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SSLC English chapter The Ballad of Father Gilligan Full Note with Textual Question & Answer, Textual Activities, Appreciation of Poem, Summary in Malayalam, Poetic devices and Exam Oriented Question & Answers.

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Appreciation of The Poem The Ballad Of Father Gilligan 

WB Yeats, an Irish poet and one of the noted figures of 20th-century literature, depicts in this poem the poverty and extreme religiosity of the Irish rural life of his time.

This poem tells the story of an old priest, Father Gilligan. Half of his people in the parish were either in sick-bed or already dead due to an epidemic. Day and night Father Gilligan was in service of them and he was very tired and weak. He could not attend one sick man's last moments, as he fell asleep in his chairs. Realizing that he failed to do his duty, the next day morning in great grief Father Gilligan rode on his horse to the man’s house. Where his wife told the priest that her husband had already died and she asked him why he came again. From her question Father understood that in his absence God had sent an angel to perform his duties. He knelt and cried in repentance and thanked God for His mercy.
This poem is a perfect example of the class of poems or songs called Ballad. It is written in multiple stanzas of four lines each, keeping a regular rhyme scheme of ABCB. Though not specifically said, the setting of the poem is a countryside dwelled by poor people. The mentioning of the father’s riding a horse “by rocky lane and fen” and phrases like “green sod” show us more of the settings of the poem.

The poem is rich with imageries. Visual Imagery: We see the dusk and the dawn with the presence of moths, we see the night sky twinkling with millions of stars and we watch the whole world gets covered in darkness. We can also visualize the image of Father riding his horse by the rocky and grassy country-sides. Auditory Imagery: we hear leaves shaking in the wind and sparrows chirping. Also, the cry of repentance from the priest calling “Mavrone”, mavrone!”

The two lines, “For half his flock were in their beds,/ Or under green sods lay’’ are metaphoric with sick and death respectively, denoting that half of the villagers are either in sickbeds or in graves due to some devastating epidemic. The lines ‘’... he turned and died /As merry as a bird’’ is an example of the literary device Simile. The repetition of the line, “The old priest, Peter Gilligan”, constitutes the use of Refrain in the poem.

Poetic devices

Rhyming words

  • Repetition of similar-sounding words occurring at

Rhyme scheme

A rhyme scheme is the pattern of rhyming words at the end
  • Rhyme scheme of the poyem is ABCB


Use of the same consonant sound at the beginning of each wordFaster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;


This rhetorical device is used when an overt comparison is made between two different things. In this poem, the poet uses the device of simile in the 2nd line of the 10th stanza when the dead man’s wife says compares him with a bird, saying he was in a similarly happy state when he died. 
Eg:- As merry as a bird.'


This rhetorical device is used when a covert comparison is made between two different things or ideas.
In this poem, the poet uses the device of metaphor in the 3rd and 4th lines of the 1st stanza when he compares being sick to lying in bed and being dead to lying underground.
Eg:- For half his flock were in their beds, Or under green sods lay.

Compound Words:

Compound words are formed by adding two words into a single one when normally those words are not used together. In this poem, the poet uses the device of a compound word in the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza when he uses the word “moth-hour”. We cannot say for sure that  the word was created by the poet himself, but it is for sure that there are not too many known occurrences of this word in the English language.


This rhetorical device is in the form of an ironical understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary. In this poem, the poet uses the device of litotes in the 4th line of the 7th stanza when he writes that the priest rode “with little care” instead of writing that he rode carelessly or recklessly.


The poem seems simple enough but it has hidden depths in it. It has a moral too. Thus it becomes an allegory.


‘die and die' in the third stanza emphasis the grief of the priest at the news of another man’s suffering. ‘Mavrone! Mavrone!’ in the latter half of the poem too shows the priest’s concern and sincerity towards the man and his job.


The refrain is a poetic device that repeats some lines or parts of a poem at regular intervals in different stanzas. In this poem, the repetition of the line, “The old priest, Peter Gilligan”, constitutes for the
use of Refrain in the poem.

