A Lament for Nualey

My dear mother bought her first of all,
Nualey the yellow and green budgie,
In her bright little cage she lived a while
And sang her brave little song.

No meat did she ever taste,
Not even a drop of poteen did she take,
But a little drink of clear water was her honey,
And a little grain was her feast.

Her eyes looked dainty to us
Like her little beak that ever chewing,
A smooth little cloak were her feathers
To keep her little wings** under wraps.

Sprightly was she when she flew
Around the bright rooms of the house
And she loved to sit for a while
High up on top of the curtain.

But of late she began to get sick,
And in her little cage she became so weak,
No spring in her matchstick feet,
Hardly was she there at all.

Three days the sickness was on her
A small little patient exhausted,
Being warmed on the breast of my mother
Until the little bird was left without a spark.

A keening woman was she then, my mother,
The grieving went on for three days
She was buried in the earth of the garden —
A small flower in the middle of the flowers.

God’s blessing be on every budgie
In Ireland and in far off Australia,
The land from where her people were taken
To comfort us all in our pain.

** ‘little wings’: my mother (1909 ‑ 2003) called them ‘wingeens’.

She often used the ending ‒eení (Irish Gaelic suffix ‘‒ín’ = ‘small, little’) to express her warm affection for persons, creatures and things: ‘boyeen’, ‘girleen’, ‘handeen’, ‘fingereen’, ‘peteen’, ‘penguineen’, ‘calfeen’ etc.

Note that, as in ‘smithereen’, the stress is on ‘‒een’.


The original Irish text of this poem.