28Hartnett, Michael. Translations. Ed. Peter Fallon. Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland: Gallery, 2003. 52-55. Originally published in 1969, Dublin: New Writers' Press.
From the Old Irish (ninth century, anonymous)

The woman of Beare sang this when old:

As to the sea laps low tide
   to me falls fading of age;
   grief for myself at fading,
   greed in the teeth of my days. 

I am Buí, the hag of Beare,
   I wore an eternal gown;
   but I am naked today
   of even a cast·off shroud.

Money was all you loved,
   and not people.
   but we, while we were alive,
   our love was for the people —

for we loved the peopled plains
   we rode, and we loved our hosts;
   hospitable, good, they made
   of no giving a long boast.

Today you claim all, yet you
   grant none nothing: if you give
   you shame the given with great
   boasting of a little gift.

Now my body, bitter, finds
   the corridors of final
   recognition, the gaze of
   God in his own possession.

Now my hands, wrinkled to long
   bones, hang down dead, hands that locked
   kings of this land in loving,
   in the old days, my lost days.

O hands, wrinkled to long bones
   even at my odd hours of lust
   I must tell young men begone
   should they come. I have no love.

The bodies of young women
   bound as rabbits in springtime.
   I only regret. I am
   a barren unloved woman —

for my tongue hides no honey
   and I look to no wedlock;
   white what is left of my hair
   hidden under a hag's cloak.

Not the old I envy:
   they die; but youth
   and monuments, both assailed
   as I am, and they still hold.

Winter makes war with the waves;
   today no king will come here,
   nor the lowest road-walker.
   I expect no one today.

I know what they are doing,
   liquid horses of the sea;
   spaced far in their maned groups,
   they gallop away from me.

By loving
   I wasted my self to age,
   but beauty leaves me alone:
   I am told, and no lust stays.

When the sun
   beats a haze of hotness from
   the sea, so yet I must go
   clothed. I am spent, and old.

And yet to waste by loving
   is no waste: for I am glad
   I was made old by pleasure,
   I am glad my flesh was glad.

Green to grass comes back each spring;
   I am eternally old.
   Each acorn gives way to earth,
   bright tables fall to bare boards.

Past, in my days of firm breasts,
   wine was my drink and sweet words
   my food, tall men my lovers;
   now curds, sour as my own milk.

Beneath my cloak my skin hides,
   grained with age and unlovely;
   a white hair covers my skin
   like fungus on a dead tree.

Robbed of me my blue right eye,
   lent for land I own forever;
   and robbed of me my left eye
   secures it, mine forever.

The three floods
   in which I would dream to drown:
   a flood of loves, of horses
   and of gentle slim grey hounds.

O birth-wave,
   death-wave, your bore, you broke me;
   you, last, I will know your face
   when you must come to take me.

O death-wave,
   though great, my friends in darkness
   are — yet come and make your use
   of me. I never refuse.

Well for the islands to which
   again the flood-waves come: now
   I, alone on my ebbed beach,
   I know no face nor no house.

'The Hag of Beare' by Michael Hartnett from Translations (2003) reproduced by kind permission of the author's estate and The Gallery Press. www.gallerypress.com