The Girl Who Sat by the Ashes

- By Padraic Colum
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Padraic Colum (8 December 1881 – 11 January 1972) was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. He was one of the leading figures of the Irish Literary Revival. Colum was born Patrick Columb in a County Longford workhouse, where his father worked. He was the first of eight children born to Patrick and Susan Columb.[1] When the father lost his job in 1889, he moved to the United States to participate in the Colorado gold rush. Padraic and his mother and siblings remained in Ireland, having moved to live with his grandmother in County Cavan.[2] When the father returned in 1892, the family moved to Glasthule, near Dublin, where his father was employed as Assistant Manager at Sandycove and Glasthule railway station. His son attended the local national school.

The Girl Who Sat by the Ashes

(1) In the morning, she rose up early, opened wide the door, and let the Goats go through. She milked a little from the brown Goat and drank the milk for her breakfast. Then she let the seven Goats go by themselves off to the high places and the rocky places.
(2) She went down to the stream and she washed her face and her hands. Then she stood on the bank and the two starlings flew down, lighting one on each shoulder, and they began to sing to her. The song they sang was of the Little Brown Jug that she washed every day and left in the center place on the dresser:
(3) Little Brown Jug,
Don’t I love thee?
Bright and brown
Like a kept penny!
I’ll fill thee with honey,
I’ll fill thee with spice,
I’ll border thee with flowers
Of every device.
I’ll not let befall thee
A chip or a crack;
I’ll leave pewter below thee,
And delph at thy back.
I’ll fill thee with spice,
And I’ll fill thee with honey,
And I’d not part with thee
For a kettle-full of money.
Little Brown Jug,
Don’t I love thee?
Bright and brown
Like a kept penny.
And when the starlings had sung to her, Girl-go-with-the-Goats was not as heavy at heart as she had been before.
(4) After a very busy day, her stepmother, Dame Dale was at the door. She told Girl-go- with-the-Goats to eat her dinner off the board at the gable end of the house and then go and bring back the seven Goats from the high places and the rocky places.
(5) She ate her dinner of bread and milk and an egg. Then she brought the Goats home. Her step-mother told her she need not milk them as she had to go to a certain place before the dark of the night came down. And where had she to go to? To the Forge in the Forest. And what had she to go for? For a pot of fire, no less.
(6) For all that morning Buttercup and Berry-bright, after washing their hands with new milk, sat dizening themselves as before. And Dame Dale, being wearied from her journey, stayed in bed. The consequence of it all was that the fire on the hearth had gone out, and there was no way now of kindling a fire. And the only place to get fire was at the Forge in the Forest which was more like a moorland than a forest because all the trees had been cut down.
(7) And now Girl-go-with-the-Goats was bidden take a pot in her hands and go to the Forge in the Forest for fire for her step-mother’s hearth. She started off, and no sooner had she turned the loaning when the starlings again flew down on her shoulders. And as she went along the path through the wood the two starlings sang to her; whatever she thought of, that they sang to her. She came out on the moorland and when she went a furlong she saw the black forge. Two Dwarfs with earrings in their ears were within. They took two pieces of glowing wood out of their fire and put them in her pot.
(8) Back she went, hurrying now across the moorland because dark clouds were gathering. As she went along the path through the wood the starlings on her shoulders twittered their nesting song. The wood was dark around her and she hurried, hurried on. And on the outskirts of the wood, she saw a youth gathering kindlings for a fire. She came face to face with him and she knew him, He was the King’s son.
(9) She put down the pot and at once she began gathering kindlings with him. She brought them where he was bringing his. She laid hers down and built up a fire for him. “This the night when, according to my father’s councillors, I have to sleep on the moorland,” said the King’s son. He searched in his wallet. “I had flint and steel,” he said, “but I have lost the flint and steel that was to make my fire.”
(10) “I have embers,” said Girl-go-with-the-Goats. She took the burning embers out of the pot and put them under the wood. A fire began to crackle. “Leave me now,” said the King’s son. “Would you not give me an ember out of the fire I have kindled?” said Girl-go-with- the-Goats. “I will give you an ember, but not two embers,” said the King’s son.
(11) She took an ember from the fire. It was not a weighty ember like one of the two the Dwarfs had given her. It was a light and a waning ember. She took it and put it in the pot, thinking she would find kindling on the wayside.
(12) She went on and on but she found no kindling. And when she looked into her pot again the ember had died out. What was she to do? She walked back, and she saw the fire she had lighted blazing up. She saw the King’s son standing beside the fire. She went nearer, but she could hear his voice as he said to her, “I will give you an ember, but not two embers.” She was afraid to go near him and have him speak to her again.

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Word Lists:

Ember : a small piece of burning or glowing coal or wood in a dying fire

Kindling : easily combustible small sticks or twigs used for starting a fire.

Gable : the part of a wall that encloses the end of a pitched roof

Furlong : an eighth of a mile, 220 yards.

Hearth : the floor of a fireplace

Outskirts : the outer parts of a town or city

Befall : (of something bad) happen to someone

Chip : a small piece of something removed in the course of chopping, cutting, or breaking a hard material such as wood or stone

Forge : make or shape (a metal object) by heating it in a fire or furnace and beating or hammering it

Kindle : light or set on fire.


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Rating: B

Words: 968

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