This story was originally published in 1897 in THE SECRET ROSE. It is available to read online in a number of spots including here
Yeats (1865-1939) was winner of the Nobel Prize and Ireland’s greatest poet and dramatist. The son of a renowned Dublin artist, he was educated partly in Ireland and partly in London and during this time formed an interest in occultism. Later, drawing on his experiences with his relatives in Sligo, he began to write on folklore, the first results being published in 1893 as THE CELTIC TWILIGHT. This title was subsequently used to label a school of writing that attempted a renaissance of ancient Irish culture. Yeats’ style in prose – like in his poetry – is gloriously varied: from light, beautiful tales of unworldly fantasy to grim and horrifying parables of death and cruelty.
Read for us by the redoubtable Wilson Fowlie (begorra!)
“His eyes strayed from the Abbey tower of the White Friars and the town battlements to a row of crosses which stood out against the sky upon a hill a little to the eastward of the town, and he clenched his fist, and shook it at the crosses. He knew they were not empty, for the birds were fluttering about them; and he thought how, as like as not, just such another vagabond as himself was hanged on one of them; and he muttered: ‘If it were hanging or bowstringing, or stoning or beheading, it would be bad enough. But to have the birds pecking your eyes and the wolves eating your feet! I would that the red wind of the Druids had withered in his cradle the soldier of Dathi, who brought the tree of death out of barbarous lands, or that the lightning, when it smote Dathi at the foot of the mountain, had smitten him also, or that his grave had been dug by the green-haired and green-toothed merrows deep at the roots of the deep sea.’”