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Full text of "Poems of Sir Samuel Ferguson, with an introduction by Alfred Perceval Graves"



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LIBRARY 

UPIIVERSITY OF CALIFORfWA 

RIVERSIDE 



:: Poems of Sir :: 
Samuel Ferguson 




SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 



Every • Irishman's Library 

General Editors : Alfred Perceval Graves, m.a. 
William Magennis, m.a. Douglas Hyde, lld. 



JOEMS OF 
SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 



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WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 
ALFRED PERCEVAL GRAVES. M.A. 



DUBLIN : 

The Tai.bot Press, Ltd. 
89 Talbot Street 



LONDON : 

T. Fisher Unwin, Ltd. 
1 Adelphi Terrace 






Printed by The 

Educational Company 

OF Irei-and Limited 

AT The Talbot Press 

Dublin 




CONTENTS. 



MEMORIAL SONNET .... 
BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE 
INTRODUCTION .... 



PAGE 
ix 
xi 

xviii 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 

THE BURIAL OF KING CORMAC .... I 

AIDEEN'S GRAVE ...... 6 

THE DEATH OF DERMID . . . . . 12 

THE WELSHMEN OF TIRAWLEY . . . . 1 7 

FERGUS WRY-MOUTH ..... 30 

THE GASCON o'dRISCOL . . . . . 32 

THE DOWNFALL OF THE GAEL .... 38 

o'BYRNE's bard TO THE CLANS OF WICKLOW . . 4 1 
LAMENT OVER THE RUINS OF THE ABBEY OF TIMO- 

LEAGUE ....... 43 

TO THE HARPER O'CONNELLAN .... 46 

GRACE NUGENT ...... 47 

MILD MABEL KELLY . . . . . .48 

THE FAIR-HAIR'd GIRL ..... 49 

PASTHEEN FINN ...... 50 

MOLLY ASTHORE ...... 52 

CASHEL OF MUNSTER . . . . , 53 

THE COOLUN ....... 54 

CEAN DUBH DEELISH ..... 56 

boatman's HYMN ...... 57 

THE DEAR OLD AIR ...... 58 



VI 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

THE LAPFUL OF NUTS ..... 59 

HOPFLESS LOVE ...... 60 

THE FAIR HILLS OF IRELAND . . . . 60 

BALLADS AND POEMS. 

THE FAIRY THORN . . . . . . 61 

WILLY GILLILAND ...... 65 

THE PRETTY GIRL OF LOCH DAN .... 75 

ADIEU TO BRITTANY 78 

WESTMINSTER ABBEY ..... 81 

THE morning's HINGES ..... 83 

BIRD AND BROOK ...... 86 

THREE THOUGHTS ...... 9O 

THREE SEASONS ...... 92 

THE HYMN OF THE FISHERMEN .... 94 

THE widow's cloak ..... 95 

PAUL VERONESE ...... 98 

THE LITTLE MAIDEN 99 

DEAR WILDE lOI 

TO MR. BUTT ....... IO4 

LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 

THE TWINS OF MACHA . . . . IO5 

. THE NAMING OF CUCHULLIN .... IO7 

THE ABDICATION OF FERGUS MAC ROY . . . I16 

MESGEDRA ....... I23 

DEIRDRE ....... 133 

DEIRDRE'S farewell to ALBA . . . . 179 

deirdre's lament for tfie sons of usnach . . 180 

CONARY ........ 183 

THE HEALING OF CONALL CARNACH . . . 21 5 

THE TAIN-QUEST ...... 226 





CONTENTS. 


vn 

PAGE 


CONCAL 


• 4 • a 


. 237 


liOOK I. 


. 


. 239 


HOOK II. 


» • • • 


• 255 


HOOK III 


• e ♦ « 


282 


BOOK IV. 


• • • 


. 316 


BOOK V. 




360 



IN MEMORY 

OF 

SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Strong Son of Fergus, with thy latest breath 
Thou hast lent a joy unto the funeral knell, 
Welcoming with thy whispered ' All is well ' 

The awful aspect of the Angel Death : 

As strong in life, thou couldst not brook to shun 
The heat and burthen of the fiery day, 
Fronting defeat with stalwart undismay. 

And wearing meekly honours stoutly won. 

Pure lips, pure hands, pure heart were thine, as aye 
Erin demanded from her bards of old, 
And therefore on thy harp-strings of pure gold 

Has waked once more her high heroic lay. 

What shoulders now shall match the mighty fold 

Of Ossian's mantle ? Thou hast passed away." 

Alfred Perceval Graves. 



BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL 

NOTE. 

Sir Samuel Ferguson, sixth and youngest child of 
John Ferguson and his wife Agnes Knox, was bom in 
Belfast, in the house of his maternal grandfather, on 
March lo, 1810, 

The Ferguson family had emigrated to the North of 
Ireland from Scotland about the year 1640, and we find 
Samuel Ferguson, Sir Samuel's grandfather, resident 
at Standing Stone, in the County of Antrim. The 
younger Samuel was educated in Belfast and at Trinity 
College, Dublin. He was called to the Irish Bar in 1838, 
and to the Inner Bar in 1859. 

In 1867 he retired from the practice of his profession 
to become the first Deputy Keeper of the Records of 
Ireland. But while only in his twenty-first year he wrote 
" The Forging of the Anchor," and " Willy Gilliland," 
and contributed prose such as " The Wet Wooing " and 
" The Return of Claneboy " to Blackwood. A little 
later, in the early thirties, he published " The Fairy 
Thorn," " The Forester's Complaint," and a series of 
papers on Hardiman's Irish Minstrelsy, containing 
verse translations from the Gaelic. A long series of 
historic tales — the Hibernian Nights' Entertainments — 
followed in The Dublin University Magazine. Over- 
wrought at the Bar, he recruited his health by spending 
the year 1845-46 on the Continent, employing much 

xi 



XU BIOG.* .:'HICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. 

of his time in a diligent examination of the museums, 
libraries, and architectural remains of the principal places 
in Europe where traces of the early Irish scholars and 
missionaries might be looked for. His notebooks are in 
consequence enriched with exquisite sketches of scenery 
and antiquities and pen-and-ink etchings of foreign 
cathedrals. 

Thus his travels added largely to his knowledge of art, 
archaeology, and history. 

He married in 1848 Mary Catherine, eldest daughter 
of Mr. Robert R. Guinness, and soon settled permanently 
at 20 North Great George's Street, Dublin. In the same 
year he founded the Protestant Repeal Association to aid 
the Young Ireland movement, but subsequently withdrew 
altogether from active politics. In 1865, after the publi- 
cation of his Lays of the Western Gael, he received the 
degree of 'LhX). honoris causa from Dublin University, 
and in 1874 was made an honorary member of the Society 
of Antiquaries of Scotland. His knighthood was con- 
ferred on him in 1878, he was made president of the 
Royal Irish Academy in 1881, and at the tercentenary of 
the University of Edinburgh in 1884 he received the 
honorary degree of LL.D. 

During these years he was a busy writer on literary and 
archaeological questions, and as an evidence of the variety 
of his work at this time may be mentioned his famous 
jeu d' esprit " Father Tom and the Pope," afterwards 
reprinted in " Tales from Blackwood," and his letter to 
Ilallam the historian, which appeared in The Dublin 
University Magazine and led to the erection of a statue 
in the new Houses of Parliament to Henri de Londres, 
Archbishop of Dublin, in the thirteenth century, whose 



BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. XUl 

just claim to that distinction would otherwise have been 
overlooked. 

Many of Ferguson's articles in magazines and reviews 
at the time deal with such general subjects as the poetry 
of Burns and Mrs. Browning, Ruskin's *' Stones of Venice 
and Seven Lamps of Architecture," Layard's " Nineveh," 
and Chesney's volume on " Artillery." 

But the work which was distinctly his, and to which 
his best faculties were given, was concerned with Ireland, 
and covered a wide field. For we find him now dealing 
with Irish music, now with Irish architecture ; or again 
with Irish annals, Irish law, and Irish antiquities — Pagan 
and Christian — and yet attending to such subjects of 
modern importance as the attractions and capabilities of 
his country. And here it may be said that he was an 
ardent explorer of Irish scenery as well as of the remains 
of the old Irish ecclesiastical establishments, as his two 
charming papers — the results of a tour made by him to 
Clonmacnois, Clare, and Aran — convincingly prove. To 
these prose works he was meantime adding his " Lament 
for Thomas Davis," his " Inheritor and Economist," 
" Dublin : a satire after Juvenal," " Westminster Abbey," 
and his " Cromlech on Howth," exquisitely illustrated and 
illuminated with initial letters from the Book of Kells by 
his friend Miss Margaret Stokes. Ferguson published his 
epic " Congal" (founded on the ancient bardic tale of the 
Battle of Moy-Rath) — which he himself considered his 
magnum opus — in 1872, though a subsequent volume of 
poems containing " Conary " and " Deirdre " and " The 
Naming of Cuchullin," and published in 1880, has met 
with more popular acceptance. A small book, " Shakes- 
perean Breviates " — condensations of some of Shakes- 



XIV BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. 

peare's plays for the use of Shakespeare Reading Societies, 
the broken plots being skilfully woven together, with ex- 
planatory verses — was also brought out during Ferguson's 
lifetime. Two posthumously published volumes are 
" Ogham Inscriptions of Ireland, Wales, and Scotland," 
and "The Remains of St. Patrick," a verse rendition of the 
writings of our national saint. " Lays of the Red Branch," 
published after his death by Lady Ferguson, is a col- 
lection from different volumes of all the poems dealing 
with the Conorian cycle of Irish heroic literature, ar- 
ranged in historical order and furnished with an historical 
introduction by his wife who shared his literary and anti- 
quarian tastes and proved herself as devoted a Vanithee 
as any Irishman could hope to have. 

Sir Samuel Ferguson, after an illness of some months' 
duration — a failure of the heart's action — passed away 
on August 9, 1886, at Shand Lodge, Howth. His personal 
popularity attested to by many friendships, formed 
through life amongst old and young of every persuasion 
and party, was confirmed at his death by the commingling 
of all classes and creeds at his funeral as it passed to St. 
Patrick's Cathedral. For thither, besides many private 
friends, followed the officers and members of the Royal 
Irish Academy, with their mace draped in crape for their 
dead president ; whilst the staff of the Record Office, 
down to the humblest workman connected with it, 
joined the procession. 

The Archbishop of Dublin, Lord Plunket, delivered 
a touching address after the service, which contained these 
words : " Do we not all feel that by the death of our 
dear brother departed in the Lord we have all of us as 
Irishmen suffered an irreparable loss .'' In whatever 



BIOGRAPHICAL AND BIBLIOGRAPHICAL NOTE. XV 

light we may regard the character of him who has been 
taken from us — whether as a scholar, a poet, or a patriot, 
or a God-fearing servant of his Master — we must all feel 
that Ireland has suffered a loss which it will be impossible 
to repair, and which cannot be confined merely to those 
who belong to any one class or any one creed amongst 
us." 

My uncle, Robert Perceval Graves, one of the Fer- 
gusons' best friends, much gratified Lady Ferguson and 
her friends by his elegiac sonnet, in which he testifies so 
truly to the intimate spiritual and intellectual bonds that 
linked the poet and his wife to the last. 

LADY FERGUSON. 

Thus spake he when he saw her rising tear : 

" Mary, you must be brave. Though now we part. 
We shall be reunited ! " and her heart 

Drank in with sad delight the tender cheer. 

Nor could she but be sad, when he was near 
Who soon would be so far ; when every art 
To keep him here was baffled ; when the dart 

Of ruthless Death must strike a life so dear. 

In all things she was Partner of his Mind ; 
Felt with him as a Poet, with her own 

His joy in Shakespeare matched ; nor fell behind 
His quest of Bardic lay and Ogham stone. 

And partner is she still ; to her is given 

His " All is well ! " to breathe in hope of Heaven. 



INTRODUCTION. 

Sir Samuel Ferguson was unquestionably the Irish 
poet of the past century who has most powerfully in- 
fluenced the literary history of his country. It was in 
his writings that was decisively begun the great work 
of restoring to Ireland the spiritual treasure it had sacri- 
ficed in losing the Gaelic tongue. He was, however, no 
mere antiquarian. He was also a scholar, and a patriot 
in the highest sense of the word. He had friends in all 
parties, for he was in no sense a political partisan. Indeed, 
though with strong Irish National feeling — of which 
he gave evidence in some of his earlier ballads, and which 
came to the front in his successful defence of Richard 
D'Alton Williams, the Young Ireland poet, when tried 
for treason-felony — he felt that the highest duty he owed 
his country was that of a poet and prose writer above 
party. But in his poetic capacity, as pointed out by 
Mr. W. B. Yeats, " he was wiser than Young Ireland 
in the choice of his models ; for while drawing not less 
than they from purely Irish sources, he turned to the 
great poets of the world for his style," and notably to 
Homer : and the result is that, as Roden Noel puts it, 
" Congal and his shorter Irish heroic poems combine in 
a striking manner the vague, undefined shadow7 grandeur, 
the supernatural glamour of northern romance, with the 
self-restraint, distinct symmetrical outline, ordered pro- 

xvij 



XVlll INTRODUCTION. 

portion and organic construction of the Greek classic." 
More than this, as his brother poet and friend, Aubrey 
de Vere, urges, " its quaHties are those characteristic of 
the noble, not the ignoble poetry — viz., passion, im- 
agination, vigour, an epic largeness of conception, wide 
human sympathies, vivid and truthful description — 
while with them it unites none of the vulgar stimulants 
for exhausted or morbid poetic appetite, whether the 
epicurean seasoning, the sceptical, or the revolution- 
ary. 

Ferguson differs from those who regard the realm 
of poetry as another world detachable from this — a life 
mystical, non-human, non-moral — the life, if you will, 
of fairy, demon, or demi-god. Indeed, he was in no 
danger of falling into this illusion. He was absolutely 
human and practical ; broad and sympathetic-minded 
both. Yet for entire success as a poet in his particular 
day he had to struggle against difficulties constitutional, 
accidental, and of his own seeking. His very versatility 
rendered difficult that entire devotion of his energies to 
his art, of which Tennyson is the great modern example. 
He could not spare the time, even had he possessed the 
taste, for that fastidious word-for-word finish in verse 
to which the late Laureate accustomed the critics, and 
through them the educated public, which undoubtedly, 
for the time being, militated against the success of Fer- 
guson's poetry. 

Then he was deliberately facing the fact that the Irish 
themes he had set his heart upon had no public behind 
them. A generation before they would have had the 
support of a cultured and unprovinciaHsed Irish upper 
class ; a generation later they would have claimed atten- 



INTRODUCTION. XIX 

tion, in Ferguson's hands, as the noblest outcome of the 
Irish Hterary revival. He was therefore both before and 
after his time, and realised his position to the full. Indeed, 
when I once spoke to him with regret of the neglect of all 
but Irish political literature, he acknowledged it, but 
with the quiet expression of his confidence that " his 
time would come." Edward Dowden explains the fact 
that Congal had not hit the popular taste in the following 
passage of a letter to Sir Samuel : 

" A poem with epic breadth and thews is not likely 
to be popular now. A diseased and over-sensitive nerve 
is a qualification for the writing of poetry at present, much 
more than a thoughtful brain or strength of muscle. 
Some Uttle bit of novel sensibility, a delight in such colours 
as French milliners send over for ladies' bonnets, or the 
nosing of certain curious odours, is enough to make the 
fortune of a small poet. What seems to me most note- 
worthy in your poems is the union of culture with sim- 
plicity and strength. Their refinement is large and 
strong, not curious and diseased ; and they have spaces 
and movements which give one a feeUng like the 
sea or the air on a headland. I had not meant to 
say anything of Congal, but somehow this came and 
said itself." 

Nothing could be more truly appreciative of Ferguson's 
work than this. That fine saying, " Your poems have 
spaces and movements which give one a feeling like the 
sea or the air on a headland," may be here illustrated 
by one of the greatest passages in Congal, indeed, it in 
all probability suggested the criticism to Dr. Dowden. 
It may be quoted, moreover, as a telling example of 
how Ferguson's careless or rough treatment of detail 



XX INTRODUCTION. 

is carried off by the largeness of his conception and 
movement : 

He looking landward from the brow of some great 

sea-cape's head, 
Bray or Ben Edar — sees beneath, in silent pageant grand, 
Slow fields of sunshine spread o'er fields of rich, corn- 
bearing land, 
Red glebe and meadow margin green commingling to 

the view 
With yellow stubble, browning woods, and upland 

tracts of blue ; 
Then, sated with the pomp of fields, turns seaward 

to the verge 
Where, mingling with the murmuring wash made by 

the far-down surge. 
Comes up the clangorous song of birds unseen, that, 

low beneath. 
Poised off" the rock, ply underfoot ; and, 'mid the 

blossoming heath. 
And mint-sweet herb that loves the ledge rare-air'd, at 

ease reclined. 
Surveys the wide pale-heaving floor crisped by a curling 

wind ; 
With all its shifting, shadowy belts, and chasing scopes 

of green. 
Sun-strewn, foam-freckled, sail-embossed, and black- 
ening squalls between. 
And slant, cerulean-skirted showers that with a drowsy 

sound. 
Heard inward, of ebullient waves, stalk all the horizon 

round ; 



INTRODUCTION. XXI 

And, haply, being a citizen just 'scaped from some 
disease 

That long has held him sick indoors, now, in the brine- 
fresh breeze. 

Health-salted, bathes ; and says, the while he breathes 
reviving bliss, 

" I am not good enough, O God, nor pure enough for 
this !" 

The ear educated to Tennyson's or Swinburne's verse 
would be jarred by the heavy aggregation of conson- 
ants here and there in the passage. But as a presentment 
of country, cliff, and ocean, it is alike so broad and delicate 
in colour and movement that it rises visibly before us, 
till the echo of the sea is in our ears, and we breathe and 
smell its keen savours. Then the human note with which 
it closes is inexpressibly touching. 

It is not, however, implied that Ferguson is wanting 
in the musical ear or the appreciation of fine poetical 
craftsmanship, but rather suggested that, unlike Tennyson 
and other writers, he is not sectus ad unguent in every- 
thing he attempts, because he is not careful to be so. 
Moreover, like Wordsworth, he did not always write when 
his best mood was upon him. And hence like Words- 
worth and, I may add. Browning, he will live in selections, 
though large selections, from his works, rather than in their 
entirety. Yet, The Forging of the Anchor is a remarkably 
finished achievement for a young man of one-and-twenty, 
and The Fairy Thorn, another early poem, is exquisite 
wizardry itself. True, it appears to have been con- 
ceived and executed with a rapidity which was inspiration, 
and is indeed one of Ferguson's gems without flaw. 



XXll INTRODUCTION. 

Next come Ferguson's Translations from the Irish 
which arose from his study of his country's language 
along with John O'Hagan, afterwards an Irish Judge, 
and above all George Fox, a young Belfast man, of whom 
he writes in after life : 

" His discourse possessed a fascination equal to all 
that I have heard ascribed to that of Coleridge, and 
under his influence my poetic faculty, which had already 
shown itself in the ballad of Willy Gilliland acquired 
strength for the production of " The Forging of the 
Anchor," published in Blackwood in May, 1832. We had 
formed a private class for the study of Irish. The early 
history of Ulster had already seized on my imagination, and 
the Return of Claneboy, a prose romance which I con- 
tributed about that time to Blackwood, may be regarded 
as the first indication of my ambition to raise the native 
elements of Irish History to a dignified level ; and this 
ambition, I think, may be taken as the key to almost all 
the literary work of my subsequent life." 

George Fox probably died young. " He left Belfast 
to push his fortunes in British Guiana," writes Lady 
Ferguson in her memoirs of her husband, and no doubt 
succumbed to its unhealthy climate. His youthful 
friends heard no more of him. They spared no efforts, 
through a long period of years, to learn his fate. 

When Ferguson, in 1864, published in his Lays of the 
Western Gael, his Versions from the Irish, which had 
appeared first in the Dublin University Magazine of 
1834 in the form of translations with a Commentary from 
Hardiman's Irish Minstrelsy, he would not include one 
of the best among them, as he considered George Fox 
entitled to share in the authorship of The County Mayo, 



INTRODUCTION. XXUl 

and when almost fifty years had passed since his early 
friend had been heard of, and he, in 1880, published his 
Poems, the Volume bore this brief and touching dedi- 
cation — Georgia, Amico, Condiscipulo, Instaturatori. 

Ferguson's translations from the Irish differ from 
Miss Brooke's and Miss Balfour's versions and those of 
other translators preceding him, by their assimilation 
of Irish idioms and the Irish spirit into English verse 
without violence — indeed, with a happy judgment which 
lends a delightful effect to these lyrics. Edward Walsh 
has scarcely excelled Ferguson in this field ; and Dr. 
Sigerson and Dr. Hyde, though they come much closer 
to the original metres, rarely go past him in poetical 
feeling and passion. 

For the very character of the originals calls for simple 
treatment, and high polish would have spoilt Ferguson's 
verse translations from the Irish. 

Ferguson was now casting round for nobler themes 
to work upon, whilst keeping his hand in at these trans- 
lations from the Irish. Patriotic to the core, he was above 
all things eager to achieve something lofty in literature 
for Ireland's sake — something that might help to lift her 
from the intellectual flats upon which she had fallen. 

Moreover, another Belfast friend and mentor. Dr. 
Robert Gordon, was keeping him up to his highest poe- 
tical self by a series of memorable letters, extracts from 
which Lady Ferguson gives in her Biography of Sir 
Samuel, as thus : 

" You rejoice me, I speak seriously, by saying you are 
' doing.' To be and to do. O Ferguson, those little 
words contain the sum of all man's destiny. You are 
strong, and I would have you strike some note that 



XXIV INTRODUCTION. 

will reverberate down the vista of time. Will you, 
Ferguson ? " 

In the course of his delightful New Year's Epistle to 
Robert Gordon, M.D., dated ist of January, 1845, Fer- 
guson thus responds to his friend's appeal : 

" For ilka day I'm growin' stranger 
To speak my mind in love or anger ; 
And, hech ! ere it be muckic langer. 

You'll see appearin' 
Some offerin's o' nae cauld harranguer, 

Put out for Erin. 

" Lord, for ane day o' service done her ! 
Lord, for ane hour's sunlight upon her ! 
Here, Fortune, tak' warld's wealth and honour, 

You're no' my debtor, 
Let me but rive ae link asunder 

O ! Erin's fetter ! 

" Let me but help to shape the sentence 
Will put the pith o' independence, 
O' self-respect in self-acquaintance, 

And manly pride 
Intil auld Eber-Scot's descendants — 

Take a' beside ! 

" Let me but help to get the truth 
Set fast in ilka brother's mouth, 
V/hatever accents, north or south. 

His tongue may use, 
And there's ambition, riches, youth ; 

Tak' which you choose ! 



INTRODUCTION. XXV 

But before he had ripened for the full outcome of his 
genius T'erguson anticipated it by one of the noblest 
laments in our language, Thomas Davis : an Elegy, 
1845, a poignant expression of his grief at the death 
of his friend, the famous young National leader. 

Sir Charles Gavan Duffy tells us that " Ferguson, 
who lay on a bed of sickness when Davis died, impatient 
that for the moment he could not declare it in public, 
asked me to come to him, that he might ease his heart 
by expressing in private his sense of what he had 
lost. He read me fragments of a poem written 
under these circumstances, the most Celtic in struc- 
ture and spirit of all the elegies laid on the tomb of 
Davis. The last verse sounded like a prophecy ; it 
was, at any rate, a powerful incentive to take up our 
task anew." 

This poem, which has not been as yet included in 
Ferguson's published works, and is in many respects 
especially typical of his genius, now follows at length. 
The modern Irish Celt has indeed inherited a wonderful 
gift for the elegy, as Moore's lines on the death of Sheridan, 
Dr. Sigerson's to the memory of Isaac Butt and Thomas 
Davis' own immortal lament for Owen Roe O'Neill abun- 
dantly demonstrate. 

LAMENT FOR THOMAS DAVIS. 

I walked through Ballinderry in the spring-time, 

When the bud was on the tree ; 
And I said, in every fresh-ploughed field beholding 

The sowers striding free. 
Scattering broadside forth the corn in golden plenty 

On the quick seed-clasping soil : 



XXVI INTRODUCTION. 

" Even such, this day, among the fresh-stirred hearts of 
Erin, 
Thomas Davis, is thy toil ! " 

I sat by Ballyshannon in the summer, 

And saw the salmon leap ; 
And I said, as I beheld the gallant creatures 

Spring glittering from the deep. 
Through the spray, and through the prone heaps striving 
onward 

To the calm clear streams above, 
" So seekest thou thy native founts of freedom, Thomas 
Davis, 

In thy brightness of strength and love ! " 

I stood on Derrybawn in the autumn, 

And I heard the eagle call, 
With a clangorous cry of wrath and lamentation 

That filled the wide mountain hall. 
O'er the bare deserted place of his plundered eyrie ; 

And I said, as he screamed and soared, 
" So callest thou, thou wrathful soaring Thomas Davis, 

For a nation's rights restored ! " 

And alas ! to think but now, and thou art lying. 

Dear Davis, dead at thy mother's knee ; 
And I, no mother near, on my own sick-bed. 

That face on earth shall never see ; 
I may lie and try to feel that I am dreaming, 

I may lie and try to say, " Thy will be done " — 
But a hundred such as I will never comfort Erin 

For the loss of the noble son ! 



INTRODUCTION. XXVU 

Young husbandman of Erin's fruitful seed-time, 

In the fresh track of danger's plough ! 
Who will walk the heavy, toilsome, perilous furrow 

Girt with freedom's seed-sheets now ? 
Who will banish with the wholesome crop of knowledge 

The daunting weed and the bitter thorn, 
Now that thou thyself art but a seed for hopeful planting 

Against the Resurrection morn ? 

Young salmon of the flood-tide of freedom 

That swells round Erin's shore 1 
Thou wilt leap against their loud oppressive torrent 

Of bigotry and hate no more ; 
Drawn downward by their prone material instinct, 

Let them thunder on their rocks and foam — 
Thou hast leapt, aspiring soul, to founts beyond their 
raging, 

Where troubled waters never come ! 

But I grieve not. Eagle of the empty eyrie, 

That thy wrathful cry is still ; 
And that the songs alone of peaceful mourners 

Are heard to-day on Erin's hill ; 
Better far, if brothers' war be destined for us, 

(God avert that horrid day, I pray), 
That ere our hands be stained with slaughter fratricidal 

Thy warm heart should be cold in clay. 

But my trust is strong in God, Who made us brothers. 
That He will not suffer their right hands 

Which thou hast joined in holier rites than wedlock 
To draw opposing brands. 



XXVUl INTRODUCTION 

Oh, many a tuneful tongue that thou mad'st vocal 

Would lie cold and silent then ; 
And songless long once more, should often-widowed Erin 

Mourn the loss of her brave young men. 

Oh, brave young men, my love, my pride, my promise, 

'Tis on you my hopes are set, 
In manliness, in kindliness, in justice, 

To make Erin a nation yet. 
Self-respecting, self-relying, self-advancing. 

In union or in severance, free and strong — 
And if God grant this, then, under God, to Thomas Davis 

Let the greater praise belong. 

The Irish potato famine now intervened, and drove 
Ferguson into the sosva indignatio of Juvenal at the 
Government mismanagement, which had multiplied its 
horrors a hundredfold. 

No one knew this better than himself, for he was secre- 
tary to the Irish Council, whose wise advice, tendered to 
the English Parliament, was rejected in favour of futile 
experimental legislation in the way of relief-road making 
and so forth. Convinced that a ParHament after Grattan's 
model would have saved the country, he became a Repealer 
and one of the poets of Repeal. 

Deem not, O generous EngHsh hearts, who gave 
Your noble aid our sinking Isle to save. 
This breast, though heated in its Country's feud. 
Owns aught towards you but perfect gratitude. 

But frankly, while we thank you all who sent 
Your alms, so thank we not your Parliament, 



INTRODUCTION. XXLX 

Who, what they gave, from treasures of our own 

Gave, if they call it giving, this half loan, 

Half gift from the recipients to themselves 

Of their own millions, be they tens or twelves ; 

Our own as well as yours : our Irish brows 

Had sweated for them ; though your Commons' House, 

Forgetting your four hundred millions debt, 

When first in partnership our nations met, 

Against our twenty-four (you then two-fold 

The poorer people), call them British Gold. 

No ; for these drafts on our United Banks 
We owe no gratitude, and give no thanks I 
More than you'd give to us, if Dorsetshire 
Or York a like assistance should require ; 
Or than you gave us when, to compensate 
Your slave-owners, you charged our common state 
Twice the amount : no, but we rather give 
Our curses, and will give them while we live. 
To that pernicious blind conceit and pride, 
Wherewith the aids we asked you misapplied. 

Sure, for our wretched country's various ills 
We've got, a man would think, enough of bills — 
Bills to make paupers, bills to feed them made ; 
Bills to make sure that paupers' bills are paid ; 
Bills in each phrase of economic slang ; 
Bills to transport the men they dare not hang. 
(I mean no want of courage physical, 
'Tis Conscience doth make cowards of us all ! ). 

Allowance must be made for the passionate bitterness 
of this invective from the circumstances that Ferguson 



XXX INTRODUCTION. 

had seen the Irish peasantry he loved dying of starvation 
before his very eyes and because of the neglect of the 
British Government of ordinary precautions for " more 
than a third of the potato crop throughout the island was 
gone, in some districts more than half, and at the same 
time the bulk of the remaining supplies, cattle and corn, 
butter, beef and pork, which would have fed all the 
inhabitants, continued to be exported to England to pay 
the rent of farms which would no longer yield the culti- 
vators their ordinary food." 

Ferguson, however, lived to turn this fine power of 
literary invective against the successors of the Young 
Ireland poets and patriots with whom he had sympathised 
when he found them descending from the high aspirations 
and manly action of Davis and Duffy to what he character- 
ised as " a sordid social war of classes carried on by the 
vilest methods." 

In his satiric poems The Curse of the Joyces and At the 
Polo Ground — an analysis in Browning's manner of 
Carey's frame of mind before giving the fatal signal to the 
assassins of Mr. Burke and Lord Frederick Cavendish — 
and in his Dublin eclogue In Carey's Footsteps, he exposes 
the cruelties of the boycotting system of political agitation 
with unsparing severity. 

In 1864 appeared Ferguson's Lays of the Western Gael, 
a gratifying surprise even to many of his friends, owing 
to the inclusion in it of fresh and finer work than he had 
yet achieved. Their point of departure is thus well 
described by Mr. A. M. Williams, the American critic : 

" The Lays of the Western Gael are a series of ballads 
founded on events in Celtic history, and derived from 
the Early Chronicles and poems. They are original in 



INTRODUCTION. XXXI 

form and substance, the ballad form and measure being 
unknown to the early Celtic poets of Ireland ; but they 
preserve in a wonderful degree the ancient spirit, and give 
a picture of the ancient times with all the art of verity. 
They have a solemnity of measure like the voice of one 
of the ancient bards chanting of 

Old forgotten far-off things 
And battles long ago, 

and they are clothed with the mists of a melancholy age. 
They include such subjects as The Tain Quest, the 
search of the bard for the lost lay of the great cattle- 
raid of Queen Maeve of Connaught, and its recovery, 
by invocation, from the voice of its dead author, who 
rises in misty form above his grave ; The Healing of 
Conall Carnach, a story of violated sanctuary and its 
punishment ; The Welshmen of Tirawley, one of the 
most spirited and original, and which has been pro- 
nounced by Mr. Swinburne as amongst the finest of 
modern ballads, telling of a cruel mulct inflicted upon 
the members of a Welsh Colony and its vengeance ; and 
other incidents in early Irish history. In his poems, 
rather than in Macpherson's Ossian or in the literal 
translations, will the modern reader find the voice of the 
ancient Celtic bards speaking to the intelligence of to-day 
in their own tones, without false change and dilution, or 
the confusion and dimness of an ancient language." 

Of the longer lays thus far published. The Tain Quest 
found the greatest acceptance with his poetic compeers, 
and the most notable criticism of it was that of Thomas 
Aird, the fine Scottish poet, author of The Devil's Dream 
on Mount Aksheck : 



XXXll INTRODUCTION. 

" In all respects The Tain Quest is one of the most 
striking poems of our day. Specially do I admire the 
artistic skill with which you have doubled the interest 
of the Quest itself by introducing in the most natural and 
unencumbering way so many of the best points of the 
■Great Cattle Foray, the subject-matter of the Tain. The 
shield has long been grand in poetry ; you have made it 
grander. The refusal of Fergus to stir to the force of 
private sympathy, but his instantaneous recognition of the 
patriotic necessity of song, is a just and noble concep- 
tion. 

" The power of the Bard over the rude men of Gort ; 
the filial piety of the sons of Sanchan, and their brotherly 
love ; that mysterious Vapour, and that terrible blast of en- 
trance, are all very notable towards the consummation of 
effect. As for the kissing of the champions in the pauses of 
the fight, I know of nothing in the reaches of our human 
blood so marvellously striking and sweet ; you have now 
made it immortal in song. However admirably expressed, 
the last stanza is an error in art. Surely you spoil the grand 
close, and the whole piece, by appending your own per- 
sonality of interference as a commentator on the maledic- 
tion." 

