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Full text of "Riders to the sea"

forma 
nal 




LIBRARY 

UN KbiTYOF 

CALIFORNIA 

SAN DIEGO 



1 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 



By 
J. M. SYNGE 



JOHN W. LUCE & COMPANY 
BOSTON ::::::: 1911 



Copyright, 1916, 
Br L. E. BASSXTT 



INTRODUCTION 



It must have been on Synge's second visit to 
the Aran Islands that he had the experience 
out of which was wrought what many believe 
to be his greatest play. The scene of "Riders 
to the Sea" is laid in a cottage on Inishmaan, 
the middle and most interesting island of the 
Aran group. While Synge was on Inishmaan, 
the story came to him of a man whose body 
had been washed up on the far away coast of 
Donegal, and who, by reason of certain pecu- 
liarities of dress, was suspected to be from the 
island. In due course, he was recognised as 
a native of Inishmaan, in exactly the manner 
described in the play, and perhaps one of the 
most poignantly vivid passages in Synge's book 
on "The Aran Islands" relates the incident of 
his burial. 

The other element in the story which Synge 

introduces into the play is equally true. Many 

tales of "second sight" are to be heard among 

Celtic races. In fact, they are so common as 

VII 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

to arouse little or no wonder in the minds of 
the people. It is just such a tale, which there 
seems no valid reason for doubting, that Synge 
heard, and that gave the title, "Riders to the 
Sea", to his play. 

It is the dramatist's high distinction that he 
has simply taken the materials which lay ready 
to his hand, and by the power of sympathy 
woven them, with little modification, into a 
tragedy which, for dramatic irony and noble 
pity, has no equal among its contemporaries. 

Great tragedy, it is frequently claimed with 
some show of justice, has perforce departed 
with the advance of modern life and its com- 
plicated tangle of interests and creature com- 
forts. A highly developed civilisation, with 
its attendant specialisation of culture, tends 
ever to lose sight of those elemental forces, 
those primal emotions, naked to wind and sky, 
which are the stuff from which great drama is 
wrought by the artist, but which, as it would 
seem, are rapidly departing from us. 

It is only in the far places, where solitary 
communion may be had with the elements, that 
this dynamic life is still to be found continu- 
VIII 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

ously, and it is accordingly thither that the 
dramatist, who would deal with spiritual life 
disengaged from the environment of an intel- 
lectual maze, must go for that experience which 
will beget in him inspiration for his art. 

The Aran Islands from which Synge gained 
his inspiration are rapidly losing that sense of 
isolation and self-dependence, which has hith- 
erto been their rare distinction, and which 
furnished the motivation for Synge's master- 
piece. Whether or not Synge finds a successor, 
it is none the less true that in English dramatic 
literature "Riders to the Sea" has an historic 
value which it would be difficult to over- 
estimate in its accomplishment and its possi- 
bilities. A writer in The Manchester Guardian 
shortly after Synge's death phrased it rightly 
when he wrote that it is "the tragic master- 
piece of our language in our time; wherever 
it has been played in Europe from Galway to 
Prague, it has made the word tragedy mean 
something more profoundly stirring and 
cleansing to the spirit than it did." 

The secret of the play's power is its capacity 
for standing afar off, and mingling, if we may 
IX 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

say so, sympathy with relentlessness. There 
is a wonderful beauty of speech in the words 
of every character, wherein the latent power 
of suggestion is almost unlimited. "In the 
big world the old people do be leaving things 
after them for their sons and children, but in 
this place it is the young men do be leaving 
things behind for them that do be old." In 
the quavering rhythm of these words, there 
is poignantly present that quality of strange- 
ness and remoteness in beauty which, as we 
are coming to realise, is the touchstone of 
Celtic literary art. However, the very ascet- 
icism of the play has begotten a corresponding 
power which lifts Synge's work far out of the 
current of the Irish literary revival, and sets 
it high in a timeless atmosphere of universal 
action. 

Its characters live and die. It is their 
virtue in life to be lonely, and none but the 
lonely man in tragedy may be great. He dies, 
and then it is the virtue in life of the women 
mothers and wives and sisters to be 
great in their loneliness, great as Maurya, the 
stricken mother, is great in her final word. 
X 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

" 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 satisfied." 

