The Fairy Thorn

: Boys And Girls Bookshelf

An Ulster Ballad


"Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning wheel,

For your father's on the hill, and your mother is asleep:

Come up above the crags, and we'll dance a Highland reel

Around the fairy thorn on the steep."

At Anna Grace's door, 't was thus the maidens cried--

Three merry maidens fair,
in kirtles of the green;

And Anna laid the sock and the weary wheel aside--

The fairest of the four, I ween.

They're glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve,

Away in milky wavings of the neck and ankle bare;

The heavy-sliding stream in its sleepy song they leave,

And the crags in the ghostly air;

And linking hand in hand, and singing as they go,

The maids along the hillside have ta'en their fearless way,

Till they come to where the rowan trees in lonely beauty grow

Beside the Fairy Hawthorn gray.

The Hawthorn stands between the ashes tall and slim,

Like matron with her twin grand-daughters at her knee;

The rowan berries cluster o'er her low head, gray and dim,

In ruddy kisses sweet to see.

The merry maidens four have ranged them in a row,

Between each lovely couple a stately rowan stem;

And away in mazes wavy, like skimming birds, they go--

Oh, never carroled bird like them!

But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze,

That drinks away their voices in echoless repose;

And dreamily the evening has stilled the haunted braes,

And dreamier the gloaming grows.

And sinking, one by one, like lark-notes from the sky,

When the falcon's shadow saileth across the open shaw,

Are hushed the maidens' voices, as cowering down they lie

In the flutter of their sudden awe.

For, from the air above, and the grassy ground beneath,

And from the mountain-ashes and the old white thorn between,

A power of faint enchantment doth through their beings breathe,

And they sink down together on the green.

They sink together silent, and stealing side by side,

They fling their lovely arms o'er their drooping necks so fair;

Then vainly strive again their naked arms to hide,

For their shrinking necks again are bare.

Thus clasped and prostrate all, with their heads together bowed,

Soft o'er their bosoms beating--the only human sound--

They hear the silky footsteps of the silent fairy crowd,

Like a river in the air, gliding round.

Nor scream can raise, nor prayer can any say,

But wild, wild the terror of the speechless three;

For they feel fair Anna Grace drawn silently away,

By whom, they dare not look to see.

They feel their tresses twine with her parting locks of gold,

And the curls elastic falling, as her head withdraws;

They feel her sliding arms from their tranced arms unfold,

But they dare not look to see the cause.

For heavy on their senses the faint enchantment lies,

Through all that night of anguish and perilous amaze;

And neither fear nor wonder can open their quivering eyes,

Or their limbs from the cold ground raise.

Till out of night the earth has rolled her dewy side,

With every haunted mountain and streamy vale below;

When, as the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide,

The maidens' trance dissolveth so.

They fly, the ghastly three, as swiftly as they may,

And told their tale of sorrow to anxious friends in vain--

They pined away and died within the year and day,

And ne'er was Anna Grace seen again.