Tuesday, July 17, 2012

477. The Return to Ireland of Conor MacArt

Fill ar ais go hÉirinn de Conor MacArt

Three years in a darkened prison, by God,
and myself snivelling and whining for food,
kissing hands of any man who brought me water.

God blast the heathen Jew and Paynim!
I would roar in my black and fearful cell
and the rats would cock their heads to listen.

Bert, my servant, had been summarily executed,
thanks be to God, he with no more stories to tell,
caught stealing bread from homeless orphans.

‘Twas that bread that barely kept me alive
until the summons came, a flood of sunlight,
illuminating stones, the source of a shriek of pain.

The chains and manacles were roughly removed,
and I was bathed and shaved and pomaded.
Arra, this is looking good, says I to myself.

A ship. The Great Suleiman has paid your ransom
I was curtly told, and I confess I was none too pleased,
but then we fell among moustachioed Cypriot pirates.

There was a great furore and a clanging of swords
and when they came down to kill us all, I sang
Kyrie, Kyrie Eleison, Kyrie Kyrie Eleison.

They dropped to their blood-drenched shaggy knees
and asked if I was a priest. I was, I told them,
and was escorted most politely to the upper deck.

I did solemn funeral ceremonies for the Christian dead
while the Turks were simply cast over the side.
I suggested a collection for the widows and children.

Now that I had money I was ablaze to get ashore
and was dropped, feigning illness, on an island called Rhodes.
It took me half a year to get to Marsillia in France.

Erstwhile friends, with exceptions, feigned not to know me,
and it was a weary journey from the south to the north.
At long last I gazed on the turbulent, grey northern sea.

England? No, I hardly think so. That Queen is no friend.
But a long sea journey will cost more than I possess.
Sadly, regretfully, I settled on robbery and murder.

Green and yellow, under clouds, beyond blue rushing waves,
appear the long and longed-for shorelines of Erin.
Home is the wanderer, what fate will await me now?