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The Ballad of Molly Malone

Posted by Wild Musette editor on

The Ballad of Molly Malone

by Shannon Connor Winward

On the bay of Dublin
the pulse and the din
of the land and the sea breed desire.
The caw of the gulls,
and the roar of the swells,
are known to set hearts afire.

The tide’s thrust and tussle,
the dock’s clutter and shuffle,
the songs of the sea-faring fellows;
their tenor-tongued sailors
and wine-brazened whalers
and trollers with throats like a bellows

with calls spry and all canty,
lures of ballads and shanties,
choruses romantic and jolly.
Tunes and more they taught her,
the fishmongers’ daughter,
lovely and lively young Molly.

For a verse on the quay
or an inn, by-and-by,
Molly’d sample their cockles and eels.
The love of the boys
put a trill in her voice
and a happy spring in her heels.

With her barrow full-stocked,
every morn Molly hawked,
“Here be fresh oysters and mussels!”
And through streets high and low
her refrain, “Alive-O!”
a melodious and boisterous bustle.

Down streets low and high
rolled her come-hither cry
and always earnest custom beset her.
So sweet and so fetching,
her pitch so bewitching,
t’was sure no fishwife fared better.

But as cathedral bells linger,
so the pretty young singer
did echo with love’s tainted thrum.
‘Ere long a red fever
o’er took and besieged her
and the merry maid Molly was done.

Or so it was thought,
when the coffin was brought
and the lass shut up within,
only to wake in the Night
bereft of all sight
and sound in the ground of Dublin.

No street aria could rival
Molly’s plea for survival,
Alive! Here! Alive! O!
Alas, did she wail,
but t’was no avail;
all were deaf to the lament below.

In the land of the dead,
the departed are fed
on the clatter and scuff of the living.
A spirit can utter
but a sigh or a flutter,
a whisper of spite or misgiving.

With ears slack as hunger,
the yawning wraiths blunder
towards the crackle, the rattle and strife,
the titters and bawling,
the orchestral squalling,
to feast on the music of life.

But the fishmongers’ daughter,
with a voice like no other,
fills the streets with her ghostly solo,
and for a thousand tomorrows
drives her brimming wheelbarrow
still singing “Alive! Here! O laddies, Alive, Alive-O!”


Shannon Connor Winward is the author of the Elgin-award winning chapbook, Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Her writing has earned recognition in the Writers of the Future Contest and has appeared (or is forthcoming) from Fantasy & Science FictionAnalogThe Pedestal MagazinePseudopodLiterary MamaCast of Wonders, and Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine. In between writing, parenting, and other madness, Shannon is also a poetry editor for Devilfish Review and founding editor of the forthcoming Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal.



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