The sting in the tail of Aird's fine judgment is deserved, 
and it is curious to observe that Ferguson has been 
similarly unlucky in The Welshmen of Tirawley in this 
attempt to tag a comment on to the end of a tale which 
he has so nobly adorned. That magnificently savage 
lay should end with the antepenultimate stanza, and as 
this volume is a selection, not a collection, of Ferguson's 
poems, I have, in the exercise of my editorial discretion, 
got rid of these two moralising tags in the condensed 



INTRODUCTION XXXUl 

version of The Tain Quest and the otherwise uncut text 
of The Welshmen of Tirawley, to be found within these 
pages. 

This tendency to act at times as a commentator on his 
own work and to present it at others in a too ponderously 
Latinised form, as well as the careless, not to say bluff, 
disregard for verbal delicacies into which he now and 
again lapses, are the only proclivities to which exception 
can be taken in Ferguson's technique. For his method 
is uniformly manly, and his occasional periods of majestic 
inspiration sweep our minor critical objections before them, 
as the blast from his Mananan's mantle swept the chief- 
tain and his hound into the valley like leaves before the 
wind. 

We have taken Ferguson to our hearts as we take our 
best brother, loving his very ponderosities and careless- 
nesses as part and parcel of his greatness, as we love the 
kindred qualities in Samuel Johnson — for the sake of the 
man and the gentleman. 

In 1872 appeared Congal, which Ferguson describes 
in a letter to Father Russell as an epic poem of greater 
length and higher literary pretension than his Lays of the 
Western Gael. 

An epic requires a great subject, and he who writes it 
must have vision and manliness closely allied to his 
nature, else how can he realise the heroic ideal ? These 
are Ferguson's pre-eminent qualities. He is manly. His 
heroes proclaim it in their every action, their every utter- 
ance ; and his tender portrait of Lafinda could only have 
been drawn by a gallant gentleman. He has vision. The 
terrible shapes and Celtic superstitions — the Giant Walker, 
tlie Washer of the Ford — loom monstrously before us as 



XXXIV INTRODUCTION. 

he sings, and he marshals the contending hosts at Moyra 
with a magnificent reaUsm to which we know no modern 
parallel. 

His subject is a great old-world tale of love and hate, 
and ambition and jealousy, and craft and courage — a 
splendid story of the last heroic stand made by Celtic 
Paganism against the Irish Champions of the Cross. 

But great though much of Congal undoubtedly is, 
Ferguson's genius was to break into finest flower at the 
last. 

The volume of 1880 contains some striking verse of a 
religious, philosophical and personal kind, including the 
searching Two Voices, the trenchant and yet more touching 
Three Thoughts, the noble lines entitled The Morning's 
Hinges, and the lofty Hymn of the Fishermen — a poem 
written after a surmounted danger of shipwreck. But 
in Deirdre and Conary he reaches his fullest height as a 
poet, and the best that has been said or could well be said 
about them comes from William Allingham and Aubrey 
de Vere — the two Irishmen of his time whose opinion 
should interest, if not influence, us most. 

Allingham wrote on receipt of the volume : " Many 
thoughts of my own swarmed about the pages, as I turned 
them, like bees in a lime-tree. In your style high culture 
is reconciled with simplicity, directness, and originality, 
and nothing can be happier than your enrichment of Eng- 
lish speech with Irish forms without the least violence. 
All the Irish poems are very remarkable, but Deirdre I 
count the chief triumph. Its peculiar form of unity is 
perfectly managed, while in general eflFect it recalls nothing 
so much as a Greek play." 

Mr. Aubrey de Vere and Mr. Yeats, and perhaps the 



INTRODUCTION. XXXV 

larger proportion of the other leading Irish critics, prefer 
Canary to Deirdrc. 

" It would be difficult," writes De Vere, " to find, 
amid our recent literature, a poem which at once aims 
as high as Cowary, and as adequately fulfils its aim. , , . 
Novel to English readers as is such a poetic theme, and 
embarrassing as are a few of the Gaelic names, the work 
belongs to the ' great ' style of poetry — that style which is 
characterised by simplicity, breadth of effect, a careless 
strength full of movement, but with nothing of the 
merely sensational about it, and an entire absence of those 
unclassic tricks that belong to meaner verse. It has 
caught thoroughly that epic character so remarkable in 
those Bardic Legends which were transmitted orally 
through ages when Homer must have been a name 
unknown in Ireland." 

To sum up : though at times over-scholarly and 
nodding now and again — as all the great unconscious 
poets, from Homer down, will occasionally nod, as op- 
posed to the little self-conscious ones who are never 
caught napping — Ferguson is always human, always 
simple, always strong. Sense ever goes before sound 
with him. He is no mere reed for blowing music through. 
He takes you into no gorgeous jungle of colour and scent, 
and stealing serpent and ravening beast, where per- 
spective is lost and will paralysed, and passion riots un- 
restrained. No ! What Mr. W. B. Yeats finely wrote 
of him in 1886 is still true to-day : 

" The author of tliese poems is the greatest poet Ireland 
has produced, because the most central and most Celtic. 
Whatever the future may bring forth in the way of a truly 
great and national literature — and now that the race is so 



XXXVl INTRODUCTION. 

large, so widely spread, and so conscious of its unity, the 
years are ripe — will find its morning in these three volumes 
of one who was made by the purifying flame of national 
sentiment the one man of his time who wrote heroic 
poetry — one who, among the somewhat sybaritic singers 
of his day, was like some aged sea-king sitting among the 
inland wheat and poppies— the savour of the sea about him 
and its strength." 

I have already suggested that this volume is a se'rction, 
not a collection, of his poems. Generally speaking, they 
are arranged in the chronological order of their produc- 
tion, and where this has been occasionally departed from 
it has been due to a regard for their historical sequence. 
Here I have followed the example set me by Lady 
Ferguson in her edition of Sir Samuel's Lays of the Red 
Branch. Condensation has been necessary in order to 
include Congal and other poems, and I hope not unac- 
ceptably so. For Congal, at its full length, suffers by 
the intrusion of introductory and side excursions into the 
regions of history and arch2eology. Dramatic action is 
thus too long delayed and the superabundant use of 
similes further interrupts it. I shall probably be blamed 
by some critics for my cutting down of The Tain Quest. 
My excuse must be that the material excised appears in 
other forms elsewhere in the volume, and that, for the 
purpose of dramatic reading or recitation, the poem 
gains by this treatment of it. Finally, I have endeavoured 
in this selection to represent every side of Ferguson's 
genius but that of his gift for satire, and a specimen of 
this will be found earlier in this introduction. 

Acknowledgements for the use of material of my own, 
contained in this introduction, are due to Messrs. Smith, 



INTRODUCTION. XXXVii 

Elder & Co., and Mr. Elkin Mathews, and I am greatly 
indebted to Mr. H. S. H. Guinness, the owner of 
the copyright of Ferguson's later poems, for having 
placed them so generously at my disposal. 

Alfred Perceval Graves. 



Red Branch House, 
Wimbledon, 

St. Patrick's Day, 1916. 



Lays of the Western Gael 



THE BURIAL OF KING CORMAC. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[Connac, son of Art, son of Con Cead-Catha,* enjoyed the 
sovereignty of Ireland tlirough the prolonged period of 
forty years, commencing from a.d. 213. During the latter 
part of his reign, he resided at Sletty on the Boyne, being, 
it is said, disqualified for the occupation of Tara by the personal 
blemish he had sustained in the loss of an eye, by the hand of 
Angus " Dread-Spear," cliief of the Desi, a tribe whose original 
seats were in the barony of Deece, in the county of Meath. 
It was in the time of Cormac and Ms son Carbre, if we are to 
credit the Irish annals, that Finn, son of Comlial, and the 
Fenian heroes, celebrated by Ossian, flourished. Cormac has 
obtained the reputation of msdom and learning, and appears 
justly entitled to the honour of having provoked the enmity 
of the Pagan priesthood, by declaring his faith in a God not 
made by hands of men.] 

" Crom Cruach and his sub-gods twelve," 
Said Cormac, " are but carven treene ; 

The axe that made them, haft or helve, 
Had worthier of our worship been. 

" But He who made the tree to grow. 

And hid in earth the iron-stone. 
And made the man with mind to know 

The axe's use, is God alone." 

♦ i.e., Hundred-Battle. 

B 



POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Anon to priests of Crom was brought — 
Where, girded in their service dread, 

They minister'd on red Moy Slaught — 
Word of the words King Cormac said. 

They loosed their curse against the king ; 

They cursed him in his flesh and bones ; 
And daily in their mystic ring 

They turn'd the maledictive stones, 

Till, where at meat the monarch sate, 

Amid the revel and the wine, 
He choked upon the food he ate. 

At Sletty, southward of the Boyne. 

High vaunted then the priestly throng. 
And far and wide they noised abroad 

With trump and loud liturgic song 
The praise of their avenging God. 

But ere the voice was wholly spent 

That priest and prince should still obey, 

To awed attendants o'er him bent 

Great Cormac gather'd breath to say, — 

" Spread not the beds of Brugh for me 
When restless death-bed's use is done : 

But bury me at Rossnaree 
And face me to the rising sun. 

" For all the kings who lie in Brugh 
Put trust in gods of wood and stone ; 

And 'twas at Ross that first I knew 
One, Unseen, who is God alone. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 

" His glory lightens from the east ; 

His message soon shall reach our shore ; 
And idol-god, and cursing priest 

Shall plague us from Moy Slaught no more." 

Dead Cormac on his bier they laid : — 
" He reign'd a king for forty years, 

And shame it were," his captains said, 
" He lay not with his royal peers. 

" His grandsire, Hundred-Battle, sleeps 
Serene in Brugh : and, all around, 

Dead kings in stone sepulchral keeps 
Protect the sacred burial ground. 

" What though a dying man should rave 
Of changes o'er the eastern sea ? 

In Brugh of Boyne shall be his grave, 
And not in noteless Rossnaree." 

Then northward forth they bore the bier, 
And down from Sletty side they drew, 

With horsemen and with charioteer, 

To cross the fords of Boyne to Brugh. 

There came a breath of finer air 

That touch'd the Boyne with ruffling wings, 
It stirr'd him in his sedgy lair 

And in his mossy moorland springs. 

And as the burial train came down 
With dirge and savage dolorous shows, 

Across their pathway, broad and brown 
The deep, full-hearted river rose ; 



POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

From bank to bank through all his fords, 

'Neath blackening squalls he swell'd and boil'd ; 

And thrice the wondering gentile lords 
Essay'd to cross, and thrice recoil'd. 

Then forth stepp'd grey-hair'd warriors four : 
They said, " Through angrier floods than these, 

On link'd shields once our king we bore 
From Dread-Spear and the hosts of Deece. 

" And long as loyal will holds good, 
And limbs respond with helpful thews, 

Nor flood, nor fiend within the flood, 
Shall bar him of his burial dues." 

With slanted necks they stoop 'd to lift ; 

They heaved him up to neck and chin ; 
And, pair and pair, with footsteps swift, 

Lock'd arm and shoulder, bore him in. 

'Twas brave to see them leave the shore ; 

To mark the deep'ning surges rise, 
And fall subdued in foam before 

The tension of their striding thighs. 

' Twas brave, when now a spear-cast out, 
Breast-high the battling surges ran ; 

For weight was great, and limbs were stout, 
And loyal man put trust in man. 

But ere they reach'd the middle deep. 
Nor steadying weight of clay they bore, 

Nor strain of sinewy limbs could keep 
Their feet beneath the swerving four. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 

And now they slide, and now they swim, 
And now, amid the blackening squall. 

Grey locks afloat, with clutching grim, 
They plunge around the floating pall. 

While, as a youth with practised spear 
Through justling crowds bears off the ring, 

Boyne from their shoulders caught the bier 
And proudly bore away the king. 

At morning, on the grassy marge 
Of Rossnaree, the corpse was found, 

And shepherds at their early charge 
Entomb'd it in the peaceful ground. 

A tranquil spot : a hopeful sound 

Comes from the ever youthful stream. 

And still on daisied mead and mound 
The dawn delays with tenderer beam. 

Round Cormac Spring renews her buds : 
In march perpetual by his side, 

Down come the earth-fresh April floods. 
And up the sea-fresh salmon glide ; 

And life and time rejoicing run 

From age to age their wonted way ; 

But still he waits the risen Sun, 
For still 'tis only dawning Day. 



POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 



AIDEEN'S GRAVE. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[Aideen, daughter of Angus of Ben-Bdar (now the Hill of 
Howtli), died of grief for the loss of her husband, Oscar, son of 
Ossian, who was slain at the battle of Gavra [Gowva, near 
Tara in Meath), a.d. 284. Oscar was entombed in the rath 
or earthen fortress that occupied part of the field of battle, 
the rest of the slain being cast in a pit outside. Aideen is 
said to have been buried on Howth, near the mansion of her 
father, and poetical tradition represents the Fenian heroes as 
present at her obsequies. The Cromlech in Howth Park has 
been supposed to be her sepulchre. It stands under the 
summits from which the poet Athame is said to have laimched 
his invectives against the people of Leinster, imttl, by the 
blighting effect of his satires, they were compelled to make 
him atonement for the death of his son.] 

They heaved the stone ; they heap'd the cairn : 
Said Ossian, " In a queenly grave 

We leave her, 'mong her fields of fern, 
Between the cliff and wave. 

" The cliff behind stands clear and bare, 
And bare, above, the heathery steep 

Scales the clear heaven's expanse, to where 
The Danaan Druids sleep. 

" And all the sands that, left and right, 
The grassy isthmus-ridge confine, 

In yellow bars lie bare and bright 
Among the sparkling brine. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 

" A clear pure air pervades the scene, 

In loneliness and awe secure ; 
Meet spot to sepulchre a Queen 

Who in her life was pure. 

" Here, far from camp and chase removed. 

Apart in Nature's quiet room, 
The music that alive she loved 

Shall cheer her in the tomb. 

" The humming of the noontide bees, 
The lark's loud carol all day long. 

And, borne on evening's salted breeze, 
The clanking sea bird's song 

" Shall round her airy chamber float, 
And with the whispering winds and streams 

Attune to Nature's tenderest note 
The tenor of her dreams. 

" And oft, at tranquil eve's decline 
When full tides lip the Old Green Plain, 

The lowing of Moynalty's kine 
Shall round her breathe again, 

" In sweet remembrance of the days 
When, duteous, in the lowly vale, 

Unconscious of my Oscar's gaze, 
She fill'd the fragrant pail, 

" And, duteous, from the running brook 
Drew water for the bath ; nor deem'd 

A king did on her labour look, 
And she a fairy scem'd. 



8 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" But when the wintry frosts begin, 
And in their long-drawn, lofty flight, 

The wild geese with their airy din 
Distend the ear of night, 

" And when the fierce De Danaan ghosts 
At midnight from their peak come down, 

When all around the enchanted coasts 
Despairing strangers drown ; 

" When, mingling with the wreckful wail, 
From low Clontarf's wave-trampled floor 

Comes booming up the burthen'd gale 
The angry Sand-Bull's roar ; 

" Or, angrier than the sea, the sliout 
Of Erin's hosts in wrath combined, 

When Terror heads Oppression's rout, 
And Freedom cheers behind : — 

" Then o'er our lady's placid dream, 
Where safe from storms she sleeps, may steal 

Such joy as will not misbeseem 
A Queen of men to feel : 

" Such thrill of free, defiant pride, 

As rapt her in her battle car 
At Gavra, when by Oscar's side 

She rode the ridge of war, 

" Exulting, down the shouting troops. 
And through the thick confronting kings, 

With hands on all their javelin loops 
And shafts on all their strings ; 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 

" E'er closed the inseparable crowds, 
No more to part for me, and show, 

As bursts the sun through scattering clouds, 
My Oscar issuing so. 

" No more, dispelling battle's gloom 
Shall son for me from fight return ; 

The great green rath's ten-acred tomb 
Lies heavy on his urn. 

" A cup of bodkin-pencill'd clay 

Holds Oscar ; mighty heart and limb 

One handful now of ashes grey : 
And she has died for him. 

" And here, hard by her natal bower 
On lone Ben Edar's side, we strive 

With lifted rock and sign of power 
To keep her name alive. 

" That while, from circling year to year, 
Her Ogham-letter'd stone is seen. 

The Gael shall say, ' Our Fenians here 
Entomb's their loved Aideen.' 

" The Ogham from her pillar stone 
In tract of time will wear away ; 

Her name at last be only known 
In Ossian's echo'd lay. 

" The long forgotten lay I sing 

May only ages hence revive, 
(As eagle with a wounded wing 

To soar again might strive,) 



10 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Imperfect, in an alien speech, 

When, wandering here, some child of chancfc 
Through pangs of keen delight shall reach 

The gift of utterance, — 

" To speak the air, the sky to speak, 
The freshness of the hill to tell. 

Who, roaming bare Ben Edar's peak 
And Aideen's briary dell, 

" And gazing on the Cromlech vast, 
And on the mountain and the sea, 

Shall catch communion with the past 
And mix himself with me. 

" Child of the Future's doubtful night, 
Whate'er your speech, whoe'er your sires, 

Sing while you may with frank delight 
The song your hour inspires. 

" Sing while you may, nor grieve to know 
The song you sing shall also die ; 

Atharna's lay has perish'd so. 

Though once it thrill'd this sky. 

" Above us, from his rocky chair, 
There, where Ben Edar's landward crest 

O'er eastern Bregia bends, to where 
Dun Almon crowns the west : 

" And all that feh the fretted air 

Throughout the song-distemper'd clime, 

Did droop, till suppliant Leinster's prayer 
Appeased the vengeful rhyme. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. II 

" Ah me, or e'er the hour arrive 
Shall bid my long-forgotten tones, 

Unknown One, on your lips revive. 
Here, by these moss-grown stones, 

" What change shall o'er the scene have cross'd ; 

What conquering lords anew have come ; 
What lore-arm'd, mightier Druid host 

From Gaul or distant Rome ! 

" What arts of death, what ways of life. 
What creeds unknown to bard or seer. 

Shall round your careless steps be rife. 
Who pause and ponder here ; 

" And, haply, where yon curlew calls 

Athwart the marsh, 'mid groves and bowers 

See rise some mighty chieftain's halls 
With unimagined towers : 

" And baying hounds, and coursers bright, 
And burnish'd cars of dazzling sheen, 

With courtly train of dame and knight. 
Where now the fern is green. 

" Or, by yon prostrate altar-stone 

May kneel, perchance, and, free from blame, 

Hear holy men with rites unknown 
New names of God proclaim. 

" Let change as may the Name of Awe, 

Let rite surcease and altar fall. 
The same One God remains, a law 

For ever and for all. 



12 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Let change as may the face of earth, 

Let alter all the social frame, 
For mortal men the ways of birth 

And death are still the same. 

" And still, as life and time wear on, 
The children of the waning days, 

(Though strength be from their shoulders gone 
To lift the loads we raise,) 

" Shall weep to do the burial rites 

Of lost ones loved ; and fondly found, 

In shadow of the gathering nights, 
The monumental mound. 

" Farewell ! the strength of men is worn ; 

The night approaches dark and chill : 
Sleep, till perchance an endless morn 

Descend the glittering hill." 

Of Oscar and Aideen bereft, 

So Ossian sang. The Fenians sped 

Three mighty shouts to heaven ; and left 
Ben Edar to the dead. 



THE DEATH OF DERMID. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

("King Cormac had affianced liis daughter Crania to Finn, 
son of Comhal, the Finn MacCoole of Irish, and Fingal of 
Scottish tradition. In addition to his warUke acconxpUshments, 
Finn was reported to have obtained the gifts of poetry, second- 
sight, and heahng in the manner referred to below. On his 
personal introduction, liis age and aspect proved displeasing 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 13 

to Crania, who threw herself on the gallantry of Dermirl, the 
hautlsomest of Finn's attendant warriors, and induced hiiu 
reluctantly to fly with her. Their pursuit by Finn forms the 
subject of one of the most popular native Irish romances. In 
the course of their wanderings, Dermid, havuig pursued a wild 
boar, met the fate of Adonis, who appears to have been his 
prototype in the Celtic imagination. Finn, arriving on the 
scene just before his rival's death, gives occasion to the most 
pathetic passage of the tale. The incidents of the original 
are followed in the piece below, which, however, does not 
profess to be a translation. The original may be perused in the 
spirited version of Mr. O 'Grady, — " Publications of the Irish 
Ossianic Society," vol. iii. p. 185. It is from this Dermid that 
Highland tradition draws the genealogy of the clan Campbell, — 

" The race of brown Dermid who slew the wild boar."] 



Finn on the mountain found the mangled man, 
The slain boar by him. " Dermid," said the king, 
" It likes me well at last to see thee thus. 
This only grieves me, that the womankind 
Of Erin are not also looking on : 
Such sight were wholesome for the wanton eyes 
So oft enamour'd of that specious form : 
Beauty to foulness, strength to weakness turn'd." 
" Yet in thy power, if only in thy will, 
Lies it, oh Finn, even yet to heal me." 

" How ? " 

" Feign not the show of ignorance, nor deem 
I know not of the virtues which thy hand 
Drew from that fairy's half-discover'd hall. 
Who bore her silver tankard from the fount, 
So closely follow'd, that ere yet the door 
Could close upon her steps, one arm was in ; 
Wherewith, though seeing nought, yet touching all. 



14 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Thou grasped'st half the spiritual world ; 

Withdrawing a heap'd handful of its gifts, — 

Healing, and sight prophetic, and the power 

Divine of poesy : but healing most 

Abides within its hollow : — virtue such 

That but so much of water as might wet 

These lips, in that hand brought, would make me 

whole. 
Finn, from the fountain fetch me in thy palms 
A draught of water, and I yet shall live." 

" How at these hands canst thou demand thy life, 
Who took'st my joy of life ? " 

" She loved thee not : 
Me she did love and doth ; and were she here 
She would so plead with thee, that, for her sake, 
Thou wouldst forgive us both, and bid me live." 

" I was a man had spent my prime of years 
In war and council, little bless'd with love ; 
Though poesy was mine, and, in my hour, 
The seer's burthen not desirable ; 
And now at last had thought to have man's share 
Of marriage blessings ; and the King supreme, 
Cormac, had pledged his only daughter mine ; 
When thou, with those pernicious beauty-gifts. 
The flashing white tusk there hath somewhat spoil'd, 
Didst win her to desert her father's house, 
And roam the wilds with thee." 

" It was herself, 
Grania, the Princess, put me in the bonds 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 1 5 

Of holy chivalry to share her flight. 
' Behold,' she said, ' he is an aged man, 
(And so thou art, for years will come to all ; ) 
And I, so young ; and at the Beltane games, 
When Carbry Liffacher did play the men 
Of Brea, I, unseen, saw thee snatch a hurl, 
And thrice on Tara's champions* win the goal ; 
And gave thee love that day, and still will give.' 
So she herself avow'd. Resolve me, Finn, 
For thou art just, could youthful warrior, sworn 
To maiden's service, have done else than I ? 
No : hate me not — restore me — give me drink." 

" I will not." 

" Nay, but, Finn, thou hadst not said 
' I will not,' though Fd ask'd a greater boon. 
That night w^e supp'd in Breendacoga's lodge. 
Remember : we were faint and hunger-starved 
From three day's flight ; and even as on the board 
They placed the viands, and my hand went forth 
To raise the wine-cup, thou, more quick of ear, 
O'erheardst the stealthy leaguer set without ; 
And yet should'st eat or perish. Then 'twas I, 
Fasting, that made the sally ; and 'twas I, 
Fasting, that made the circuit of the court ; 
Three times I cours'd it, darkling, round and round ; 
From whence returning, when I brought thee in 
The three lopp'd heads of them that lurk'd without — 

* "On Tara's champions," ar ghasra Teamhrach. The idiom is 
preserved. 



1 6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Thou hadst not then, refresh 'd and grateful, said 
' I will not,' had I ask'd thee, ' Give me drink.' " 

" There springs no water on this summit bald." 

" Nine paces from the spot thou standest on, 
The well-eye — well thou knowest it — bubbles clear," 

Abash'd, reluctant, to the bubbling well 
Went Finn, and scoop'd the water in his palms ; 
Wherewith returning, half-way, came the thought 
Of Grania, and he let the water spill. 

" Ah me," said Dermid, " hast thou then forgot 
Thy warrior-art that oft, when helms were split. 
And buckler-bosses shatter'd by the spear, 
Has satisfied the thirst of wounded men ? 
Ah, Finn, these hands of thine were not so slack 
That night, when, captured by the king of Thule, 
Thou layest in bonds within the temple gate 
Waiting for morning, till the observant king 
Should to his sun-god make thee sacrifice. 
Close-pack'd thy fingers then, thong-drawn and 

squeezed, 
The blood-drops oozing under every nail. 
When, like a shadow, through the sleeping priests 
Came I, and loos'd thee : and the hierophant 
At day-dawn coming, on the altar-step. 
Instead of victim straighten'd to his knife, 
Two warriors found, erect, for battle arm'd." 

Again abash'd, reluctant to the well 

Went Finn, and scoop'd the water in his palms, 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 17 

Wherewith returning, half-way, came the thought 
That wrench'd him ; and the shaken water spill'd. 

" False one, thou didst it purposely ! I swear 
I saw thee, though mine eyes do fast grow dim. 
Ah me, how much imperfect still is man ! 
Yet such were not the act of Him, whom once 
On this same mountain, as we sat at eve — 
Thou yet mayst see the knoll that was our couch, 
A stone's throw from the spot where now I lie — 
Thou showedst me, shuddering, when the seer's fit, 
Sudden and cold as hail, assail'd thy soul 
In vision of that Just One crucified 
For all men's pardoning, which, once again. 
Thou sawest, with Cormac, struck in Rossnaree," 

Finn trembled ; and a third time to the well 
Went straight, and scoop'd the water in his palms ; 
Wherewith in haste half-way return'd, he saw 
A smile on Dermid's face relax'd in death. 



THE WELSHMEN OF TIRAWLEY. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[Several Welsh Families, associates in the invasion of 
Strongbow, settled in the west of Ireland. Of these, the 
principal whose names have been preserved by the Irish 
antiquarians were the Walshes, Joyces, Heils {a quibus Mac 
Hale), Lawlesses, Toml>ms, Lynotts, and Barretts, which 
last draw their pedigree from Wal>nies, son of Gu>aidally, the 
Ard Maor, or High Steward of the Lordsliip of Camelot, and 
had their cliief seats in the territory of the two Bacs, in the 
barony of Tirawley, and county of Maj^o. Clochan-na-n' all, 



1 8 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

i.e. " the Blind Men's Stepping-stones," are still pointed out 
on tlie Dnvowen river, about four miles north of Crossmolina, 
in the townland of Garranard ; and Tuhhcv-na-Scorney , or 
" Scragg's Well," in the opposite townland of Cams, in the 
same barony.] 



ScoRNA Boy, the Barretts' bailiff, lewd and lame, 
To lift the Lynotts' taxes when he came. 
Rudely drew a young maid to him ; 
Then the Lynotts rose and slew him, 
And in Tubber-na-Scorney threw him — • 

Small your blame. 

Sons of Lynott ! 
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

Then the Barretts to the Lynotts proposed a choice, 

Saying, " Hear, ye murderous brood, men and boys, 

For this deed to-day ye lose 

Sight or manhood : say and choose 

Which ye keep and which refuse ; 

And rejoice 

That our mercy 
Leaves you living for a warning to Tirawley." 

Then the little boys of the Lynotts, weeping, said, 

" Only leave us our eyesight in our head." 

But the bearded Lynotts then 

Made answer back again, 

" Take our eyes, but leave us men, 

Alive or dead, 

Sons of Wattin !" 
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 



LAYS OF THE V/ESTERN GAEL. 1 9 

So the Barretts, with sewing-needles sharp and smooth, 
Let the Hght out of the eyes of every youth, 
And of every bearded man 
Of the broken Lynott clan ; 
Then their darken 'd faces wan 

Turning south 

To the river — 
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley ! 

O'er the slippery stepping-stones of Clochan-na-n'all 
They drove them, laughing loud at every fall, 
As their wandering footsteps dark 
Fail'd to reach the slippery mark, 
And the swift stream swallow'd stark, 

One and all, 

As they stumbled — 
From the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

Of all the blinded Lynotts one alone 
Walk'd erect from stepping-stone to stone : 
So back again they brought you, 
And a second time they wrought you 
With their needles ; but never got you 

Once to groan, 

Emon Lynott, 
For the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

But with prompt-projected footstep sure as ever, 
Emon Lynott again cross 'd the river, 
Though Duvowen was rising fast. 
And the shaking stones o'ercast 
By cold floods boiling past ; 



20 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

Yet you never, 
Emon Lynott, 
Faltered once before your foemen of Tirawley ! 

But, turning on Ballintubber bank, you stood, 
And the Barretts thus bespoke o'er the flood — 
" Oh, ye fooHsh sons of Wattin, 
Small amends are these you've gotten, 
For, while Scorna Boy lies rotten, 

I am good 

For vengeance ! " 
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

For 'tis neither in eye nor eyesight that a man 

Bears the fortunes of himself and his clan, 

But in the manly mind, 

And loins with vengeance lined, 

That your needles could never find 
Though they ran 
Through my heart-strings ! " 

Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

" But, little your women's needles do I reck : 
For the night from heaven never fell so black. 
But Tirawley, and abroad 
From the Moy to Cuan-an-fod, 
I could walk it, every sod, 

Path and track, 

Ford and togher, 
Seeking vengeance on you, Barretts of Tirawley ! 

" The night when Dathy O'Dowda broke your camp. 
What Barrett among you was it held the lamp — 



LAYS OF TIIR WESTERN GAEL. 21 

Show'd the way to those two feet, 
When through wintry wind and sleet, 
I guided your bUnd retreat 

In the swamp 

Of Beiil-an-asa ? 
O ye vengeance-destined ingrates of Tirawley ! " 

So leaving loud-shriek-echoing Garranard, 
The Lynott like a red dog hunted hard, 
With his wife and children seven, 
'Mong the beasts and fowls of heaven 
In the hollows of Glen Nephin, 

Light-debarr'd, 

Made his dwelling. 
Planning vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley. 

And ere the bright-orb'd year its course had run, 
On his brown round-knotted knee he nurs'd a son, 
A child of light, with eyes 
As clear as are the skies 
In summer, when sunrise 

Has begun ; 

So the Lynott 
Nursed his vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley. 

And, as ever the bright boy grew in strength and size, 
Made him perfect in each manly exercise, 
The salmon in the flood. 
The dun deer in the wood, 
The eagle in the cloud 

To surprise. 

On Ben Nephin, 
Far above the foggy fields of Tirawley. 



22 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

With the yellow-knotted spear-shaft, with the bow, 
With the steel, prompt to deal shot and blow, 
He taught him from year to year 
And train'd him, without a peer, 
For a perfect cavalier, 

Hoping so — 

Far his forethought — 
For vengeance on the Barretts of Tirawley. 

And, when mounted on his proud-bounding steed, 
Emon Oge sat a cavalier indeed ; 
Like the ear upon the wheat 
When winds in Autumn beat 
On the bending stems, his seat ; 

And the speed 

Of his courser 
Was the wind from Barna-na-gee o'er Tirawley ! 

Now when fifteen sunny summers thus were spent, 
(He perfected in all accomplishment) — 
The Lynott said, " My child, 
We are over long exiled 
From mankind in this wild — 

— Time we went 

Through the mountain 
To the countries lying over-against Tirawley." 

So, out over mountain-moors, and mosses brown, 
And green stream-gathering vales, they journey'd 

down ; 
Till, shining like a star, 
Through the dusky gleams afar, 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 23 

The bailey of Castlebar, 

And the town 

Of Mac WilHam 
Rose bright before the wanderers of Tirawley. 

" Look southward, my boy, and tell me as we go, 

What seest thou by the loch-head below." 

" Oh, a stone-house strong and great, 

And a horse-host at the gate, 

And their captain in armour of plate — 

Grand the show ! 

Great the glancing ! 
High the heroes of this land below Tirawley ! 

" And a beautiful Woman-chief by his side. 

Yellow gold on all her gown-sleeves wide ; 

And in her hand a pearl 

Of a young, little, fair-hair'd girl." — 

Said the Lynott, " It is the Earl ! 

Let us ride 

To his presence ! " 
And before him came the exiles of Tirawley. 

" God save thee, Mac William," the Lynott thus 

began ; 
" God save all here besides of this clan ; 
For gossips dear to me 
Are all in company — 
For in these four bones ye see 

A kindly man 

Of the Britons — 
Emon Lynott of Garranard of Tirawley. 



24 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" And hither, as kindly gossip-law allows, 
I come to claim a scion of thy house 
To foster ; for thy race, 
Since William Conquer's days, 
Have ever been wont to place, 

With some spouse 

Of a Briton, 
A Mac William Oge, to foster in Tirawley. 

