THE WELL OF THE SAINTS
A Comedy in Three Acts
By J. M. Synge
SCENE Some lonelymountainous
district in the east of Ireland one or
more centuries ago.
THE WELL OF THE SAINTS was first produced in the Abbey Theatre in
February, 1905, by the Irish National Theatre Society, under the
direction of W. G. Fay, and with the following cast.
Martin Doul W. G. FAY
Mary Doul EMMA VERNON
Timmy GEORGE ROBERTS
Molly Byrne SARA ALLGOOD
Bride MAIRE NIC SHIUBHLAIGH
Mat Simon P. MAC SHIUBHLAIGH
The Saint F. J. FAY
OTHER GIRLS AND MEN
MARTIN DOUL, weather-beaten, blind beggar
MARY DOUL, his Wife, weather-beaten, ugly woman, blind also, nearly
TIMMY, a middle-aged, almost elderly, but vigorous
MOLLY BYRNE, fine-looking girl with fair hair
BRIDE, another handsome girl
THE SAINT, a wandering Friar
OTHER GIRLS AND MEN
THE WELL OF THE SAINTS
[Roadside with big stones, etc., on the right; low loose wall at back
with gap near centre; at left, ruined doorway
of church with bushes
beside it. Martin Doul and Mary Doul grope in on left and pass over to
stones on right, where they sit.]
MARY DOUL. What place are we now, Martin Doul?
MARTIN DOUL. Passing the gap.
MARY DOUL -- [raising her head.] -- The length of that! Well, the sun's
getting warm this day if it's late autumn itself.
MARTIN DOUL -- [putting out his hands in sun.] -- What way wouldn't
it be warm and it getting high up in the south? You were that length
plaiting your yellow hair you have the morning lost on us, and the
people are after passing to the fair of Clash.
MARY DOUL. It isn't going to the fair, the time they do be driving their
cattle and they with a litter
of pigs maybe squealing in their carts,
they'd give us a thing at all. (She sits down.) It's well you know that,
but you must be talking.
MARTIN DOUL -- [sitting down beside her and beginning
to shred rushes
she gives him.] -- If I didn't talk I'd be destroyed in a short while
listening to the clack you do be making, for you've a queer cracked
voice, the Lord have mercy on you, if it's fine to look on you are
MARY DOUL. Who wouldn't have a cracked
voice sitting out all the year
in the rain falling? It's a bad life for the voice, Martin Doul, though
I've heard tell there isn't anything like the wet south wind does be
blowing upon us for keeping a white beautiful skin -- the like of my
skin -- on your neck and on your brows, and there isn't anything at all
like a fine skin for putting splendour on a woman.
MARTIN DOUL -- [teasingly, but with good humour.] -- I do be thinking
odd times we don't know rightly
what way you have your splendour, or
asking myself, maybe, if you have it at all, for the time I was a young
lad, and had fine sight, it was the ones with sweet voices were the best
MARY DOUL. Let you not be making the like of that talk when you've heard
Timmy the smith, and Mat Simon, and Patch Ruadh, and a power besides
saying fine things of my face, and you know rightly
it was "the
beautiful dark woman" they did call me in Ballinatone.
MARTIN DOUL -- [as before.] -- If it was itself I heard Molly Byrne
saying at the fall of night it was little more than a fright
MARY DOUL -- [sharply.] -- She was jealous, God forgive
Timmy the smith was after praising my hair.
MARTIN DOUL -- [with mock irony.] -- Jealous!
MARY DOUL. Ay, jealous, Martin Doul; and if she wasn't itself, the young
and silly do be always making game of them that's dark, and they'd think
it a fine thing if they had us deceived, the way we wouldn't know we
were so fine-looking at all.
[She puts her hand to her face with a complacent gesture.]
MARTIN DOUL -- [a little plaintively.] -- I do be thinking in the long
nights it'd be a grand thing if we could see ourselves for one hour, or
a minute itself, the way we'd know surely we were the finest man and the
finest woman of the seven counties of the east (bitterly) and then the
seeing rabble below might be destroying their souls telling bad lies,
and we'd never heed a thing they'd say.
MARY DOUL. If you weren't a big fool you wouldn't heed them this hour,
Martin Doul, for they're a bad lot those that have their sight, and they
do have great joy, the time they do be seeing
a grand thing, to let on
they don't see it at all, and to be telling fool's lies, the like of
what Molly Byrne was telling to yourself.
MARTIN DOUL. If it's lies she does be telling she's a sweet, beautiful
voice you'd never tire to be hearing, if it was only the pig she'd
be calling, or crying out in the long grass, maybe after her hens.
