The School Bag

from The Lament of the Old Woman
of Beare


Youth’s summer in which we were 
I have spent with its autumn: 
Winter-age which overwhelms all men, 
To me has come its beginning. 

Amen! Woe is me! 
Every acorn has to drop 
After feasting by shining candles 
To be in the gloom of a prayer-house!

I had my day with kings
Drinking mead and wine: 
To-day I drink whey-water 
Among shrivelled old hags. 

I see upon my cloak the hair of old age, 
My reason has beguiled me: 
Grey is the hair that grows through my skin – 
’Tis thus! I am an old hag. 

The flood-wave 
And the second ebb tide – 
They have all reached me, 
So that I know them well. 
The flood wave 
Will not reach the silence of my kitchen:
Though many are my company in darkness, 
A hand has been laid upon them all. 

O happy the isle of the great sea 
Which the flood reaches after the ebb! 
As for me, I do not expect 
Flood after ebb to come to me. 

There is scarce a little place today 
That I can recognise: 
What was on flood 
Is all on ebb.   
Irish - 10th century - translated by Kuno Meyer