Padraic Colum's "An Old Woman of the Roads"
Padraic Colum's "An Old Woman of the Roads"
O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall!
To have a clock with weights and chains
And pendulum swinging up and down!
A dresser filled with shining delph,
Speckled and white and blue and brown!
I could be busy all the day
Clearing and sweeping hearth and floor,
And fixing on their shelf again
My white and blue and speckled store!
I could be quiet there at night
Beside the fire and by myself,
Sure of a bed and loth to leave
The ticking clock and the shining delph!
Och! but I'm weary of mist and dark,
And roads where there's never a house nor bush,
And tired I am of bog and road,
And the crying wind and the lonesome hush!
And I am praying to God on high,
And I am praying Him night and day,
For a little house—a house of my own—
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.
The King of Ireland's Son
Padraic Colum's "An Old Woman of the Roads" features six quatrains, each with the rime-scheme, ABCB; the poem thematically dramatizes an old woman's desire to possess her own home, where she can find physical shelter as she seeks soul solace of the Divine Beloved.
First Quatrain: "O, to have a little house!"
The speaker laments that she does not own her own little house, in which she could take great pride. She wishes to "own the hearth and stool and all!" She would be so pleased to be in possession of the"sods" that are used to keep the fire going. The "pile of turf against the wall" would be a beautiful sight for her, if only they could belong to her.
Second Quatrain: "To have a clock with weights and chains"
The old woman then mentions some other possessions she would enjoy owning in her own little home; she would like to have "a clock with weights and chains / A pendulum swinging up and down!"
The woman gives a fair amount of space to describing the clock, emphasizing its component parts. In addition to the clock with its "weights and chains," she would cherish a "dresser filled with shining delph / Speckled and white and blue and brown."
The old woman would also like to own a set of dishes that she would keep in her very own cabinet. Her desire for delftware demonstrates that she is aware of the various colors and patterns of the pottery.
Third Quatrain: "I could be busy all the day"
The speaker reports that she would spend her days in her home. She fantasizes with great pleasure and enjoyment that if she owned her own little home filled with sod for the fire, a working clock, and a cabinet filled with fine pottery, she would keep herself "busy all the day / Clearing and sweeping the heart and floor."
The old woman's pride of ownership shines through her dreams of keeping her possessions clean and tidy. In addition to keeping the hearth clean and the floor swept, she would rearrange her delftware, an act that would show her gratitude for being able to do such work.
Fourth Quatrain: "I could be quiet there at night"
At night, the old woman would enjoy being quiet, sitting "beside the fire." She would relish her privacy, knowing that she had "a bed." She would want to remain in her home and not be venturing out; she would be "loth to leave / The ticking clock and the shining delph!"
Fifth Quatrain: "Och! but I'm weary of mist and dark"
The speaker's mind finally returns to her homeless state of being, from where she reports that she is "weary of mist and dark." Spending her time on the open roads has made her grow "tired" of "bog and road."
Instead of the little fantasy of taking care of her own little house, she must endure the constant motion of traveling "where there's never a house or bush." The sound of the "crying wind" and time of "lonesome hush" have been weighing heavily on her soul.
Sixth Quatrain: "And I am praying to God on high"
After such an itinerant life, the old woman laments, reporting that she is "praying to God on high" "for a little house—a house of my own." She seeks shelter for her body as she also seeks shelter for her soul.
Reading of Colum's "An Old Woman of the Roads"
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes
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