CELT document E900012-006

Woman and Child

Patrick Augustine Sheehan

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    Woman and Child

  1. We watched the sunset together—Sheila, and Conor and I;
    They were some few years wedded; she toyed with her marriage ring.
    Swiftly and sudden the sun leaped down through the western sky,
    Losing his poise in the heavens, as if God had severed the string.
  2. And the red orb plunged in his wrath, and splashed all the sky with flame;
    Scarlet paled into saffron; and the pink to a hollow grey;
    Then on the crested battlements flambeaux ciphered God's name,
    Lighting the nuptials of night from the eyes of the dying day.
  3. We watched the sunset in silence—the great waves fawned at our feet;
    The lion-waves that are tamed in the hush of the parting eves,
    For Nature is ever gentle, when night and the twilight greet;
    And labour leaveth his toils, and pleasure her garlands weaves.
  4. And sudden a thought—that there on those ramparts crested with fire,
    Where Alp upon Alp arose from the fireseas hidden beneath,
    In the deep cavernous valleys, crowding nigher and nigher,
    In the mists of molten vapours, from where sea-cauldrons seethe—
  5. Souls might linger and lean, for there of a surety
    Dross of earth and its soilure could find not a resting-place,
    Great is the magic of fire—the giver of purity,
    The angel who sifts and selects His souls 'fore the Godhead's face.
  6. But this was a moment's fancy; so I turned to Conor and said:
    'Now, Conor, you are a poet; you watch with the seer's dark eyes;
    And things that are drab to souls, whom the Muses have left unwed,
    Gleam with a new white light in the lightning of Love's emprise
  7.  p.84
  8. What saw you there in that sunset?' He swiftly turned and said:
    (And I saw that his eyes were blind from the light of the vanished sun),
    “Thou hast said well,” he cried, 'as gold is more precious than lead,
    Sight is better than faith, as deeds our thoughts outrun.'
  9. 'And so surely as you have questioned, so surely did I see
    Just as the lower are leaned on the wine-faced deep,
    Up rose a woman's form, full-poised and rigid in majesty,
    Erect with gold-shod feet on the rim of the glittering steep.
  10. 'There she hovered and lingered, her white arms crossed on her breast;
    Hesperus glittered and pierced through her vesture diaphanous;
    She was a moment's glint of flame against the daffodil west;
    And lo! as she vanished, she pointed a finger to God and us.
  11. 'Then from the sunken sea arose the ramparts elysian,
    Fiery but fading as dreams from the sweet, dark sleep of the blest;
    Over the ramparts flickered the wraith of that holy vision,
    Beckoned, faded, and vanished; then came the night and rest.'
  12. Once more we were hushed into silence. He turned to his wife who smiled,
    Not with the curved lip of scorn, but the pity of wondrous love;
    'And, Sheila, what saw you? By poesy unbeguiled,
    You see not with eagle's eyes, but with eyes of the brooding dove.'
  13. And Sheila whispered, and toyed with her seal-ring tremulously:
    'Love taketh a downward bias; it filleth the wants of the weak.
    God seeketh the man, and the man seeketh the woman, and she
    Seeketh that which, when found, leaveth her nought to seek.
  14.  p.85
  15. 'I saw a light from Heaven, from the zenith down to the west,
    Like the patriarch's ladder of old, which the feet of the angels trod,
    And a burning babe on the breast of the sun as he sank to rest,
    And the deep was a purfled cradle rocked by the hand of God.'
  16. Ah! sweet are the dreams of poets, fledgelings of Paradise!
    Nursed by Eros and Psyche, and fed by the rosy Hours!
    Sweet are the dreams that hover over the children's eyes,
    Before life's wayward April dashes their Spring with showers.
  17. Sweet are the day-dreams of maidens, sightlessly looking afar
    For that which never hath been—for that which never shall be;
    Sweet are the dreams of song-birds under the twilight star,
    Startled from sleep by the echoes of their own melody.
  18. Sweet are the dreams of night-flowers, nodding their drowsy heads
    Under the moon's white glamour, as she treads with noiseless feet
    Her purple pathway in Heaven-sweet in their deep, dewy beds;
    But of all the dreams of the earth-born, a mother's dreams are most sweet.
  19. For, Lord, Thou art great in Thy Heavens-great in Thy love and might,
    Painting rose-coloured dawns for Thy waking children, and eves
    Flushed with the hues that lie wrapped in primordial light,
    Or burst into prisms of colour, like a rose from its garden leaves.
  20. But never in that world of marvels Thy wondrous Win doth make,
    Rounded to ultimate worth, or unto perfection filed,
    Hast Thou wrought deeper and truer for man's, or for Thy own sake,
    Than when in the dawn Thy fictile Hand fashioned the Woman and Child.
  21.  p.86
  22. And I, in a glass, but darkly, perceive the incipient page
    Of Thy holy Book is emblazoned with the transcendent light
    That streams from the star-crowned vision, treading the demon's rage,
    And shadowed in far Revelations, like suns in a starlit night.
  23. Human, we follow the human to strain towards the Divine;
    The earth-spirit reaches to spirit by earthly love beguiled:
    Nay, shall we do Thee dishonour, if we pass from the splendours of Thine,
    And rest our aching eyes on the face of the Woman and Child?
  24. P. A. S.

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Title (uniform): Woman and Child

Author: Patrick Augustine Sheehan

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Electronic edition compiled by: Benjamin Hazard

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork and private donation

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1. First draft

Extent: 1460 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2014

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E900012-006

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description


  • [Details to follow].

Canon Sheehan on the Internet

  • http://www.canonsheehanremembered.com.


  • Canon P.A. Sheehan, 'Woman and Child,' The Irish Monthly, 35/404 (February 1907) 83–86.


  1. Herman Joseph Heuser, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: the story of an Irish parish priest as told chiefly by himself in books, personal memoirs, and letters (New York 1917).
  2. Arthur Coussens. P. A. Sheehan, zijn leven en zijn werken (Brugge/Bruges 1923).
  3. Michael P. Linehan, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: Priest, Novelist, Man of Letters (Dublin 1952).
  4. James O'Brien (ed.), The Collected Letters of Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, 1883–1913 (Wells 2013).
  5. James O'Brien, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile 1852–1913: Outlines for a Literary Biography (Wells 2013). [Bibliographical references 205-11.]

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Woman and Child’. In: The Irish Monthly: A Magazine of General Literature‍. Ed. by Matthew Russell SJ, pp. 83–86.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  title 	 = {Woman and Child},
  journal 	 = {The Irish Monthly: A Magazine of General Literature},
  editor 	 = {Matthew Russell SJ},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Irish Jesuit Province},
  date 	 = {February 1907},
  pages 	 = {83–86}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q; but omitted in verse passages due to nesting restrictions within metrical lines.

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Creation: By Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852–1913)

Date: 1907

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  • The text is in English. (en)
  • One word is in French. (fr)

Keywords: poetry; 20c; child; catholicism

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(Most recent first)

  1. 2014-02-10: File parsed and validated; wordcount made; SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2014-02-03: Header created; structural mark-up added; file proofed. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  3. 2014-01-24: Text scanned. (file capture Benjamin Hazard)

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