In Erin's verdant, ocean isle,
A shining lake is seen,
Where many an islet peers the while
To stud the lake with green.
And these are crowned with tree and flower,
And vine, or ruins gray,
That show where human art and power
Have been, and past away.
They're edged with grass, or fringing brake,
Or moss, or beetling cliff;
And, round between them, on the lake
There dances many a skiff.
The boatman's hardy hand propels
His boat with varying oar,
While stories wild and strange he tells,
About the things of yore.
And, if you touch that hand with gold
Or silver, you shall find,
A smoother tale was never told,
Than he will soon unwind.
But then no sign of secret doubt,
About what may be said,
From lip or eye must venture out,
As this would snap the thread.
For, though he may in truth believe
The things he tells to you,
Or not, 't is fit that you receive
Each syllable as true.
In sooth, the honest boatman seems
A man sincere, and acts
Like one, who, often telling dreams,
Refines them into facts.
He'll take you in his boat and row
Till fairly from the shore;
Then fast his nimble tongue will go,
And slow the lazy oar.
And there, in haste to let you know
How much is known to him,
He'll tell you what is hid below
The water that you skim.
For, how Killarney's lake arose,
His sober lips protest,
That, if a son of Erin knows,
Himself must know the best.
And having paid his holy priest
For past and future sins,
And lived a saint through lent and feast,
The tale he thus begins:
'You see that in this spacious cave
There's now a mighty flood;
But once, as you've a soul to save,
'T was full of flesh and blood!
'And now I row my trusty boat
O'er heaps of human bones,
That, by the waters where we float,
Are hardened into stones!
'For, here an ancient city shone
In splendor, wealth, and pride;
And that in power it stood alone,
Can be by none denied.
''T was peopled by a noble clan
Of brave and warlike men;
If ever Erin had a man
Of courage, it was then.
''T was governed by a mighty chief,
The great O'Donaghue;
And just to give him in the brief,
A mighty tyrant, too!
'He was a man of giant size,
Of odd, but rich attire,
With haughty bearing, and his eyes,—
They flashed like living fire.
'He often led his men to fight,
And led them safely back;
But left the foes, that lived in flight,
With blood upon their track.
'For when they saw his hordes advance,
And knew him in the van,
His very look was like a lance,
To enter every man.
'His eye was worth a thousand shafts,
A thousand arms, his one!
His will was like the wing that wafts
The eagle to the sun!
'And such the great O'Donaghue;
And such the race of men,
Whose like, if e'er creation knew,
'T will never know again!
'And all that mortals ever need
This noble clan possessed;
For they had all to clothe and feed,
And give the body rest.
'But, still they lacked one thing, and this,
The burden of their song,
Was what no living thing can miss,
And live to miss it long.
'And "water! water!" they would sing,
And some for water call.
They'd neither well, nor brook, nor spring,
Within their city wall.
'At length, without, the streams were dry
That brightened vale and hill,
And then, from thirsty mouths, the cry
Was "water! water!" still.
'There came a great magician there,
A man of power and skill,
Who had the gift to answer prayer,
And do the suppliant's will.
'To him in crowds the people came,
As pilgrims to a shrine:
Approaching in St. Patrick's name,
The man of gifts divine.
'And water, water, was the thing
For which they humbly bowed,
Entreating him the boon to bring
From either earth or cloud.
'But still he answered not their call;
For in his searching sight,
There was not one among them all
Who asked that boon aright.