Shorter, Dora Sigerson D. The Woman Who Went To Hell, And Other Ballads and Lyrics. London: The De La More Press, 1902.
THE WOMAN WHO WENT TO HELL:
AN IRISH LEGEND
Young Dermod stood by his mothers side,
And he spake right stern and cold:
Now, why do you weep and wail, he said
And joy from my bride withhold?
And why do you keen and cry, said he,
So loud on my marriage day?
The wedding guests they all eager wait,
Still clad in their rich array.
The priest is ready with book and stole,
And you do this grievous thing:
You keep me from the altar rail
My bride from her wedding ring.
His mother she rose, and she dried her tears,
She took him by his right hand
The cause, she said, of my grief and pain
Too soon must you understand.
Oh, one-and-twenty long years ago
I walked in your fathers farm,
I broke a bough from a ripe peach-tree,
And carried it on my arm.
My heart was light as a thistle-seed
I had but been wed a year
I dreamt of a joy that would soon be mine
A babe in my arms so dear.
There came to me there a stranger man,
And these are the words he spake:
The fruit you carry I fain would buy,
I pray you my gold to take.
The fruit I carried he then did buy
You lying beneath my heart
I tended to him the ripe peach-bough
He tore the gold branch apart.
He whispered then in my frightened ear
The name of the Evil One,
And this I have bought to-day, he said
The soul of your unborn son.
'The fruit you carry, which I did buy,
Will ripen before I claim:
And when the bells for his wedding ring
Again shall you hear my name.
Now Dermod rose from his mothers side,
And all loud and long laughed he.
He bore her down to the wedding-guests,
How sorrowful still was she.
Now, cry no more, sweet mother, he said
For you are a doleful sight.
And who is there in the banquet-hall
Can claim my soul tonight?
Then one rose up from the wedding throng,
But his face no man could see,
And he said, Now bid your dear farewell,
For your soul belongs to me.
Young Dermod stood like a stricken man,
His mother she swooned away;
But his love ran quick to the strangers side,
And to him she this did say: -
If you will let his young soul go free,
I will serve you true and well,
For seven long years to be your slave
In the bitterest place of hell.
"Seven long years, if you be my slave,
I will let his soul go free.
The stranger drew her then by the hand,
And into the night went he.
Seven long years did she serve him true
By the blazing gates of hell,
And on each soul that entered in
The tears of her sorrow fell.
Seven long years did she keep the place,
To open the doors accurst,
And ever soul that her tear-drops knew
It would neither burn nor thirst,
And once she let in her father dear,
And once her brother through,
Once came a friend she had loved full well,
Oh, bitter it was to do!
On the last day of the seven long years
She stood by her masters knee
A boon, a boon for the work well done
I pray that you grant to me,
A boon, a boon, that I carry forth
What treasure my strength can bring.
That you may do, said the Evil One,
And all for a little thing.
All you can carry you may take forth
By serving me seven years more.
Bitter she wept for the world and love,
But took her sad place by the door.
Seven long years did she serve him well
Until the last day was done,
And all the souls that she had let in,
They clung to her one by one.
And all the souls that she had let through
They clung to her dress and hair,
Until the burden that she brought forth
Was heavy as she could bear.
The first who stopped her on her way
Was a maiden all fair to see,
And Sister, your load is great, she said
So give it, I pray, to me.
Mary I am, God sent me forth
That you to your love might go,
The woman she drew the maids robe aside,
And a cloven hoof did show.
And I will not give it to you. she said,
Quick grasping her burden tight;
And all the souls that surrounded her
Clung closer in dire affright.
The next who stopped her upon her way
Was an angel with sword aflame,
The Lord has sent for your load, he said,
St. Michael it is my name.
The woman drew back his gown of white,
And the cloven hoof did see.
Oh, God be with me to-night she said,
For bitter my sorrows be.
And I will not give it to you,said she,
And wept full many a tear.
And all the souls that her burden made
Cried out in desperate fear.
The third who met her on her way
Was a Man with face so fair:
She knelt her down at his wounded feet,
And she laid her burden there.
Oh I will give it to You, she said,
And fell in a swoon so deep,
The flying souls and their cries of joy
Did not waken her from her sleep.
Seven long days did her slumber last,
And, Oh, but her dream was sweet,
She thought she wandered in Gods far land,
The bliss of her hopes complete.
And when she woke on the seventh day
To her loves home did she go.
And there she met neither man nor maid
Who ever her face did know.
And lo! she saw set a wedding feast,
And tall by her own loves side
There leaned a maiden, all young and fair,
Who never should be his bride.
A drink, a drink, my little page boy,
A drink I do pray you bring.
She took the goblet up in her hand,
And dropped in her golden ring,
He who would marry, my little page
I pray he drink with me,
To the old love that he has forgot,
And this must his toasting be.
When her false lover had got the cup
He drained it both deep and dry,
To my dead love that I mourned so long,
And I would that she now were nigh.
He took from the cup the golden ring,
And he turned it in his hand.
He said Whoever has sent this charm
I cannot her power withstand.
Oh she is weary, and sad, and old,
The little page-boy replied.
But Dermod strode through the startled guests,
And stood by his own loves side.
He took her up in his two strong arms,
And Have you come home? he said,
Twice seven long years I mourned you well
As silent among the dead.
He kissed her twice on her faded cheek,
And thrice on her snow-white hair.
And this is my own true wife, he said
To the guests who gathered there.
Oh, she is withered and old, they cried,
And her hair is pale as snow.
'Twere better you took the fair young girl,
And let the sad old love go.
I will not marry the fair young girl,
No woman I wed but this,
The sweet white rose of her cheek, said he,
Shall redden beneath my kiss.
There is no beauty in all the land
Who can with her face compare.
He led her up to the table head,
And set her beside him there.