Week 378: John Kinsella’s Lament For Mrs Mary Moore

I confess to having a soft spot for this week’s cheerfully disreputable piece. OK, I’m not sure that the Irish Catholic Church would have approved of John Kinsella’s somewhat cavalier attitude towards familial ties, and I suppose I shouldn’t either, but it’s good fun, and it does show Yeats’s unusual range as a poet – it’s a long way from this sort of thing to poems like ‘Easter 1916’.

John Kinsella’s Lament For Mrs Mary Moore

A bloody and a sudden end,
Gunshot or a noose,
For Death who takes what man would keep,
Leaves what man would lose.
He might have had my sister,
My cousins by the score,
But nothing satisfied the fool
But my dear Mary Moore,
None other knows what pleasures man
At table or in bed.
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?

Though stiff to strike a bargain,
Like an old Jew man,
Her bargain struck we laughed and talked
And emptied many a can;
And O! but she had stories,
Though not for the priest’s ear,
To keep the soul of man alive,
Banish age and care,
And being old she put a skin
On everything she said.
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?

The priests have got a book that says
But for Adam’s sin
Eden’s Garden would be there
And I there within.
No expectation fails there,
No pleasing habit ends,
No man grows old, no girl grows cold
But friends walk by friends.
Who quarrels over halfpennies
That plucks the trees for bread?
What shall I do for pretty girls
Now my old bawd is dead?
 

W.B.Yeats

3 thoughts on “Week 378: John Kinsella’s Lament For Mrs Mary Moore

    • I don’t think it’s a translation, though I can see why you think it has a flavour of Villon, cf., say, ‘The Ballad of Villon and Fat Madge’, though Yeats’s poem is a good deal kinder than that one. But Yeats’s ‘When you are old and grey and full of sleep’ is of course taken more or less directly from Ronsard’s ‘Quand vous serez bien vieille, au soir, à la chandelle’ that I featured in week 233.

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