(Speaking pensively.) It should be a fine, soft, rounded woman, I'm
thinking, would have a voice the like of that.
MARY DOUL -- [sharply again, scandalized.] -- Let you not be minding if
it's flat or rounded she is; for she's a flighty, foolish woman, you'll
hear when you're off a long way, and she making a great noise and
laughing at the well.
MARTIN DOUL. Isn't laughing a nice thing the time a woman's young?
MARY DOUL -- [bitterly.] -- A nice thing is it? A nice thing to hear a
woman making a loud braying laugh the like of that? Ah, she's a great
one for drawing
the men, and you'll hear Timmy himself, the time he does
be sitting in his forge, getting mighty
fussy if she'll come walking
from Grianan, the way you'll hear his breath
going, and he wringing his
MARTIN DOUL -- [slightly piqued.] -- I've heard him say a power of times
it's nothing at all she is when you see her at the side of you, and yet
I never heard any man's breath
the time he'd be looking
MARY DOUL. I'm not the like of the girls do be running
round on the
roads, swinging their legs, and they with their necks out looking on the
men.... Ah, there's a power of villainy walking the world, Martin Doul,
among them that do be gadding around with their gaping eyes, and their
sweet words, and they with no sense in them at all.
MARTIN DOUL -- [sadly.] -- It's the truth, maybe, and yet I'm told it's
a grand thing to see a young girl walking the road.
MARY DOUL. You'd be as bad as the rest of them if you had your sight,
and I did well, surely, not to marry a seeing
man it's scores would have
had me and welcome
-- for the seeing
is a queer lot, and you'd never
know the thing they'd do. [A moment's pause.]
MARTIN DOUL -- [listening.] -- There's some one coming on the road.
MARY DOUL. Let you put the pith away out of their sight, or they'll be
picking it out with the spying eyes they have, and saying
it's rich we
are, and not sparing us a thing at all.
away the rushes. Timmy the smith comes in on left.]
MARTIN DOUL -- [with a begging voice.] -- Leave a bit of silver for
blind Martin, your honour. Leave a bit of silver, or a penny copper
itself, and we'll be praying the Lord to bless you and you going the
TIMMY -- [stopping before them.] -- And you letting on a while back you
knew my step! [He sits down.]
MARTIN -- [with his natural voice.] -- I know it when Molly Byrne's
walking in front, or when she's two perches, maybe, lagging behind; but
it's few times I've heard you walking up the like of that, as if you'd
met a thing wasn't right and you coming on the road.
TIMMY -- [hot and breathless, wiping his face.] -- You've good ears, God
bless you, if you're a liar itself; for I'm after walking up in great
haste from hearing
wonders in the fair.
MARTIN DOUL -- [rather contemptuously.] -- You're always hearing
wonderful things, and the lot of them nothing at all; but I'm thinking,
this time, it's a strange thing surely you'd be walking up before the
turn of day, and not waiting
below to look on them lepping, or dancing,
or playing shows on the green of Clash.
TIMMY -- [huffed.] -- I was coming to tell you it's in this place
there'd be a bigger wonder done in a short while (Martin Doul stops
working) than was ever done on the green of Clash, or the width of
Leinster itself; but you're thinking, maybe, you're too cute a little
fellow to be minding me at all.
MARTIN DOUL -- [amused, but incredulous.] -- There'll be wonders in this
place, is it?
TIMMY. Here at the crossing of the roads.
MARTIN DOUL. I never heard tell of anything to happen in this place
since the night they killed the old fellow going home with his gold, the
Lord have mercy on him, and threw down his corpse
into the bog. Let
them not be doing the like of that this night, for it's ourselves have
a right to the crossing roads, and we don't want any of your bad tricks,
or your wonders either, for it's wonder enough we are ourselves.
TIMMY. If I'd a mind I'd be telling you of a real wonder this day, and
the way you'll be having a great joy, maybe, you're not thinking on at
MARTIN DOUL -- [interested.] -- Are they putting up a still behind in
the rocks? It'd be a grand thing if I'd sup handy the way I wouldn't be
destroying myself groping up across the bogs in the rain falling.
TIMMY -- [still moodily.] -- It's not a still they're bringing, or the
like of it either.
MARY DOUL -- [persuasively, to Timmy.] -- Maybe they're hanging
above at the bit of a tree. I'm told it's a great sight to see a man
hanging by his neck; but what joy would that be to ourselves, and we not
seeing it at all?
TIMMY -- [more pleasantly.] -- They're hanging
no one this day, Mary
Doul, and yet, with the help of God, you'll see a power hanged before
MARY DOUL. Well you've queer hum-bugging talk.... What way would I see a
power hanged, and I a dark woman since the seventh year of my age?
