William Butler Yeats

Start Free Trial

What does "for half his flock were in their beds," mean in Yeats' "The Ballad of Father Gilligan"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is referred to in this poem as the "flock" is the people who lived in Father Gilligan's area.  They are the people for whom he, as a priest, is responsible.  The idea is that he is their shepherd and they are his flock -- his group of sheep.

This metaphor comes from the Bible.  Jesus is described as the "Good Shepherd."  He is described as someone who comes and takes care of his sheep.  Therefore, a priest can be described using the same metaphor since a priest is supposed to do Jesus's work as well.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial