Eleanor Hull: Irish Woman Poet

Eleanor Hull (1860-1935) was one of the foremost Irish scholars of the period of the Literary Revival. Her translation of The Lay of Prince Marvan appeared in The Poem-Book of the Gael: Translations from Irish Gaelic Poetry into English Prose and Verse (London: Chatto & Windus 1912).

The Lay Of Prince Marvan

There is a sheeling hidden in the wood
Unknown to all save God;
An ancient ash-tree and a hazel-bush
Their sheltering shade afford.

Around the doorway’s heather-laden porch
Wild honeysuckles twine;
Prolific oaks, within the forest’s gloom,
Shed mast upon fat swine.

Many a sweet familiar woodland path
Comes winding to my door;
Lowly and humble is my hermitage,
Poor, and yet not too poor.

From the high gable-end my lady’s throat
Her trilling chant outpours,
Her sombre mantle, like the ousel’s coat,
Shows dark above my doors.

From the high oakridge where the roe-deer leaps
The river-banks between,
Renowned Mucraime and Red Roigne’s plains
Lie wrapped in robes of green.

Here in the silence, where no care intrudes,
I dwell at peace with God;
What gift like this hast thou to give, Prince Guaire,
Were I to roam abroad?

The heavy branches of the green-barked yew
That seem to bear the sky;
The spreading oak, that shields me from the storm,
When winds rise high.

Like a great hostel, welcoming to all,
My laden apple-tree;
Low in the hedge, the modest hazel-bush
Drops ripest nuts for me.

Round the pure spring, that rises crystal clear,
Straight from the rock,
Wild goats and swine, red fox, and grazing deer,
At sundown flock.

The host of forest-dwellers of the soil
Trysting at night;
To meet them foxes come, a peaceful troop,
For my delight.

Like exiled princes, flocking to their home,
They gather round;
Beneath the river bank great salmon leap,
And trout abound.

Rich rowan clusters, and the dusky sloe,
The bitter, dark blackthorn,
Ripe whortle-berries, nuts of amber hue,
The cup-enclosed acorn.

A clutch of eggs, sweet honey, mead and ale,
God’s goodness still bestows;
Red apples, and the fruitage of the heath,
His constant mercy shows.

The goodly tangle of the briar-trail
Climbs over all the hedge;
Far out of sight, the trembling waters wail
Through rustling rush and sedge.

Luxuriant summer spreads its coloured cloak
And covers all the land;
Bright blue-bells, sunk in woods of russet oak,
Their blooms expand.

The movements of the bright red-breasted wren,
A lovely melody
Above my house, the thrush and cuckoo’s strain
A chorus wakes for me.

The little music-makers of the world
Chafers and bees,
Drone answer to the tumbling torrent’s roar
Beneath the trees.

From gable-ends, from every branch and stem,
Sounds sweetest music now;
Unseen, in restless flight, the lively wren
Flits ’neath the hazel-bough.

Deep in the firmament the sea-gulls fly,
One widely-circling wreath;
The cheerful cuckoo’s call, the poult’s reply,
Sound o’er the distant heath.

The lowing of the calves in summer-time,
Best season of the year!
Across the fertile plain, pleasant the sound,
Their call I hear.

Voice of the wind against the branchy wood
Upon the deep blue sky;
Most musical the ceaseless waterfall,
The swan’s shrill cry.

No hired chorus, trained to praise its chief,
Comes welling up for me;
The music made for Christ the Ever-young,
Sounds forth without a fee.

Though great thy wealth, Prince Guaire, happier live
Those who can boast no hoard;
Who take at Christ’s hand that which He doth give
As their award.

Far from life’s tumult and the din of strife
I dwell with Him in peace,
Content and grateful, for Thy gifts, High Prince,
Daily increase.

(GUAIRE replies)
Wisely thou choosest, Marvan; I a king
Would lay my kingdom by,
With Colman’s glorious heritage I’d part
To bear thee company!


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