William Butler Yeats

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Please explain "for half his flock were in their beds," in W.B.Yeats' poem "The Ballad of Father Gilligan."

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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.

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innocent-mind123 | Student

 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.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial
lit24 | Student

In the Bible the Priest is often referred to as a shepherd and his parishioners as his flock. Jesus Himself is referred to as 'The Good Shepherd.' So, Father Gilligan is equated with a shepherd who tends his parishioners who are his flock.

W.B.Yeats' "The "Ballad of Father Gilligan" is a moving story of how God comes to the rescue of a sincere priest whose only concern is the salvation of the souls of his impoverished parishioners.

Father Gilligan who was exhausted in fulfilling his priestly duties day and night during an epidemic in the Irish countryside, either in giving the last communion to his poor parishioners who were dying in large numbers or conducting funeral services for them,  was at home one evening taking a well deserved rest and had dozed off in his chair.

Half the population of the village was already dead and buried because of the epidemic and the other half  was waiting to die and they were  lying in their sick beds.

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