" And to show thee in what sort our youth are taught, 
I have hither to thy home of valour brought 
This one son of my age, 
For a sample and a pledge 
For the equal tutelage, 

In right thought. 

Word, and action, 
Of whatever son ye give into Tirawley." 

When Mac William beheld the brave boy ride and run, 

Saw the spear-shaft from his white shoulder spun — 

With a sigh, and with a smile, 

He said, — " I would give the spoil 

Of a county, that Tibbot* Moyle, 

My own son. 

Were accomplish'd 
Like this branch of the kindly Britons of Tirawley." 

When the Lady Mac William she heard him speak. 
And saw the ruddy roses on his cheek. 
She said, " I would give a purse 
Of red gold to the nurse 

* Tibbot, that is. Theobold. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 25 

That would rear my Tibbot no worse ; 

But I seek 

Hitherto vainly — 
Heaven grant that I now have found her in Tirawley ! " 

So they said to the Lynott, " Here, take our bird ! 
And as pledge for the keeping of thy word, 
Let this scion here remain 
Till thou comest back again : 
Meanwhile the fitting train 

Of a lord 

Shall attend thee 
With the lordly heir of Connaught into Tirawley." 

So back to strong- throng-gathering Garranard, 
Like a lord of the country with his guard, 
Came the Lynott, before them all. 
Once again over Clochan-na-n'all, 
Steady-striding, erect, and tall. 

And his ward 

On his shoulders ; 
To the wonder of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

Then a diligent foster-father you would deem 
The Lynott, teaching Tibbot, by mead and stream, 
To cast the spear, to ride. 
To stem the rushing tide. 
With what feats of body beside, 

Might beseem 

A Mac William, 
Foster'd free among the Welshmen of Tirawley. 



26 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

But the lesson of hell he taught him in heart and mind : 

For to what desire soever he inclined, 

Of anger, lust, or pride, 

He had it gratified, 

Till he ranged the circle wide 

Of a bhnd 

Self-indulgence , 
Ere he came to youthful manhood in Tirawley. 

Then, even as when a hunter slips a hound, 
Lynott loosed him — God's leashes all unbound — 
In the pride of power and station. 
And the strength of youthful passion, 
On the daughters of thy nation. 

All around, 

Wattin Barrett ! 
Oh 1 the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley 1 

Bitter grief and burning anger, rage and shame, 
Fill'd the houses of the Barretts where'er he came ; 
Till the young men of the Bac 
Drew by night upon his track, 
And slew him at Cornassack — 

Small your blame. 

Sons of Wattin ! 
Sing the vengeance of the Welshmen of Tirawley. 

Said the Lynott, " The day of my vengeance is drawing 

near, 
The day for which, through many a long dark year, 
I have toil'd through grief and sin — 
Call ye now the Brehons in. 
And let the plea begin 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL 27 

Over the bier 
Of Mac William, 
For an eric upon the Barretts of Tirawley. 

Then the Brehons to Mac William Burk decreed 
An eric upon Clan Barrett for the deed ; 
And the Lynott's share of the fine, 
As foster-father, was nine 
Ploughlands and nine score kine ; 

But no need 

Had the Lynott, 
Neither care, for land or cattle in Tirawley, 

But rising, while all sat silent on the spot. 

He said, " The law says — doth it not ? — 

If the foster-sire elect 

His portion to reject. 

He may then the right exact 

To applot 

The short eric." 
" 'Tis the law," replied the Brehons of Tirawley. 

Said the Lynott, " I once before had a choice 

Proposed me, wherein law had little voice ; 

But now I choose, and say. 

As lawfully I may, 

I applot the mulct to-day ; 

So rejoice 

In your ploughlands 
And your cattle which I renounce throughout Tirawley. 

" And thus I applot the mulct : I divide 
The land throughout Clan Barrett on every side 



28 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Equally, that no place 
May be without the face 
Of a foe of Wattin's race — 

That the pride 

Of the Barretts 
May be humbled hence for ever throughout Tirawley. 

" I adjudge a seat in every Barrett's hall 

To Mac William : in every stable I give a stall 

To Mac William : and, beside, 

Whenever a Burke shall ride 

Through Tirawley, I provide 

At his call 

Needful grooming, 
Without charge from any hosteler of Tirawley. 

" Thus lawfully I avenge me for the throes 

Ye lawlessly caused me and caused those 

Unhappy shamefaced ones, 

Who, their mothers expected once, 

Would have been the sires of sons — 

O'er whose woes 

Often weeping, 
I have groan' d in my exile from Tirawley. 

" I demand not of you your manhood ; but I take — 
For the Burkes will take it — your Freedom 1 for the 

sake 
Of which all manhood's given. 
And all good under heaven. 
And, without which, better even 



LAYS OF THK WESTERN GAEL. 29 

Ye should make 
Yourselves barren, 
Than see your children slaves throughout Tiravvley ! 

" Neither take I your eyesight from you ; as you took 

Mine and ours : I would have you daily look 

On one another's eyes, 

When the strangers tyrannize 

By your hearths, and blushes arise, 

That ye brook, 

Without vengeance. 
The insults of troops of Tibbots throughout Tirawley ! 

" The vengeance I design'd, now is done, 
And the days of me and mine nearly run — 
For, for this, I have broken faith, 
Teaching him who lies beneath 
This pall, to merit death ; 

And my son 

To his father 
Stands pledged for other teaching in Tirawley." 

Said Mac William — " Father and son, hang them 

high ! " 
And the Lynott they hang'd speedily ; 
But across the salt sea water, 
To Scotland, with the daughter 
Of Mac William — well you got her ! — 

Did you fly, 

Edmund Lindsay, 
The gentlest of all the Welshmen of Tirawley ! 



30 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

FERGUS WRY-MOUTH. 

One day, King Fergus, Leide Luthmar's son, 

Drove by Loch Rury ; and, his journey done, 

Slept in his chariot, wearied. While he slept, 

A troop of fairies o'er his cushions crept. 

And first, his sharp, dread sword they filched away ; 

Then bore himself, feet-forward, to the bay. 

He, with the chill touch, woke ; and, at a snatch, 

It fortuned him in either hand to catch 

A full-grown sprite ; while, 'twixt his breast and arm. 

He pinned a youngling. They, in dire alarm. 

Writhed hard and squealed. He held the tighter. Then 

" Quarter ! " and " Ransom 1 " cried the little men. 

" No quarter " ; he : " Nor go ye hence alive, 

Unless ye gift me with the art to dive. 

Long as I will : to walk at large, and breathe 

The seas, the lochs, the river-floods beneath." 

" We will." He loosed them. Herbs of virtue they 

Stuff'd in his ear-holes. Or, as others say, 

A hood of fairy texture o'er his head. 

Much like a cleric's cochal, drew ; and said 

" Wear this, and walk the deeps. But well beware 

Thou enter nowise in Loch Rury there." 

Clad in his cowl, through many deeps he went. 

And saw their wonders ; but was not content 

Unless Loch Rury also to his eyes 

Revealed its inner under-mysteries. 

Thither he came ; and plunged therein ; and there 

The Muirdris met him. Have you seen a pair 

Of blacksmith's bellows open out and close 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL 3 1 

Alternate 'neath the hand of him that blows ? 

So swelled it, and so shrunk. The hideous sight 

Hung all his visage sidewise with affright. 

He fled. He gained the bank. " How seems my cheer, 

Oh Mwena ? " " 111 I " replied the Charioteer. 

" But rest thee. Sleep thy wildness will compose." 

He slept. Swift Mwena to Emania goes. 

" Whom, now, for King ; since Fergus' face awry 

By law demeans him of the sovereignty ? " 

" Hush ! " — and his sages, and physicians wise 

In earnest council sit ; and thus advise. 

" He knows not of his plight. To keep him so, 

As he suspect not that he ought not know, — 

For, so the mind be straight, and just awards 

Wait on the judgment, right-read Law regards 

No mere distortion of the outward frame 

As blemish barring from the Kingly name : — 

And, knew he all the baleful fact you tell, 

An inward wrench might warp his mind as well : 

Behoves it, therefore, all of idle tongue, 

Jesters, and women, and the witless young, 

Be from his presence sent. And when at morn 

He takes his bath, behoves his bondmaid, Dorn, 

Muddy the water ; lest, perchance, he trace 

Lost kingship's token on his imaged face." 

Three years they kept him so : till, on a day, 

Dorn with his face-bath-ewer had made delay ; 

And fretted Fergus, petulant and rash, 

A blow bestowed her of his horse- whip lash. 

Forth burst the woman's anger. " Thou a King ! 

Thou sit in Council ! thou adjudge a thing 



32 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

In Court of Law ! Thou, who no kingship can, 
Since all may see, thou art a blemished man ; 
Thou wry-mouth ! " Fergus thereon slew the maid ; 
And, to Loch Rury's brink in haste conveyed. 
Went in at Fertais. For a day and night 
Beneath the waves he rested out of sight : 
But all the Ultonians on the bank who stood. 
Saw the loch boil and redden with the blood. 
When next at sunrise skies grew also red, 
He rose — and in his hand the Muirdris head. — 
Gone was the blemish. On his goodly face 
Each trait symmetric had resumed its place : 
And they who saw him marked, in all his mien, 
A King's composure ample and serene. 
He smiled ; he cast his trophy to the bank. 
Said, " I survivor, Ulstermen 1 " and sank. 



THE GASCON O'DRISCOL. 

In old O'Driscol's pedigree, 

'Mong lords of ports and galleys, 
" The Gascon " whence ? and who was he 
First bore the surname ? tell us. 
Not difficult the task 
To answer what you ask. 

The merchants from the Biscay sea 

To ports of Munster saiHng, 
With wines of Spain and Gascony 
Supplied carouse unfailing 
To guests of open door, 
Of old, at Baltimore. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 33 

Till when against one festal day 

O'Driscol stock'd his cellars, 

He found not hut of gold to pay 

In part, the greedy dealers : 

And, for the surplusage 

Gave this good son in pledge. 

They bore the boy to fair Bayonne, 

Where vines on hills were growing ; 
And, when the days of grace were gone, 
And still the debt was owing, 
The careful merchant's heart 
Grew hard with angry smart. 

" The wine I sold the Irish knave 

Is spent in waste and surfeit ; 
The pledge for payment that he gave 
Remains, a sorry forfeit : — 
Bring forth the hostage boy 
And set him on employ." 

" Now youth, lay by the lettered page, 

Leave Spanish pipe and tabor 
To happier co-mates of thy age, 
And put thy hands to labour. 
Ten ridged rows of the vine 
To dress and till, be thine." 

From solar-chamber came the lad ; 

In sooth, a comely creature 
As e'er made eye of mother glad 

In well-shaped limb and feature. 

D 



34 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As 'mid the vines he stepp'd, 
His cheek burned, and he wept. 

" The grief that wrings this pungent tear 

Springs not from pride or anger ; 
Let the hoe be my hunting-spear, 
The pruning-knife my hanger : 
The work ye will I'll do. 
But, deem my kinsmen true. 

" Be sure, in some unknown resort 
Their messengers have tarried ; 
Some head-wind held their ship in port, 
Some tribute-ship miscarried ; 
Else never would they leave 
Their pledge without reprieve. 

" I've seen when, round the banquet board 

From stintless-circling beaker 
To all the Name our butlers pour'd 
The ruby-royal liquor. 

And every face was bright 
With mirth and life's delight. 

" And, as the warming wine exhaled 

The shows of outward fashion, 
Their very hearts I've seen unveil'd 
In gay and frank elation ; 
And not a breast but grew 
More trusty, more seen through. 

" These vineyards grew the grape that gave 
My soul that fond assurance ; 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 35 

And if for them I play the slave, 
I grudge not the endurance, 
Nor stronger mandate want 
To tend the truthful plant." 

The seniors of the sunny land 

Beheld him daily toiling — 
(Old times they were of instincts bland 
The pagan heart assoiling) — 
And this their frequent speech 
And counsel, each with each : — 

" A patient boy, with gentle grace 
He bears his yoke of trouble ; 
Serenely grave the ample face, 
The gesture large and noble, 
Erect, or stooping low, 
Along the staky row. 

" Where'er he moves, the serving train, 

Accord him their obeisance ; 
The very vintagers refrain 

Their rude jests in his presence ; 
And — what is strange indeed — 
His vines their vines exceed. 

" The tendrils twine, the leaves expand, 

The purpling bunches cluster 
To pulpier growth beneath his hand, 
As though 'twere formed to foster, 
By act of mere caress, 
Life, wealth, and joyousness. 



36 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

" It seems as if a darkling sense 

In root and stem were native ; 
As if an answering effluence 
And virtue vegetative 

(Anointed kings own such) 
Went outward from his touch. 

" Behold his nation's sages say 

A righteous king's intendance 
Is seen in fishy-teeming bay 

And corn-fields' stook'd abundance, 
In udder-weighted cows 
And nut-bent hazel boughs. 

" These Scots, apart in ocean set 
Since first from Shinar turning, 
Preserve the simple wisdom yet 
Of mankind's early morning, 
While God with Adam's race 
Still communed, face to face. 

" Not in the written word alone 

He woos and warns the creature ; 
His will is still in wonders shown 
Though manifesting Nature ; 
And Nature here makes plain 
This youth was born to reign. 

" 111 were it, for a merchant's gains, 
To leave, at toil appointed 

For horny-handed village swains, 
God's designate anointed : 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 37 

But good for him and us 
The act magnanimous. 

" Blest are the friends of lawful kings 

To righteous rule consenting : 
Secure the blessing that he brings 
By clemency preventing ; 
And, granting full release, 
Return him home in peace. 

" And, ere your topsails take the wind. 

Stow ye within his vessel 
A pipe the ripest search may find 
In cellars of the Castle ; 
Of perfume finer yet 
Than rose and violet. 

" That, when, at home, his kin shall pour 

The welcoming libation, 
Such rapture-pitch their souls shall soar 
Of sweet exhilaration. 
As Bacchus on his pard 
With moist eye might regard." 

They stowed the ship ; he stepped on board 

In seemly wise attended ; 
But this was still his parting word 
When farewells all were ended : 
Be sure my father yet 
Will satisfy the debt." 

And, even as from the harbour mouth 
They northward went careering, 



38 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

There passed to windward, steering south, 
O'Driscol's galley bearing, 
From Baltimore, the gold 
Of ransom safe in hold. 



THE DOWNFALL OF THE GAEL. 
o'gnive,* bard of o'neill. 

Cir. 1580. 

My heart is in woe, 
And my soul deep in trouble, — 

For the mighty are low. 
And abased are the noble : 

The Sons of the Gael 
Are in exile and mourning, 

Worn, weary, and pale. 
As spent pilgrims returning ; 

Or men who, in flight 
From the field of disaster. 

Beseech the black night 
On their flight to fall faster ; 

Or seamen aghast 
When their planks gape asunder, 

And the waves fierce and fast 
Tumble through in hoarse thunder ; 

* O'Gnive, now Agnew. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN (JAEL. 39 

Or men whom we see 
That have got their death-omen — 

Such wretches are we 
In the chains of our foemen ! 

Our courage is fear, 
Our nobility vileness, 

Our hope is despair, 
And our comeliness foulness. 

There is mist on our heads, 
And a cloud chill and hoary 

Of black sorrow, sheds 
An eclipse on our glory. 

From Boyne to the Linn 
Has the mandate been given, 

That the children of Finn 
From their country be driven. 

That the sons of the king — 
Oh, the treason and malice ! — 

Shall no more ride the ring 
In their own native valleys ; 

No more shall repair 
Where the hill foxes tarry. 

Nor forth to the air 
Fling the hawk at her quarry : 

For the plain shall be broke 
By the share of the stranger. 

And the stone-mason's stroke 
Tell the woods of their danger ; 



40 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The green hills and shore 
Be with white keeps disfigured, 

And the Mote of Rathmore 
Be the Saxon churl's haggard ! 

The land of the lakes 
Shall no more know the prospect 

Of valleys and brakes — 
So transform'd is her aspect ! 

The Gael cannot tell, 
In the uprooted wild-wood 

And red ridgy dell, 
The old nurse of his childhood : 

The nurse of his youth 
Is in doubt as she views him, 

If the wan wretch, in truth, 
Be the child of her bosom. 

We starve by the board, 
And we thirst amid wassail — 

For the guest is the lord. 
And the host is the vassal 1 

Through the woods let us roam, 
Through the wastes wild and barren ; 

We are strangers at home ! 
We are exiles in Erin ! 

And Erin's a bark 
O'er the wide waters driven ! 

And the tempest howls dark. 
And her side planks are riven ! 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 4I 

And in billows of might 
Swell the Saxon before her, — 

Unite, oh, unite ! 
Or the billows burst o'er her 1 



O'BYRNE'S BARD TO THE CLANS OF 
WICKLOW. 

Cir. 1580. 

God be with the Irish host, 
Never be their battle lost ! 
For, in battle, never yet 
Have they basely earned defeat. 

Host of armour red and bright. 
May ye fight a valiant fight ! 
For the green spot of the earth, 
For the land that gave you birth. 

Who in Erin's cause would stand, 
Brothers of the avenging band. 
He must wed immortal quarrel. 
Pain and sweat and bloody peril. 

On the mountain bare and steep, 
Snatching short but pleasant sleep. 
Then, ere sunrise, from his eyrie, 
Swooping on the Saxon quarry. 



42 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

What although you've fail'd to keep 
Liffey's plain or Tara's steep, 
Cashel's pleasant streams to save, 
Or the meads of Croghan Maev ; 

Want of conduct lost the town, 
Broke the white-wall'd castle down, 
Moira lost, and old Taltin, 
And let the conquering stranger in. 

'Twas the want of right command, 
Not the lack of heart or hand, 
Left your hills and plains to-day 
'Neath the strong Clan Saxon's sway. 

Ah, had heaven never sent 
Discord for our punishment, 
Triumphs few o'er Erin's host 
Had Clan London now to boast ! 

Woe is me, 'tis God's decree 
Strangers have the victory : 
Irishmen may now be found 
Outlaws upon Irish ground. 

Like a wild beast in his den 
Lies the chief by hill and glen, 
While the strangers, proud and savage, 
Criffan's richest valleys ravage. 

Woe is me, the foul offence, 
Treachery and violence. 
Done against my people's rights — 
Well may mine be restless nights ! 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 43 

When old Leinster's sons of fame, 
Heads of many a warlike name, 
Redden their victorious hilts 
On the Gaul, my soul exults. 

When the grim Gaul, who have come 
Hither o'er the ocean foam. 
From the fight victorious go, 
Then my heart sinks deadly low. 

Bless the blades our warriors draw, 
God be with Clan Ranelagh ! 
But my soul is weak for fear, 
Thinking of their danger here. 

Have them in Thy holy keeping, 
God be with them lying sleeping, 
God be with them standing fighting, 
Erin's foes in battle smiting ! 



LAMENT OVER THE RUINS OF THE ABBEY 
OF TIMOLEAGUE. 

John Coi,i<ins, died 1816.^ 

Lone and weary as I wander'd 
By the bleak shore of the sea, 

Meditating and reflecting 

On the world's hard destiny ; 

Forth the moon and stars 'gan glimmer. 

In the quiet tide beneath, — 
For on slumbering spray and blossom 

Breathed not out of heaven a breath. 



4-J. POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

On I went in sad dejection, 

Careless where my footsteps bore, 

Till a ruin'd church before me 
Open'd wide its ancient door, — 

Till I stood before the portals. 
Where of old were wont to be, 

For the blind, the halt, and leper, 
Alms and hospitality. 

Still the ancient seat was standing, 
Built against the buttress grey. 

Where the clergy used to welcome 
Weary travellers on their way. 

There I sat me down in sadness, 
'Neath my cheek I placed my hand, 

Till the tears fell hot and briny 
Down upon the grassy land. 

There, I said in woeful sorrow, 
Weeping bitterly the while. 

Was a time when joy and gladness 
Reign'd within this ruin'd pile ; — 

There a time when bells were tinkling, 
Clergy preaching peace abroad, 

Psalms a-singing, music ringing 
Praises to the mighty God. 

Empty aisle, deserted chancel. 
Tower tottering to your fall, 

Many a storm since then has beaten 
On the grey head of your wall ! 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 45 

Many a bitter storm and tempest 
Has your roof-tree turn'd away, 

Since you first were form'd a temple 
To the Lord of night and day. 

Holy house of ivied gables, 

That wert once the country's pride, 

Houseless now in weary wandering 
Roam your inmates far and wide. 

Lone you are to-day, and dismal, — 
Joyful psalms no more are heard 

Where, within your choir, her vesper 
Screeches the cat-headed bird. 

Ivy from your eaves is growing, 

Nettles round your green hearth-stone, 

Foxes howl, where, in your corners, 
Dropping waters make their moan. 

Where the lark to early matins 

Used your clergy forth to call, 
There, alas ! no tongue is stirring. 

Save the daw's upon the wall. 

Refectory cold and empty. 

Dormitory bleak and bare. 
Where are now your pious uses, 

Simple bed and frugal fare ? 

Gone your abbot, rule and order, 

Broken down your altar stones ; 
Nought see I beneath your shelter. 

Save a heap of clayey bones. 



46 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Oh ! the hardship, oh ! the hatred, 
Tyranny, and cruel war. 

Persecution and oppression, 

That have left you as you are ! 

I myself once also prosper' d ; — 
Mine is, too, an alter' d plight ; 

Trouble, care, and age have left me 
Good for nought but grief to-night. 

Gone, my motion and my vigour, — • 
Gone, the use of eye and ear ; 

At my feet lie friends and children, 
Powerless and corrupting here : 

Woe is written on my visage, 
In a nut my heart would lie — 

Death's deliverance were welcome — 
Father, let the old man die ! 



TO THE HARPER O'CONNELLAN. 

AFTER THE IRISH. 

Enchanter who reignest 

Supreme o'er the North, 
Who hast wiled the coy spirit 

Of true music forth ; 
In vain Europe's minstrels 

To honour aspire. 
When thy swift slender fingers 

Go forth on the wire ! 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 47 

There is no heart's desire 

Can be felt by a king, 
That thy hand cannot match 

From the soul of the string, 
By its conquering, capturing, 

Magical sway. 
For, charmer, thou stealest 

Thy notes from a fay ! 

Enchanter, I say, — 

For thy magical skill 
Can soothe every sorrow, 

And heal every ill : 
Who hear thee they praise thee ; 

They weep while they praise ; 
For, charmer, from Fairyland 

Fresh are thy lays ! 



GRACE NUGENT. 

CAROLAN. 

Brightest blossom of the Spring, 
Grace, the sprightly girl I sing : 
Grace, who bore the palm of mind 
From all the rest of womankind. 
Whomsoe'er the fates decree, 
Happy fate ! for life to be 
Day and night my Coolun near, 
Ache or pain need never fear ! 



48 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Her neck outdoes the stately swan, 
Her radiant face the summer dawn : 
Ah, happy thrice the youth for whom 
The fates design that branch of bloom ! 
Pleasant are your words benign, 
Rich those azure eyes of thine : 
Ye who see my queen, beware 
Those twisted links of golden hair ! 

This is what I fain would say 
To the bird- voiced lady gay, — 
Never yet conceived the heart 
Joy which Grace cannot impart : 
Fold of jewels ! case of pearls ! 
Coolun of the circling curls ! 
More I say not, but no less 
Drink you health and happiness ! 



MILD MABEL KELLY. 

CAROL AN. 

Whoever the youth who by Heaven's decree 

Has his happy right hand 'neath that bright head of 
thine, 

'Tis certain that he 
From all sorrow is free 
Till the day of his death, if a life so divine 
Should not raise him in bliss above mortal degree : 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL 49 

Mild Mabel-ni-Kelly, bright Coolun of curls, 
All stately and pure as the swan on the lake ; 

Her mouth of white teeth is a palace of pearls, 

And the youth of the land are love-sick for her sake ! 

No strain of the sweetest e'er heard in the land 
That she knows not to sing, in a voice so enchanting, 
That the cranes on the strand 
Fall asleep where they stand ; 
Oh, for her blooms the rose and the lily ne'er wanting 
To shed its mild radiance o'er bosom or hand : 
The dewy blue blossom that hangs on the spray, 
More blue than her eye, human eye never saw. 
Deceit never lurk'd in its beautiful ray, — 
Dear lady, I drink to you, slainthe go hragh ! 



THE FAIR-HAIR'D GIRL. 

IRISH SONG. 

The sun has set, the stars are still. 
The red moon hides behind the hill ; 
The tide has left the brown beach bare. 
The birds have fled the upper air ; 
Upon her branch the lone cuckoo 
Is chaunting still her sad adieu ; 
And you, my fair-hair'd girl, must go 
Across the salt sea under woe ! 

I through love have learn'd three things, 
Sorrow, sin, and death it brings ; 

E 



50 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Yet day by day my heart within 
Dares shame and sorrow, death and sin 
Maiden, you have aim'd the dart 
RankHng in my ruin'd heart : 
Maiden, may the God above 
Grant you grace to grant me love ! 

Sweeter than the viol's string, 
And the notes that blackbirds sing ; 
Brighter than the dewdrops rare 
Is the maiden wondrous fair : 
Like the silver swans at play 
Is her neck, as bright as day ! 
Woe is me, that e'er my sight 
Dwelt on charms so deadly bright 1 



PASTHEEN FINN. 

IRISH RUSTIC SONG. 

Oh, my fair Pastheen is my heart's delight, 

Her gay hearts laughs in her blue eye bright, 

Like the apple blossom her bosom white. 

And her neck like the swan's, on a March morn bright 1 

Then, Oro, come with me ! come with me ! come* 
with me ! 

Oro, come with me ! brown girl, sweet ! 

And, oh ! I would go through snow and sleet. 

If you would come with me, brovv^n girl, sweet ! 

* The empliasis is on " come." 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 5I 

Love of my heart, my fair Pasthcen ! 

Her cheeks are red as the rose's sheen, 

But my Hps have tasted no more, I ween, 

Than the glass I drank to the heahh of my queen ! 

Then, Oro, come with me ! come with me ! come 
with me ! 

Oro, come with me ! brown girl, sweet ! 

And, oh ! I would go through snow and sleet, 

If you would come with me, brown girl, sweet ! 

Were I in the town, where's mirth and glee. 
Or 'twixt two barrels of barley bree. 
With my fair Pastheen upon my knee, 
'Tis I would drink to her pleasantly ! 

Then, Oro, come with me ! come with me ! come 
with me ! 

Oro, come with me ! brown girl, sweet ! 

And oh ! I would go through snow and sleet. 

If you would come with me, brown girl, sweet ! 

Nine nights I lay in longing and pain, 
Betwixt two bushes, beneath the rain. 
Thinking to see you, love, once again ; 
But whistle and call were all in vain ! 

Then, Oro, come with me ! come with me ! come 
with me ! 

Oro, come with me ! brown girl, sweet ! 

And, oh ! I would go through snow and sleet. 

If you would come with me, brown girl, sweet ! 

I'll leave my people, both friend and foe ; 
From all the girls in the world I'll go ; 



52 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But from you, sweetheart, oh, never ! oh, no ! 
Till I lie in the coffin, stretch'd cold and low ! 

Then, Oro, come with me ! come with me 1 come 
with me ! 

Oro, come with me ! brown girl, sweet ! 

And oh ! I would go through snow and sleet. 

If you would come with me, brown girl, sweet ! 



MOLLY ASTHORE. 

IRISH SONG. 

Oh, Mary, dear, oh, Mary, fair, 

Oh, branch of generous stem, 
White blossom of the banks of Nair, 

Though lilies grow on them ! 
You've left me sick at heart for love. 

So faint I cannot see. 
The candle swims the board above, 

I'm drunk for love of thee ! 
Oh, stately stem of maiden pride. 

My woe it is, and pain, 
That I, thus sever'd from thy side, 

The long night must remain ! 

Through all the towns of Innisfail 
I've wander'd far and wide ; 

But from Downpatrick to Kinsale, 
From Carlow to Kilbride, 

'Mong lords and dames of high degree. 
Where'er my feet have gone, 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 53 

My Mary, one to equal thee 

I've never look'd upon ; 
I live in darkness and in doubt 

Whene'er my love's away, 
But, were the blessed sun put out, 

Her shadow would make day ! 

'Tis she indeed, young bud of bliss, 

And gentle as she's fair. 
Though lily-white her bosom is, 

And sunny-bright her hair, 
And dewy-azure her blue eye, 

And rosy-red her cheek, — 
Yet brighter she in modesty, 

More beautifully meek 1 
The world's wise men from north to south 

Can never cure my pain ; 
But one kiss from her honey mouth 

Would make me whole again ! 



CASHEL OF MUNSTER. 

IRISH RUSTIC BALLAD. 

I'd wed you without herds, without money, or rich array, 
And I'd wed you on a dewy morning at day-dawn grey ; 
My bitter woe it is, love, that we are not far away 
In Cashel town, though the bare deal board were our 
marriage-bed this day ! 

Oh, fair maid, remember the green hill side. 
Remember how I hunted about the valleys wide ; 



54 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Time now has worn me ; my locks are turn'd to grey, 
The year is scarce and I am poor, but send me not, love, 
away I 

Oh, deem not my blood is of base strain, my girl. 
Oh, deem not my birth was as the birth of the churl ; 
Marry me, and prove me, and say soon you will. 
That noble blood is written on my right side still ! 

My purse holds no red gold, no coin of the silver white. 
No herds are mine to drive through the long twilight ! 
But the pretty girl that would take me, all bare though 

I be and lone, 
Oh, I'd take her with me kindly to the county Tyrone. 

Oh, my girl, I can see 'tis in trouble you are. 
And, oh, my girl, I see 'tis your people's reproach you bear : 
" I am a girl in trouble for his sake with whom I fly. 
And, oh, may no other maiden know such reproach as I ! " 



THE COOLUN. 

IRISH RUSTIC BALLAD. 

Oh, had you seen the Coolun, 

Walking down by the cuckoo's street, 
With the dew of the meadow shining 

On her milk-white twinkling feet. 
My love she is, and my cailin oge, 

And she dwells in Bal'nagar ; 
And she bears the palm of beauty bright 

From the fairest that in Erin are. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 55 

In Bal'nagar is the Coolun, 

Like the berry on the bough her cheek ; 
Bright beauty dwells for ever 

On her fair neck and ringlets sleek : 
Oh, sweeter is her mouth's soft music 

Than the lark or thrush at dawn, 
Or the blackbird in the greenwood singing 

Farewell to the setting sun. 

Rise up, my boy 1 make ready 

My horse, for I forth would ride, 
To follow the modest damsel, 

Where she walks on the green hill side : 
For, ever since our youth were we plighted, 

In faith, troth, and wedlock true — 
She is sweeter to me nine times over 

Than organ or cuckoo ! 

For, ever since my childhood 

I loved the fair and darling child ; 
But our people came between us. 

And with lucre our pure love defiled : 
Oh, my woe it is, and my bitter pain. 

And I weep it night and day. 
That the cailin hawn of my early love 

Is torn from my heart away. 

Sweetheart and faithful treasure, 

Be constant still, and true ; 
Nor for want of herds and houses 

Leave one who would ne'er leave you : 



56 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

I'll pledge you the blessed Bible, 

Without and eke within, 
That the faithful God will provide for us, 

Without thanks to kith or kin. 

Oh, love, do you remember 

When we lay all night alone. 
Beneath the ash in the winter-storm. 

When the oak wood round did groan ? 
No shelter then from the blast had we. 

The bitter blast or sleet, 
But your gown to wrap about our heads, 

And my coat round our feet. 



CEAN DUBH DEELISH.* 

IRISH SONG. 

Put your head, darling, darling, darling, 

Your darling black head my heart above ; 
Oh, mouth of honey, with the thyme for fragrance. 

Who, with heart in breast, could deny you love ? 
Oh, many and many a young girl for me is pining. 

Letting her locks of gold to the cold wind free, 
For me, the foremost of our gay young fellows ; 

But I'd leave a hundred, pure love, for thee ! 
Then put your head, darling, darling, darling. 

Your darling black head my heart above ; 
Oh, mouth of honey, with the thyme for fragrance. 

Who, with heart in breast, could deny you love } 

* Pronounced cawn dhu deelish, i.e., dear black head. 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 57 

BOATMAN'S HYMN. 

FROM THE IRISH. 

Bark that bears me through foam and squall, 
You in the storm are my castle wall : 
Though the sea should redden from bottom to top, 
From tiller to mast she takes no drop ; 
On the tide-top, the tide-top. 

Wherry aroon, my land and store ! 
On the tide-top, the tide-top, 
She is the boat can sail go leor* 

She dresses herself, and goes gliding on, 
Like a dame in her robes of the Indian lawn ; 
For God has bless'd her, gunnel and whale. 
And oh ! if you saw her stretch out to the gale, 
On the tide-top, the tide-top, etc. 

Whillan,! ahoy ! old heart of stone, 
Stooping so black o'er the beach alone, 
Answer me well — on the bursting brine 
Saw you ever a bark like mine ? 

On the tide-top, the tide-top, etc. 

Says Whillan, — " Since first I was made of stone, 
I have look'd abroad o'er the beach alone — 
But till to-day, on the bursting brine, 
Saw I never a bark like thine," 

On the tide-top, the tide-top, etc. 

