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Concerning the Nearness Together of Heaven, Earth, and Purgatory


In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far
apart. I have heard of a ghost that was many years in a tree and many
years in the archway of a bridge, and my old Mayo woman says, "There is
a bush up at my own place, and the people do be saying that there are
two souls doing their penance under it. When the wind blows one way the
one has shelter, and when it blows from the north the other has the
shelter. It is twisted over with the way they be rooting under it for
shelter. I don't believe it, but there is many a one would not pass by
it at night." Indeed there are times when the worlds are so near
together that it seems as if our earthly chattels were no more than the
shadows of things beyond. A lady I knew once saw a village child
running about with a long trailing petticoat upon her, and asked the
creature why she did not have it cut short. "It was my grandmother's,"
said the child; "would you have her going about yonder with her
petticoat up to her knees, and she dead but four days?" I have read a
story of a woman whose ghost haunted her people because they had made
her grave-clothes so short that the fires of purgatory burned her
knees. The peasantry expect to have beyond the grave houses much like
their earthly homes, only there the thatch will never grow leaky, nor
the white walls lose their lustre, nor shall the dairy be at any time
empty of good milk and butter. But now and then a landlord or an agent
or a gauger will go by begging his bread, to show how God divides the
righteous from the unrighteous.


1892 and 1902.

William Butler Yeats