Padraic Colum

(8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972 / County Longford)

Asses - Poem by Padraic Colum

'I KNOW where I'd get
An ass that would do,
If I had the money
A pound or two.'

Said a ragged man
To my uncle one day;
He got the money
And went on his way.

And after that time
In market or fair
I'd look at the asses
That might be there.

And wonder what kind
Of an ass would do
For a ragged man
With a pound or two.

O the black and roan horses the street would fill,
Their manes and tails streaming, and they standing still,

And their owners, the men of estate, would be there,
Refusing gold guineas for a colt or a mare.

And one, maybe, riding up and down like a squire
So that buyers from Dublin might see and admire

The hunter or racer come to be sold
And be willing and ready to pay out their gold.

With men slouching beside them and buyers not near
It's no wonder the asses held down head and ear.

They had been sold or in by-ways bought
For a few half-crowns tied up in a knot,

And no one so poor as to buy one might come
To that fair that had horses so well prized at home!

And then it fell out
That at Arva or Scrabbey,
At some down-county fair,
Or Mohill or Abbey,

On two asses I happened
Without duress or dole
They were there in the market,
A dam and her foal.

And the owner, a woman,
Did not slouch or stand,
But in her cart sitting
Was as grand as the grand;

Like a queen out of Connacht
From her toe to her tip,
Like proud Crania Uaile
On the deck of her ship.


And her hair 'twas a mane:
The blackberries growing
Out of the hedge-rows
Have the sheen it was showing,

There kind was with kind
Like the flowers in the grasses
If the owner was fine,
As fine were her asses.

White, white was the mother
As a dusty white road;
Black on back and on shoulders
The cross-marking showed.

She was tall she could carry
A youth stout of limb,
Or bear down from her mountain
The bride decked for him!

Such was the mother
The foal's hide was brown,
All fleecy and curly,
And soft like bog-down;

And it nuzzled its mother,
Its head to her knee,
And blue were its eyes
Like the pools of the sea!

Then I thought all the silver
My uncle could draw
Might not pay for the creatures
That that day I saw;

And I thought that old Damer,
Who had troughs made of gold,
Could not pay for the asses,
The young and the old.

And I think of them still
When I see on the roads
Asses unyoked,
And asses with loads;

One running and trotting,
With harness loose,
And a man striking and hitting
Where his stick has use;

And one with a hide
Like a patched-on sack
And two creels of turf
Upon its back;

And one in the market,
Meek and brown,
Its head to the cart-shafts
That are down;

Eating its forage
A wisp of hay;
In the dust of the highway
Munching away;

Unmarked in the market
As might be a mouse
Behind a low stool
In a quiet house

Then I think of the pair
Horses might not surpass
The dam and her foal,
The white ass and brown ass.


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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010



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