* go leor, i.e., abundantly well 

t Whillan, a rock on the shore near Blacksod Harbour. 



58 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" God of the air ! " the seamen shout, 
When they see us tossing the brine about : 
" Give us the sheher of strand or rock, 
Or through and through us she goes with a shock ! " 
On the tide-top, the tide-top, 

Wherry aroon, my land and store, 
On the tide-top, the tide-top, 
She is the boat can sail go leor ! 



THE DEAR OLD AIR. 

AFTER THE IRISH. 

Misfortune's train may chase our joys, 

But not our love ; 
And I those pensive looks will prize, 

The smiles of joy above : 
Your tender looks of love shall still 

Delight and console ; 
Even though your eyes the tear-drops fill 

Beyond your love's control. 

Of troubles past we will not speak, 

Or future woe : 
Nor mark, thus leaning cheek to cheek, 

The stealing tear-drops flow : 
But I'll sing you the dear old Irish air, 

Soothing and low, 
You loved so well when, gay as fair, 

You won me long ago 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 59 

THE LAPFUL OF NUTS. 

FROM THE IRISH. 

Whene'er I see soft hazel eyes 

And nut-brown curls, 
I think of those bright days I spent 

Among the Limerick girls ; 
When up through Cratla woods I went, 

Nutting with thee ; 
And we pluck'd the glossy clustering fruit 

From many a bending tree. 

Beneath the hazel boughs we sat, 

Thou, love, and I, 
And the gather' d nuts lay in thy lap, 

Beneath thy downcast eye : 
But little we thought of the store we'd won, 

I, love, or thou ; 
For our hearts were full, and we dare not own 

The love that's spoken now. 

Oh, there's wars for willing hearts in Spain, 

And high Germanic ! 
And I'll come back, ere long, again. 

With knightly fame and fee : 
And ril come back, if I ever come back. 

Faithful to thee, 
That sat with thy white lap full of nuts 

Beneath the hazel tree. 



6o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

HOPELESS LOVE, 

FROM THE IRISH. 

Since hopeless of thy love I go, 

Some little mark of pity show ; 

And only one kind parting look bestow. 

One parting look of pity mild 

On him, through starless tempest wild, 

Who lonely hence to-night must go, exiled. 

But even rejected love can warm 
The heart through night and storm : 
And unrelenting though they be. 
Thine eyes beam life on me. 

And I will bear that look benign 

Within this darkly-troubled breast to shine. 

Though never, never can thyself, ah me, be mine ! 



THE FAIR HILLS OF IRELAND. 

OLD IRISH SONG. 

A PLENTEOUS place is Ireland for hospitable cheer, 

Uileacan duhh ! 
Where the wholesome fruit is bursting from the yellow 
barley ear ; 

Uileacan duhh ! 
There is honey in the trees where her misty vales expand. 
And her forest paths, in summer, are by falling waters 
fann'd, 



LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL. 6 1 

There is dew at high noontide there, and springs i'the 
yellow sand, 
On the fair hills of holy Ireland. 

Curl'd he is and ringletted, and plaited to the knee, 

Uileacan duhh ! 
Each captain who comes sailing across the Irish sea ; 

Uileacan duhh ! 
And I will make my journey, if life and health but stand, 
Unto that pleasant country, that fresh and fragrant strand. 
And leave your boasted braveries, your wealth and high 
command, 
For the fair hills of holy Ireland. 

Large and profitable are the stacks upon the ground, 

Uileacan duhh ! 
The butter and the cream do wondrously abound, 

Uileacan duhh ! 
The cresses on the water and the sorrels are at hand. 
And the cuckoo's calling daily his note of mimic bland. 
And the bold thrush sings so bravely his song i'the forests 
grand. 
On the fair hills of holy Ireland. 



62 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 



Ballads and Poems 



THE FAIRY THORN. 

AN ULSTER BALLAD. 

"Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning-wheel ; 

For your father's on the hill, and your mother is asleep : 
Come up above the crags, and we'll dance a highland reel 

Around the fairy thorn on the steep." 

At Anna Grace's door 'twas thus the maidens cried, 
Three merry maidens fair in kirtles of the green ; 

And Anna laid the rock and the weary wheel aside, 
The fairest of the four, I ween. 

They're glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve. 
Away in milky wavings of neck and ankle bare ; 

The heavy-sliding stream in its sleepy song they leave. 
And the crags in the ghostly air : 

And linking hand and hand, and singing as they go, 
The maids along the hill-side have ta'en their fearless 
way. 
Till they come to where the rowan trees in lonely beauty 
grow 
Beside the Fairy Hawthorn grey. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 63 

The Hawthorn stands between the ashes tall and slim, 
Like matron with her twin grand-daughters at her knee ; 

The rowan berries cluster o'er her low head grey and dim 
In ruddy kisses sweet to see. 

The merry maidens four have ranged them in a row, 
Between each lovely couple a stately rowan stem, 

And away in mazes wavy, like skimming birds they go, 
Oh, never caroll'd bird like them ! 

But solemn is the silence of the silvery haze 
That drinks away their voices in echoless repose. 

And dreamily the evening has still'd the haunted braes. 
And dreamier the gloaming grows. 

And sinking one by one, like lark-notes from the sky 
When the falcon's shadow saileth across the open shaw, 

Are hush'd the maiden's voices, as cowering down they lie 
In the flutter of their sudden awe. 

For, from the air above, and the grassy ground beneath. 
And from the mountain-ashes and the old whitethorn 
between, 
A Power of faint enchantment doth through their beings 
breathe, 
And they sink down together on the green. 

They sink together silent, and stealing side to side. 
They fling their lovely arms o'er their drooping necks 
so fair. 

Then vainly strive again their naked arms to hide, 
For their shrinking necks again are bare. 



64 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Thus clasp'd and prostrate all, with their heads together 
bow'd, 
Soft o'er their bosoms' beating — the only human 
sound — 
They hear the silky footsteps of the silent fairy crowd, 
Like a river in the air, gliding round 

No scream can any raise, nor prayer can any say, 
But wild, wild, the terror of the speechless three — 

For they feel fair Anna Grace drawn silently away, 
By whom they dare not look to see. 

They feel their tresses twine with her parting locks of 
gold, 

And the curls elastic falling, as her head withdraws ; 
They feel her sliding arms from their tranced arms unfold, 

But they may not look to see the cause : 

For heavy on their senses the faint enchantment lies 
Through all that night of anguish and perilous amaze ; 

And neither fear nor wonder can ope their quivering eyes 
Or their limbs from the cold ground raise, 

Till out of night the earth has roll'd her dewy side. 
With every haunted mountain and streamy vale below ; 

When, as the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide, 
The maidens' trance dissolveth so. 

Then fly the ghastly three as swiftly as they may. 
And tell their tale of sorrow to anxious friends in vain — ■ 

They pined away and died within the year and day, 
And ne'er was Anna Grace seen again. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 65 



WILLY GILLILAND. 

AN ULSTER BALLAD. 



Up in the mountain solitudes, and in a rebel ring, 
He has worshipp'd God upon the hill, in spite of church 

and king ; 
And seal'd his treason with his blood on Bothvvell bridge 

he hath ; 
So he must fly his father's land, or he must die the 

death ; 
For comely Claverhouse has come along with grim 

Dalzell, 
And his smoking rooftree testifies they've done their 

errand well. 

In vain to fly his enemies he fled his native land ; 

Hot persecution waited him upon the Carrick strand ; 

His name was on the Carrick cross, a price was on his 

head, 
A fortune to the man that brings him in alive or dead ! 
And so on moor and mountain, from the Lagan to the 

Bann, 
From house to house, and hill to hill, he lurk'd an out- 

law'd man. 

At last, when in false company he might no longer bide 
He stay'd his houseless wanderings upon the Collon side, 
There in a cave all underground he lair'd his heathy 

den, 
Ah, many a gentleman was fain to earth like hill fox 

then! 



66 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

With hound and fishing-rod he Hved on hill and stream 

by day ; 
At night, betwixt his fleet greyhound and his bonny mare 

he lay. 

It was a summer evening, and, mellowing and still, 
Glenwhirry to the setting sun lay bare from hill to hill ; 
For all that valley pastoral held neither house nor tree, 
But spread abroad and open all, a full fair sight to see, 
From Slemish foot to Collon top lay one unbroken green. 
Save where in many a silver coil the river glanced between. 

And on the river's grassy bank, even from the morning 

grey, 
He at the angler's pleasant sport had spent the summer 

day : 
Ah ! many a time and oft I've spent the summer day 

from dawn, 
And wonder'd, when the sunset came, where time and 

care had gone, 
Along the reaches curling fresh, the wimpling pools and 

streams, 
Where he that day his cares forgot in those delightful 

dreams. 

His blithe work done, upon a bank the outlaw rested now, 
And laid the basket from his back, the bonnet from his 

brow ; 
And there, his hand upon the Book, his knee upon the 

sod. 
He fiU'd the lonely valley with the gladsome word of God ; 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 67 

And for a persecuted kirk, and for her martyrs dear, 
And against a godless church and king he spoke up loud 
and clear. 



And now, upon his homeward way, he cross'd the Collon 

high. 
And over bush and bank and brae he sent abroad his eye ; 
But all was darkening peacefully in grey and purple haze, 
The thrush was silent in the banks, the lark upon the 

braes — 
When suddenly shot up a blaze, from the cave's mouth 

it came ; 
And trooper's steeds and trooper's caps are glancing in 

the same ! 

He couch' d among the heather, and he saw them, as he 

lay. 
With three long yells at parting, ride lightly east away : 
Then down with heavy heart he came, to sorry cheer 

came he. 
For ashes black were crackling where the green whins 

used to be. 
And stretch'd among the prickly coomb, his heart's blood 

smoking round. 
From slender nose to breast-bone cleft, lay dead his 

good greyhound ! 

" They've slain my dog, the Philistines ! they've ta'en 

my bonny mare ! " — 
He plung'd into the smoky hole ; no bonny beast was 

there — 



68 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

He groped beneath his burning bed, (it burn'd him to the 

bone,) 
Where his good weapon used to be, but broadsword 

there was none ; 
He reel'd out of the stifling den, and sat down on a 

stone, 
And in the shadows of the night 'twas thus he made his 

moan — 

" I am a houseless outcast ; I have neither bed nor board. 
Nor living thing to look upon, nor comfort save the Lord : 
Yet many a time were better men in worse extremity ; 
Who succour' d them in their distress. He now will succour 

me, — 
He now will succour me, I know ; and, by His holy Name, 
I'll make the doers of this deed right dearly rue the same ! 

" My bonny mare ! I've ridden you when Claver'se rode 

behind, 
And from the thumbscrew and the boot you bore me 

like the wind ; 
And, while I have the life you saved, on your sleek flank, 

I swear, 
Episcopalian rowel shall never ruflile hair ! 
Though sword to wield they've left me none — yet Wallace 

wight, I wis, 
Good battle did on Irvine side wi' waur weapon than this." 

His fishing-rod with both hands he gripped it as he spoke, 
And, where the butt and top were spliced, in pieces twain 
he broke ; 



BALLADS AND POEMS 69 

The limber top he cast away, with all its gear abroad, 
But, grasping the tough hickory butt, with spike of 

iron shod. 
He ground the sharp spear to a point ; then pull'd his 

bonnet down, 
And, meditating black revenge, set forth for Carrick 

town. 

The sun shines bright on Carrick wall and Carrick Castle 

grey, 
And up thine aisle, St. Nicholas, has ta'en his morning 

way, 
And to the North-Gate sentinel displayeth far and 

near 
Sea, hill, and tower, and all thereon, in dewy freshness 

clear. 
Save where, behind a ruin'd wall, himself alone to 

view. 
Is peering from the ivy green a bonnet of the blue. 

The sun shines red on Carrick wall and Carrick Castle 

old. 
And all the western buttresses have changed their grey 

for gold ; 
And from thy shrine, St. Nicholas, the pilgrim of the 

sky 
Has gone in rich farewell, as fits such royal votary ; 
But, as his last red glance he takes down past black 

Slieve-a-true, 
He leaveth where he found it first, the bonnet of the 

blue 



7© POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Again he makes the turrets grey stand out before the hill ; 
Constant as their foundation rock, there is the bonnet 

still ! 
And now the gates are open'd, and forth in gallant show 
Prick jeering grooms and burghers blythe, and troopers 

in a row ; 
But one has little care for jest, so hard bested is he, 
To ride the outlaw's bonny mare, for this at last is she ! 

Down comes her master with a roar, her rider with a 

groan, 
The iron and the hickory are through and through him 

gone ! 
He lies a corpse ; and where he sat, the outlaw sits again. 
And once more to his bonny mare he gives the spur and 

rein ; 
Then some with sword, and some with gun, they ride and 

run amain ; 
But sword and gun, and whip and spur, that day they 

plied in vain ! 

Ah ! little thought Willy Gilliland, when he on Skerry 

side 
Drew bridle first, and wiped his brow after that weary 

ride. 
That where he lay like hunted brute, a cavern'd outlaw 

lone, 
Broad lands and yeoman tenantry should yet be there his 

own : 
Yet so it was ; and still from him descendants not a few 
Draw birth and lands and, let me trust, draw love of 

Freedom too. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 7 1 

THE FORGING OF THE ANCHOR 

Come, see the Dolphin's anchor forged — 'tis at a white 

heat now : 
The bellows ceased, the flames decreased though on the 

forge's brow 
The little flames still fitfully play through the sable 

mound, 
And fitfully you still may see the grim smiths ranking 

round, 
All clad in leathern panoply, their broad hands only bare : 
Some rest upon their sledges here, some work the windlass 

there. 

The windlass strains the tackle chains, the black mound 

heaves below, 
And red and deep a hundred veins burst out at every 

throe : 
It rises, roars, rends all outright — O, Vulcan, what a 

glow ! 
'Tis blinding white, 'tis blasting bright — the high sun 

shines not so ! 
The high sun sees not, on the earth, such fiery fearful 

show, 
The roof-ribs swarth, the candent hearth, the ruddy lurid 

row 
Of smiths that stand, an ardent band, like men before 

the foe, 
As, quivering through his fleece of flame, the sailing 

monster, slow 
Sinks on the anvil : — all about the faces fiery grow ; 



72 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

" Hurrah ! " they shout, " leap out — leap out ; " bang, 

bang the sledges go : 
Hurrah ! the jetted lightnings are hissing high and low — 
A hailing fount of fire is struck at every squashing blow ; 
The leathern mail rebounds the hail, the rattling cinders 

strow 
The ground around ; at every bound the sweltering foun- 
tains flow. 
And thick and loud the s winking crowd at every stroke 

pant " ho ! " 
Leap out, leap out, my masters ; leap out and lay on load ! 
Let's forge a goodly anchor — a bower thick and broad ; 
For a heart of oak is hanging on every blow, I bode : 
I see the good ship riding all in a perilous road — 
The low reef roaring on her lee — the roll of ocean pour'd 
From stem to stern, sea after sea, the mainmast by the 

board, 
The bulwarks down, the rudder gone, the boats stove at 

the chains ! 
But courage still, brave mariners — the bower yet remains, 
And not an inch to flinch he deigns, save when ye pitch 

sky high ; 
Then moves his head, as though he said, " Fear nothing — 

here am L" 
Swing in your strokes in order, let foot and hand keep 

time ; 
Your blows make music sweeter far than any steeple's 

chime : 
But, while you sling your sledges, sing^and let the 

burthen be. 
The anchor is the anvil-king, and royal craftsmen we ! 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 73 

Strike in, strike in — the sparks begin to dull their rustling 

red ; 
Our hammers ring with sharper din, our work will soon 

be sped. 
Our anchor soon must change his bed of fiery rich array, 
For a hammock at the roaring bows, or an oozy couch of 

clay ; 
Our anchor soon must change the lay of merry craftsmen 

here. 
For the yeo-heave-o', and the heave-away, and the sighing 

seaman's cheer ; 
When, weighing slow, at eve they go— far, far from love 

and home ; 
And sobbing sweethearts, in a row, wail o'er the ocean 

foam. 

In livid and obdurate gloom he darkens down at last : 
A shapely one he is, and strong, as e'er from cat was 

cast : 
O trusted and trustworthy guard, if thou hadst life like 

me, 
What pleasures would thy toils reward beneath the deep 

green sea ! 
O deep-Sea-diver, who might then behold such sights 

as thou ? 
The hoary monster's palaces ! methinks what joy 'twere 

now 
To go plumb plunging down amid the assembly of the 

whales, 
And feel the churn'd sea round me boil beneath their 

scourging tails ! 



74 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Then deep in tangle-woods to fight the fierce sea 

unicorn, 
And send him foil'd and bellowing back, for all his ivory 

horn : 
To leave the subtle sworder-fish of bony blade forlorn ; 
And for the ghastly-grinning shark, to laugh his jaws to 

scorn : 
To leap down on the kraken's back, where 'mid Norwe- 
gian isles 
He lies, a lubber anchorage for sudden shallow'd miles ; 
Till snorting, like an under-sea volcano, off he rolls ; 
Meanwhile to swing, a-buffeting the far astonished 

shoals 
Of his back-browsing ocean-calves ; or, haply, in a 

cove, 
Shell-strown, and consecrate of old to some Undine's 

love, 
To find the long-hair'd mermaidens ; or, hard by icy 

lands. 
To wrestle with the Sea-serpent, upon cerulean sands. 

O broad-arm'd Fisher of the deep, whose sports can equal 

thine ? 
The Dolphin weighs a thousand tons, that tugs thy cable 

line ; 
And night by night, 'tis thy delight, thy glory day by 

day. 
Through sable sea and breaker white the giant game to 

play- 
But shamer of our little sports ! forgive the name I gave — 
A fisher's joy is to destroy — thine office is to save. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 75 

O lodger in the sea-kings' halls, couldst thou but under- 
stand 

Whose be the white bones by thy side, or who that 
dripping band, 

Slow swaying in the heaving wave, that round about thee 
bend, 

With sounds like breakers in a dream blessing their ancient 
friend — 

Oh, couldst thou know what heroes glide with larger 
steps round thee, 

Thine iron side would swell with pride ; thou'dst leap 
within the sea ! 

Give honour to their memories who left the pleasant 
strand, 

To shed their blood so freely for the love of Father- 
land — 

Who left their chance of quiet age and grassy churchyard 
grave, 

Sa freely, for a restless bed amid the tossing wave — 

Oh, though our anchor may not be all I have fondly 
sung, 

Honour him for their memory, whose bones he goes 
among ! 



THE PRETTY GIRL OF LOCH DAN 

The shades of eve had cross'd the glen 
That frowns o'er infant Avonmore, 

When, nigh Loch Dan, two weary men, 
We stopp'd before a cottage door. 



76 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" God save all here," my comrade cries, 
And rattles on the raised latch-pin ; 

"^ God save you kindly," quick replies 
A clear sweet voice, and asks us in. 

We enter ; from the wheel she starts, 
A rosy girl with soft black eyes ; 

Her fluttering court'sy takes our hearts, 
Her blushing grace and pleased surprise 

Poor Mary, she was quite alone, 
For, all the way to Glenmalure, 

Her mother had that morning gone 
And left the house in charge with her. 

But neither household cares, nor yet 
The shame that startled virgins feel, 

Could make the generous girl forget 
Her wonted hospitable zeal. 

She brought us in a beechen bowl 

Sweet milk that smack'd of mountain thyme, 

Oat cake, and such a yellow roll 
Of butter — it gilds all my rhyme ! 

And, while we ate the grateful food, 
(With weary limbs on bench reclined,) 

Considerate and discreet, she stood 
Apart, and listen'd to the wind. 

Kind wishes both our souls engaged. 
From breast to breast spontaneous ran 

The mutual thought — we stood and pledged 
The Modest Rose above Loch Dan. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 77 

" The milk we drink is not more pure, 
Sweet Mary — bless those budding charms ! 

Than your own generous heart, I'm sure, 
Nor whiter than the breast it warms ! " 

She turn'd and gazed, unused to hear 
Such language in that homely glen ; 

But, Mary, you have nought to fear, 

Though smiled on by two stranger men. 

Not for a crown would I alarm 

Your virgin pride by word or sign, 

Nor need a painful blush disarm 

My friend of thoughts as pure as mine. 

Her simple heart could not but feel 

The words we spoke were free from guile ; 

She stoop'd, she blush'd — she fix'd her wheel, 
'Tis all in vain — she can't but smile ! 

Just like sweet April's dawn appears 

Her modest face — I see it yet — 
And though I lived a hundred years, 

Methinks I never could forget. 

The pleasure that, despite her heart. 
Fills all her downcast eyes with light, 

The lips reluctantly apart, 

The white teeth struggling into sight. 

The dimples eddying o'er her cheek, — 
The rosy cheek that won't be still ! — 

Oh ! who could blame what flatterers speak, 
Did smiles like this reward their skill ? 



jS POEMS BY SIR S-VMUEL FERGUSON. 

For such another smile, I vow, 

Though loudly beats the midnight rain, 

I'd take the mountain-side e'en now, 
And walk to Luggelaw again ! 



ADIEU TO BRITTANY. 

Rugged land of the granite and oak, 

I depart with a sigh from thy shore, 
And with kinsman's affection a blessing invoke 

On the maids and the men of Arvor. 

For the Irish and Breton are kin, 

Though the lights of Antiquity pale 
In the point of the dawn where the partings begin 

Of the Bolg, and the Kymro, and Gael. 

But, though dim in the distance of time 
Be the low-burning beacons of fame, 

Holy Nature attests us, in writing sublime, 
On heart and on visage, the same. 

In the dark-eye-lash'd eye of blue-grey. 

In the open look, modest and kind, 
In the face's fine oval reflecting the play 

Of the sensitive, generous mind. 

Till, as oft as by meadow and stream 
With thy Maries and Josephs I roam. 

In companionship gentle and friendly I seem, 
As with Patrick and Brigid at home. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 79 

Green, meadow-fresh, streamy-bright land ! 

Though greener meads, valleys as fair. 
Be at home, yet the home-yearning heart will demand, 

Are they blest as in Brittany there ? 

Demand not — repining is vain : 

Yet, would God, that even as thou 
In thy homeliest homesteads, contented Bretagne, 

Were the green isle my thoughts are with now ! 

But I call thee not golden : let gold 

Deck the coronal troubadours twine, 
Where the waves of the Loire and Garomna are roll'd 

Through the land of the white wheat and vine, 

And the fire of the Frenchman goes up 
To the quick- thoughted, dark-flashing eye : 

While Glory and Change quaffing Luxury's cup, 
Challenge all things below and on high. 

Leave to him — to the vehement man 

Of the Loire, of the Seine, of the Rhone, — 

In the Idea's high pathways to march in the van, 
To o'erthrow, and set up the o'erthrown : 

Be it thine in the broad beaten ways 

That the world's simple seniors have trod. 

To walk with soft steps, living peaceable days, 
And on earth not forgetful of God. 

Nor repine that thy lot has been cast 

With the things of the old time before. 
For to thee are committed the keys of the past. 

Oh grey monumental Arvor ! 



8o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Yes, land of the great Standing Stones, 

It is thine at thy feet to survey, 
From thy earlier shepherd-kings' sepulchre-thrones 

The giant, far-stretching array ; 

Where, abroad o'er the gorse-cover'd lande 
Where, along by the slow-breaking wave, 

The hoary, inscrutable sentinels stand 
In their night-watch by History's grave. 

Preserve them, nor fear for thy charge ; 

From the prime of the morning they sprung. 
When the works of young Mankind were lasting and large, 

As the will they embodied was young. 

I have stood on Old Sarum :* the sun, 

With a pensive regard from the west. 
Lit the beech-tops low down in the ditch of the Dun, 

Lit the service-trees high on its crest : 

But the walls of the Roman were shrunk 

Into morsels of ruin around. 
And palace of monarch, and minster of monk, 

Were effaced from the grassy-foss'd ground. 

Like bubbles in ocean, they melt, 

O Wilts, on thy long-rolling plain. 
And at last but the works of the hand of the Celt 

And the sweet hand of Nature remain. 

Even so : though, portentous and strange. 
With a rumour of troublesome sounds, 

* Sorbiodunum, i.e., Service-tree-fort. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 8 1 

On his iron way gliding, the Angel of Change 
Spread his dusky wings wide o'er thy bounds, — 

He will pass : there'll be grass on his track, 

And the pick of the miner in vain 
Shall search the dark void : while the stones of Carnac 

And the word of the Breton remain. 

Farewell : up the waves of the Ranee, 

See, we stream back our pennon of smoke ; 

Farewell, russet skirt of the fine robe of France, 
Rugged land of the granite and oak ! 



WESTMINSTER ABBEY, 

ON HEARING WEEK-DAY SERVICE THERE, SEPTEMBER, 1858. 

From England's gilded halls of state 
I cross'd the Western Minster's gate, 
And, 'mid the tombs of England's dead, 
I heard the Holy Scriptures read. 

The walls around and pillar'd piers 
Had stood well-nigh seven hundred years ; 
The words the priest gave forth had stood 
Since Christ, and since before the Flood. 

A thousand hearts around partook 
The comfort of the Holy Book ; 
Ten thousand suppliant hands were spread 
In lifted stone above my head 

6 



82 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

In dust decay'd the hands are gone 

That fed and set the builders on ; 

In heedless dust the fingers lie 

That hew'd and heav'd the stones on high ; 

And back to earth and air resolv'd 

The brain that plann'd and pois'd the vault :- 

But undecay'd, erect, and fair, 

To heaven ascends the builded Prayer, 

With majesty of strength and size, 
With glory of harmonious dyes. 
With holy airs of heavenward thought 
From floor to roof divinely fraught. 

Fall down, ye bars : enlarge, my soul ! 
To heart's content take in the whole ; 
And, spurning pride's injurious thrall. 
With loyal love embrace them all ! 

Yet hold not lightly home ; nor yet 
The graves on Dunagore forget ; 
Nor grudge the stone-gilt stall to change 
For humble bench of Gorman's Grange. 

The self-same Word bestows its cheer 
On simple creatures there as here ; 
And thence, as hence, poor souls do rise 
In social flight to common skies. 

For in the Presence vast and good, 
That bends o'er all our livelihood, 
With humankind in heavenly cure. 
We all are like, we all are poor. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 83 

His poor, be sure, shall never want 
For service meet or seemly chant, 
And for the Gospel's joyful sound 
A fitting place shall still be found ; 

Whether the organ's solemn tones 

Thrill through the dust of warriors' bones, 

Or voices of the village choir 

From swallow-haunted eaves aspire, 

Or, sped with healing on its wings. 
The Word solicit ears of kings, 
Or stir the souls, in moorland glen, 
Of kingless covenanted men. 

Enough for thee, indulgent Lord, 
The willing ear to hear Thy Word, — 
The rising of the'burthen'd breast — 
And thou suppliest all the rest 



THE MORNING'S HINGES. 

Where the Morning's hinges turn, 
Where the fires of sunset burn, 
Where the Pole its burthen weighty 
Whirls around the starry hall ; 
Beings, wheresoe'er ye are. 
Ether, vapour, comet, star, 
There art Thou, Lord God Almighty, 
Thou that mad'st and keep'st them all. 



84 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Where, on earth, battaHoned foes 
In the deadly combat close ; 
Where the plagues have made their stations, 
Dropped from Heaven's distempered air ; 
Where within the human breast. 
Rising hints of thought suggest 
Sin's insane hallucinations, 
Dread One, Thou art also there. 

most Mighty, O most High, 
Past Thought's compass, what am I 
That should dare Thy comprehending 
In this narrow, shallow brain ? 
Yea, but Thou hast given a Soul 
Well capacious of the whole, 

And a Conscience ever tending 
Right- ward, surely not in vain. 

Yea, I'd hinder, if I could, 

Wrath and pain and spilling blood ; 

1 would tell the cannon loaded 

" Fire not " ! and the sabre stay 
Mid-cut ; but the matter brute 
Owns its own law absolute ; 
And the grains will be exploded, 
And the driven iron slay. 

Deaf the nitre ; deaf the steel : 
And, if I the Man appeal, 
Answer Soldier and Commander, 
" We, blind engines, even as these. 



BALLADS AND POEMS 85 

Do but execute His plan, 
Working since the world began, 
Towards some consummation grander 
Than your little mind can seize." 

What ! does all, then, end in this, 
That, amid a world amiss, 
Man must ever be put parcel- 
Imperfection ? and the soul 
Ever thus on poise between 
Things contrarient, rest, a mean 
Averaged of the universal 
Good and ill that make the whole ? 

No, a something cries within ; 
No ; I am not of your kin. 
Broods of evil ! all the forces 
Of my nature answer No ! 
Though the world be overspread 
With the riddle still unread 
Of your being, of your sources, 
This with sense supreme I know ; 

That, behoves me, and I can. 

Work within the inner man 

Such a weeding, such a cleansing 

Of this moss-grown home-plot here. 

As shall make its herbage meet 

For the soles of angels' feet. 

And its blooms for eyes dispensing 

Light of Heaven's own atmosphere. 



86 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Yea, what thou hast last advanced, 
Creature, verily thou canst." 
(Hark, the Master !) "Up. Bestir thee ; 
And, that thou may'st find the way, 
Things inscrutable laid by. 
Be content to know that I, 
Hoping, longing, waiting for thee, 
Stand beside thee, every day." 

Lord, and is it Thou, indeed, 
Takest pity on my need, 
Who nor symbol show nor token 
Vouching aught of right in me ? 
"I, dear soul," the Master said, 
" Come to some through broken bread; 
Come to some through message spoken ; 
Come in pure, free grace to thee." 



BIRD AND BROOK. 

Bird that pipest on the bough, 
Would that I could sing as thou ; 
Runnel gurgling on beneath. 
Would I owned thy liquid breath ; 
I would make a lovely lay 
Worthy of the pure-bright day — 

Worthy of the freshness spread 
Round my path and o'er my head ; 
Of the unseen airs that rise 
Incensing the morning skies 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 87 

As from opening buds they spring 
In the dew's evanishing — 

Brighter yet, and even more clear 
Than that blue encasing sphere, 
Worthy of the gentle eyes 
Opening on this paradise, 
With their inner heavens as deep, 
Fresh from youth's enchanted sleep — 

Worthy of the voices sweet 
That my daily risings greet. 
And, to even-song addressed, 
Ere we lay us down to rest. 
Lift my spirit's laggard weight 
Half-way to the heavenly gate — 

I would make it with a dance 
Of the rhythmic utterance, 
With a gambit and retreat 
Of the counter-trilling feet 
And a frolic of the tone 
To the song-bird only known. 

With a soft transfusing fall 
Would I make my madrigal, 
Full as rills that, as they pass. 
Shake the springing spikes of grass, 
And that ample under-speech 
Only nmning waters reach. 

I would sing it loud and v/ell. 
Till the spirits of Amabel, 



88 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And of Ethel, from their nests, 
Caught with new deUcious zests 
Of the soul's life out-of-door. 
Forth should peep, and crave for more. 

But, because I own not these, 
Oh, ye mountains and ye trees, 
Oh, ye tracts of heavenly air. 
Voices sweet, and sweet eyes fair 
Of my darlings, ye must rest 
In my rhyme but half-expressed 

Yea, and if I had them all. 
Voice of bird and brook at call. 
And could speak as winds in woods 
Or with tumult of the floods. 
Yet a theme there would remain 
I should still essay in vain. 

For my soul would strive to raise, 
If it might, a song of praise, 
I All unworthy though it were, 

To the Maker of the air. 
To the Giver of the life 
Breathing round me joyous-rife — 

Giver of that general joy 
Brightening face of girl and boy, 
Sender of those soul-reliefs 
Hidden in our boons of griefs. 
Lest with surfeit and excess 
We surcharge life's blessedness 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 89 

Such a lay to frame aright, 
Waft me to some mountain-height 
Far from man's resort, and bring. 
From the world's environing, 
All that lives of sweet and strong 
To the dressing of the song. 

I would clothe its mighty words 
With the lowings of the herds 
Loosed to pasture ; with the shout 
Of the monsoon bursting out 
Past the Himalayan flanks 
O'er the empty Indian tanks. 

With a noise of many waves 
Would I fill the sounding staves ; 
Yea, the great sea-monsters make 
Of my rapture to partake. 
Till their gambollings they'd lend 
To the hymn's triumphant end. 

But, Oh God, at thought of Thee 

And of Thine immensity. 

All my fancy's gathered powers 

Droop and faint as summer flowers 

By the high meridian sun 

In his glory glanced upon. 

And behold, this earth we tread. 
Though the thin film o'er it spread, 
Called by men the atmosphere, 
Thrill with life's vibrations clear, 



90 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Yet achieves its ordered round 
Through the heavens, without a sound 

And the v^^orlds that further are 
Hold no converse, star with star ; 
And the comets speeding hither 
Through the parted deeps of ether. 
Teach through all their lives of law 
Silence is the speech of awe. 

So, in awe and wonder mute. 
Let the throstle's warbling flute 
And the stream's melodious babble 
Hint the thoughts unutterable, 
Till Himself do touch the wire 
Of another David's lyre. 



THREE THOUGHTS. 

