The Dangers Of The Irish Sea...
[Maurya has gone over and knelt down at the head of
the table. The women are keening softly and swaying
themselves with a slow movement. Cathleen and Nora kneel
at the other end of the table. The men kneel near the
MAURYA (raising her head and speaking as if she did
not see the people around her). They’re all gone
now, and there isn’t anything more the sea can
do to me. ...I’ll have no call now to be up crying
and praying when the wind breaks from the south, and
you can hear the surf is in the east, and the surf is
in the west, making a great stir with the two noises,
and they hitting one on the other. I’ll have no
call now to be going down and getting Holy Water in
the dark nights after Samhain, and I won’t care
what way the sea is when the other women will be keening.
(To Nora.) Give me the Holy Water, Nora, there’s
a small sup still on the dresser.
[Nora gives it to her.]
MAURYA (drops Michael’s clothes across Bartley’s
feet, and sprinkles the Holy Water over him). It isn’t
that I haven’t prayed for you, Bartley, to the
Almighty God. It isn’t that I haven’t said
prayers in the dark night till you wouldn’t know
what I’ld be saying; but it’s a great rest
I’ll have now, and it’s time surely. It’s
a great rest I’ll have now, and great sleeping
in the long nights after Samhain, if it’s only
a bit of wet flour we do have to eat, and maybe a fish
that would be stinking.
[She kneels down again, crossing herself, and saying
prayers under her breath.]
CATHLEEN (to an old man). Maybe yourself and Eamon would
make a coffin when the sun rises. We have fine white
boards herself bought, God help her, thinking Michael
would be found, and I have a new cake you can eat while
you’ll be working.
THE OLD MAN (looking at the boards). Are there nails
CATHLEEN. There are not, Colum; we didn’t think
of the nails.
ANOTHER MAN. It’s a great wonder she wouldn’t
think of the nails, and all the coffins she’s
seen made already.
CATHLEEN. It’s getting old she is, and broken.
[Maurya stands up again very slowly and spreads out
the pieces of Michael’s clothes beside the body,
sprinkling them with the last of the Holy Water.]
NORA (in a whisper to Cathleen). She’s quiet now
and easy; but the day Michael was drowned you could
hear her crying out from this to the spring well. It’s
fonder she was of Michael, and would any one have thought
CATHLEEN (slowly and clearly). An old woman will be
soon tired with anything she will do, and isn’t
it nine days herself is after crying and keening, and
making great sorrow in the house?
MAURYA (puts the empty cup mouth downwards on the table,
and lays her hands together on Bartley’s feet).
They’re all together this time, and the end is
come. May the Almighty God have mercy on Bartley’s
soul, and on Michael’s soul, and on the souls
of Sheamus and Patch, and Stephen and Shawn (bending
her head); and may He have mercy on my soul, Nora, and
on the soul of every one is left living in the world.
[She pauses, and the keen rises a little more loudly
from the women, then sinks away.]
MAURYA (continuing). Michael has a clean burial in the
far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley
will have a fine coffin out of the white boards, and
a deep grave surely. What more can we want than that?
No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be
[She kneels down again and the curtain fails slowly.]
from John Millington Synge
Riders To The Sea