Textual questions from the poem The Ballad of Father Gilligan

1. Why was Father Gilligan weary night and day?
Peter Gilligan was an old priest. He rendered selfless service and worked hard day and night for the poor and needy. His parish was in the grip of an epidemic and half of the people were affected by the disease and they were dying one after another.
2. What is the significance of the work “flock”?
“Flock “refers to the people who were under the charge of the priest. the priest is considered to be a shepherd and the people are sheep.
3. Why were his flock either in bed or lying under green sod?
They were either affected with fatal epidemic or they had already become victims of the deadly disease.
4. Why did another man send for Father Gilligan? Why is the man referred to as ‘poor’?
He was sent for the priest to receive the last sacrament and thereby he could go to heaven.
5. Why did Father Gilligan seek forgiveness from God? What justification does he give to God for his errant words?
It was his God-given duty to look after the parishioners. So his desperate outburst was a sin and challenge to God. It was his exhausted body and not his spirit that complained of the state of his life.
6. Why is the Time called ‘moth-hour’?
The poor illiterate villagers never possessed a clock or watch. They always told time by the changes which took place from time in nature. It is the evening hour. 
7. What is meant by ‘upon the time of sparrow –chirp’?
It refers to the early morning.
8. What does the line ‘And rode with little care’ indicate?
He was anxious and concerned about the sick. He rode recklessly to their house without bothering his own safety.
9. Why is the sick man’s wife surprised to see Father Gilligan?
Her husband had received the last sacrament from the priest and died happily. But she was surprised to see the priest again.
10. Why was the priest overcome with grief at the words of the widow?
The priest was heartbroken for failing to provide his religious duty to the dying man.
11.’He knelt him at that word. Why?
The widow’s words made Father Gilligan realize that God had extended his helping hand to him. The priest was humbled and knelt.
12. How did God save Father Gilligan from damnation?
God sent one of his messengers to perform the last sacrament of the stickman.
13. ‘He Who hath made the night of stars/For souls who tire and bleed,’ What do these lines mean?
God brings ease to the laboring mankind by spreading over the earth. God had made the night for the troubled humanity.
14. What do you understand about the character of Father Gilligan from his words ‘Had pity on the least of things?
Father Gilligan had firm faith in the power of God. He expressed his gratitude when knew that God had sent one of his angels to perform the last sacrament to the dying man. Father Gilligan had been doing his duty as a priest perfectly in his parish. He was performing the last rites to the dying men day and night. It shows his deep religious belief and nobility in his duty.

Additional questions from the poem The Ballad of Father Gilligan

1. What do you mean by “under green sods”?
“Under green sods” means the people who are dead and are buried in the graves which were covered with grass.
2. What do you think might be the reason for widespread disease and death in Father Gilligan’s parish?
Some fatal epidemic diseases might be the reason for the widespread disease and death of a large number of people in Father Gilligan’s parish.
3. What impression do you form of father Gilligan?
Father Gilligan is a simple, kind, and a noble priest. He is an embodiment of selfless and dedicated service. He is a God-fearing and pious man who does his duty as a devoted priest. He helps the poor and needy who were suffering from an epidemic and stood day and night at the bedside of the dying man to perform his last rites. He does not care for his own health and safety.
4. Why did the old priest complain? What was his complaint?
When a message came from a poor man who has been dying and needed his earnest service and then the old priest began to complain because of his tiredness due to his hard work day and night and he had no time to take rest.
5. What did he realize thereafter?
He realized soon after that he had made a mistake in uttering unholy words being a priest he should not have made such complaints. He felt guilty and asked forgiveness from God. He said that was his body that spoke not his spirit.
6. Do you think Father Gilligan’s complaint was genuine?
Yes, his complaint was genuine. He became tired and overworked though he was willing to do his duty but he could stretch his strength beyond the limit. It was his physical weakness that made him to speak such unholy words.
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