Come in, Sweet Thought, come in ; 

Why linger at the door ? 
Is it because a shape of sin 

Defiled the place before ? 
'Twas but a moment there ; 

I chased it soon away ; 
Behold, my breast is clean and bare — 

Come in, Sweet Thought, and stay. 
The Sweet Thought said me " No ; 

I love not such a room ; 
Where uncouth inmates come and go. 

And back, unbidden, come. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 9] 

I rather make my cell 

From ill resort secure, 
Where love and lovely fancies dwell 

In bosoms virgin-pure." 

Oh, Pure Thought, then said I 

Come thou, and bring with thee 
This dainty Sweetness, fancy-bred, 

That flouts my house and me. 
No peevish pride hast thou. 

Nor turnest glance of scorn 
On aught the laws of life allow 

In man of woman born. 
Said he, " No place for us 

Is here : and, be it known, 
You dwell where ways are perilous 

For them that walk alone. 
There needs the surer road, 

The fresher-sprinkled floor, 
Else are we not for your abode " : 

And turned him from my door. 

Then, in my utmost need. 

Oh, Holy Thought, I cried, 
Come thou, that cleansest will and deed. 

And in my breast abide. 
" Yea, sinner, that will I, 

And presently begin " ; 
And ere the heart had heav'd its sigh, 

The Guest Divine came in. 
As in the pest-house vvard 

The prompt Physician stands. 



92 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As in the leagur'd castle yard 
The Warden with his bands, 

He stood, and said, " My task 
Is here and here my home ; 

And here am I who only ask 
That I be asked to come." 

See how in huddling flight 

The ranks of darkness run, 
Exhale and perish in the light 

Stream' d from the risen sun ; 
How, but a drop infuse 

Within the turbid bowl. 
Of some elixir's virtuous juice. 

It straight makes clear the whole ; 
So from before his face 

The fainting phantoms went. 
And, in a fresh and sunny place, 

My soul sat down content ; 
For — mark and understand 

My ailment and my cure — 
Love came and brought me, in his hand. 

The Sweet Thought and the Pure. 



THREE SEASONS. 

My breast was as a briary brake 
I lacked the rake and shears to trim ; 

Or like a deep, weed-tangl'd lake, 

Where man can neither wade nor swim : 



BALLADS AND POEMS 93 

So full of various discontent 

At things I had not height to span, 

Nor breadth nor depth to comprehend, 
It seemed as though creation's end 
Were but enigma, and God's plan 
One knotted, hard entanglement. 

Oh ! glad the morning light we greet, 

That shows the pathway newly found ; 
And grateful to the oaring feet 

The touch, at last, of solid ground. 
A breath : behold in clearer air. 

The path surmounts the mountain sides ; 
A touch : the knots asunder fall ; 
And from the smooth uncoiling ball, 

With easy play the shuttle glides 
To weave the robe the righteous wear. 

Ah me ! for such a robe unfit, 

How shall I let my face be shown, 
Or venture at the feet to sit 

Of them that sit around the Throne ? 
He who upon the darken'd eyes 

Has breathed, and touched the chords within, 
Will order all aright. Till then. 
Here let me, in the ways of men, 

Walk meekly ; and essay to win 
The righteous joy this life supplies. 



94 POEMS BY SIR S\MUEL FERGUSON. 

THE HYMN OF THE FISHERMEN. 

To God give foremost praises, 

Who, 'neath the rolling tides, 
In ocean's secret places, 

Our daily bread provides ; 
Who in His pasture grazes 

The flat fish and the round. 
And makes the herring maces 

In shoaling heaps abound. 

Who, in the hour of trial, 

When, down the rattling steep 
The tempest's wrathful vial 

Is poured upon the deep. 
Gives courage, calm and steady, 

Through every form of fear, 
And makes our fingers ready 

To hand, and reef, and steer. 

Who, when through drift and darkness 

The reeling hooker flies. 
And rocks, in ridgy starkness. 

Athwart our bows arise, 
Prompt to the helm's commanding. 

Brings round the swerving tree, 
Till, into harbour standing. 

We anchor safe and free 

And, great and small sufficing, 

Before that equal law. 
That rules the sun's uprising. 

And makes the mainsail draw, 



BALLADS AND POEMS 95 

Brings round his erring creatures 

To seek salvation's ways, 
By laws surpassing Nature's — 

To God give foremost praise. 



THE WIDOW'S CLOAK. 

There's a widow Lady worthy of a word of kindly tone 
From all who love good Neighbourhood, and true alle- 
giance own 
To motherly Humanity in love and sorrow tried, 
Who lives some season of the year 

Adown Dee-side. 

To her sister in the cottage, to the Highland hut, comes 

she ; 
She takes the old wife by the hand, she shares her cup 

of tea ; 
She loves the lowly people : years of life have taught her 

well. 
In God's great household, they, the bulk 

Of inmates, dwell. 

She loves the Highland nature ; and, the Dalriad deeps 

beyond, 
To every pressure of her palm the Irish hearts respond. 
What though we seldom see her St. Patrick's Hall within, 
The Gael her presence yearly cheers 

Are kith and kin. 



96 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The Castle of Balmoral stands proudly on its hill ; 
This simple widow Lady has a finer castle still, — 
Where hill-big keep and chapel soar up the southern sky, 
Above the woods of Windsor, 

And Thames swells by. 

The iron castles on the shore that sentry Portsea beach — 
The iron castles on the sea, their guns a shipload each 
That ride at Spithead anchorage — the ordnance great and 

small. 
Of Woolwich and of London Tower, 

She owns them all. 

Ten thousands are her men-at-call, that ride in golden 

spurs ; 
The citied margins of the seas, half round the world, are 

hers ; 
The mightiest monarchs fain to sit at her right hand are 

seen : 
For she's the Queen of the Three-Joined-Realm. 

God save the Queen 1 

And sons she has, good plenty, and daughters, if need were 
For issue of the lawful line, to sit Saint Edward's chair : 
But God has filled the quiver ; and, with countenance 

elate, 
He, next in awful right, may speak 

His foe in gate. 

With Denmark's gracious daughter, at head of that array — 
Our darling, ever welcome as flowers that come in May — 



BALLADS AND POEMS. 97 

God, shield the precious creature beneath Thy angels' 

wings, 
And send her lovely nature 

Down lines of Kings ! 



Fine men the princely brothers ; and time is coming, 

when. 
By sea and land, they all may show that they are manly 

men ; 
Alert, at clear-eyed Honour's call, to give their duty-day 
Afield — on deck — in battery — 

Come who come may. 



Now mark you, Kings and Emperors who rule this peopled 

ball 
That nourishes us, man and beast, and graveward bears 

us all. 
The blood of horses and of men, and lives of men, will 

lie 
Main heavy on their souls that break 

Her amity. 

Victoria's sheltering mantle is over India spread ; 
Who dare to touch the garment's hem, look out for men 

in red : 
Look out for gun and tumbril a-crash through mound 

and hedge. 
For shot and shell and Sheffield shear — 

Steel, point and edge ! 

H 



98 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The fires are banked ; in road and port the seaman-heart 

swells large ; 
The horses from the Irish fields are champing for the 

charge ; 
Stand back ! keep off ! the changing cheek of Peace has 

lost its smile, 
And grave her eyes, and grave her prayer, 

To heaven the while : — ■ 

" Maker, Preserver of Mankind, and Saviour that Thou 

art. 
Assuage the rage of wrathful men ; bring down their 

haughty heart ; 
Or, if not so Thy holy will — suppress the idle sigh, 
And God Sabaoth be the name 

We know Thee by ! " 



PAUL VERONESE. 

They err who say this long-withdrawing line 
Of palace-fronts Palladian, this brocade 
From looms of Genoa, this gold-inlaid 

Resplendent plate of Milan, that combine 

To spread soft lustre through the grand design, 
Show but in fond factitious masquerade 
The actual feast by leper Simon made 

For that great Guest, of old, in Palestine. 

Christ walks amongst us still ; at liberal table 
Scorns not to sit : no sorrowing Magdalene 
But of these dear feet kindly gets her kiss 



BALLADS AND POKMS. 99 

Now, even as then ; and thou, be honorable. 
Who, by the might of thy majestic scene, 

Bringest down that age and minglest it with this. 



THE LITTLE MAIDEN. 

Little maiden, in the rain, 

On the mountain road, 
Never bloom of healthier grain 

On a wet cheek glowed ; 
Never active little feet 
Hastened footsteps more discreet. 

Plain it is it was not play 
Brought thee out of doors, 

This tempestuous autumn day. 
O'er the windy moors : 

Something thou hast had to do, 

Deemed of trust and moment too. 

Now, the errand duly done, 

Home thou hiest fast. 
Through the flying gleams of sun, 

Through the laden blast. 
With the light of purpose high 
Kindling bravely in thine eye. 

Oh, 'twas fearful at the top, 
While it rained and blew ; — • 

Till the dark cloud lifted up 
And the sun beamed through, 

Showing all the country's side 

Spread beneath thee, grand and wide 



lOO POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Wond'rous wide the world extends ! 

Thought'st thou, as thy glance 
Travelled to the welkin's ends 

O'er the bright expanse, 
Stubble fields and browning trees, 
Spires, and foreign parishes ! 

Other children's homes are there 
Sheltered from the storm ; 

Others' mothers' arms prepare 
Clasping welcomes warm ; 

Others' fathers' fields are made 

Fertile by the plough and spade : 

Men and horses on the land, 

Maidens in the byre ; 
Boys and girls, a merry band, 

Round the evening fire : — 
Such the world, for thee, and, lo, 
There it lay in glorious show. 

Round thee, in the glittering rays 
By the rain-drops shed. 

Shone the blossom' d furze a-blaze. 
Shone the fern-brake red ; 

Rough but lovely, as thy own 

Life's ideal, little one ! 

Then a glowing thought there came. 
Guess I not aright ? — 

That the furze's yellow flame 
Could not shine so bright 

Nor the fern-leaves spread so fair 

If the good God were not there. 



BALLADS AND POEMS. lOI 

Rightly to that thought I trace 

All the courage high 
Flushing through thy wetted face, 

Mounting in thine eye, 
Now the cloud and driving rain 
Close around thy path again. 

Could these purblind eyes of mine 

Past the curtain, see 
Things unseen and things divine, 

Sure it seems to me 
I would see an Angel glide 
Down the mountain by thy side. 



DEAR WILDE. 

An Elegy on Sir William Wilde. 

1876. 

Dear Wilde, the deeps close o'er thee ; and no more 

Greet we or mingle on the hither shore. 

Where other footsteps now must print the sand, 

And other waiters by the margin stand. 

Gone ; and, alas ! too late it wrings my breast. 

The word unspoken, and the hand unpress'd : 

Yet will affection follow, and believe 

The sentient spirit may the thought receive. 

Though neither eye to eye the soul impart 

Nor answering hand confess the unburthen'd heart. 

Gone ! and alone rests for me that I strive 

In song sincere to keep thy name alive. 



I02 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Though nothing needing of the aids of rhyme, 

While they who knew thee tread the ways of time, 

And cherish, ere their race be also run, 

Their memories of many a kindness done — 

Of the quick look that caught the unspoken need 

And back returned to hand's benignant deed 

In help and healing, or with ardour high 

Infused the might of patriot-sympathy. 

And when we all have followed, and the last 

Who loved thee living shall have also passed, — 

This crumbling castle, from its basement swerved, 

Thy pious under-pinning skill preserved ; 

That carven porch from ruined heaps anew 

Dug out, and dedicate by thee to view 

Of wond'ring modern men who stand amazed, 

To think their Irish fathers ever raised 

Works worthy such a care ; this sculptured cross 

Thou gathered'st piecemeal, every knop and boss 

And dragon-twisted symbol, side to side 

Laid, and to holy teachings re-applied ; 

Those noble jewels of the days gone by 

The goldsmith's and the penman's art supply. 

With rarest products of progressive man 

Since civil life in Erin first began. 

Described by thee, where'er their destined place, 

Whether, still sharing Academic grace 

And Cyclopaediac union, they retain 

Their portion in the high clear-aired domain 

Of arc and sine and critic-judgment heard 

Alternate with the searcher's symbol- word. 

Historic aids, to little arts unknown, 

Heirlooms of all our Past, and all our own, 



BALLADS AND FORMS . IO3 

Or whether, at despotic power's command, 

They bow their beaut}' to a stranger's hand, 

Mid various wares in halls remote displayed 

To swell a programme or promote a trade : 

These all will speak thee : and, dear Wilde, when these. 

In course of time, by swift or slow degrees. 

Are also perished from the world, and gone. 

The green grass of Roscommon will grow on ; 

And, though our several works of hand and pen 

Our names and memories be forgotten then, 

Oft as the cattle in the de^vy ray 

Of tender morn, by Tulsk or Castlerea, 

Crop the sweet herbage, or adown the vale 

The ruddy milkmaid bears her evening pail ; 

Oft as the youth to meet his fair one flies 

At labour's close, where sheltering hawthorns rise 

By Suck's smooth margin ; or the merry round 

Of dancers foot it to the planxty's sound. 

And some warm heart, matched with a mind serene. 

Shall drink its full refreshment from the scene, 

With thanks to God whose bounty brings to pass 

That maids their sweethearts, and that kine their grass 

Find by His care provided, and there rise 

Soft and sweet thoughts for all beneath the skies ; 

Then, though unknown, thy spirit shall partake 

Refreshment, too, for old communion's sake. 



104 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

TO MR. BUTT. 

Isaac, the generous heart conceives no ill 
From frank repulse. The marriage-suit denied 
Turns love to hatred only where 'tis Pride, 

Not true Love, woos : Love holds her lovely still, 

Let sharp Remembrance bring what stings it will ; 
And when he sees her children by her side, 
For her, for them, for him with them allied, 

Blessings and prayers the manly breast will fill. 

Lovely she stands, though she has said thee nay. 
And sad expectance clothes her brow in gloom. 
While guardians tyrannous withhold her dower ; 

Now shows the soul'd magnanimous assay. 

And when her day in that High Court shall come. 
Plead in your old love's cause with double power. 



L 105 ] 



Lays of the Red Branch 



THE TWINS OF MACHA. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[The earthworks called the Navan, near Armagh, are the 
remains of the old fortress-dwelling of the petty kings of 
Ulster. For so insignificant a place, it possesses what few 
other sites in Western Europe can boast of. It has a history, 
more or less fabulous, extending from the year 330 before, 
to the year 336 after Christ. Its greatest glories are associated 
with the days of Conor son of Nessa, in whose time, by one 
account, it received the name by wliich it has since been 
knowii ; for it is to he noted that Navan is the abbreviated 
fonn of An-Emain-Macha, rendered in tliis legend The Twins 
of Macha. Terrible as this story is, it is not repulsive, like 
that of the earlier Macha, who in the other legend is made the 
original founder, and it forms a necessary part of the intro- 
duction to the great epic romance of the Tain or Cattle-spoil 
of Ouelgne. Cuchullin would not have had the opportmiity 
of winning glorj^ by defending the passes of Ulster single- 
handed as he is there represented to have done, had not Conor 
and his powerful cliiefs been disabled for the field, by the 
plague visited on them in vengeance of IMacha's sufTerings. 
The original is a good example of that conciseness and simpli- 
city united with dramatic power wliich characterises the Dinn- 
senchus class of poems.] 

Whence Emain Macha ? And the pangs intense 
That long were wont to plague the Ultonians, whence ? 
Not hard to tell. Once, ere that pest began, 
Crunn of the Herds, the son of Agnoman, 



Io6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Tending his flocks dwelt lonely in the wild. 
Dead was his wife : and many a squalid child, 
Ill-cared for, clamoured in the dwelling bare. 
Now, on a day, when sitting sadly there, 
Crunn was aware a woman stood beside. 
Of gracious aspect, sweet and dignified. 
She, as familiar there had been her life. 
At once assumed the office of the wife : 
Unasked, presided ; dealt the children bread ; 
And drew their loves forth, in the mother's stead, 
Long while she tarried. Neither wholesome food. 
Nor seemly raiment, nor aught else of good 
Wherewith the housewife's hand makes glad a home. 
Was wanting with them ; till the time was come 
When Ulaidh all were wont to make repair 
With annual pomp to celebrate their Fair. 
Thither they flock ; man, woman, youth, and maid ; 
And, with the others, Crunn, his limbs arrayed 
In festive garb, to go. Fear seized her soul. 
" Ah, go not, rash one ! Thou wilt ne'er control 
Some word ill-timed, may mar our life's content." 
" Tush ! Fear me not," said Crunn ; and, jocund, went. 

The fair is filled. The grooms of Conor lead 
The royal car and coursers o'er the mead 
The woods and lawns with loud applauses ring ; 
The flattering courtiers buzz about. " The thing 
Lives not, for swiftness, that can near them come." 
" Swifter," said Crunn, " my own good wife at home." 
Scarce said, — the wretch, by wrathful Conor caught, 
Is captive Tidings to the wife are brought. 



LAYS OF THE RtD BRANCH IO7 

" Woe's me," she cried, " must aid him now, and I 

So soon to bear my own maternity ! " 

" Woe thee, indeed ! " the savage grooms return. 

" Make good his boasting, or prepare his urn." 

" As mothers bore you, spare ! " she cries aghast ; 

" Or yield me respite till my pains are past." 

" No respite ! " " Good, then, if it must be so, 

My pains shall work you, men of Ulster, woe, 

Now and hereafter." Brought before the King^ 

" Thy name ? " " My name, — our name, — the name 

shall cling 
To this thy fair-green and thy palace-hall 
Till the just God give judgment upon all ; — 
Macha, my name ; daughter of Sanrad, son 
Of Imbad. Now, release him, and I run." 

She ran ; the steeds contended. Long ere they 
Attained the goal, already there, she lay, 
A mother, dying. Twin the birth. So came 
Of Emain Macha, " Macha's Twins," the name. 



THE NAMING OF CUCHULLIN. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 
[Oae of tlie stories introductory to the Tain, and, of them all, 
the most dramatic. The name (Cu-Chullain) signifies the 
Hound of Cullan. Cu, in tliis meaning, is a common element 
of Celtic proper names. Whether the armourer of Slieve 
Gullen was another Wayland Smith may amnse the ethnolo- 
gical enquirer. He will at least live in the renown of liis chaiu- 
hoimd as long as Celtic literature endures.] 

CONOR. 

Setanta, if bird-nesting in the woods 

And ball-feats on the play-green please thee not 



I08 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

More than discourse of warrior and of sage, 
And sight of warrior-weapons in the forge, 
I offer an indulgence. For we go,— 
Myself, my step-sire Fergus, and my Bard, — 
To visit Cullan, the illustrious smith 
Of Quelgne. Come thou also if thou wilt. 

SETANTA. 

Ask me not, oh, good Conor, yet to leave 
The play-green ; for the ball-feats just begun 
Are those which most delight my playmate-youths, 
And they entreat me to defend the goal : 
But let me follow ; for, the chariot-tracks 
Are easy to discern ; and much I long 
To hear discourse of warrior and of sage. 
And see the nest that hatches deaths of men, 
The tongs a-flash, and Cullan's welding blow. 

CONOR. 

Too late the hour ; too difficult the way. 

Set forward, drivers : give our steeds the goad. 

CULLAN. 

Great King of Emain, welcome. Welcome, thou, 
Fergus, illustrious step-sire of the King : 
And, Seer and Poet, Cathbad, welcome too. 
Behold the tables set, the feast prepared. 
Sit. But, before I cast my chain-hound loose. 
Give me assurance that ye all be in. 
For, night descends ; and perilous the wild ; 
And other watchman none of house or herds, 
Flere, in this solitude remote from men, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. IO9 

Own I, but one hound only. Once his chain 
Is loosened, and he makes three bounds at large 
Before my door-posts, after fall of night, 
There lives not man nor company of men 
Less than a cohort, shall, within my close 
Set foot of trespass, short of life or limb. 

CONOR. 

Yea ; all are in. Let loose, and sit secure. 
Good are thy viands. Smith, and strong thine ale. 

• • • • £ 

Hark, the hound growling. 



CULLAN. 

Wild dogs are abroad. 



FERGUS. 

Not ruddier the fire that laps a sword 
Steel'd for a king, oh Cullan, than thy wine. 

• • • • 

Hark, tlie hound baying. 

CULLAN. 

Wolves, belike, are near. 

CATH13AD. 

Not cheerfuller the ruddy forge's light 

To wayfarer benighted, nor the glow 

Of wine and viands to a hungry man, 

Than look of welcome pass'd from host to guest. 



Hark, the hound yelling ! 



no POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

CULLAN. 

Friends, arise and arm ! 
Some enemy intrudes ! Tush ! 'tis a boy. 

SETANTA. 

Setanta here, the son of Suailtam. 

CONOR. 

Setanta, whom I deemed on Emain green 
Engaged at ball-play, on our track, indeed I 

SETANTA. 

Not difficult the track to find, oh King, 

But difficult, indeed, to follow home. 

Cullan, 'tis evil welcome for a guest 

This unwarn'd onset of a savage beast, 

Which, but that 'gainst the stone-posts of thy gate 

I three times threw him, leaping at my throat. 

And, at the third throw, on the stone-edge slew, 

Had brought on thee the shame indelible 

Of bidden guest, at his host's threshold, torn. 

CONOR. 

Yea, he was bidden : it was I myself 
Said, as I passed him with the youths at play, 
This morning. Come thou also if thou wilt. 
But little thought I, — when he said the youths 
Desired his presence still to hold the goal. 
Yet asked to follow ; for he said he longed 
To hear discourse of warrior and of sage. 
And see the nest that hatches deaths of men, 
The tongs a-flash, and Cullan's welding blow ; — 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. Ill 

That such a playful, young, untutor'd boy 
Would come on this adventure of a man. 

CULLAN. 

I knew not he was bidden ; and I asked. 

Ere I cast loose, if all the train were in. 

But, since thy word has made the boy my guest, — 

Boy, for his sake who bade thee to my board, 

I give thee welcome : for thine own sake, no. 

For thou hast slain my servant and my friend, 

The hound I loved, that, fierce, intractable 

To all men else, was ever mild to me. 

He knew me ; and he knew my uttered words. 

All my commandments, as a man might know : 

More than a man, he knew my looks and tones 

And turns of gesture, and discerned my mind. 

Unspoken, if in grief or if in joy. 

He was my pride, my strength, my company. 

For I am childless ; and that hand of thine 

Has left an old man lonely in the world. 

SET ANT A. 

Since, Cullan, by mischance, I've slain thy hound, 
So much thy grief compassion stirs in me. 
Hear me pronounce a sentence on myself 
If of his seed there liveth but a whelp 
In Uladh, I will rear him till he grow 
To such ability as had his sire 
For knowing, honoring, and serving thee. 
Meantime, but give a javelin in my hand. 
And a good buckler, and there never went 
About thy bounds, from daylight-gone till dawn 



112 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Hound watchfuller, or of a keener fang 
Against intruder, than myself shall be 

CULLAN. 

A sentence, a just sentence. 

CONOR. 

Not myself 
Hath made award more righteous. Be it so. 
Wherefore what hinders that we give him now 
His hero-name, no more Setanta called, 
But now Cuchullin, chain-hound of the Smith ? 

SETANTA. 

Setanta I, the son of Suailtam, 
Nor other name assume, I, or desire 

CATHEAD. 

Take, son of Suailtam, the offered name. 

SETANTA. 

Setanta, I. Setanta let me be. 



Mark Cathbad. 



CONOR. 



FERGUS. 

'Tis his seer-fit. 



CATHEAD. 

To my ears 
There comes a clamour from the rising years, 

The tumult of a torrent passion-swollen, 
Rolled hitherward ; and, mid its mingling noises, 

I hear perpetual voices 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. II3 

Proclaim, to laud thy fame, 
The name, 
CUCHULLIN ! 

Hound ot the Smith, thy boyish vow 
Devotes thy manhood, even now. 

To vigilance, fidelity, and toil : 
'Tis not alone the wolf, fang-bare to snatch. 
Not the marauder from the lifted latch 

Alone, thy coming footfall makes recoil. 
The nobler service thine to chase afar 
Seditious tumult and intestine war, 
Envy, and unfraternal hate, 
From all the households of the state : 
To hunt, untiring, down 
The vices of the lewd-luxurious town, 

And all the brood 

Of Wrong and Rapine, ruthlessly pursued. 
Forth of the kingdom's bounds exterminate. 

Thine the out-watch, when, down the darkening skies 
The coming thunder of invasion rolls ; 

When doubts and faint replies 

Dissolve in dread the shaken People's souls ; 

And Panic bides, behind her bolted gate, 

The unseen stroke of Fate. 

Unbolt ! Come forth ! I hear 

His footsteps drawing near, 

Who smites the proud ones, who the poor delivers : 

I hear his wheels hurl through the dashing rivers : 

They fill the narrowing glen ; 

They shake the quaking causeways of the fen ; 



H4 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

They roll upon the moor ; 
I hear them at the door :— 
Lauds to the helpful Gods, the Hero-Givers ! 
Here stands he, man of men ! 

Great are the words he speaks ; 
They move through hearts of kindreds and of nations. 

At each clear sentence, the unseemly pallor 
Of fear's precipitate imaginations 

Avoids the bearded cheeks, 
And to their wonted stations 

On every face 

Return the generous, manly-mantling colour 
And reassuring grace 
Of fixed obedience, discipline, and patience, 

Heroic courage, and protecting valour. 

The old true-blooded race shall not be left 

Of captaincy bereft ; 
No, not although the ire of angry heaven 

Grow hot against it, even. 
For Gods in heaven there are 
Who punish not alone the omitted pray'r, 
Who punish not alone the slighted sacrifice : 
Humanity itself, at deadly price. 
Has gained admission to the juster skies, 
And vindicates on man man's inhumanities 
See how the strong ones languish 
And groan in woman-anguish, 
Who in the ardour of their sports inhuman 
Heard not the piteous pleadings of the woman. 



LAYS OF THE RED BR.\NCH. II5 

CONOR, 
Ah me, the fatal foot-race ! Macha's pangs 
Do yet torment us. 

FERGUS 

Evil was the deed. 
Happy was I who did not witness it, 
And happy you, I absent. 

CATHEAD. 

On their benches, 
Even in the height and glory of the revel, 
Struck prone, they writhe : 
Who now will man the trenches ? 

Who, on the country's borders. 

Confront the outland sworders, — 
King, priest, and lord, a swathe before the scythe 

Of plague, laid level } 
He, — he, — no looker-on 
At heaven-abhorred impieties is he, 
The pure, the stainless son 

Of Dectire, 
The wise, the warlike, the triumphant one 
Who holds your forest-passes and your fords 

Against the alien hordes. 
Till from beneath heaven's slow-uplifted scourge 

The chastened kings emerge. 

And grappling once again to manly swords, 

Roll the invader-hosts 

For ever from your coasts. 

Great is the land and splendid : 

The borders of the country are extended : 



Il6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The extern tribes look up with wondering awe 

And own the central law. 

Fair show the fields, and fair the friendly faces 

Of men in all their places. 

With song and chosen story, 

With game and dance, with revelries and races, 

Life glides on joyous wing — 
The tales they tell of love and war and glory, 
Tales that the soft-bright daughters of the land 
Delight to understand, 

The songs they sing 

To harps of double string, 

To gitterns and new reeds. 

Are of the glorious deeds 
Of young Cuchullin in the Quelgnian foray. 
Take, son of Suailtam, the offered name. 
For at that name the mightiest of the men 
Of Erin and of Alba shall turn pale : 
And of that name, the mouths of all the men 
Of Erin and of Alba shall be full. 

SETANTA. 

Yea, then ; if that be so — Cuchullin here ! 



THE ABDICATION OF FERGUS MAC ROY. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[Conor, King of Ulster, contemporary and rival of Maev, 
Queen of Connaught, reigned at Emania (now the Navan), near 
Armagh, about the commencement of the Christian era. He 
owed his first accession to the monarchy to the arts of his mother 
Nessa, on whom Fergus, his predecessor in the kin^y ofi&ce and 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH II7 

step-father, doted so fondly that she had been enabled to stip- 
ulate, as a condition of bestowinj^ her hand, that Fergus should 
abdicate for a year in favour of her youthful son. The year had 
been indefinitely prolonged by the fascinations of Nessa aided 
by the ability of Conor, who, although he concealed a treacher- 
ous and cruel disposition under attractive graces of manners and 
person, ultimately became too popular to be displaced ; and 
Fergus, whose nature disinclinod liim to the labours of Govern- 
ment, had acquiesced in accepting as an equivalent the excite- 
ments of war and chase, and the marestricted pleasure of the 
revel. Associating with Cuchullin, Conall Caniach, Naisi, son 
of Usnach, and the other companions of the military order of 
the Red Branch, he long remained a faitliful supporter of the 
tlirone of his step-son, eminent for his valour, generosity, and 
fideUty, as well as for his accomplislmients as a hunter and a 
poet. 

At length occurred the tragedy which broke up these genial 
associations, and drove Fergus into the exile in which he died.] 

Once, ere God was crucified, 
I was King o'er Uladh wide : 
King, by law of choice and birth, 
O'er the fairest realm of Earth. 

I was head of Rury's race ; 
Emain was my dwelling place ; 
Right and Might were mine ; nor less 
Stature, strength, and comeliness. 

Neither lacked I love's delight. 
Nor the glorious meeds of fight. 
All on earth was mine could bring 
Life's enjoyment to a king. 

Much I loved the jocund chase, 
Much the horse and cliariot race : 
Much I loved the deep carouse, 
Quafiing in the Red Branch House. 



Il8 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But in Council call'd to meet, 
Loved I not the judgment-seat ; 
And the suitors' questions hard 
Won but scantily my regard? 

Rather would I, all alone, 
Care and state behind me thrown, 
Walk the dew through showery gleams 
O'er the meads, or by the streams, 

Chanting, as the thoughts might rise, 
Unimagined melodies ; 
While with sweetly-pungent smart 
Secret happy tears would start. 

Such was I, v^rhen in the dance, 
Nessa did bestow a glance, 
And my soul that moment took 
Captive in a single look. 

I am but an empty shade, 
Far from life and passion laid ; 
Yet does sweet remembrance thrill 
All my shadowy being still. 

Nessa had been Fathna's spouse, 
Fathna of the Royal house, 
And a beauteous boy had borne him ; 
Fourteen summers did adorn him : 

Yea ; thou deem'st it marvellous. 
That a widow's glance should thus 
Turn from lure of maidens' eyes 
All a young king's fantasies. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 1 1 9 

Yet if thou hadst known but half 
Of the joyance of her laugh, 
Of the measures of her walk, 
Of the music of her talk. 

Of the witch'ry of her wit, 
Even when smarting under it, — 
Half the sense, the charm, the grace, 
Thou hadst worshipp'd in my place. 

And, besides, the thoughts I wove 
Into songs of war and love, 
She alone of all the rest 
Felt them with a perfect zest. 

" Lady, in thy smiles to live 
Tell me but the boon to give. 
Yea, I lay, in gift complete, 
Crown and sceptre at thy feet." 

" Not so great the boon I crave : 
Hear the wish my soul would have ; " 
And she glanc'd a loving eye 
On the stripling standing by : — • 

" Conor is of age to learn ; 
Wisdom is a king's concern ; 
Conor is of royal race, 
Yet may sit in Fathna's place. 

" Therefore, king, if thou wouldst prove 
That I have indeed thy love, 
On the judgment-seat permit 
Conor by thy side to sit, 



I20 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

" That by use the youth may draw 
Needful knowledge of the Law." 
I with answer was not slow, 
" Be thou mine, and be it so." 

I am but a shape of air, 
Far removed from love's repair ; 
Yet, were mine a living frame 
Once again I'd say the same. 

Thus, a prosperous wooing sped, 
Took I Nessa to my bed. 
While in council and debate 
Conor daily by me sate. 

Modest was his mien in sooth, 
Beautiful the studious youth, 
Questioning with earnest gaze 
All the reasons and the ways 

In the which, and why because, 
Kings administer the Laws. 
Silent so with looks intent 
Sat he till the year was spent 

But the strifes the suitors raised 
Bred me daily more distaste, 
Every faculty and passion 
Sunk in sweet intoxication. 

Till upon a day in court 

Rose a plea of weightier sort : 

Tangled as a briary thicket 

Were the rights and wrongs intricate 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 121 

Which the litigants disputed, 
Challenged, mooted, and confuted ; 
Till, when all the plea was ended, 
Naught at all I comprehended. 

Scorning an affected show 

Of the thing I did not know, 

Yet my own defect to hide, 

I said, " Boy-judge, thou decide ! " 

Conor, with unalter'd mien, 
In a clear sweet voice serene. 
Took in hand the tangled skein 
And began to make it plain. 

As a sheep-dog sorts his cattle, 
As a king arrays his battle, 
So, the facts on either side 
He did marshal and divide. 

Every branching side-dispute 
Traced he downward to the root 
Of the strife's main stem, and there 
Laid the ground of difference bare. 

