by Winifred Mary Letts (1882 - 1972)

Language: English 
Poor Mary Byrne is dead,
An' all the world may see
[Where]1 she lies upon her bed
Just as fine as quality.

She lies there still and white,
With candles either hand
That'll guard her [through]2 the night:
Sure she never was so grand.

She holds her rosary,
Her hands clasped on her breast.
Just as dacint as can be
In the habit she's been dressed.

In life her hands were red
With every sort of toil,
But they're white now she is dead,
An' they've sorra mark of soil.

The neighbours come and go,
They kneel to say a prayer,
I wish herself could know
Of the way she's lyin' there.

It was work from morn till night,
And hard she earned her bread:
But I'm thinking she's a right
To be aisy now she's dead.

When other girls were gay,
At wedding or at fair,
She'd be toiling all the day,
Not a minyit could she spare.

An' no one missed her face,
Or sought her in a crowd,
But to-day they throng the place
Just to see her in her shroud.

The creature in her life
Drew trouble with each breath;
She was just "poor Jim Byrne's wife" —
But she's lovely in her death.

I wish the dead could see
The splendour of a wake,
For it's proud herself would be
Of the keening that they make.

Och! little Mary Byrne,
You welcome every guest,
Is it now you take your turn
To be merry with the rest?

I'm thinking you'd be glad,
[Though]3 the angels make your bed,
Could you see the care we've had
To respect you — now you're dead.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Stanford: "When"
2 Stanford: "thro'
3 Stanford: "tho'"


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Researcher for this text: Johann Winkler

This text was added to the website: 2020-09-28
Line count: 48
Word count: 277