Posted by: aediculaantinoi | June 17, 2013

Suibhne Geilt

“Suibhne Geilt” by Michael Quirke, wood carving, 2012; commissioned by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Suibhne Geilt

Shout and scowl, you hopping heads:
I have been cursed by a saint,
doomed to dwell with bleak madness
naked amidst the chirping birds–
from tree to branch–not fly, LEAP!
and in the distance, a bell.

Fury-inducing, ringing bell
echoes across the rivers’ heads;
from a cliff into the sea I’d leap
but death would flee, by that damned saint–
instead, I make my nest with birds
in the woods of shadowed madness.

THe valley resounds with great madness
where boughs against rock walls are a bell
and even the air above lacks birds
amongst a mob with crazy-cracked heads
from blood and terror or curséd saint…
into this glen we have made our leap.

A perilous and steep leap
looks easy in my madness;
warm, safe indoors is the saint
with his insistent loud bell
which sounds in ears across heads
and disturbs the flight of birds.

How simple is the life of birds
who fly with ease and do not leap
from tree tops like green hairy heads;
a gift is this curse of madness,
to flee from tyranny of bell
and scathing words of vicious saint…

It is a curse unknown to the saint
that he lacks the sense of nature’s birds,
more sweet and tuneful than brazen bell;
I watch stags and does play, and they leap
with joy I have not seen in madness–
I envy the antlers on their heads!

Pray, you saint, and ring your bell;
sing, you birds, ‘cross fields you leap–
I, in madness, have gained more heads.

Curse of the saint gives me madness,
dog and goat heads and wings of birds
cause me to leap at sound of bell.

May a blesséd saint I find with leap
amidst the birds, away from madness:
his clear-ringing bell a balm for heads.


  1. Sestina! And a good one.

    • Thank you! (Slightly modified at the end, of course…)

      And, it’s also my first one–I thought it would be suitable to the subject matter, given that Suibhne is crazy, and the constant repetition in a sestina sort of lends itself to obsessiveness in an inner dialogue…

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