Then to scope of either cause 
Set the compass of the laws. 
This adopting, that rejecting, — 
Reasons to a head collecting, — • 

As a charging cohort goes 
Through and over scatter'd foes — 
So, from point to point, he brought 
Onward still the weight of thought, 



122 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Through all error and confusion 
Till he set the clear conclusion 
Standing like a king alone, 
All things adverse overthrown, 

And gave judgment clear and sound :— 
Praises fill'd the hall around ; 
Yea, the man that lost the cause 
Hardly could withhold applause. 

By the wondering crowd surrounded 
I sat shamefaced and confounded. 
Envious ire awhile oppress'd me 
Till the nobler thought possess'd me ; 

And I rose, and on my feet 
Standing by the judgment-seat. 
Took the circlet from my head, 
Laid it on the bench, and said, 

" Men of Uladh, I resign 

That which is not rightly mine. 

That a worthier than I 

May your judge's place supply. 

" Lo, it is no easy thing 
For a man to be a king 
Judging well, as should behove 
One who claims a people's love. 

" Uladh's judgment seat to fill 
I have neither wit nor will. 
One is here may justly claim 
Both the function and the name. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 23 

" Conor is of royal blood ; 
Fair he is ; I trust him good ; 
Wise he is we ail may say 
Who have heard his words to-day. 

" Take him therefore in my room, 
Letting me the place assume — 
Office but with life to end — 
Of his councillor and friend." 

So young Conor gained the crown ; 
So I laid the kingship down ; 
Laying with it as it went 
All I knew of discontent. 



MESGEDRA. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE). 

[Irish heroic tradition revolves in two cliief cycles, separated 
by an interval of about two centuries and a half. In the first, 
Conor, King of Ulster, Uving about the commencement of the 
Christian era, occupies the central place ; surrounded by Cuchul- 
liu, Conall Camach, and the heroes of tlie Red Branch. The 
fortunes of Deirdre and the sons of Usnach connect liimwith 
Scotland ; those of his Amazonian rival, Maev, wth Connaught, 
and those of Curi and Blanaid with Munster. In the second 
cycle, Cormac son of Art must be regarded as the central figure, 
though eclipsed by the more heroic forms of Finn and Ossian. 
We are here in the tliird ccnturj-, and the da\m of the coming 
change to Christianity tinges all the characters with a greater 
softness and humanity, as in the romance of the elopement of 
Dermid and Grania, and in many of the Ossianic fragments. 
But the better defined and more characteristic forms of grandeur 
with the stronger accompaniments of pity and terror, must be 
soi3^ht for in the earlier story. There, we are amongst the rudera 
of such a barbaric kind of literature as the great tragedians 



124 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

turned to immortal dramas in Greece, and Ovid converted into 
beautiful legends in Italy. In the Conorian cycle, the egg of 
Leda, so to speak, is the trophy taken from the dead Mesgedra 
by Conall Caniach, under the circumstances which form the 
subject of this piece. It furnishes the missile with which the 
main action of the cycle is woimd up in the assassination of 
Conor by the slinger Keth, as related in the " Healing of Conall 
Camach " {Lays of the Western Gael). If we inquire into its 
nature, or ask how the trophy of a dead man could supply 
materials for a missile from a sling, we enter on shocking details 
such as deform the traditions of this as well as every other 
old country which has preserved its Literary rudiments. A 
British King built a prison for his captives of a concrete com- 
posed of lime and the bones of liis enemies. As late as the 
beginning of the 13th century the chess-men of the O'Neills 
of Tyrone were formed of the polished tibicB of the men of Lein- 
ster. But these revolting features need no more repel us from 
seeing what is behind, than Medea's cauldron or the supper 
of Thyestes should induce us to ignore the materials supplied 
by the Classical Dictionary. The oppressive exactions of the 
Bards in their visitations (the origin, probably, of the Herald's 
visitations of later times), form the subject of a note to 
" Congal," where the same abuses are shown to exist at the 
present day among the native tribes of India.] 

When glades were green where Dublin stands to-day, 
And limpid Liffey, fresh from wood and wold, 

Bridgeless and fordless, in the lonely Bay 
Sank to her rest on sands of stainless gold ; 

Came Bard Atharna with his spoils of song 
From rich, reluctant lords of Leinster wrung ; 

Flocks and fat herds, a far-extending throng. 
Bondsmen and handmaids beautiful and young : 

And, — for the dusky deeps might ill be pass'd, 
And he impatient to secure his store, — 

A hurdle-causeway o'er the river cast. 
And bore his booty to the further shore : 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH I25 

Which ill-enduring, Leinster's king, the brave 
Mesgedra, following in an angry quest, 

On Tolka bank of damsel and of slave 

Despoiled the spoiler now no more a guest ; 

Who, being bard and ministering priest 

Of those vain demons then esteemed divine, 

Invoked a curse on Leinster, man and beast. 
With rites of sacrifice and rhymes malign ; 

And sang so loud his clamorous call to war 
That all the chiefs of bard-protecting fame 

Throughout Ulidia, arming near and far. 

Came, and, to aid him, Conall Carnach came ; 

And, where the city now sends up her vows 

From holy Patrick's renovated fane, 
(Small surmise then that one of Conall's house 

Should there, thereafter, such a work ordain), 

Joined Leinster battle : till the southern lords, 
Their bravest slain or into bondage led. 

At sunset broke, before the Red Branch swords, 
And, last, Mesgedra climbed his car and fled. 

Alone, in darkness, of one hand forlorn, 

Naas-ward all night he held his journey back 

Through wood and fen, till ill-befriending morn 
Showed him fell Conall following on his track. 

So chanced it, as the doleful daylight broke. 
That, wandering devious with disordered rein, 

His steeds had reached beside the Sacred Oak 
On Liffey's bank, above the fords of Clane. 



126 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Glad to the Tree- God made he grateful vows 
Who deigned that green asylum to bestow ; 

Kissed the brown earth beneath the moss-green boughs 
And waited, calm, the coming of his foe. 

He, as a hawk, that, in a housewife's coop 
Spying his quarry, stoops upon the wing, 

Came on apace, and, when in middle swoop. 
Declining sidelong from the sacred ring, 

Wheeled, swerving past the consecrated bounds : — 
Then thus, between him and the asylum's man, 

While nearer brush' d he still in narrowing rounds, 
The grave, unfriendly parle of death began. 

" Come forth, Mesgedra, from the sheltering tree, 
And render fight : 'tis northern Conall calls." 

" Not from an equal combat do I flee, 

O Conall, to these green, protecting halls ; 

"But, mutilated, weak from many wounds. 
Here take I sanctuary, where none will dare 

With impious wheel o'erdrive my measured bounds, 
Or cast a weapon through the spell-wall'd air." 

" No impious man am I ; I fear the Gods ; 

My wheels thy sacred precinct do but graze ; 
Nor, in the strife I challenge, ask I odds. 

But lot alike to each of death or praise." 

" See, then, one arm hangs idly by my side : 
Let, now, one answering arm put also by 

From share of battle, to thy belt be tied ; 

So shall thy challenge soon have meet reply." 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 1 27 

Then Conall loosed his war-belt's leathern band ; 

Buckle and belt above his arm he closed ; 
And, single-handed, to the single hand 

Of maimed Mesgedra, stood in fight opposed. 

They fought, with clashing intermixture keen 
Of rapid sword-strokes, till Mesgedra's blade. 

Belt and brass corslet glancing sheer between, 
Wide open all the trammelling closure laid. 

" Respect my plight : two-handed chief, forbear ! " 
" Behold, I spare ; I yield to thy appeal ; 

And bind this hand again ; but, well beware 
Again it owe not freedom to thy steel ! " 

Again they fought, with close-commingling hail 
Of swifter sword-strokes, till the fated brand 

Of doom'd Mesgedra, glancing from the mail, 
Again cut loose the dread, man-slaughtering hand. 

No prayer might now hot Conall's fire assuage ; 

No prayer was uttered ; from his scattered toils 
Bounding in headlong homicidal rage. 

He flew, he threw, he slew, and took the spoils : 

Then up, all glorying, all imbrued in gore. 

Sprang to the chariot-seat, and north amain 

Chariots and steeds and ghastly trophy bore 
Through murmuring Liffey, o'er the fords of Clane. 

There, softly glancing down the hawthorn glades, 
Like phantom of the dawn and dewy air, 

There met him, with a troop of dames and maids, 
A lovely woman delicate and fair. 



128 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

They, at their vision of the man of blood, 
Rightward and left fled fluttering in alarm ; 

She in his pathway innocently stood 

As one who thinks not, and who fears not, harm. 

" Who thou, and whence, and who the woman-train ? " 

" Buana, King Mesgedra's wife, am I, 
From vows returning sped at Tclacta's fane : 

These dames and maids my serving company. 

" And, one moon absent, long the time appears 

Till back in Naas's halls I lay at rest 
My dreams ill-omening and my woman's fears 

That daily haunt me, on my husband's breast." 

" Mount here. Thy husband speaks his will through 
me. 

" Through thee ! Thy token of my husband's will } " 
" The royal car, the royal coursers see : 

Perchance there rests a surer token still." 

" My king Mesgedra is a bounteous lord. 
And many a war-car doth his chariot-pen, 

And many a swift steed do his stalls afi^ord 
For oft bestowal upon divers men." 

" See then," he said, " my certain warrant here." 
Ah, what a deed ! and showed the severed head. 

She paled, she sickened with a mortal fear. 

Reached her white arms and sank before him, dead. 

No passing swoon was hers : he saw her die ; 

Saw death's pale signet set on cheek and brow : — 
Up through his raging breast there rose a sigh ; 

And, " Sure," he said, " a loving wife wast thou ! 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 29 

" And I — my deeds to-day shall live in song : 
Bards in the ears of feasting kings shall tell 

How keen Mesgedra cut the trammelling thong, 
And unbound Conall used his freedom well 

" For, what I've done, by rule of warrior-law 

Well was I justified and bound to do ; 
And poets hence a precedent shall draw 

For future champion-compacts just and true. 

" Done, not because I love the sight of blood, 
Or, uninstructed, rather would destroy 

Then cherish ; or prefer the whirling mood 
Of battle's turbulent and dreadful joy 

" To peaceful life's mild temper ; but because 
Things hideous, which the natural sense would shun, 

Are, by the sanction of religious laws, 

Made clean, and pure, and righteous to be done. 

" Ye, in whose name these awful laws are given. 
Forgive the thought this woman's looks have raised : — 

Are broken hearts acceptable to Heaven ? 

Is God by groans of anguish rightly praised ? 

" I, at your law's commandment, slew her lord. 
And, at your law's commandment, would have borne 

Herself, a captive, to a land abhorr'd. 

To spend her widowhood in pain and scorn. 

" But now, since friendlier death has shut her eyes 
From sight of bondage in an alien home, 

No law forbids to yield her obsequies, 

Or o'er her raise the green sepulchral dome. 

K 



130 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Or — for her love was stronger than her life — 
To place beside her, in her narrow bed, — 

It's lawful tribute rendered to my knife — 
The much-loved, life-lamented, kingly head. 

" No law forbids — all sanguinary dues 

Paid justly— that the heart- wrung human vow 
Your sterner rites, dread Deities, refuse, 

Some gentler Demon's ritual may allow : 

" That yet, ere Time of Mankind make an end, 
Some mightier Druid of our race may rise ; 

Some milder Messenger from Heaven descend ; 
And Earth, with nearer knowledge of the Skies, 

" See, past your sacrificers' grisly bands, 
Past all the shapes that servile souls appal, 

With fearless vision, from a thousand lands, 
One great, good God behind and over all. 

" Raise, then, her mound " : the gathering hosts he spake 
That, thronging to o'ertake their venturous king, 

Poured from the ford through fen and crackling brake, 
And hailed their hero in acclaiming ring : — 

" Raise, too, her stone, conspicuous far and near ; 

And let a legend on the long stone tell, 
' Behold, there lies a tender woman here, 

Who, surely, loved a valiant husband well.' 

" And let the earth-heap'd, grass-renewing tomb 

A time-long token eloquent remain 
Of Pity and of Love for all who come 

By murmuring Liffey and the banks of Clane." 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I3I 

Delicious Liffey ! from thy bosoming hills 

What man who sees thee issuing strong and pure, 

But with some wistful, fresh emotion fills. 
Akin to Nature's own clear temperature ? 

And, haply, thinks : — on this green bank 'twere sweet 
To make one's mansion, sometime of the year ; 

For Health and Pleasure on these uplands meet, 
And all the isle's amenities are here. 

Hither the merry music of the chase 

Floats up the festive borders of Kildare ; 

And slim-bright steeds extending in the race 
Are yonder seen, and camping legions there. 

These coverts hold the wary-gallant fox ; 

There the park'd stag waits his enlarging day ; 
And there, triumphant o'er opposing rocks. 

The shooting salmon quivers through thy spray. 

The heath, the fern, the honey-fragrant furze 
Carpet thy cradling steeps : thy middle flow 

Laves lawn and oak-wood : o'er thy downward course 
Laburnums nod and terraced roses blow. 

To ride the race, to hunt, to fowl, to fish, 

To do and dare whate'er brave youth would do, 

A fair fine country as the heart could wish, 

And fair the brown-clear river running through. 

Such seemest thou to Dublin's youth to-day, 
Oh clear-dark Liffey, mid the pleasant land ; 

With life's delights abounding, brave and gay. 
The song, the dance, the softly yielded hand, 



132 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The exulting leap, the backward-flying fence, 
The whirling reel, the steady-levelled gun ; 

With all attractions for the youthful sense, 

All charms to please the manly mind, but one, 

For, thou, for them, alas ! nor History hast 
Nor even Tradition ; and the Man aspires 

To link his present with his Country's past, 
And live anew in knowledge of his sires ; 

No rootless colonist of an alien earth, 

Proud but of patient lungs and pliant limb, 

A stranger in the land that gave him birth, 
The land a stranger to itself and him. 

Yet, though in History's page thou may'st not claim 
High places set apart for deeds sublime 

That hinge the turnings of the gates of Fame 
And give to view the avenues of Time ; 

Not all inglorious in thy elder day 

Art thou, Moy-Liff"ey ; and the loving mind 
Might round thy borders many a gracious lay 

And many a tale not unheroic find. 

Sir Almeric's deeds might fire a youthful heart 
To brave contention mid illustrious peers ; 

Tears into eyes as beautiful might start 
At tender record of Isolda's tears ; 

Virtue herself uplift a loftier head. 

Linked through the years with Ormond's constancy. 
And airs from Runnymede around us spread, — 

Yea, all the fragrance of the Charter Tree 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 1 33 

Wafted down time, refresh the conscious soul 
With P>eedom's balms, when, firm in patriot zeal, 

Dublin's De Londres, to Pandolfo's scroll 
Alone of all refused to set his seal ; 

Or when her other Henry's happier eyes 

Up-glancing from his field of victory won, 

Beheld, one moment, 'neath adoring skies, 
The lifted isle lie nearer to the sun. — 

For others, these. I, from the twilight waste 
Where pale Tradition sits by Memory's grave, 

Gather this wreath, and, ere the nightfall, haste 
To fling my votive garland on thy wave. 

Wave, waft it softly : and when lovers stray 
At summer eve by stream and dimpling pool, 

Gather thy murmurs into voice and say. 
With liquid utterance passionate and full. 

Scorn not, sweet maiden, scorn not, vigorous youth, 
The lay, though breathing of an Irish home, 

That tells of woman-love and warrior-ruth 
And old expectancy of Christ to come. 



DEIRDRE. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[The Aidedh or Tragical Fate of the Sons of Usnach, in the 
various forms in wliich it has been handed down to us, is one of 
the best-known of all the old Irish bardic stories. Besides prose 
translations, by O'Managan of the Ibemo-Celtic Society, and by 
O'Curry in the Atlantis, it has furnished MacPherson with the 
theme of liis Darthula ; and has been made the subject of a 



134 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

fine romantic poem, also entitled Deirdre, by Dr. Robert 
Joyce. Therefore, it is hardly necessary to premise that this 
piece, though gromided on the same original, does not affect to 
be, in an}^ sense, a reproduction of it. It might, without im- 
propriety, be called a Monodrame, because, though the actors 
are more than one, the action is unbroken, and the principal 
figures remain in sight throughout, moving in a progressive 
scene, wliich extends from Glen Etive in the Western Highlands 
of Scotland to the House of the Red Branch at Emania, the old 
residence of the provincial kings of Ulster. The remains of 
Emania still exist near Armagh. The name only of the 
Red Branch survives in the adjoining townland of Creeveroe ; 
but local tradition points out some earthworks there as the 
site of the King's Stables. The Aidedh of Clan-Usnach is one 
of the cyclic tales leading up to the great epic of the Tain-ho- 
Cuailgne, wliich, in order of time, should come between it 
and " Conary."] 

ACTORS. 

Naisi Son of Usnach, a Refugee from the Court of Conor, 

King of Ulster. 
AiNivE "I 
Ardan C ^^"^^li^i's of Naisi, in exile with him. 

Fergus Mac Roy, Ex-King of Ulster. 

BUINO BORB \ ^ . ^ 

ILI^AN Finn [ Sons of Fergus. 

Baracii, a Brother of the Red Branch. 

CoRMAC, Son of Conor. 

Pursuivant. 

Deirdre, Wife of Naisi. 

LEVarcam, her Nurse. 

Time — First century. Scene — Glen Etive in Scotland to 

Emania in Ulster. 

SCENE OPENS AT GI.EN ETIVE, IN SCOTI^AND. 



DEIRDRE. 

Thou'rt sad. 

NAISI. 

Not sad. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 35 

DEIRDRE. 

Say not thou art not sad, 

Else I, more sad, shall say thou lovest me not. 

NAISI. 

I love thee, Deirdre ; ever : only thee. 

DEIRDRE. 

Whence, then, that naughty knitting of the brow 
And turning of the eye away from mine ? 

NAISI. 

Not wholly sadness ; but I own at times 
My mind is fretted with impatience 
Of longer exile in these Alban wilds. 

DEIRDRE, 

And, wretched me ! I am the cause of it 

NAISI. 

Think not I would reproach thee. Were't to do 
Again, again I'd do it ; and defy 
Conor's worst malice. Justly he may rage 
Losing his destined jewel, which to wear, 
I glory ; though but few its splendour see. 

DEIRDRE. 

Enough for me the wearer. Were the world 
Peopled by but us two, I were content. 

NAISI. 

Not so with me. Love makes the woman's life 
Within-doors and without ; but, out of doors. 
Action and glory make the life of man. 



136 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Here I have room for neither : here there's room 

Only for soHtudes interminable, 

For desert vastness and vacuity. 

I see yon wave that never felt a keel 

Since first it rose, break white along the beach 

So far beneath my feet, I hear it not. 

The winds that whistle by me through the grass 

Bring never sound of life but 'tis a beast 

Or bird that sends it ; save, perchance, at times 

My brothers' or -my house-knave's hunting-cry 

May stir the silence to a moment's life. 

I am impatient to consort again 

With men, my equals : once again to speak 

My thoughts in council, or in public court, 

Swaying the judgments of attending throngs, 

And charming minds to unanimity 

With manly, warm-persuasive argument ; 

Or in the front ranks of embattled hosts 

To interchange the cast of flying spears, 

'Mong bloody Mar's high competitors, 

With poets to record us standing by. 

Nay, at the fair, the games, the feasting board, 

To look on friendly faces and to grasp 

The trusted hands of other men, were joy 

Worth even daring the worst ; and back again 

Taking my customed place on Eman Green, 

Thous'h there he sat, and all his hosts were there. 

DEIRDRE. 

Alas, infatuate, who would shelter me 

When thou, fast bound, shouldst see me dragged away 

To death it might be, or to worse than death ? 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I37 

NAISI. 

Renowned CuchuUin never would sit by 

And see thee wronged. Were Conall Carnach there, 

Or his own step-sire, Fergus, son of Roy, 

No man should do my Deirdre injury. 

DEIRDRE. 

Cuchullin do I trust, and Conall too ; 
But Fergus gave his kingdom for a toy. 

NAISI. 

For love of Nessa laid he kingship down. 

A lovelier Nessa, for the love of me. 

Spurned the same crown when it was offered to her, 

DEIRDRE. 

Nessa now dead, he haunts the drinking-hall, 
More than is seemly in a nobleman. 

NAISI. 

Hall or hill-side, would we were with him now ! 

DEIRDRE. 

Here we are safe ; keep to our shelter here. 
Here we have both been blest, and yet may be, 
Forgetting Conor, and beyond his reach 

NAISI. 

]\Iy loving, loyal brothers, too ; they left 
Home, pleasure, and renown, to follow me 
In this elopement. I must think of them. 
Are they to waste their bloom of manly youth 
Here in this desert, without hope to wive ? 



138 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

DEIRDRE. 

They ask but to partake their brother's lot ; 

Happy if he be happy. Me indeed 

They love as a true sister. Never yet 

Have I beheld on either gentle face 

Gloom or reproachful look ; though, were it there 

'Twere not for me to wonder or complain ; 

For I, alas ! am she that tempted you 

To that rash, rapturous, defiant deed 

That wraps us all in bonds of banishment. 

No, never have they shown themselves to me 

Other than sweet, affectionate, and gay. 

NAISI. 

Thou would'st not have them lose their joy of life 
To keep us happy ? 

DEIRDRE. 

Happy in thy love, 
I can but think of that estate alone. 
Love is all-selfish. Love but thinks of one. 
Its own fulfilment is love's world to love. 
But here comes gentle Ainle from the chase. 

NAISI. 

Good brother, welcome : what is next afoot ? 

AINLE. 

We hunt to-morrow in the corrie, sir. 

NAISI. 

Ay, I have hunted in the corrie oft, 

And there seen buck and doe, but never a man. 



LAYS OF Till' RED BRANCH. 1 39 

And when I've slain my quarry, I have said, 

" Beast, thou wast happy as compared with me, 

F^or thou wast of a good town citizen, 

And mingledst antlers bravely with thy peers." 

AINLE. 
What ails our brother ? 

DEIRDRE. 

'Tis a fond regret, 
Bred of the solitary life we lead. 

AINLE. 

Not solitary, I were well content. 

In such good company as still we have, 

To spend my days a-hunting ; and at eve 

Sing to the harp, or listen to old tales 

Of love, and lover's perils, hopes and joys ; 

While Ardan and Lord Naisi seated by 

Beguiled the swift time in their chess-play-wars 

DEIRDRE. 

Lo, Ardan comes in haste. He wears the look 
Of one who presently has news to tell. 
No news were now good news. I pray the Gods 
We're not found out ! 

ARDAN. 

A sail, I've seen a sail 
Unless the sea-fog cheats my sight, a sail. 

DEIRDRE. 

A flight of sea-birds, haply ; not a sail. 



140 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

NAISI. 

Nay, wherefore, not a sail ? Were't Conor himself 
And all his ships, I'd hail the face of man. 
Let's forth and see it, whatsoe'er it be. 

AINLE. 

Hark, heard ye not a cry ? 

DEIRDRE. 

No. Keep within, 
'Tis the fox barking, haply ; not a cry. 

ARDAN. 

'Tis a man's cry ; a hunter's hallo, hark ! 

NAISI. 

I know the call ; an Ulster man is he 
Who gives it. If my old and glorious friend 
Fergus, the son of Roy, yet walks the earth, 
It is his hunting-call. Ho, Fergus, ho ! 

DEIRDRE. 

Vain my contention. Here, alas, he comes. 

FERGUS. 

Found in good hour. Hail ! sons of Usnach, hail I 

NAISI. 

Comest thou, Fergus, enemy or friend ? 

FERGUS. 

Friend as of old ; to well-loved friends I come, 
And welcome may the message be I bring. 

NAISI. 

From whom and what the message ? Sends he peace ? 



LAYS OF THF RED BRANCH. I4I 

FERGUS. 

Conor sends peace and pardon. I myself 
Your warrantor and convoy. 

NAISI. 

Favouring Gods ! 
What spell has w^rought him to forgive my wrong ? 

DEIRDRE. 

We did him not a wrong. The wrong was his. 

He kept me as a dainty for his use. 

Locked in a prison-garden shamefully ; 

Beast, who might well have been my grandfather I 

Till Naisi gave me freedom, and I gave 

Naisi the love was only mine to give. 

FERGUS. 

What, daughter : thou shalt come as well as he, 

And have him for thyself, be it wrong or right. 

'Tis fixed and warranted ; and here's the hand 

Will make it good. Naisi, the case stood thus : 

My politic, learned step-son found his Maev 

A partner somewhat over-arrogant. 

And broke the marriage. Maev, imperial jade, 

Has wed with Ailill, Tinne's son, and reigns 

With him o'er the Connacians : in his halls 

Of battlemented Croghan nursing hate 

'Gainst now-detested Conor ; and from wilds 

Of Irrus drawing Gamanradian braves 

And fierce Damnonian sworders, sends them forth 

'Gainst the Ultonian borders, host on host, 

Pressing the Red Branch with perpetual war. 



142 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

We've fought them, and we've chased them oft, but still 

They issue from their heathy western hives 

As thick as summer midges, and our swords 

Are dulled with slaughter, and our arms are tired. 

We've missed thee, Naisi, and thy brothers here ; 

There's the plain truth. We missed and needed you. 

And we,— CuchuUin, Conall, and myself, — 

Avowed it in full council. And, said I, 

" Sir, give me liberty to carry them 

The royal message with assurance firm. 

Of pardon and safe-conduct both for her 

And him, and them, and all their company. 

And, ere this present rounding moon come full, 

I'll fetch the troop of truants back again." 

" Ah, ha," said he, " thou knowest then where they 

hide ? " 
" Well do I know," I answered, " but not tell, 
Till first in open court thou'st said me yea." 

NAISI. 

What said he then to that ? 

FERGUS. 

He sat awhile, 
Revolving in his mind I know not what. 
And something whispered Barach sitting by. 
" Say yea," said Conall. Said Cuchullin, " king 
Say yea, and we will be their sureties." 
" Yea then," said Conor, and the thing was done ; 
And here am I ; and there my galley rides 
Will land us safely this same afternoon 
At Bon-a-Margy, upon Irish ground. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I43 

NAISI, 

Oh noble Fergus, let me kiss thy hand I 

AINLE, 

Our dear befriender and deliverer 1 

ARDAN. 

In whose safe-conduct we do all confide. 

FERGUS. 

What say'st thou, daughter Deirdre, shall we go ? 

DEIRDRE. 

Ah me, among you all what voice have I ? 

Ye leap like fishes to the baited hook 

And like young salmon will be drawn to land. 

I knew 'twas Fergus ere I saw his face. 

And knew he came a messenger of ill ; 

For I am daughter of a seer sire, 

And prescience of disaster came on me 

With first announcement of his sail on shore. 

NAISI. 
Say not disaster ; Fergus brings a boon ; 
Even when, unpardoned, Fd have risked return, 
Our pardon, on condition of return. 

DEIRDRE. 

Ay, by a time is now impossible. 

Under the very wording of the boon. 

The moon, then rounding, rises full to-night : 

How then return before the moon be full ? 



144 POEiMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

NAISI. 

'Tis our return, and placing of ourselves 
At Conor's orders, not the hour precise 
Of our return, that will entitle us 
To that which he has promised in return. 

ARDAN. 

And, say that time were of the bargain part, 
Enough if by to-night we reach his realm, 
Returning, so, in jurisdiction. 

AINLE. 

Lord Fergus here stands as in Conor's place. 
And here we yield us freely to his will 
To stay or to return as he commands. 

DEIRDRE. 

After to-night his function's at an end, 
And he no longer Conor's deputy. 

FERGUS. 

Why, Deirdre, thou'rt chief justice of the court ! 

Had I but had thee by me on the bench, 

I ne'er had ceased to rule for lack of law. 

But lay these puzzling niceties aside, 

You journey back on my protection 

And warrant of safe-conduct, all of you. 

DEIRDRE. 

What warrant did false Conor ever allow 
To stand between him and his own desires ? 
Thou deem'dst his sureties good when in thy place 
Thou sett'st him for a year, and thought he'd yield 



LAYS OF THE RKD RRANCH I45 

The loaned dominion when the time was out. 
Thou hadst the sighs of Nessa and his oath 
For surety then ; but wlicn the day was come 
To yield thee back the sceptre, robe, and crown, 
He king'd it still ; and rates thee, ever since, 
His valiant subject and good stepfather. 

NAISI. 

Injurious Deirdre, thou art beautiful, 

But hast a bitter and unguarded tongue. 

Fergus allowed young Conor to retain 

The sovereignty he lent him, not because 

Conor demanded, but himself so will'd. 

For who would fill a royal judgment-seat 

Must study close the law's intricacies. 

And leave delights untasted, Fergus loves 

Better than balancing litigious scales, 

And hearing false oaths bear the jargon out 

Of wrangling pleaders. Nature him has framed 

For love, for friendship, and for poesy ; 

Nor rules there king in Erin, not himself, 

Th' arch-king of Tara, Conary, glorious son 

Of Ederscal, would venture, or have power, 

To violate safe-conduct given by him. 

FERGUS. 

Daughter, thou art the wife of my good friend ; 
I therefore hear not any word ill-timed. 
If such were spoken. But beseech you, come 
The tide now serves us, and the wind sits fair. 
Array ye quick, and let us seek the shore. 



146 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

NAISI. 

Bring forth my chess-board and its furniture, 
My battle-tackle, and my hunting-gear, 
For glad I am, and full resolved to go. 

DEIRDRE. 

Call me nurse Levarcam, and bring my harp. 

Sirs, I am ready. Yes, I knew thy cry, 

Fergus, for, I remember, once you rode 

To hunt \vith Nessa close beneath my bower : 

And I could tell you still what robes ye wore, 

And w^iat the several names ye called your hounds. 

'Twas then I heard it, and I know it still, 

But feigned I knew it not ; and to no end. 

Yes, from that turret on my garden wall 

I oft have viewed the Brethren of the Branch, 

And learned their cries of combat and of chase ; 

And there I oft saw him my eyes .preferred, 

As my heart prizes still above all men. 

And where he goes, I go along with him. 

FERGUS. 

See here our galley. Send us forth a plank. 

Hold by my hand. Deirdre, I swear to you, 

My heart is lighter now you are on board ; 

For a good ending shall our journey have. 

And I am sure thou'lt thank me for it yet. 

Cast off ! Up sail ! She feels the wind. We fly. 

NAISI. 

The hills race past us See, we leave the lake 
And breast the sea. There Jura bares her paps 



LAYS OF TIIF RHD BR.ANCH. 1 47 

Amid her cloudy sucklings, nurse of storms. 
We steer betwixt her and the mainland here, 
For outside lies the whirlpool in whose gulf 
Brecan of old and all his ships went down. 
Dance, sparkling billows, as my spirits dance ! 
Mine now were perfect joy were thou but gay. 

DEIRDRE. 

Give me my harp, and let me sing a song ; 
And, nurse, undo the fastenings of my hair ; 
For I would mingle tresses wuth the wind 
From Etive side, where happy days w^ere mine, 

I. 

Harp, take my bosom's burthen on thy string, 
And, turning it to sad, sweet melody, 
Waste and disperse it on the careless air. 

II. 

Air, take the harp-string's burthen on thy breast. 
And, softly thrilling soulward through the sense, 
Bring my love's heart again in tune with mine 

III. 
Bless'd were the hours when, heart in tune with heart, 
My love and I desired no happier home 
Than Etive's airy glades and lonely shore. 

IV. 

Alba, farewell ! Farewell, fair Etive bank ! 
Sun kiss thee ; moon caress thee ; dewy stars 
Refresh thee long, dear scene of quiet days ! 



148 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

FERGUS. 

'Tis loved companionship makes nature fair ; 

And scenes as fair as Etive wait thee yet. 

Thou soon shall have that company thou wouldst, 

And choice of Ulad to enjoy it in : 

For, see, the capes of Erin heave in sight. 

Fair Foreland yonder on his eastern watch, 

And there Dunseverick. Lo, the warning fire 

That gives the signal we are seen from shore 

NAISI. 

What concourse this that waits us on the beach ? 

FERGUS. 

Methinks 'tis Barach's ensign I discern, 

Our well-loved, valiant Brother of the Branch. 

Yea, it is he : and yonder, by my life. 

Two not unworthy, hopeful candidates 

For brotherly admittance, my own sons, 

Dark Buino Borb, and Ulan Finn the Fair. 

BARACH. 

Welcome to Fergus. Push the plank to shore. 
Descend, fair daughter. Sons of Usnach, hail ! 

FERGUS. 

My noble brother Barach ! Nay, great sir, 
'Tis not for thee to be our cup-bearer. 

BARACH. 

To better use could none commend the cup, 
Nor goblet offer from a riper cask. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I49 

FERGUS. 

Wine, this, the king of the world might drink and die. 

BARACH. 

Drink, and long live. And, noble Naisi, thou 
Drink too. 

NAISI. 

This cup to health and thanks : no more. 

BARACH. 

What, Fergus, thou must sup with me to-night ? 

FERGUS. 

I pray thee, Barach, hold me as excused. 

We journey hastily, as thou may'st see. 

Fetch forth the chariots. Have the posts been warned ? 

BUINO. 

Relays are ready, and the inns prepared. 

FERGUS. 

Mount, daughter Deirdre. Fill the cup again, 
And fair farewells and healths to all of you. 