The pity and the terror of it all have 
brought a great peace, the peace that passeth 
understanding, and it is because the play holds 
this timeless peace after the storm which has 
bowed down every character, that " Riders to 
the Sea " may rightly take its place as the 
greatest modern tragedy in the English 

tongue. 

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN. 

February 23, 1911. 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
A PLAY IN ONE ACT 

First performed at the Molesworth Hall, 
Dublin, February 2$th, 1904. 

PERSONS 

MAURYA (an old woman} . Honor Lavelle 
BARTLEY (her son) . . . W. G. Fay 
CATHLEEN (her daughter) Sarah Allgood 
NORA (a younger daughter) Emma Vernon 
MEN AND WOMEN 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
A PLAY IN ONE ACT 

First performed at the Molesworth Hall, 
Dublin, February 2$th, 1904. 

SCENE. An Island off the West of Ireland. 
(Cottage kitchen, with nets, oil-skins, spin- 
ning wheel, some new boards standing by the 
wall, etc. Cathleen, a girl of about tiventy, 
finishes kneading cake, and puts it down in the 
pot-oven by the fire; then wipes her hands, 
and begins to spin at the wheel. Nora, a young 
girl, puts her head in at the door.) 

NORA 

In a low voice. 
Where is she? 

CATHLEEN 

She's lying down, God help her, and may be 
sleeping, if she's able. 

17 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

Nora comes in softly, and takes a 
bundle from under her shawl. 

CATHLEEN 

Spinning the wheel rapidly. 
What is it you have? 

NORA 

The young priest is after bringing them. 
It's a shirt and a plain stocking were got off 
a drowned man in Donegal. 

Cathleen stops her wheel with a 
sudden movement, and leans out to 

listen. 

NORA 

We're to find out if it's Michael's they are, 
some time herself will be down looking by the 
sea. 

CATHLEEN 

How would they be Michael's, Nora. How 
would he go the length of that way to the far 
north ? 

NORA 

The young priest says he's known the like 

of it. " If it's Michael's they are," says he, 

"you can tell herself he's got a clean burial 

by the grace of God, and if they're not his, 

18 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

let no one say a word about them, for she'll 
be getting her death," says he, " with crying 
and lamenting." 

The door which Nora half closed is 
blown open by a gust of wind. 

CATHLEEN 
Looking out anxiously. 

Did you ask him would he stop Bartley 
going this day with the horses to the Galway 
fair? 

NORA 

" I won't stop him," says he, " but let you 
not be afraid. Herself does be saying prayers 
half through the night, and the Almighty God 
won't leave her destitute," says he, " with no 
son living." 

CATHLEEN 
Is the sea bad by the white rocks, Nora? 

NORA 

Middling bad, God help us. There's a great 
roaring in the west, and it's worse it'll be 
getting when the tide's turned to the wind. 

She goes over to the table with the 

bundle. 

Shall I open it now? 
19 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
CATHLEEN 

Maybe she'd wake up on us, and come in 
before we'd done. 

Coming to the table. 

It's a long time we'll be, and the two of us 
crying. 

NORA 

Goes to the inner door and listens. 

She's moving about on the bed. She'll be 
coming in a minute. 

CATHLEEN 

Give me the ladder, and I'll put them up 
in the turf-loft, the way she won't know of 
them at all, and maybe when the tide turns 
she'll be going down to see would he be float- 
ing from the east. 

They put the ladder against the gable 
of the chimney; Cathleen goes up a 
few steps and hides the bundle in 
the turf-loft. Maurya comes from 
the inner room. 

MAURYA 

Looking up at Cathleen and speak- 
ing querulously. 

90 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

Isn't it turf enough you have for this day 
and evening? 

CATHLEEN 

There's a cake baking at the fire for a short 
space 

Throwing down the turf 
and Bartley will want it when the tide turns 
if he goes to Connemara. 

Nora picks up the turf and puts it 
round the pot-oven. 

MAURYA 
Sitting down on a stool at the fire. 

