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The Bird of Jesus

Padraic Colum 1881 (County Longford) – 1972 (Enfield)

IT was pure indeed,
The air we breathed in, the light we saw,
I and my brother, when we played that day,
Or piped to one another; then there came
Two young lads of an age with one another,
And with us two, and these two played with us,
And went away.

Each had a bearing that was like a prince's,
Yet they were simple lads and had the kindness
Of our own folk lads simple and unknowing:
Then, afterwards, we went to visit them.

Theirs was a village that was not far off,
But out of reach towards elbow, not towards hand:
And what was there were houses
Houses and some trees
And it was like a place within a fold.

We found the lads,
And found them still as simple and unknowing,
And played with them: we played outside the stall
Where worked the father of the wiser lad
Not brothers were the boys, but cousins' children.

There was a pit:
We brought back clay and sat beside the stall,
And made birds out of clay; and then my brother
Took up his bird and flung it in the air:
His playmate did as he,
And clay fell down upon the face of clay.

And then I took
The shavings of the board the carpenter
Was working on, and flung them in the air,
And watched them streaming down.

There would be nought to tell
Had not the wiser of the lads took up
The clay he shaped: a little bird it was;
He tossed it from his hand up to his head;
The bird stayed in the air.

O what delight we had
To see it fly and pause, that little bird,
Sinking to earth sometimes, and sometimes rising
As though to fly into the very sun;
At last it spread out wings and flew, and flew,
Flew to the sun.

I do not think
That we played any more, or thought of playing,
For every drop of blood our bodies held
Was free and playing, free and playing then.
Four lads together on the bench we sat:
Nothing was in the open air around us,
And yet we thought something was there for us
A secret, charmed thing.

So we went homeward; by soft ways we went
That wound us back to our familiar place.
Some increase lay upon the things we saw:
I'll speak of grasses, but you'll never know
What grass was there; words wither it and make it
Like to the desert children's dream of grass;

Lambs in the grass, but I will not have shown you
What fleece of purity they had to show;
I'll speak of birds, but I will not have told you
How their song filled the heart; and when I speak
Of him, my brother, you will never guess
How we two were at one!

Even to our mother we had gained in grace!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:28 min read

Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. more…

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