TIMMY. Did ever you hear tell of a place across a bit of the sea, where
there is an island, and the grave of the four beautiful saints?
MARY DOUL. I've heard people have walked round from the west and they
speaking of that.
TIMMY -- [impressively.] -- There's a green ferny well, I'm told, behind
of that place, and if you put a drop of the water out of it on the eyes
of a blind man, you'll make him see as well as any person is walking the
MARTIN DOUL -- [with excitement.] -- Is that the truth, Timmy? I'm
thinking you're telling a lie.
TIMMY -- [gruffly.] -- That's the truth, Martin Doul, and you may
believe it now, for you're after believing a power of things weren't as
likely at all.
MARY DOUL. Maybe we could send us a young lad to bring us the water. I
could wash a naggin bottle in the morning, and I'm thinking Patch Ruadh
would go for it, if we gave him a good drink, and the bit of money we
have hid in the thatch.
TIMMY. It'd be no good to be sending a sinful man the like of ourselves,
for I'm told the holiness
of the water does be getting soiled with the
villainy of your heart, the time you'd be carrying it, and you looking
round on the girls, maybe, or drinking a small sup at a still.
MARTIN DOUL -- [with disappointment.] -- It'd be a long terrible way to
be walking ourselves, and I'm thinking that's a wonder will bring small
joy to us at all.
TIMMY -- [turning on him impatiently.] -- What is it you want with
your walking? It's as deaf as blind you're growing if you're not after
hearing me say it's in this place the wonder would be done.
MARTIN DOUL -- [with a flash of anger.] -- If it is can't you open the
big slobbering mouth you have and say what way it'll be done, and not be
making blather till the fall of night.
TIMMY -- [jumping up.] -- I'll be going on now (Mary Doul rises), and
time talking civil talk with the like of you.
MARY DOUL -- [standing up, disguising her impatience.] -- Let you come
here to me, Timmy, and not be minding him at all. [Timmy stops, and
she gropes up to him and takes him by the coat).] You're not huffy with
myself, and let you tell me the whole story and don't be fooling me
more.... Is it yourself has brought us the water?
TIMMY. It is not, surely.
MARY DOUL. Then tell us your wonder, Timmy.... What person'll bring it
TIMMY -- [relenting.] -- It's a fine holy man will bring it, a saint of
the Almighty God.
MARY DOUL -- [overawed.] -- A saint is it?
TIMMY. Ay, a fine saint, who's going round through the churches of
Ireland, with a long cloak on him, and naked feet, for he's brought
a sup of the water slung at his side, and, with the like of him, any
little drop is enough to cure the dying, or to make the blind see as
clear as the gray hawks do be high up, on a still day, sailing the sky.
MARTIN DOUL -- [feeling for his stick.] -- What place is he, Timmy? I'll
be walking to him now.
TIMMY. Let you stay quiet, Martin. He's straying around saying
at the churches and high crosses, between this place and the hills, and
he with a great crowd go- ing behind -- for it's fine prayers he does
be saying, and fasting with it, till he's as thin as one of the empty
rushes you have there on your knee; then he'll be coming after to this
place to cure the two of you -- we're after telling him the way you are
-- and to say his prayers in the church.
MARTIN DOUL -- [turning suddenly to Mary Doul.] -- And we'll be seeing
ourselves this day. Oh, glory be to God, is it true surely?
MARY DOUL -- [very pleased, to Timmy.] -- Maybe I'd have time to walk
down and get the big shawl I have below, for I do look my best, I've
heard them say, when I'm dressed up with that thing on my head.
TIMMY. You'd have time surely.
MARTIN DOUL -- [listening.] Whisht now.... I hear people again coming by
TIMMY -- [looking out left, puzzled.] -- It's the young girls I left
walking after the Saint.... They're coming now (goes up to entrance)
carrying things in their hands, and they walking as easy as you'd see a
child walk who'd have a dozen eggs hid in her bib.
MARTIN DOUL -- [listening.] -- That's Molly Byrne, I'm thinking.
[Molly Byrne and Bride come on left and cross to Martin Doul, carrying
water-can, Saint's bell, and cloak.]
MOLLY -- [volubly.] -- God bless you, Martin. I've holy water here, from
the grave of the four saints of the west, will have you cured in a short
while and seeing
TIMMY -- [crosses to Molly, interrupting her.] -- He's heard that.
God help you. But where at all is the Saint, and what way is he after
trusting the holy water with the likes of you?
MOLLY BYRNE. He was afeard to go a far way with the clouds is coming
beyond, so he's gone up now through the thick woods to say a prayer at