BARACH. 

Fergus, thou wilt not pass a brother's door ? 
We wait thee at Dunseverick. Let thy wards 
Take the protection of thy own good sons. 
They'll see them safe. To that end Buino Borb 
Is this same morning from Emania come, 
And here finds Ulan by a lucky chance 
Journeying thither with his company. 
Thy honor shall not suffer in their hands. 



150 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

DEIRDRE. 

Fergus, thou'rt pledged to us. Say nay to him. 

BARACH. 

He shall not say me nay. My board is spread ; 

The choicest Brethren of the Branch are there, 

And much would marvel should his place be void. 

His sons are well-sufficient in his room. 

What though ye journeyed to the Branch alone, 

None dare molest you, such a sheltering shield 

Is the pledged word of Fergus ; and they know, 

From post to post, 'tis on his guarantee 

And pass-word that ye travel ; since the king 

On his assurances has pardoned you. 

DEIRDRE. 

Fergus, I put thee under bond and vow. 
Pledged but to-day, that thou desert us not. 

BARACH. 

Fergus, I put thee under bond and vow. 

Pledged when we made thee Brother of the Branch, 

Thou pass not further till thou sup with me. 

FERGUS. 

I pray thee, Barach, to forbear thy suit. 

BARACH. 

No : neither vv'ill I that forbear, nor bear 

This public scorn that Deirdre puts on me. 

FERGUS. 

Naisi, what answer wouldst thou I should make } 
I cannot halve myself : but these, my sons, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I5I 

Are part of me and will not shame the rest. 
They cannot fill my place at Barach's board, 
But, at your side for convoy, well they can 

NAISI. 

Where vow conflicts with vow, first-vow'd, prevails, 

Therefore, though Barach's be a churlish choice, 

Made against woman and way-faring men, 

I judge him best entitled. Sup with him. 

Buino, I have not known thee until now, 

But deem thy father's son must needs be true, 

Courteous, and valiant. Illan I have known 

Since childhood, and in saying that, say all 

That commendation vouches in a man. 

What then, young nobles, are ye ready, say, 

To be our convoy in your father's room, 

From hence to Eman gate, and thenceforward 

Till Fergus do rejoin us ? 

BUINO AND ILLAN. 

Ready, sir. 

NAISI. 

I ask no oaths. I read in eyes of both 
Bright honor's pledge ; and so commit myself 
My wife, my brethren, and my serving train 
Into your keeping. Mount, and let us ride. 

FERGUS 

Sons, play the part of men, and show me Vveil 
In your presentment of me at the court. 
Thou, Buino, have my spear : and, Illan, thoi; 
Take this good sword of mine. There spreads no shield 



152 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Before the breast of champion of the Branch 
But it will pierce it ; Conor's own except : 
For it was forged by smiths of fairyland, 
And all the voices of the floods and seas 
When loudest raised, are welded in its rim. 
But in this errand that I send you on 
No need will either have of sword or spear. 

NAISI. 

Mount, Deirdre Sons of Fergus, ride beside ; 
Set forward cheerly : son of Roy, adieu ! 

DEIRDRE. 

'Tis hard to fancy fraud behind an eye 

So open blue. Ride near me, Ulan Finn ; 

And, as our chariot glides along the mead, 

Tell me the mountains and the streams we pass, 

The lakes, the woods, and mansions by the way. 

What hills be these around us ? 

ILLAN. 

That, Knocklayd 
To rightward, girded with his chalky belt ; 
Lurgeden yonder, smoothly-back'd to us, 
But browed like frowning giant toward the sea ; 
And now to leftward, haunted by the fays, 
Glenariff's birchen bowers and clear cascade. 

DEIRDRE. 

And in the distance, glittering to the west ? 

ILLAN. 

Our silver river, that : the humming Bann. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 53 

DEIRDRE. 

Why humming ? 

ILLAN, 

'Tis a pretty country tale — 
How one who played the pipes to please his love, 
Was by a jealous water-sprite drawn in : 
And when the river buzzes through his reeds, 
They say 'tis he that still would pipe to her, 
But that the fairy has his chanter hid, 
And left him but the drone. An idle tale. 

DEIRDRE. 

Nay, nought is idle that records true love. 
From Neagh's lake, methinks, that river runs ? 

ILLAN. 

Yea truly 

DEIRDRE. 

And they tell another tale 
How that was once dry champaign, do they not .'' 

ILLAN. 

Yes ; 'twas young Liban's task to watch the well, 

And duly close its covering-lid at eve, 

Lest something evil there inhabiting 

Should issue forth : but, on an afternoon, 

Walking with her true lover, with a mind 

That thought of nothing evil, she forgot 

Well and well-lid ; and so the under-sea 

Burst through and drowned the valley : but the Gods, 

Who favour constant lovers, spared their lives ; 



154 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

And there, beneath a glassy dome they dwell, 
Still pleased in one another's company. 
The lake lies yonder : we shall see it soon. 

DEIRDRE. 

Mark how the simple country people deck 

Each natural scene with graceful tales of love. 

While the strong castles and the towns of men 

Are by the poets and historians 

Stuck full of tragedies and woes of war. 

ILLAN. 

Those are but tales to pass away the time, 

Invented by the fancies of poor swains 

And rustic maidens : but the chroniclers, 

Who note the deeds done in the haunts of men, 

Have oft but wicked actions to record. 

DEIRDRE. 

And therefore thou ? — 

ILLAN. 

Would rather if I might. 
Frequent the open country, and converse 
With shepherds, hunters, and such innocents. 

DEIRDRE. 

Yet wouldst thou not shun martial deeds of arms ? 

ILLAN. 

I dare not shun them, did they challenge me, 
For that were base, unmanly cowardice ; 
But I would rather win the smiles I love 
By mild humanity and gentleness. 



LAYS OF TWE RED BRANCH. 1 53 

DEIRDRE. 

Thou lovest, then ? 

ILLAN. 

A peerless maid I love 
And, for her sake, methinks, love all the world ; 
For all the world's perfections are in her. 

DEIRDRE. 

Long be thou happy in believing so ; 

Have me in kind regard as I have thee, 

And pry thee let thy brother take thy place. 

Dark though he be, as thou art flaxen fair 

I trust I may esteem him equally. 

Ride near me Buino : let me talk with thee : 

Say, wherefore, do men call thee Buino Borb } 

BUINO. 

A something haughty that they find in me, 
— Or, as I fancy, fancy that they find,— 
Not unbeseeming in the eldest born 
Of him who once wore crown of all we see, 
Led some at first to call me by that name, 
Which now, by oft repeating, clings to me. 

DEIRDRE, 

Conor's young Cormac and thyself, methinks, 

Are of an age, and, haply, by and by. 

For that same crown may be competitors. 

BUINO. 

Small were my fear, were there but I and he. 



156 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

DEIRDRE. 

Why hold him, pry thee, in that Hght esteem ? 

BUINO. 

Because, too nice, and over-scrupulous. 

He weighs his actions in a tedious scale, 

Nor strikes when favouring fortune gives the ball. 

DEIRDRE. 

And thou ? — 

BUINO. 

I've won already from his sire 
Promise half-ratified of rents and lands 
Will make me higher in estate than he. 
'Twas not by letting fair occasion slip 
I won that promise, let me promise thee. 

DEIRDRE. 

How called, the promised principality ? 

BUINO. 

Dalwhinny 'twill be, when the land is mine, 

DEIRDRE. 

But, ere the gift's complete, behoves thee snatch 
Some fresh occasion to commend thyself ? 

BUINO. 

Which doubtless yet will come. 

DEIRDRE. 

Turn here thy eye?, 
And tell me, Buino, of thy courtesy, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 1 57 

What do they under yonder aged tree, 
Itself a grove, a leafy temple-court ? 

BUINO. 

That is renowned Crevilly's sacred ash, 
And they beneath it are its worshippers 
Small the return their worship's like to bring, 
Made to dead wood and early-dropping leaves. 

DEIRDRE. 

Thou deemest, then, there is no God in it ? 

BUINO. 

No more than in the fountain or the cam, 

The pillar-circle or the standing stone, 

Where other worshippers perform their rounds. 

DEIRDRE 

Nor in the sun, or wind, or elements ? 

BUINO. 

No more 

DEIRDRE 

But thou believest in the Gods 
Who, whether present under forms of things 
Perceptible to sense, or whether lodged 
Apart in secret chambers of the air, 
Take notice of the impious acts of men 
As murders, treasons, lovers' broken vows ? 

BUINO. 

Sunshine and dew fall equal on the fields 
Of this man and of that : the thunderbolt 
Strikes, indiscriminating, good and bad. 



T58 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

DEIRDRE. 

How, then, oblige men to the oaths they swear ? 

BUINO. 

Each nation has its proper swearing-Gods, 
Whom invocating, if one speak the lie, 
Being found out, he's punishable here. 

DEIRDRE. 

But there } 

BUINO 

I know not : I was never there, 
Nor ever yet met anyone who was 
But all these things may be as thou hast said. 
I know not : but allow it possible. 

DEIRDRE. 

Oh ! yonder see the lake in prospect fair, 

It lies beneath us like a polished shield. 

Ah, me ! methinks, I could imagine it 

Cast down by some despairing deity. 

Flying before the unbelief of men. 

There, in the vale below, a river clear 

Runs by a mounded mansion steep and strong 

Know'st thou the name and story of the place } 

BUINO. 
'Tis called Rathmore, and nothing more know I. 
Ulan belike has got some old romance, 
Passing with poets for its history 

DEIRDRE 

Ulan, what king was he dwelt here of yore ? 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 159 

ILLAN. 

Fergus, the son of Leidi' Lithe-o'-limb, 

Ere yet he reigned at Eman, did dwell here 

DEIRDRE. 

What, Fergus Wry-mouth ? I have heard of him. 
And how he came by his ill-favoured name, 
And struck his bond-maid, and should pay for it. 
'Tis a fair valley. And 'twas here he lived ? 
Methinks I see him when he rose again 
From combat with the monster, and his face, 
That had that blemish till love wiped it off, 
Serene and ample-featured like a king 

ILLAN 

Not love, but anger, made him fight the beast. 

DEIRDRE, 

No, no, I will not have it anger Love 

Prompts every deed heroic. 'Tis the fault 

Of him who did compose the tale at first, 

Not to have shown 'twas love unblemish'd him. 

And so 'tis here we cross Ollarva's fords. 

And, with our wheels still dripping, skirt the lake .? 

No longer shows it like the ample shield 

I pictured it, when gazing from above. 

'Tis now a burnished falchion half-unsheathed 

From cover of the woods and velvet lawns. 

Oh ! happy fancy, what a friend art thou, 

That, with thy unsubstantial imagery, 

Eff"acest solidest and hardest things, 

And mak'st the anxious and o'erburthened mind 



l6o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Move for a while forgetful of itself, 

Amid its thick surrounding obstacles, 

As easy as a maiden young and gay 

Moves through the joyous mazes of the dance ' 

Thanks, gracious Ulan, for thy fair discourse 

That has beguiled the way so happily. 

Till now, when almost nearing to the goal. 

Buino, thou'rt from Emania newly come : 

Say shall we find renowned Conall there ? 

BUINO. 

A messenger from Leinster late arrived 
Reports Athairne, primate of the bards, 
Maltreated of Mesgedra, King of Naas ; 
And Conall has departed to his aid. 

DEIRDRE. 

And where Cuchullin ? 

BUINO. 

At Dundealga he, 
Repressing tumult of his borderers there. 

DEIRDRE. 

How lies Emania ; and Dundealga how ? 

BUINO. 

Straight on, Dundealga : Eman to the right 

DEIRDRE. 

My lord, I counsel that we journey on 
Straight to Cuchullin's mansion. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. l6l 

BUINO. 

Surely no. 
Our charge is to conduct you to the king. 

DEIRDRE. 

We are not prisoners, Buino, in thy hands. 
Naisi, beseech thee, let's not trust ourselves 
At court of Conor,' till our friends be there 

BUINO. 

Your friends are here : faith-worthy friends as they. 

NAISI. 

Let's on to Eman : 'twere a heinous slight 

Put on these frank and brave young noblemen 

To doubt their will and full ability 

For our protection, were protection claimed. 

But none will call in question or impugn 

The word of Fergus for our safety pledged 

Thy fears are groundless. 

DEIRDRE. 

Fergus is not here : 
Fergus has found occasion not to be 
Where our occasions do most call for him : 
Fergus consorts with whispering Barach now : 
He shifts us on his proxies, young and raw ; 
And thou hast heard on what support we lean, 
Trusting the faithless faith of one of them. 

NAISI. 

Thou wrong'st him, Deirdre. 

M 



1 62 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

BUINO. 

Yea, she does me wrong. 
But not for that will I be false to you. 

DEIRDRE. 

Yea, not for that wilt thou be false to us. 

ILL AN. 

We both will spend our lives to see you safe. 

DEIRDRE. 

Thou wouldst. I well believe it ; but for him 

To whom the Gods are possibilities, 

May-be's, perchances, I've no trust in him. 

NAISI. 

Deirdre, forbear. Buino, good cause hast thou 
For thy displeasure ; but it rests with me 
To order our proceeding, not with her. 

DEIRDRE, 

Oh rash, insensate, weakly-credulous, 
That thinkest all men honest as thyself ! 

NAISI. 

One must be master ; and that one am I ; 
And I must judge this case for all of you. 
Man lives by mutual trust. The commonwealth 
Falls into chaos if man trust not man. 
For then all joint endeavours come to nought, 
And each pursues his separate intent, 
Backed by no other labour than his own. 
Which confidence, which bond of social life, 
Is bred in some of just experience, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 63 

Of oaths and terror of the Gods in some, 

But, in the most, of natural honesty 

That God has planted in the breast of man, 

Thereby distinguishing him from the beasts. 

And where I find it, ground it as it may, 

In use, religion, or mere manliness, 

There do I love, revere, and cherish it. 

And since these courteous, brave young gentlemen 

Have taken it on their honor and their truth 

To hold us harmless, though we near the gates 

Of one who bears me great and just ill-will, 

I'll trust them wholly ; nor affront their faith 

With any scrupulous, unhandsome show 

Of base suspicion, diffidence, or fear. 

Drive on to Eman, therefore. Rightward drive. 

It is my will, and I will have it so. 

DERIDRE. 

Nurse Levarcam, rememberest thou the time 
We sat together on that hill we see 
There where the sky-line has a streak of gray. 
And snow was on the ground ? 

LEVARCAM. 

Aye, well indeed 
Do I remember, darling ; it was there 
Thou sawest him first, and said the sifted snow 
Was hardly fairer 

DEIRDRE. 

He has frowned on me 
Thrice, now. who never frowned on me before. 



164 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Yet am I prouder to be ruled by him, 
And, for that noble justice of his mind, 
Do love him better, were that possible 
Where love was always best, than e'er before. 

LEVARCAM. 

My pet, my precious one, we know not yet 

But that the king may treat us honestly. 

If to the Red Branch lodging we be sent, 

Mistrust him : but, elsewhere, set face to face, 

And other champions of the province by. 

He durst not venture such a villany 

As thy dark-omening spirit shudders at. 

But, see, we near the town. The sun sets red. 

And turns the low-hung awning of the clouds 

Into a lowering, crimson canopy. 

DEIRDRE. 

Blood-red it hangs. I know the augury 

But knowledge and forewarning now come late. 

NAISI. 

We near the palace. See, a steward comes 

To lead us to our lodging. Sir, precede : 

We follow. 'Tis the Red Branch, as I see. 

We are assigned to. Often in this hall 

Have I been merry, and will be again. 

Here's supper laid. Beseech you sit ye down 

And let's refresh ourselves. 

DEIRDRE. 

I cannot eat. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 65 

NAISI. 

Nor I, in truth. I have been somewhat chafed. 
Give me some wine ; and set the chess-tables. 
Ardan will play with me, to pass the time, 
7'ill haply Conor send us his commands. 
And, Ainle, thou be umpire of the game. 

AINLE. 

Before we sit, sir, shall we set the watch ? 

NAISI. 

No. We are here in charge of trusted friends, 
And what is needful to be done they'll do. 

DEIRDRE. 

Nurse, while in this defiant confidence 
He sits, disdaining fortune, steal thou forth. 
And, mingling with the concourse in the hall, 
Observe what Conor does : and fetch me word. 

NAISI. 

Who's he who at the window there peeps in ? 

Begone, base fellow, whosoe'er thou art 1 

I love not such espial. Play again. 

Deirdre, set forth thy harp ; and let the air 

Be brave and cheerful. We have nought to fear. 

DEIRDRE. 

I play my best ; though that be ill enough. 
My heart is heavy at my fingers' ends. 

NAISI. 

How ! What ! Our spying overseer again ! 
Take that, thou villain, for thy impudence ! 

[Hurls the heavy chessman he is playing with at the spy, 
striking him full on the face.] 



l66 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

DEIRDRE. 

What has disturbed my lord ? 

NAISI. 

A spying knave 
At yonder window, that, with brutal "eyes, 
Surveyed us as v*^e sat, and took thee in 
As he'd appraise thy beauties, charm by charm. 
None here shall pry into our privacy. 
Lords, think it not in your disparagement, 
But I would crave to have that casement closed, 
And, if it please you, let my battle-arms 
Be placed beside me, ready to my hand. 
There, Deirdre, see, thy nurse would speak with thee. 

LEV ARC AM. 

My sweet, my darling, I am here again 

He means us ill. I've seen and spoke with him. 

He sat at table with his judges by. 

And made this question with them, whether we 

Not rendering ourselves before the full o' the moon. 

His promise made to Fergus Royson, held ? 

The judges differed. Half of them affirmed 

His promise was, in that, conditional, 

And, the condition failing, it held not. 

The other half as stiffly did maintain 

The point of time was nothing to the point. 

And that, though Fergus might be late a day. 

The pardon granted us did yet hold good. 

With these young Cormac, sitting by, agreed, 

And, to confirm his argument, did swear 

That, saving still the duty of a son 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 67 

Defending father, were his sire assailed, 

He never would raise weapon 'gainst poor guests 

Drawn in to jeopardy of life and limb 

By plotted covin and duplicity. 

Whereat — what I had never seen before — 

Conor, who, ever, was as temperate 

As his brave step-sire jovial, swallowed down 

Two mighty cups of wine ; and, spying me, 

He called me up, and, there before them all, 

Demanded many things concerning thee. 

And did thy beauty live upon thee still ? 

" No," said I ; " she is wrinkled, lean, and old, 

And nothing hke the Deirdre that she was " 

— The Gods forgive me for the loving lie ! 

But while I spoke, one entering cried, " 'Tis false ! 

There lives not beauty on the earth's expanse 

Fit to compare with her's. I saw her sit," 

The insolent eaves-dropper did go on, 

" A perfect goddess, lovely to behold. 

Upon a silken couch : she flung her arms, 

No ivory fairer, o'er her golden harp. 

And played a merry and delightful air 

So sweet, I stood as in an ecstacy ; 

When that strong traitor who consorts with her, 

Spying me, snatched a chessman from the board 

And flung it full at me : see here the wound." 

With that he showed his cheek besmeared with blood, 

— I would the just Gods it had been his brains. — 

And Conor, rising, cried to fetch his arms. 

And vowed he would avenge his messenger ; 

Then some cried " treason " ; others tliat denied. 



1 68 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And Cormac called out, " Never better hap 
Befall a cranny-haunting, mousing spy ! " 
Whereat I judged it well to come away, 
And there I left them wrangling noisily. 

DEIRDRE. 

It is a crafty pretext for a quarrel ; 
That quarrel to be pretext for his death, 
And my deliverance into hands abhorred. 



Who here ? 



BUINO. 
PURSUIVANT. 

A messenger from Conor, I. 

BUINO. 



His will ? 



PURSUIVANT. 

He wills that thou deliver up 

Naisi the son of Usnach, who stands charged 

With wounding to effusion of the blood. 

BUINO. 

Under safe conduct is lord Naisi here. 
And we, as sons and lawful deputies 
Of his great surety, Fergus son of Roy, 
Are answerable for him. 

PURSUIVANT. 

Yield him up. 

BUINO. 

We will not yield him. There I plant the spear 
Of Fergus. Pass it, and I strike thee dead. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 69 

PURSUIVANT. 

Buino, a message for thy private ear 

BUINO. 
Deliver it without. I follow thee. 

DEIRDRE. 

It is the confirmation of the grant 
That bribes him to betray us. 

ILLAN. 

Oh, no, no 1 
If that were possible, I'd die of shame. 

NAISI. 

Await him : he'll return. 

DEIRDRE. 

Oh trustful breast, 
Incapable of comprehending guile, 
As is the goblet of true crystal stone 
To hold the poisoned draught that shivers it. 
Would I could bear thy heart-break, now at hand ! 

AINLE. 

He comes not back. Sir, shall we take our arms .'' 

NAISI. 

What, Ulan, wouldst thou that we deem ourselves 
Discharged the duty to rely on thee ? 

ILLAN. 

Not while I live, and these, my father's men. 
Are here to make the pledge of Fergus good. 



1 7© POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

NAISI. 

The move is with thee, Ardan. Play again. 
Lord Buino will come back to us anon. 

DEIRDRE. 

Dalwhinny's lord, he never will come back. 

NAISI. 

I hear one coming. 

DEIRDRE. 

Oh my heart ! not he. 

PURSUIVANT. 

In the king's name, yield ye my prisoner up. 
Or Conor's self will fetch him. He's at hand. 

ILLAN. 

We will not yield him up, to thee or him. 

PURSUIVANT. 

Thy brother Buino spoke as brave as thou, 
And he has done his homage gratefully, 
And now is lord of lands and seigniories, 

NAISI. 

We're not betrayed } 

ILLAN. 

Oh Naisi, what a word ! 
Thou soon shalt see I am not worthy it. 

PURSUIVANT. 

Ulan, I bear a message for thee too. 



Out with it. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 171 

ILL AN. 



PURSUIVANT. 

Let me have thy private ear. 



ILLAN. 

What, tampering villain, vvouldst thou bribe me too ? 
Up, comrades ; thrust the fellow from the door. 
They shall not live who oiflFer Ulan shame. 

PURSUIVANT. 

Assistance, ho, without ! 

DEIRDRE. 

They force the door. 

ILLAN. 

We'll meet and drive them to their barracks back. 
Throw the door open ! Charge upon the knaves ! 

LEV ARC AM. 

Oh ye good heavens, what a man is here 

We counted but an hour ago a boy ! 

He darts upon them fiercer than a hawk 

Striking at pigeons. With a swifter whirl 

Than arms of windmills and than grinding wheels. 

He makes the red rout through and over them. 

Hah ! from his strokes they tumble and rebound 

As shocks that jump upon the tlireshing floor. 

There's Fergus's true blood ! The other one 

Is none of his : there Fergus was played false. 

Oh, well done, Ulan ! Glorious youth, well done ! 



172 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

DEIRDRE. 

'Twas tender of dishonour set aflame 

His soul's unconscious reservoirs of wrath 

That, blazing forth, do so transfigure him, 

And of the soft-affection'd, gentle youth 

Make the heroic, formidable man. 

He fires the very moonlight with his blade, 

Flash upon flash. 

LEVARCAM. 

Oh, hark the dreadful clang. 

DEIRDRE. 

He fights with Conor. It is Conor's shield 
Screams, clamours, and resounds beneath his blows. 
Speed him, kind Gods ! Ah me, who strikes between } 

LEVARCAM. 

'Tis Cormac to his father's rescue come. 

Alack, young Ulan cannot combat both. 

He falls : he's slain : his broken band return. 

DEIRDRE. 

Leaderless remnant of brave friends, come in. 

NAISI. 
Now, noble brothers, we may arm ourselves, 
Nor wound protecting pride. Make fast the doors. 
Give me my corselet. 

DEIRDRK. 

Let me brace it on. 
The helmet, Levarcam. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I73 

LEVARCAM. 

We'll dress our lord 
Most like a royal champion, 

DEIRDRE. 

Like a God 
We'll send him forth to trample all things base. 

NAISI. 

Oh dear-loved Deirdre, thy advice was good. 
I had been wiser, had I taken it, 
And all of us, I dread, had safer been. 
Yet thou dost not reproach me. 

DEIRDRE. 

No reproach 
From lips of Deirdre shalt thou ever hear. 
All that my noble lord has done was right, 
Wise, and magnanimous. 

NAISI. 

I did my best. 
Though that but ill, for honour. 

DEIRDRE. 

I, my best. 
Though that but weak and petulant, for love : 
And now for love will do whate'er remains. 

NAISI. 

Ardan, learn for us v^'hat they do without. 

ARDAN. 

They've summoned fresh battaHons. Till these come 
They siege us at a distance. 



174 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

NAISI. 

Then, we strike 
Before their aids come up. Thou'rt ready, dear, 
To share this venture ? 

DEIRDRE. 

Ready, if near thee. 

NAISI. 

Ardan and Ainle, to your tender care 
I give my Deirdre. Fence her, right and left, 
With cover of your bodies and your shields. 
I take the front. Our cohort will make head 
For the King's Stables. There at least we'll find 
A shelter we may better hope to hold 
Till Fergus's return ; or, happily. 
Conveyance, and the chance of full escape. 

DEIRDRE. 

Stay, Levarcam. They will not harm thee. Stay. 

LEVARCAM. 

Alack, Fm hurt, and stay against my will. 

NAISI. 

Friends, keep together. Deirdre, thou shalt see 
What love can do, if honour were unwise. 
Cast wide the portal. Be the Gods our aid ! 

LEVARCAM. 

I cannot see their onset. I but hear 
The hurrying and the clashing. Oh, ye Gods. 
Shield ye my darling one, or send her death 
Rather than life with loathing and despair 1 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 175 

I saw her, ere she left, prepare a cup ; 
What, and for what, I guess indeed too well. 
Would I could give it her, were that to do : 
'Twere my last service, and would be my best. 
How dreadful 'tis to hear men dealing death. 
And not to know who falls and who keeps up. 
The tumult slackens. We are saved or lost. 
One side returns victorious. Deirdre comes : 
But ah, her sidesmen are not those they were ! 
'Tis Cormac leads her ; these are Conor's men 
That bear the burthens in. Oh, heavy sight. 
Ardan and Ainle and lord Naisi dead ! 

DEIRDRE. 

Ye need not hold me. I am wholly calm. 

Thanks, gentle Cormac, who hast won for me 

The boon to see these nobles buried. 

Give them an honorable sepulture ; 

And, while ye dig their grave, let me begin 

My lamentable death-song over them. 

I. 

O, sons of Usnach, stretched before me, dead. 
Ye were, in life, Ulidia's chosen three 
For every gift and grace of manly Nature, 
For wisdom, valour, courtesy, and song. 

II. 

Naisi, my husband, O my slaughtered lord, 
O pierced by cruel swords that pierced not me. 
Thou Honor's Sanctuary, thou Tower of Justice, 
By sacrilegious treason beaten down ! — 



176 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

III. 

Thou wast the one, with counsel of a sage, 
That kept UHdia happy-homed m peace, 
The one, with onsets of a kingly hon, 
That left Ulidia glory-crowned in war. 

IV. 

Thou wast the one, with prudent-generous sway, 
That kept thy household and thy festive hall, — 
The one, with mildness and with manly patience, 
That kept thy wilful helpmate ordered well. 

V. 

Ainle and Ardan, brothers of my heart, 
O shapely as young salmons, where ye lie. 
Melodious voices, breaths of youthful ardour 
In life's high chorus, cold and silent now ! — 

VI. 

Ye were the two, with fleetness of your feet. 
That took the bounding creatures of the plain, — 
The two, with sweetness of your soft addresses, 
That took the daughters of the land in thrall 

VII. 

The wolf may now, and now the forest boar. 
Roam free : the hunters from the hill are gone : 
Invasion proudly now may leap the border 
The sons of Usnach stand to guard no more. 

VIII. 

Smiles, rest ye now beneath dejected cheeks. 
Sink, maiden blushes, back on burthened hearts ; 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 77 

Delight and dalliance in the dust are lying, 
Before the clay-piled margin of the grave. 

IX. 

Oh, greedy grave-dug earth, that swallowest 
The strength and loveliness of all that lives, 
Thou shalt not always hide from hopes immortal 
The coldly-hoarded treasures of thy clay ! 

X. 

A day shall come, the May-day of Mankind, 
When, through thy quickening clods and teeming pores, 
The sunward-mounting, vernal effluences 
Shall rise of buried Loves and Joys re-born. 

XI. 

Dig the grave deep, that, undisturbed till then, 
They rest, past reach of mortal hate and fear ; 
Past the knave's malice and the tyrant's anger, 
And past the knowledge of what rests for me. 

XII. 

Dig the grave deep. Cast in their arms of war, 
Cast in the collars of their hounds of chase, 
To deck their chamber of expectant slumber. 
And make the mansion wide enough for four. 

CORMAC. 

Deirdre, 'tis time that I conduct thee hence. 

DEIRDRE. 

Sir, I am, sudden, faint. That cup of wine 
Is still untasted. Pray thee hand it me. 

N 



178 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

I would but kiss my nurse and say farewell. 
Now give me this refreshment. 

LEVARCAM, 

She'll not thirst 
More in this world ; now well past reach of harm. 

CORMAC. 

Ay ; so. 'Twas poisoned. She has freed herself 
Oh, wretched king, who now canst only hear 
That all for nothing thou hast been forsworn. 
Fair corpse, I'll have thee by thy husband laid. 
Thou art her nurse, and thou shalt see to it. 

LEVARCAM. 

Sir, I have heard a shout which I know well 
'Tis Fergus who approaches. Stay not here 

CORMAC. 

To save a father vile and fraudulent, 

I've slain the noblest youth in all the world. 

For him I fight no more. I fear to face 

The grief of guileless Fergus whom I love, 

More even than his wrath. I'll get me hence, 

And, in the west, will seek a guardsman's pay 

With Maev and Ailill, till this storm be passed. 

FERGUS. 

Where are my wards, my wards that I have bailed ? 

Where are my sons who had my wards in charge .'' 

Their danger was revealed me ere I sat. 

And hot upon their track I'm here, to find 

Confusion, horror, blood, and treachery. 

Where are my wards, the wards of Fergus, where ? 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 79 

LEVARCAM. 

Too blind with passion to perceive them lie 
Here almost at his feet : he hurries past. 
Unhappy Fergus, what atrocious pangs 
Of rage and self-reproach will sting thee through 
When presently thou shalt have learned it all ! 
Ay, big with bitter knowledge, back he comes. 

FERGUS. 

Fire, bring me fire ! bring ropes and grapple-hooks ! 

ril pull his proud aspiring palace-roof 

Down to the ground and burn it over him. 

I'll take such vengeance on this traitor king 

All Erin, shore to shore, shall ring with it. 

And poets in the ages yet to come 

Make tales of wonder of it for the world. 



DEIRDRE'S FAREWELL TO ALBA 

(From the Irish.) 

Farewell to fair Alba, high house of the Sun, 
Farewell to the mountain, the cliff, and the Dun ; 
Dun Sweeny adieu ! for my Love cannot stay, 
And tarry I may not when love cries : " Away I " 

Glen Vashan ! Glen Vashan ! where roebucks run free. 
Where my Love used to feast on the red deer with me, 
Where rock'd on thy waters while stormy winds blew, 
My Love used to slumber. Glen Vashan, adieu ! 



l8o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Glendaro ! Glendaro ! where birchen boughs weep 
Honey dew at high noon o'er the nightingale's sleep, 
Where my Love used to lead me to hear the cuckoo, 
'Mong the high hazel bushes, Glendaro, adieu ! 

Glen Urchy ! Glen Urchy ! where loudly and long 
My Love used to wake up the woods with his song. 
While the Son of the Rock* from the depths of his dell 
Laugh'd sweetly in answer, Glen Urchy, farewell j 

Glen Etive ! Glen Etive ! where dappled does roam. 
Where I leave the green sheeling I first call'd a home ; 
Where with me and my true Love delighted to dwell. 
The Sun made his mansion, Glen Etive, farewell ! 

Farewell to Inch Draynach, adieu to the roar 
Of the blue billow bursting in light on the shore ; 
Dun Fiagh, farewell ! for my Love cannot stay, 
And tarry I may not when love cries : " Away ! " 



DEIRDRE'S LAMENT FOR THE SONS OF 

USNACH. 

(From the Irish.) 

The lions of the hill are gone. 

And I am left alone — alone — 

Dig the grave both wide and deep. 

For I am sick, and fain would sleep ! 

* Mac an Alia, i.e., Echo. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. l8l 

The falcons of the wood are flown, 
And I am left alone — alone — 
Dig the grave both deep and wide, 
And let us slumber side by side. 

The dragons of the rock are sleeping. 
Sleep that wakes not for our weeping : 
Dig the grave and make it ready ; 
Lay me on my true Love's body. 

Lay their spears and bucklers bright 
By the warriors' sides aright ; 
Many a day the Three before me 
On their linked bucklers bore me. 

Lay upon the low grave floor, 
'Neath each head, the blue claymore ; 
Many a time the noble Three 
Redden'd those blue blades for me. 