He won't go this day with the wind 
rising from the south and west. He won't 
go this day, for the young priest will stop him 
surely. 

NORA 

He'll not stop him, mother, and I heard 
Eamon Simon and Stephen Pheety and Colum 
Shawn saying he would go. 

MAURYA 
Where is he itself? 

NORA 

He went down to see would there be another 
ai 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

boat sailing in the week, and I'm thinking it 
won't be long till he's here now, for the tide's 
turning at the green head, and the hooker's 
tacking from the east. 

CATHLEEN 
I hear some one passing the big stones. 

NORA 

Looking out. 
He's coming now, and he in a hurry. 

BARTLEY 

Comes in and looks round the room. 
Speaking sadly and quietly. 

Where is the bit of new rope, Cathleen, was 
bought in Connemara? 

CATHLEEN 
Coming down. 

Give it to him, Nora; it's on a nail by the 
white boards. I hung it up this morning, for 
the pig with the black feet was eating it. 

NORA 

Giving him a rope. 
Is that it, Bartley? 

MAURYA 
You'd do right to leave that rope, Bartley, 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

hanging by the boards (Bart ley takes the 
rope). It will be wanting in this place, I'm 
telling you, if Michael is washed up to- 
morrow morning, or the next morning, or any 
morning in the week, for it's a deep grave 
we'll make him by the grace of God. 

BARTLEY 
Beginning to work with the rope. 

I've no halter the way I can ride down on 
the mare, and I must go now quickly. This 
is the one boat going for two weeks or beyond 
it, and the fair will be a good fair for horses 
I heard them saying below. 

MAURYA 

It's a hard thing they'll be saying below if 
the body is washed up and there's no man 
in it to make the coffin, and I after giving a 
big price for the finest white boards you'd 
find in Connemara. 

She looks round at the boards. 

BARTLEY 

How would it be washed up, and we after 
looking each day for nine days, and a strong 
wind blowing a while back from the west and 
south ? 

23 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

MAURYA 

If it wasn't found itself, that wind is 
raising the sea, and there was a star up against 
the moon, and it rising in the night. If it 
was a hundred horses, or a thousand horses 
you had itself, what is the price of a thousand 
horses against a son where there is one son 
only? 

BARTLEY 

Working at the halter, to Cathleen. 

Let you go down each day, and see the 
sheep aren't jumping in on the rye, and if the 
jobber comes you can sell the pig with the 
black feet if there is a good price going. 

MAURYA 

How would the like of her get a good 
price for a pig? 

BARTLEY 
To Cathleen. 

If the west wind holds with the last bit of 
the moon let you and Nora get up weed 
enough for another cock for the kelp. It's 
hard set we'll be from this day with no one 
in it but one man to work. 




RIDERS TO THE SEA 

drownd'd with the rest. What way will I 
live and the girls with me, and I an old 
woman looking for the grave? 

Hartley lays down the halter, takes 

off his old coat, and puts on a newer 

one of the same flannel. 

BARTLEY 
To Nora. 
Is she coming to the pier? 

NORA 

Looking out. 

She's passing the green head and letting 
fall her sails. 

BARTLEY 
Getting his purse and tobacco. 

I'll have half an hour to go down, and you'll 
see me coming again in two days, or in three 
days, or maybe in four days if the wind is 
bad. 

MAURYA 

Turning round to the fire, and put- 
ing her shawl over her head. 

Isn't it a hard and cruel man won't hear 
a word from an old woman, and she holding 
him from the sea? 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
CATHLEEN 

It's the life of a young man to be going on 
the sea, and who would listen to an old woman 
with one thing and she saying it over? 

BARTLEY 
Taking the halter. 

I must go now quickly. I'll ride down on 
the red mare, and the gray pony '11 run behind 
me. . . The blessing of God on you. 

He goes out. 

MAURYA 
Crying out as he is in the door. 

He's gone now, God spare us, and we'll not 
see him again. He's gone now, and when the 
black night is falling I'll have no son left me 
in the world. 

CATHLEEN 

Why wouldn't you give him your blessing 
and he looking round in the door? Isn't it 
sorrow enough is on every one in this house 
without your sending him out with an unlucky 
word behind him, and a hard word in his ear? 

