Messer Marco Polo
Messer Marco Polo
The message came to me, at the second check of the hunt, that a countryman
and a clansman needed me. The ground was heavy, the day raw, and it was a
drag, too fast for fun and too tame for sport. So I blessed the countryman and the
clansman, and turned my back on the field.
But when they told me his name, I all but fell from the saddle.
"But that man's dead!"
But he wasn't dead. He was in New York. He was traveling from the craigs of
Ulster to his grandson, who had an orange-grove on the Indian River, in Florida.
He wasn't dead. And I said to myself with impatience, "Must every man born
ninety years ago be dead?"
"But this is a damned thing," I thought, "to be saddled with a man over ninety
years old. To have to act as GARDE-MALADE at my age! Why couldn't he have
stayed and died at home? Sure, one of these days he will die, as we all die, and
the ghost of him will never be content on the sluggish river, by the mossy trees,
where the blue herons and the white cranes and the great gray pelicans fly. It will
be going back, I know, to the booming surf and the red-berried rowan-trees and
the barking eagles of Antrim. To die out of Ulster, when one can die in Ulster,
there is a gey foolish thing. . ."
But the harsh logic of Ulster left me, and the soft mood of Ulster came on me as I
remembered him, and I going into the town on the train. And the late winter
grass, of Westchester, spare, scrofulous; the jerry-built bungalows; the lines of
uncomely linen; the blatant advertising boards -- all the unbeauty of it passed
away, and I was again in the Antrim glens. There was the soft purple of the Irish
Channel, and there the soft, dim outline of Scotland. There was the herring
school silver in the sun, and I could see it from the crags where the surf boomed
like a drum. And underfoot was the springy heather, the belled and purple
heather. . .
And there came to me again the vision of the old man's thatched farmhouse
when the moon was up and the bats were out, and the winds of the County
Antrim came bellying down the glens. . .The turf fire burned on the hearth, now
red, now yellow, and there was the golden light of lamps, and Malachi of the
Long Glen was reciting some poem of Blind Raftery's, or the lament of Pierre
Ronsard for Mary, Queen of Scots:
Ta ribin o mo cheadshearc ann mo phocs sios.
Agas mna Eirip ni leigheasfadaois mo bhron, faraor!