unless they eat.” Bad luck to him who decreed it, “ said Lughaidh,
putting the mouse in his mouth, while the king watched him. At that
al the men put them in. There was one poor wretch of them who gagged
as he put the tail of the mouse to his mouth. “A sword across your
throat” , said Lughaidh, “eating a mouse includes its tail.” Then he swallowed
the mouse’s tail. “They do as you tell them,” said the king from the door.
“I do as they tell me, too,” said Lughaidh. “Are you Lughaidh?” said the
king. “That is my name” said Lughaidh...
94. The Guest House at the Monastery of Cork
...The guest house was open when he arrived. That day was a day of three
things- wind and snow, and rain in its doorway; so that the wind left not
a straw from the thatch nor a speck of ash that it did not sweep through
the opposite door, under the beds and couches and partitions of the royal
house. The blanket of the guest house was rolled up in a bundle on
its bed, and was full of lice and fleas. That was natural because
it was never aired by day nor turned by night, since it was rarely unoccupied
when it might be turned. The guest house bath had last night’s water
in it, and with its heating-stones was beside the doorpost. The scholar
found no one to wash his feet, so he himself took off his shoes and washed
his hands and feet in that dirty washing-water, and soaked his shoes in
it afterwards. He hung his book-satchel on the peg in the wall, put
up his shoes and tucked his arms together into the blanket and wrapped
it round his legs. But as multitudinous as the sands of the sea or
sparks of fire or as dew drops on a May-day morning or as the stars of
heaven were the lice and the fleas biting his feet, so that he grew sick
at them. And no one came to visit him nor to wait on him..