Maurya takes up the tongs and 
begins raking the fire aimlessly with- 
out looking round. 
26 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

NORA 
Turning towards her. 

You're taking away the turf from the 
cake. 

CATHLEEN 

Crying out. 

The Son of God forgive us, Nora, we're 
after forgetting his bit of bread. 

She comes over to the fire. 

NORA 

And it's destroyed he'll be going till dark 
night, and he after eating nothing since the 
sun went up. 

CATHLEEN 
Turning the cake out of the oven. 

It's destroyed he'll be, surely. There's no 
sense left on any person in a house where an 
old woman will be talking for ever. 

Maurya sways herself on her stool. 

CATHLEEN 

Cutting off some of the bread and 
rolling it in a cloth; to Maurya. 

Let you go down now to the spring well 
and give him this and he passing. You'll see 
27 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

him then and the dark word will be broken, 
and you can say " God speed you," the way 
he'll be easy in his mind. 

MAURYA 
Taking the bread. 
Will I be in it as soon as himself? 

CATHLEEN 
If you go now quickly. 

MAURYA 

Standing up unsteadily. 
It's hard set I am to walk. 

CATHLEEN 
Looking at her anxiously. 

Give her the stick, Nora, or maybe she'H 
slip on the big stones. 

NORA 

What stick? 

CATHLEEN 
The stick Michael brought from Connemara. 

MAURYA 

Taking a stick Nora gives her. 
In the big world the old people do be 
leaving things after them for their sons and 
28 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

children, but in this place it is the young men 
do be leaving things behind for them that do 
be old. 

She goes out slowly. 

Nora goes over to the ladder. 

CATHLEEN 

Wait, Nora, maybe she'd turn back quickly. 
She's that sorry, God help her, you wouldn't 
know the thing she'd do. 

NORA 

Is she gone round by the bush? 

CATHLEEN 
Looking out. 

She's gone now. Throw it down quickly, 
for the Lord knows when she'll be out of it 

again. 

NORA 

Getting the bundle from the loft. 

The young priest said he'd be passing to- 
morrow, and we might go down and speak 
to him below if it's Michael's they are surely. 

CATHLEEN 

Taking the bundle. 

Did he say what way they were found? 
29 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

NORA 

Coming down. 

" There were two men," says he, " and they 
rowing round with poteen before the cocks 
crowed, and the oar of one of them caught the 
body, and they passing the black cliffs of the 
north." 

CATHLEEN 

Trying to open the bundle. 

Give me a knife, Nora, the string's perished 
with the salt water, and there's a black knot 
on it you wouldn't loosen in a week. 

NORA 

Giving her a knife. 
I've heard tell it was a long way to Donegal. 

CATHLEEN 
Cutting the string. 

It is surely. There was a man in here a 
while ago the man sold us that knife 
and he said if you set off walking from the 
rocks beyond, it would be seven days you'd 
be in Donegal. 

NORA 

And what time would a man take, and he 
floating? 

30 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

Cathleen opens the bundle and takes 

out a bit of a stocking. They look 

at them eagerly. 

CATHLEEN 
In a low voice. 

The Lord spare us, Nora! isn't it a queer 
hard thing to say if it's his they are surely? 

NORA 

I'll get his shirt off the hook the way we 
can put the one flannel on the other (she 
looks through some clothes hanging in the 
corner.} It's not with them, Cathleen, and 
where will it be? 

CATHLEEN 

I'm thinking Bartley put it on him in the 
morning, for his own shirt was heavy with 
the salt in it (pointing to the corner} . There's 
a bit of a sleeve was of the same stuff. Give 
me that and it will do. 

Nora brings it to her and they com- 
pare the flannel. 

CATHLEEN 

It's the same stuff, Nora; but if it is itself 
aren't there great rolls of it in the shops of 
Galway, and isn't it many another man may 
have a shirt of it as well as Michael himself? 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
NORA 

Who has taken up the stocking and 
counted the stitches, crying out. 

It's Michael, Cathleen, it's Michael; God 
spare his soul, and what will herself say when 
she hears this story, and Bartley on the sea ? 

