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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Ireland: Vol. V. 1876–79.


Marie Nangle; Or, the Seven Sisters of Navan

By Thomas Davis (1814–1845)

O, THERE were sisters, sisters seven,

As bright as any stars in heaven;

Save one, they all were snowy white,

And she like Oriental night:

Yet she was like unto the rest,

Had all their softness in her breast,

Their lights and shadows in her face,

And in her figure all their grace;

The brightest she of all the seven,

Yet all were bright, as stars in heaven.

They had true lovers, every one,

Except the fairest,—she had none;

Or rather say that she returned

Their love to none who for her burned;

For Marie ’s timid, Marie ’s mild,

And on her spirit undefiled

St. Brigid’s nuns their thoughts have bent;

She flies her sisters’ merriment.

They say they ’ll marry, every one,

But Marie says she ’ll be a nun.

“O, wait awhile,” her father said,

“Sweet Marie, wait till I am dead.”

The nuns, for this, more firmly sought

To wean her from each earthly thought.

O, you were made for God, not man,—

’T was thus their pious plea began;

For much these pale recluses feared,

As her gay sisters’ nuptials neared.

“O, wait awhile,” the Baron said,

“Sweet Marie, wait till they are wed.”

A novice now, sweet Marie dwells

Within dark Odder’s sacred cells;

Yet on her sisters’ wedding-day

She joins the chivalrous array.

The brides were sweeter than their flowers,

The bridegrooms came from haughty towers,

For Nangle’s daughters are beneath

No lordly hand in lordly Meath.

The novice heart of Marie swells;

“O, dark,” she sighs, “are Odder’s cells!”

Yet vainly on that wedding-day

Her sisters and their gay grooms pray,—

She grieves to part with those so dear,

But she is filled with pious fear;

While Tuite and Tyrrell urged in vain,

Her tears fell down like Munster rain,—

Malone and Bellew, Taaffe and Dease,—

“O, cease,” she says, “in pity cease,

Or I must leave your wedding gay,

In Odder’s walls to fast and pray.”

The marriage rites are bravely done;

But what ails her, the novice nun?

O, never had she seen an eye

Look into hers so tenderly.

“Methinks that deep and mellow voice

Would make the Abbess’ self rejoice;

He ’s sure the Saint I dreamt upon,—

Not Barnewell of Trimleston.

In Holy Land his spurs he won,—

What aileth me, a novice nun?”