Lisburn Exiles Forum

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the tinkers daughter

another version of
The Ballad of the Tinker’s Daughter
by Sigerson Clifford
When rooks ripped home at eventide and trees pegged their shadows to the ground
The tinkers came to Carhan Bridge and camped beside the Famine mound.
With long-eared ass and bony horse and with blue-wheeled cart and caravan
And she the fairest of them all the daughter of the tinker clan.
O the sun flamed in her red, red hair and in her eyes there were stars of mirth
Her body held the willow’s grace and her feet scarce touched the springing earth.
The night spread its star-tasseled shawls; the river gossiped to her stones
She sat beside the camping fire and she sang the songs the tinker owns.
All the songs as old as turning wheels and sweet as the bird-throats after rain
Deep wisdom of the wild wet earth; the pain of joy, the joy of pain.
A farmer going by the road to tend his cattle in the byre
He saw her like some fairy queen between the river and the fire.
And her beauty stirred his brooding blood; her magic mounted all in his head.
He stole her from the tinker clan and on the morrow they were wed.
And when the sunlight swamped the hills and bird-song drowned the river’s bells
The tinkers quenched their hazel fires and climbed the pallid road to Kells.
It was from her house she watched them fade and vanish in the yellow furze
A cold wind blew across the sun and it silenced all the singing birds.
She saw the months run on and on, she saw the river fret and foam
At break of day the roosters called; at dim of dusk the cows came home.
The crickets strummed their heated harps in hidden halls all behind the hob
And they told of distant waterways where the black moorhens dive and bob
And shoot the glassy bubbles up to smash their windows on the stones
And brown trout hide their spots of gold among the river’s pebbled bones.
And too the ebbing sea that flung a net of sound all about the stars,
It set strange hills dancing in her dreams and it meshed her to the wandering cars.
She stole out from her sleeping man; she fled the fields that tied her down
Her face moved towards the rising sun; her back was to the tired town.
And she climbed the pallid road to Kells against the hill and all against the wind
In Glenbeigh of the mountain-streams she came upon her tinker-kind.
They bedded her between the wheels and there her son was born
She heard the tinker-woman’s praise before she died that morn.
Now the years flew by like frightened birds that spill a feather and then are gone
The farmer walked his weedful fields and he made the tinkers travel on.
No more they camped by Carhan Bridge or coaxed their fires to fragrant flame
They saw him with his dog and his gun; they spat and cursed his name.
And when May hid the hawthorn trees with stars she stole from out the skies
There came a barefoot tinker lad with red, red hair and laughing eyes.
He left the road, he crossed the fields; the farmer shot him in the side
The smile went from his twisting lips; he told his name and died.
And that evening when the neighbours came they found the son there upon the floor
They saw the farmer swinging low between the window and the door.
They placed the son upon a cart and they cut the swaying farmer down
They swear a tinker woman came with them all the way to town.
And the sun flamed in her red, red hair and in her eyes there danced stars of mirth
Her body held the willow’s grace and her feet scarced touched the springing earth.
They buried them in Keelvarnogue and eyes were moist and lips were wan
And when the mound was patted down the tinker maid was gone.