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Poem by Dora Sigerson Shorter


Banagher Rhue


Banagher Rhue of Donegal,
(Holy Mary, how slow the dawn!)
This is the hour of your loss or gain:
Is go d-tigheadh do, mhûirnín slan!

Banagher Rhue, but the hour was ill
(O Mary Mother, how high the price!)
When you swore youd game with Death himself;
Aye, and win with the devils dice.

Banagher Rhue, you must play with Death,
(Mary, watch with him till the light!)
Through the dark hours, for the words you said,
All this strange and noisy night.

Banagher Rhue, you are pale and cold;
(How the demons laugh through the air!)
The anguish beads on your frowning brow;
Mary set on your lips a prayer!

Banagher Rhue, you have won the toss:
(Mother, pray for his souls release!)
Shuffle and deal ere the black cock crows,
That your spirit may find its peace.

Banagher Rhue, you have played a king;
(How strange a light on your fingers fall!)
A voice, I was cold, and he sheltered me . . . 
The trick is gained, but your chance is small.

Banagher Rhue, now an ace is yours;
(Mother Mary, the night is long!)
I was a sin that he hurried aside . . .
O for the dawn and the blackbirds song!

Banagher Rhue, now a ten of suit;
(Mother Mary, what hot winds blow!)
Nine little lives hath he saved in his path . . . 
And the black cock that does not crow.

Banagher Rhue, you have played a knave;
(O what strange gates on their hinges groan!)
I was a friend who had wrought him ill;
When I had fallen he cast no stone . . . 

Banagher Rhue, now a queen has won!
(The black cock crows with the flash of dawn.)
And she is the woman who prays for you:
Is go d-tigheadh do, mhûirnín slan!



Dora Sigerson Shorter


Dora Sigerson Shorter's other poems:
  1. The Kine of My Father
  2. The Fairy Changeling
  3. The Blow Returned
  4. You Will Not Come Again
  5. The Old Maid


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