CATHLEEN 
Taking the stocking. 
It's a plain stocking. 

NORA 

It's the second one of the third pair I 
knitted, and I put up three score stitches, and 
I dropped four of them. 

CATHLEEN 
Counts the stitches. 

It's that number is in it (crying out.} 
Ah, Nora, isn't it a bitter thing to think of 
him floating that way to the far north, and 
no one to keen him but the black hags that do 
be flying on the sea? 

NORA 

Swinging herself round, and throw- 
ing out her arms on the clothes. 

And isn't it a pitiful thing when there is 
32 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

nothing left of a man who was a great rower 
and fisher, but a bit of an old shirt and a plain 
stocking? 

CATHLEEN 
After an instant. 

Tell me is herself coming, Nora? I hear 
a little sound on the path. 

NORA 

Looking out. 

She is, Cathleen. She's coming up to the 
door. 

CATHLEEN 

Put these things away before she'll come 
in. Maybe it's easier she'll be after giving 
her blessing to Bartley, and we won't let on 
we've heard anything the time he's on the sea. 

NORA 

Helping Cathleen to close the bundle. 
We'll put them here in the corner. 

They put them into a hole in the 

chimney corner. Cathleen goes back 

to the spinning-wheel. 

NORA 

Will she see it was crying I was? 
33 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
CATHLEEN 

Keep your back to the door the way the 
light'll not be on you. 

Nora sits down at the chimney 
corner, with her back to the door. 
Maurya comes in very slowly, with- 
out looking at the girls, and goes 
over to her stool at the other side of 
of the fire. The cloth with the bread 
is still in her hand. The girls look 
at each other, and Nora points to 
the bundle of bread. 

CATHLEEN 

After spinning for a moment. 
You didn't give him his bit of bread? 

Maurya begins to keen softly, with- 
out turning round. 

CATHLEEN 

Did you see him riding down? 
Maurya goes on keening. 

CATHLEEN 
A little impatiently. 

God forgive you; isn't it a better thing to 
raise your voice and tell what you seen, than 
to be making lamentation for a thing that's 
34 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

done? Did you see Bartley, I'm saying to 
you. 

MAURYA 
With a weak voice. 
My heart's broken from this day. 

CATHLEEN 
As before. 

Did you see Bartley? 

MAURYA 
I seen the fearfulest thing. 

CATHLEEN 
Leaves her wheel and looks out. 

God forgive you; he's riding the mare now 
over the green head, and the gray pony behind 
him. 

MAURYA 

Starts, so that her shawl falls back 
from her head and shows her white 
tossed hair. With a frightened voice. 

The gray pony behind him. 

CATHLEEN 
Coming to the fire. 
What is it ails you, at all? 
35 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

MAURYA 
Speaking very slowly. 

I've seen the fearfulest thing any person 
has seen, since the day Bride Dara seen the 
dead man with the child in his arms. 

CATHLEEN AND NORA 
Uah. 

They crouch down in front of the 
old woman at the fire. 

NORA 
Tell us what it is you seen. 

MAURYA 

I went down to the spring well, and I 
stood there saying a prayer to myself. Then 
Bartley came along, and he riding on the red 
mare with the gray pony behind him (she 
puts up her hands, as if to hide something 
from her eyes.} The Son of God spare us, 
Nora! 

CATHLEEN 

What is it you seen. 

MAURYA 
I seen Michael himself. 

CATHLEEN 
Speaking softly. 

36 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

You did not, mother; It wasn't Michael 
you seen, for his body is after being found 
in the far north, and he's got a clean burial 
by the grace of God. 

MAURYA 
A little defiantly. 

I'm after seeing him this day, and he riding 
and galloping. Bartley came first on the red 
mare ; and I tried to say " God speed you," 
but something choked the words in my throat. 
He went by quickly ; and " the blessing of God 
on you," says he, and I could say nothing. I 
looked up then, and I crying, at the gray pony, 
and there was Michael upon it with fine 
clothes on him, and new shoes on his feet. 

CATHLEEN 
Begins to keen. 

It's destroyed we are from this day. It's 
destroyed, surely. 

