The Seven Sisters of Navan


Mauryè Nangle; [a fragment]

Oh, there are sisters – sisters seven,

As bright as any stars in heaven;

Save one, they were all 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 future 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 Mauryè’s timid, Mauryè’s mild,

And on her spirit undefiled

St Brigid’s nuns their thoughts have bent;

She flies her sister’s merriment.

They say they’ll marry, every one,

But Mauryè says she’ll be a nun.

‘Oh, wait awhile,’ her father said,

‘Sweet Mauryè, wait till I am dead.’

The nuns for her more firmly sought

To wean her from each worldly thought.

‘Oh, you were made for God, not man –

Twas thus their pious plea began;

For much as these pale recluses feared

As her gay sisters’ nuptials neared.

‘Oh, wait awhile’ the Baron said,

‘Sweet Mauryè, wait till they are wed.

A novice now, sweet Mauryè dwells

Within dark Odder’s sacred cells;

Yet on her sisters’ wedding-day

She joins the chivalric 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 Mauryè swells:

‘Oh 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 Tyrell urged vain,

Her tears fell down like Munster rain –

Malone and Bellew, Taafe and Dease,

‘Oh 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?

Oh, never had she seen an eye

Look into hers so tenderly!

‘Methinks that deeps and mellow voice

Would make the abbess’ self rejoice:

He’s sure the saint I dreamt upon-

Not Barneville of Trimleston;

In Holy Land his spurs he won –

What aileth me, a novice nun?’


Thomas Davis; from Songs and Ballads of Young Ireland, Downey & Co., 1896