NORA 

Didn't the young priest say the Almighty 
God wouldn't leave her destitute with no son 
living? 

MAURYA 

In a low voice, but dearly, 
37 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

It's little the like of him knows of the sea. 

. . . Bartley will be lost now, and let 
you call in Eamon and make me a good coffin 
out of the white boards, for I won't live after 
them. I've had a husband, and a husband's 
father, and six sons in this house six fine 
men, though it was a hard birth I had with 
every one of them and they coming to the 
world and some of them were found and 
some of them were not found, but they're 
gone now the lot of them. . . There were 
Stephen, and Shawn, were lost in the great 
wind, and found after in the Bay of Gregory 
of the Golden Mouth, and carried up the two 
of them on the one plank, and in by that door. 

She pauses for a moment, the girls 
start as if they heard something 
through the door that is half open 

behind them. 

NORA 

In a whisper. 

Did you hear that, Cathleen ? Did you hear 
a noise in the north-east? 

CATHLEEN 
In a whisper. 

There's some one after crying out by the 
seashore. 

38 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

MAURYA 
Continues without hearing anything. 

There was Sheamus and his father, and his 
own father again, were lost in a dark night, 
and not a stick or sign was seen of them when 
the sun went up. There was Patch after was 
drowned out of a curagh that turned over. 
I was sitting here with Hartley, and he a 
baby, lying on my two knees, and I seen two 
women, and three women, and four women 
coming in, and they crossing themselves, and 
not saying a word. I looked out then, and 
there were men coming after them, and they 
holding a thing in the half of a red sail, and 
water dripping out of it it was a dry day, 
Nora and leaving a track to the door. 

She pauses again with her hand 
stretched out towards the door. It 
opens softly and old women begin 
to come in, crossing themselves on 
the threshold, and kneeling down in 
front of the stage with red petti- 
coats over their heads. 

MAURYA 

Half in a dream, to Cathie en. 
Js it Patch, or Michael, or what is it at all? 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
CATHLEEN 

Michael is after being found in the far 
north, and when he is found there how could 
he be here in this place? 

MAURYA 

There does be a power of young men 
floating round in the sea, and what way would 
they know if it was Michael they had, or 
another man like him, for when a man is 
nine days in the sea, and the wind blowing, 
it's hard set his own mother would be to say 
what man was it. 

CATHLEEN 

It's Michael, God spare him, for they're 
after sending us a bit of his clothes from the 
far north. 

She reaches out and hands Maurya 
the clothes that belonged to Michael. 
Maurya stands up slowly, and takes 
them in her hands. Nora looks out. 

NORA 

They're carrying a thing among them and 
there's water dripping out of it and leaving 
a track by the big stones. 

40 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
CATHLEEN 

In a whisper to the women who 
have come in. 
Is it Bartley it is? 

ONE OF THE WOMEN 

It is surely, God rest his soul. 

Two younger women come in and 
pull out the table. Then men carry 
in the body of Bartley, laid on a 
plank, with a bit of a sail over it, 
and lay it on the table. 

CATHLEEN 

To the women, as they are doing so. 
What way was he drowned? 

ONE OF THE WOMEN 

The gray pony knocked him into the sea, 
and he was washed out where there is a 
great surf on the white rocks. 

Maurya has gone over and knelt 
down at the head of the table. The 
women are keening softly and sway- 
ing themselves with a slow move- 
ment. Cathleen and Nora kneel at 
the other end of the table. The men 
kneel near the door. 

4 1 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 
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 any- 
thing 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 Bart- 
ley'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, 
43 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

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 with them? 

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, 

43 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

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 cry- 
ing out from this to the spring well. It's 
fonder she was of Michael, and would any 
one have thought that ? 

CATHLEEN 
Slowly and clearly. 

An old woman will be soon tired with any- 
thing 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 down- 
wards on the table, and lays her 
hands together on Bartley's feet. 

They're all together this time, and the end 
44 



RIDERS TO THE SEA 

is come. May the Almighty God have mercy 
on Hartley'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 satisfied. 

She kneels down again and the cur- 
tain falls slowly. 



45 



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