Lay the collars, as is meet. 
Of their greyhounds at their feet ; 
Many a time for me have they 
Brought the tall red deer to bay. 

Oh ! to hear my true Love singing, 
Sweet as sound of trumpets ringing : 
Like the sway of ocean swelling 
RoU'd his deep voice round our dwelling. 

Oh ! to hear the echoes pealing 
Round our green and fairy sheeling, 
When the Three, with soaring chorus, 
Pass'd the silent skylark o'er us. 



1 82 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Echo now, sleep, morn and even — 
Lark alone enchant the heaven ! — 
Ardan's lips are scant of breath, — 
Neesa's tongue is cold in death. 

Stag, exult on glen and mountain — 
Salmon, leap from loch to fountain — 
Heron, in the free air warm ye — 
Usnach's Sons no more will harm ye ! 

Erin's stay no more you are. 
Rulers of the ridge of war ; 
Never more 'twill be your fate 
To keep the beam of battle straight. 

Woe is me ! by fraud and wrong — 
Traitors false and tyrants strong — 
Fell Clan Usnach, bought and sold, 
For Barach's feast and Conor's gold ! 

Woe to Eman, roof and wall ! — 
Woe to Red Branch, hearth and hall ! — 
Tenfold woe and black dishonour 
To the false and foul Clan Conor ! 

Dig the grave both wide and deep, 
Sick I am, and fain would sleep ! 
Dig the grave and make it ready, 
Lay me on my true Love's body. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 1 83 

CONARY. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[The old Irish Bardic tale of the Destruction of the House 
{bruidin) of Da-Derga — for my first acquaintance with wliich I 
am indebted to Mr. W. M. Hennessy — furnishes the groimd-work 
of tliis piece ; but it will not be miderstood that " Conary " 
pretends to be a full reproduction of the Togail bruidin da 
dergae, or that all its incidents are drawn from that source. 

The Bruidin is generally regarded as having been a kind of 
Caravanserai ; and there seem good gromids for accepting the 
idea of the late ingenious ]VIr. Crowe that it represents, in the 
west of Europe, the Prytaneum or house of state-hospitality of 
the ancient Greeks. There appear to have been six principal 
places of this kind in Ireland at the coinm.encement of the 
Christian era ; and one of these, called Bruidin -Da-Derga, is 
said to have been the scene of the death of King Conary Mor, 
whose reign is made to synchronise with the close of the Pagan 
period, under the circumstances related in the tale. 

The classical reader will find in the Togail a curious — probably 
an unexpected — illustration of the old eastern method of compu- 
ting the losses in a military expedition. There, the forces, before 
departing on their campaign, cast each man an arrow into a 
common receptacle ; for wliich, on their return, each man \\-ith- 
drew an arrow ; and the weapons remaining represented the 
dead and missing. {Procop. de bell. Pers. I. i., c. ii.) The actors 
in the Togail cast, everj' man, a stone into a common heap, or 
cairn, and what remained after each sur\avor had withdra\\ni 
his stone, served as the census and memorial of the slain. 

The singular and terrible properties ascribed to the Spear of 
Keltar in the Togail may not be without some bearing on 
Homer's expression naiftTat «V 7roAa;U7)<Ti iu reference to the 
Spear of Diomede. 

The Togail also contributes its evidence to the great anti- 
quity of the leading lines of liighway. There were five of these 
" Streets " radiating from Tara, the two mentioned in the tale 
together corresponding pretty nearly with the old post-road 
from Dublin to the north. The autlior of the Togail places 
the site of Eruidin-Da-Derga on the River Dodder, in the ancient 
territory of Cualann, near Dublin, where Bohernabreena, or 
" Road of the Bruidin," still preserves the name. The fact of 
a sea-invasion corresponding in its main features with the 



184 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

descent of the pirates on the coasts of Meath and Dublin, 
is chronicled in the Book of Howth, and still lives very vividly 
in local oral tradition about Balrothery and Balbriggan.] 

Full peace was Erin's under Conary, 
Till — though his brethren by the tender tie 
Of fosterage — Don Dessa's lawless sons, 
Fer-ger, Fer-gel, and vengeful Fergobar, 
For crimes that justly had demanded death, 
By judgment mild he sent in banishment ; 
Yet wrung his own fraternal heart the while. 
Whose brothers, Ferragon and Lomna Druth, 
Drawn by affection's ties, and thinking scorn 
To stay behind while others led the way 
To brave adventure, in their exile joined. 

Banished the land of Erin, on the sea 
They roamed, and, roaming, with the pirate-hordes 
Of British Ingcel leagued ; and this their pact : 
The spoil of Britain's and of Alba's coasts 
To fall to them ; and Erin's counter-spoil 
To fall to Ingcel. Britain's borders first 
They ravaged ; and in one pernicious raid 
Of sack and slaughter indiscriminate, 
Ingcel's own father and his brethren seven 
By chance sojourning with the victims, slew. 
Then, Alba sack'd, said Ingcel, " Steer we now 
For Erin, and the promised counter-spoil." 

" 'Tis just ; and welcome to our souls as well 
For outrage unavenged," said Fergobar. 
" 'Tis just : it is thy right," said Ferragon. 
" 'Tis just, and woe it is ! " said Lomna Druth. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 85 

'Twas then that Conary from strife composed 
By kingly counsel, 'twixt contending lords 
Of distant Thomond, held his journey home. 
But, when in sight of Tara, lo, the sky 
On every side reflected rising flame 
And gleam of arms. " What this ? " cried Conary. 

A certain Druid was there in the train 
Who answered, " Often did I warn thee, King, 
This journey at this season was ill-timed, 
As made in violation of the gaysh 
That King of Tara shall not judge a cause 
Except in Tara's proper judgment hall 
From Beltane-day to May-day." 

" Yea, in truth, 
I do remember now," said Conary, 
Amongst my prohibitions that is one, 
Which thoughtlessly I've broken. Strange it is 
That act for speedy justice and for peace 
Accomplished, should, with God, be disesteem'd. 
But, since Religion's awful voice forbids, 
I pray forgiveness of offended Heaven, 
Whose anger at my fault too plain I see. 
And vow atonement at thy own award. 
But, which way now .'' " 

" Ride northward to the track 
Where Street Midluachra and Street Cualann join ; 
There, choice of highway waits us, north or south." 
Northward they rode. " What be these moving brakes 
Before us ? Nay, 'tis but a running drove 
Of antler 'd stags. Whence come they ? and whence 
come 



1 86 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

These darkening flights of fowl above our heads ? " 
" These the wild brood of Clane-Milcarna's dens : " 
Replied the druid. " It is another gaysh 
For Tara's King to see them leave their iairs 
After mid-day ; and ill will come of it." 

" Omens of evil gather round my path, 
Though thought of evil in my breast is none," 
Said Conary, and heaved a heavy sigh ; 
" Yet, since I reign by law, and holy men 
Charged with the keeping of the law, declare 
Thou shalt not so-and-so, at such a time 
Do or leave undone, it beseems not me 
To question for what end the law is so : 
Though, were it but a human ordinance, 
'Twere, haply, counted childish : but, go to, 
I own another violated gaysh ; 
I pray forgiveness of offended Heaven ; 
And, since some fierce invading enemy — 
Misguided brothers, that it be not you ! — 
Bars our approach to Tara, let us choose 
Cualann highroad ; for Cualann-ward there dwells 
One whom. I once befriended ; and I know 
His home will give me shelter for to-night, 
Knew I aright the way that leads to it." 

" Name of the man, oh King } " demanded Cecht 
(Fly ye, foes all, fly ye before the face 
Of Cecht, the battle-sidesman of the King ! ) 
The biggest man yet gentlest-countenanced 
Of all that rode in Conary 's company. 
" Da-Derga he," said Conary. 

" Ride on," 
Said Cecht. " Street Cualann whereon now we are 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 87 

Leads straight to Bru'n-Da-Derga, and leads straight 

Through and beyond it, 'Tis a house of rest 

For all that come and go ; where ready still 

The traveller finds the wind-dried fuel stack'd, 

The cauldron slung, the ale-vat on the floor. 

A strong, fast mansion. Seven good doors it has, 

And seven good benches betwixt door and door 

And seven good couches spread 'twixt bench and bench. 

All that attend thee now, and all that come — 

See where they come along Midluachra track, 

The host of Emain, in good time I judge, 

Journeying south — shall nothing want for room, 

I shall go forward : for my duty it is 

To enter first at nightfall, when my king 

Comes to his lodging ; and with flint and steel 

Kindle the fire whose flame shall guide him home." 

Then forth, at gallop of his steeds, went Cecht ; 

While, slower following, Conary was aware 

Of three that rode before them on the way. 

Red were their coursers and their mantles red. 

Red, too, their caps, blood-red — 

" Another gay shy" 
Said Conary. " I also call to mind 
Amid my prohibitions this is one, 
To follow three red riders on the way ; 
Injunction idle, were it not divine. 
After them, Ferflath ; stay them till we pass." 
Then the light lad young Ferflath, Conary 's son 
Sprang forth at gallop on the red men's track, 
And called his message shrilly from behind. 
But failed to overtake them. He .who rode 
Last of the triad sang him back a lay — 



1 88 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Water, oh youth, oh slight swift-riding youth. 
On back, on neck, on shoulder lightly borne. 
Water will quench ; fire burn ; and shocks of hair 
At horrid tidings, upon warriors' heads 
Bristle as reeds in water ; water ; ho ! " 

Ferflath returned, and told to Conary 
The lay the red man sang ; " and sir," he said, 
" I rode, I think, as seemly as himself, 
And know not what he meant : but sure I am 
These are not men of mankind, as we are, 
But fairy men and ministers of ill." 

" Now then," said Conary, " let every gaysh 
That dread Religion with hard-knotting hand 
Binds on the King of Tara, for to-day 
Be broken ! Let them go. They may precede ; 
May tie their red steeds at the great hall door, 
And choose their seats within ; and I, the King, 
May follow, and accept the traveller's place 
Last to attain the inn. Well, be it so : 
Respect departs with fortune's one-day change 
But, friends, despond not, you. Though few we be 
In midst of these marauders (oh, my heart 
Forbid the rising thought that these be they !) 
Yet shall we soon be many ; for they come. 
They whom on Street Midluachra late we saw. 
Now following on Street Cualann. In good time 
They join us ; for, be sure such chariot-throng 
Leaves not the borders of the warlike North, 
But champions good come with it. Let us in." 
While thus fared Conary, the pirates' scouts 
Who watched the coast, put off to where the fleet, 
Stay'd on the heaving ridges of the main, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. l8g 

Lay off Ben-Edar. Ingcel's galley reached, 
High on the prow they found him looking forth, 
As from a crag o'er-hanging grassy lands 
Where home-bred cattle graze, the lion glares 
A-hungered ; and, behind, as meaner beasts 
That wait the lion's onset for their share, 
Outlaw'd and reprobate of many a land. 
The ravening crew. Beside him, right and left. 
Stood Lomna, Ferragon, and Fergobar ; 
Which Lomna in the closure of his cloak 
Wore a gold brooch embossed with flashing gems 
Choicest by far of all their spoils yet won : 
And Ingcel thus demanded of the spies — 

" What saw ye, say ? " 

" A chariot-cavalcade 
Along Street Cualann moving from the north. 
Splendid the show of lofty-pacing steeds 
And glittering war-cars : chariots seventeen 
We counted. In the first were reverend men. 
Poets, belike, or judges. After these 
Heralds, it seem'd, or high apparitors 
That give the world to know a great one comes 
He in the third car rode ; an aged man. 
Full-grey, majestical, of face serene. 
Followed by household numerous and strong. 
Cooks, butlers, door-wards, cup-bearers, and grooms. 
What heard ye ? " 

" From a vast hall's open doors 
The stroke of steel on flint at kindling fire ; 
And every stroke so sounded as the arm 
That gave it were a giant's, and every shower 



ICVO POEM5 BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Of sparks it shed — as if a summer sky 
Lightened at eve — ^illumined the dusk around." 

" What this, good Ferragon, who best of all 
Knowest Erin hill and valley, things and' men.?" 
Said Ingcel. Ferragon made answer slow, 
(For, first, his soul said this within himself, 
" Oh, royal brother, that it be not thou ! ") — 

" I know not what may be this open hall 
With fire at hand unless, belike, it be 
Da-Derga's guest-house, which, for all who come 
By Cualann Street, stands open, wherein still 
Firewood stands stack'd and brazen cauldron hangs 
Slung ready, and clear water running through ; 
Bruidin-Da-Derga." 

" And the man who strikes 
The flint and steel to kindle fire therein ? " 

" I know not if it be not that he be 
Some king's fore-runner, sent before a king 
To kindle fire ere yet the king himself 
And royal household reach their resting-place." 

" And he who in the thirdmost chariot rode, 
He who is grey, serene, majestical ? " 

" I know not if it be not that he be 
Some king of Erin's sub-kings who, to-night, 
Rests in Da-Derga's hospitable hall." 

" Up sail ! To shore " cried Ingcel ; and the fleet, 
As flight of wild-geese startled from a fen. 
Displayed their wings of while, and made the land. 

'Twas at Troy Furveen, and the sun was down ; 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. I9I 

But, from Da-Derga's hall so streamed the light, 
It shone at distance as a ruddy star ; 
And thitherward the host o'er moor and fell 
Marched straight : but when behind a sheltering knoll 
Hard by, but still concealed, the ranks were drawn, 
«< Make now our earn," said Ingcel, and the host 
Defiling past him, cast, each man, his stone 
All in one heap. 

" When this night's work is done," 
Said Ingcel, " he who shall return alive 
Shall take his stone again. Who not returns, 
His stone shall here remain his monument. 
And now, before we make the trial of who 
Returns, and who stays yonder, let us send 
Scout Milscoth — for he bears the boast of sight 
And far-off hearing far above us all — 
To spy the house and bring us speedy word 
Of all he sees and hears, outside and in : 
So shall we judge how best to win the same." 

Forth went the spy : they waited by their earn. 
Till, gliding as a shadow, he returned : 
And round him, as he came, they drew a ring, 
Round him and Ingcel and Don Dessa's sons. 
And round their destined stones of memoiy. 

" What sawest thou outward ? " 

" Outward of the house 
I saw, drawn up at every guarded door, 
Full seventeen chariots ; and, between the spokes, 
Spying, I saw, to rings of iron tied. 
At end and side wall, thrice a hundred steeds 
Groom'd sleek, ear-active, eating corn and hav" 



192 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" What means this concourse, think'st thou, Ferra- 
gon? 

" I know not if it be not that a host 

Resorting, it may be, to games or fair 
At Tara or at Taltin, rest to-night 
In the great guest-house. 'Twill be heavier cost 
Of blows and blood to win it than it seem'd." 

" A guest-house, whether many within or few, 
Is as the travellers' temple, and esteemed 
In every civil land a sanctuary. 
'Twere woe to sack the inn," said Lomna Druth. 

" Lomna," said Ingcel, " when we swore our oaths 
We made not reservation of the inn : 
And, for their numbers, fear not, Ferragon ; 
The more, the more the spoil. Say on, and tell 
What heard'st thou ? " 

" Through the open doors I heard 
A hum as of a crowd of feasting men. 
Princely the murmur, as when voices strong 
Of far-heard captains on the front of war 
Sink low and sweet in company of queens." 

" What think'st thou, Ferragon ? " 

" The gentlest speech 
Within doors gives the loudest cheer afield. 
Methinks to spoil this house will try our strength." 

" And it shall try it : and our strength shall bear 
That and worse trial. Say, what sawest thou next 
Within the house ? Begin from the right hand," 

" To rightward of the great door in the midst 
A bench I saw : ten warriors sat thereon. 
The captain of the ten was thus. His brow 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 93 

Thick and high arching o'er a gray clear eye : 
A face long-oval, broader-boned above : 
A man whose look bespoke adventure past 
And days of danger welcome yet to come, 
Though sadden'd somewhat, haply by remorse 
For blood ill-spilt or broken vows or both. 
His mantle green, his brooch and sword-hilt gold." 
" What captain this, conceiv'st thou, Ferragon ? " 
" I know him ; verily a man of might ; 
A man of name renown'd in field and hall ; 
Cormac Condlongas, long the banish'd son 
Of Conor son of Nessa. When his sire 
Through love of Deirdre broke his guarantees 
Pledged to his step-sire, Fergus son of Roy, 
For Usnach's sons' safe-conduct, Cormac, he. 
Through love of Fergus and through stronger love 
Of kingly-plighted honour undefiled, 
Abjured his father's councils and his court, 
And in the hostile halls of western Maeve 
Spent many a year of heart-corroding care, 
And many a man of Ulster, many a man 
Of his own kin, in alien service, slew. 
If he be there, methinks to-night's assault 
Will leave the stones of some here unremoved." 

Said Ingcel, " I shall know him, when I see 
That pale remorseful visage by and by. 
And that same brooch and sword-hilt shall be mine. 
What of the nine ? " 

" The nine he sat among 
Were men of steadfast looks, that at his word, 
So seemed it me, would stay not to enquire 
Whose kindred were they he might bid them slay." 



194 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Knowest thou, oh friend, the serviceable nine ? " 

" I know them also," answered Ferragon. 
" Of them 'tis said they never slew a man 
For evil deed, and never spared a man 
For good deed ; but, as ordered, duteous, slew 
Or slew not. Shun that nine, unless your heads 
Be cased in casquets made of adamant ; 
Else shall the corpse of many a valiant man 
Now present, on Da-Derga's threshold lie." 

" Nine for his nine ! " said Ingcel. " Think not thou 
By tongue-drawn dangers and deterrent phrase 
Exaggerate, to shake my settled soul 
From that which is my right. Say on : what next ? " 

" A bench of three : thick-hair'd, and equal-long 
The hair on poll and brow. Black cloaks they wore, 
Black their sword-sheaths, their hafted lances black ; 
Fair men, withal, themselves, and ruddy-brown." 

" Who these, oh Ferragon ? " 

" I know not, I, 
Unless, it may be, these be of the Picts 
Exiled from Alba, who in Conor's house 
Have shelter ; and, if these indeed be they, 
Three better out of Alba never came 
Or sturdier to withstand the brunt of blows." 

" Blows they shall have," said Ingcel ; " and their 
home. 
Rid of their presence well, shall not again 
Have need to doom them to a new exile. 
What further sawest thou ? " 

" On the bench beside 
I saw three slender, three face-shaven men. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 195 

Robed in red mantles and with caps of red. 
No swords had they, nor bore they spear or sliield, 
But each man on his knee a bagpipe held 
With jewelled chanter flashing as he moved, 
And mouth-piece ready to supply the wind." 
" What pipers these } " 

" These pipers of a truth 
If so it be that I mistake them not, 
Appear not often in men's halls of glee : 
Men of the Sidhs they are ; and I have heard 
When strife fell out in Tara Luachra's hall 
Around Cuchullin and the butchering bands 
Of treacherous Maeve and Ailill, they were there." 

" To-night their pipes shall play us to our ships 
With strains of triumph ; or their fingers' ends 
Shall never close the stops of music more," 
So Ingcel ; but again said Ferragon, 

" Men of the Sidhs they are : to strike at them 
Is striking at a shadow. If 'tis they. 
Shun this assault ; for I have also heard 
At the first tuning of these elvish pipes 
Nor crow nor cormorant round all the coasts 
But hastens to partake the flesh of men." 

" Flesh ye shall have, of Ingcel's enemies, 
All fowl that hither flap the wing to-night ! 
And music too at table, as it seems. 
What further sawest thou ? " 

" On a broader bench 
Three vast-proportioned warriors, by whose side 
The slender pipers showed as small as wrens. 
In their first greyness they ; grey-dark their robes, 



196 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Grey-dark their swords enormous, of an edge 

To slice the hair on water. He who sits 

The midmost of the three grasps with both hands 

A spear of fifty rivets, and so sways 

And swings the weapon as a man might think 

The very thing had Ufe, and struggled strong 

To dash itself at breasts of enemies : 

A cauldron at his feet, big as the vat 

Of a king's kitchen ; in that vat a pool, 

Hideous to look upon, of liquor black : 

Therein he dips and cools the blade by times." 

" Resolve us who be these three, Ferragon." 

" Not hard to tell ; though hard, perchance to hear 
For those who listen, and who now must know 
What foes their fortune dooms them cope withal, 
If this assault be given while these be here. 
These three are Sencha son of Olioll, 
Called ' Half-the-battle ' by admiring men ; 
Duftach, for fierceness named the Addercop ; 
And Govnan son of Luignech ; and the spear 
In hands of Duftach is the famous ' lann ' 
Of Keltar son of Utechar, which erst 
A wizard of the Tuath De Danaan brought 
To battle at Moy Tury, and there lost : 
Found after. And these motions of the spear. 
And sudden salHes hard to be restrained, 
Affect it, oft as blood of enemies 
Is ripe for spilling ; and a cauldron then 
Full of witch-brewage needs must be at hand. 
To quench it, when the homicidal act 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 97 

Is by its blade expected ; quench it not, 

It blazes up, even in the holder's hand, 

And through the holder, and the door-planks through. 

Flies forth to sate itself in massacre. 

Ours is the massacre it now would make : 

Our blood it maddens for : sirs, have a care 

How ye assault where champions such as these 

Armed with the lann of Keltar, wait within." 

" I have a certain blade," said Ingcel, " here ; 
Steel'd by Smith Wayland in a Lochlann cave 
Whose temper has not failed me ; and I mean 
To cut the foul head off this Addercop, 
And snap his gadding spear across my knee. 
Go on, and say what more thou sawest within." 

" A single warrior on a separate bench 
I saw. Methinks no man was ever born 
So stately-built, so perfect of his limbs, 
So hero-like as he. Fair-haired he is 
And yellow-bearded, with an eye of blue. 
He sits apart and wears a wistful look. 
As if he missed some friend's companionship 

Then Ferragon, not waiting question, cried, 
" Gods ! all the foremost, all the valiantest 
Of Erin's champions, gathered in one place 
For our destruction, are assembled here ! 
That man is Conall Carnach ; and the friend 
He looks for vainly with a wistful eye 
Is great Cuchullin : he no more shall share 
The upper bench with Conall ; since the tomb 
Holds him, by hand of Conall well avenged. 
The foremost this, the mightiest champion this 



igS POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Left of the Red Branch, since Cuchullin's fall. 
Look you, as thick as fragments are of ice 
When one night's frost is crackled underfoot, 
As thick as autumn leaves, as blades of grass, 
Shall the lopp'd members and the cloven half-heads 
Of them that hear me, be, by break of day, 
Before Da-Derga's doors, if this assault 
Be given, while Conall Carnach waits within ! " 

" Pity to slay that man," said Lomna Druth. 
*' That is the man who, matched at fords of Clane, 
With maimed Mesgedra, though no third was near, 
Tied up his own right hand, to fight him fair 
A man both mild and valiant, frank and wise, 
A friend of men of music and of song. 
Loved of all woman : were there only one 
Such hero in the house, for that one's sake 
Forego this slaughter ! " 

" Lomna," Ingcel said, 
" Not without reason do men call thee fool ; 
And, Ferragon, think not that fear of man 
The bravest ever born on Irish soil 
Shall make its shameful entrance in the breast 
Of one of all who hear us. Spy, say on. 
What further sawest thou .'*''' 

" Three brave youths I saw ; 
Three brothers, as I judge Their mantles wide 
Were all of Syrian silk ; and needle-work 
Of gold on every hem. With ivory combs 
They smoothed the shining ridges of their hair 
That spread and rippled to their shoulder-tips, 
And moved with every motion of their brows. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 1 99 

A slender, tender boy beside them slept, 

His head in one attendant's lap, his feet 

In lap of other one ; and, couched beside, 

A hound I saw, and heard him ' Ossar ' called." 

" Whose be these Syrian silks shall soon be mine. 
Oh Ferragon .'' and wherefore weep'st thou, say ? " 

" Alas, too well I know them ; and I weep 
To think that where they are, he must be near 
Their father, Conary, himself, the king : 
And woe it is that he whose infant lips 
Suck'd the same breast as ours, should now be there 1 " 

" What, Conary, the arch-king of the realm 
Of Erin here ? Say, sawest thou there a king ? " 

" I know not if a king ; but one I saw 
Seated apart : before his couch there hung 
A silver broidered curtain ; grey he was. 
Of aspect mild, benevolent, composed. 
A cloak he wore of colour like the haze 
Of a May morning when the sun shines warm 
On dewy meads and fresh-ploughed tillage land, 
Variously beautiful, with border broad 
Of golden woof that glittered to his knee 
A stream of light. Before him on the floor 
A juggler played his feats : nine balls he had, 
And flung them upward, eight in air at once. 
And one in hand : like swarm of summer bees 
They danced and circled, till his eye met mine ; 
Then he could catch no more ; but down they fell 
And rolled upon the floor. ' An evil eye 
Has seen me,' said the juggler ; and the child 
Who slept beside, awoke, and cried aloud, 
' Ossar ! good dog, hie forth and chase the thieves ! ' 



200 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Then judged I longer to remain were ill, 

But, ere I left, discharged a rapid glance 

Around the house, beholding many a band 

Of able guardsmen corsleted and helm'd. 

Of captains, carriers, farriers, charioteers. 

Horseboys and laqueys, all in order set. 

All good men of their hands, and weapon'd well." 

Said Ferragon, "If my advice were given, 
'Twould be to leave this onset unessayed." 

" Pity to slay this king," said Lomna Druth : 
" Since he has reigned there has not fallen a year 
Of dearth, or plague, or murrain on the land : 
The dew has never left the blade of gra 3 
One day of Conary's time, before the noon ; 
Nor harsh wind ruffled hair upon the side 
Of grazing beast. Since he began his reign. 
From mid-spring to mid-autumn, cloud nor storm 
Has dimm'd the daily-shining, bounteous sun ; 
But each good year has seen its harvests three, 
Of blade, of ear, of fruit, apple and nut 
Peace until now in all his realm has reigned, 
And terror of just laws kept men secure. 
What though, by love constrained, in passion's hour, 
I joined my fortunes to the desperate fates 
Of hapless kinsmen, I repent it now. 
And wish that rigorous law had had its course 
Sooner than this good king should now be slain." 

" Not spoken like a brother," Ingcel said, 
" Nor one who feels for brothers by the side 
Of a grey father butchered, as I feel." 



LAYS OF THK RED BRANCH. 201 

" 'Twas blind chance-medley, and we knew them 
not, 
For kin of thine," said Ferragon ; " but he, 
This king, is kin of ours ; and that thou knowest 
With seasonable warning : it were woe 
To slay him." 

" Woe it were, perchance, to thee ; 
To me, 'twere joy to slay both him and them ; 
'Twere blood for blood, and what my soul desires. 
My father was a king : my brethren seven 
Were princely nurtured. Think'st thou I for them 
Feel not compassion ? nourish not desire 
Of vengeance ? No. I stand upon the oaths 
Ye swore me ; I demand my spoil for spoil, 
My blood for blood." 

" 'Tis just," said Fergobar, 
" We promised and will make the bargain good." 

" Yet take the spoil we own to be thy right 
Elsewhere," said Ferragon ; " not here nor now. 
We gave thee licence, and we grant it still. 
To take a plunder : look around and choose 
What trading port, what dealers' burgh ye will, 
We give it, and will help you to the gain." 

" We gave thee licence," Lomna said, — " and I 
Grieve that we gave it, yea, or took the like, — ■ 
To take a plunder ; but we gave thee not 
Licence to take the life, the soul itself 
Of our whole nation, as you now would do 
For, slay our reverend sages of the law. 
Slay him who puts the law they teach in act ; 



202 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Slay our sweet poets, and our sacred bards, 

Who keep the continuity of time 

By fame perpetual of renowned deeds ; 

Slay our experienced captains who prepare 

The youth for martial manhood, and the charge 

Of public freedom, as befits a state 

Self-governed, self-sufficing, self-contained ; 

Slay all that minister our loftier life. 

Now by this evil chance assembled here, 

You leave us but the carcass of a state, 

A rabble ripe to rot, and yield the land 

To foreign masters and perpetual shame." 

Said Ingcel, " This night's plunder is my own, 
And paid for. I shall take it here and now. 
I heed not Lomna's airy rhetoric ; 
But this I say, and mark it, Ferragon : 
Let him who would turn craven, if he will, 
Take up his stone and go : and take withal 
Contempt of valiant men." 

Said Lomna Druth, 
" He is no craven, Ingcel ; nor am I. 
His heart misgives him, not because he fears 
To match himself in manly feat of arms 
With any champion, but because he fears 
To do an impious act, as I too fear." 

" I own it true," said Ferragon, " my heart 
Is full of anguish and remorseful love 
Towards him, my sovereign, who did never wrong, 
Save in not meting justice to the full. 
Against these violators of his law, 
Who now repay his clemency with death." 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 203 

" Call it not clemency," said Fergobar : 
" He drove us naked from ancestral homes 
To herd with outlaws and with desperate men." 

" Outlaws we are ; and so far desperate," 
Said Ingcel, " that we mean to sack this house, 
And for the very reason that he says, 
Because the richest jew^els, both of men 
And gold, the land affords, are gathered there." 

Then Lomna from his mantle took the brooch, 
And said, " Oh Ingcel, this and whatso else 
Of other plunder fallen to my share 
Lies in the ships, I offer Take it all, 
But leave this house unsack'd." 

Said Ferragon, 

" Take also all my share ; but spare the king." 

But Ingcel roughly pushed the brooch away, 
And said, " Have done. The onset shall be given." 

" The onset shall be given, unless the earth 
Open and swallow us ! " said Fergobar. 

" The onset shall be given, unless the heavens 
Fall solid on us ! " answered Ger and Gel. 

" The onset shall be given ! " replied they all 

Then Lomna, — laying his brooch upon the heap,— 
" Who first returns — but I shall not return — 
To take his stone again, take also this ; 
And, for the rest of what my sword has gained, 



204 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Share it among you. I forgive you all, 
And bid you all farewell ; for nothing now 
Remains for me but death : " and with the word 
He struck his dagger in his heart, and fell. 

" Kings, lords, and men of war," said Ferragon, 
" Comrades till now, the man whose body lies 
Before us, though we used to call him fool 
Because his heart was softer and his speech 
More delicate than ours, I now esteem 
Both wise and brave, and noble in his death 
He spoke me truly, for he knew my heart 
Unspoken, when he said 'twas not through fear 
Of death I spoke dissuading ; but through fear 
Of conscience : but your hearts I better knew 
Leaving unspoken what was in my own ; 
For well indeed I knew how vain it were 
To talk of pity, love, or tenderness 
To bloody-minded and to desperate men. 
Therefore I told you, and I told you true 
What loss to reckon of your wretched lives. 
Entering this dragons' den ; but did not tell 
The horror and the anguish sharp as death 
In my own bosom entering as I knew 
The pictured presence of each faithful friend, 
And of that sire revered, ye now consign 
To massacre and bloody butchery. 
And that 'twas love that swayed me, and not fear, 
Take this for proof : " and drew and slew himself. 
" Comrades and valiant partners," Ingcel cried, 
" Stand not to pause to wonder or lament 
These scrupulous companions ; rest them well ! 
But set your spirits to achieve the end 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 205 

That brought us hither. Now that they are gone 
And nothing hinders, are we all agreed 
To give this onset bravely and at once ? " 

" I speak for all," said Fergobar. " Agreed ! 
Ready we are and willing, and I myself, 
Having my proper vows of vengeance, 
Will lead you, and be foremost of you all." 

They raised the shout of onset : from his seat 
Leaped Cecht, leaped Cormac, Conall Carnach leaped. 
And Duftach from the cauldron drew his spear ; 
But Conary with countenance serene 
Sat on unmoved. " We are enough," he said, 
" To hold the house, though thrice out number came ; 
And little think they, whosoe'er they are, 
(Grant gracious ones of Heaven, it be not they !) 
That such a welcome waits them at the hands 
Of Erin's choicest champions. Door-keepers, 
Stand to your posts, and strike who enters down 1 " 

The shout came louder, and at every door 
At once all round the house, the shock began 
Of charging hosts and battery of blows ; 
And through the door that fronted Conary's seat 
A man burst headlong, reeling, full of wounds. 
But dropped midway, smote by the club of Cecht. 

" What, thou ? oh Fergobar ! " cried Conary ; 
" Say, ere thou diest, that thou art alone — 
That Ferragon and Lomna whom I love 
Are not among you." 



2o6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" King," said Fergobar, 
" I die without the vengeance that I vowed. 
Thou never lovedst me : but the love thou gavest 
My hapless brothers, well have they returned, 
And both lie outside, slain by their own hands 
Rather than join in this cause with me." 

" The gods between us judge," said Conary. 
" Cast not his body forth. I loved him once, 
And burial he shall have, when, by and by. 
These comrades of his desperate attempt 
Are chased away." 

But swiftly answered Cecht, 
" King, they bring fire without : and, see, the stream 
Runs dry before our feet, damm'd off above." 

" Then, truly, lords," said Conary, " we may deign 
To put our swords to much unworthy use. 
Cormac Condlongas, take a troop with thee. 
And chase them from the house ; and, strangers, ye 
Who rode before me without licence asked ; 
I see ye be musicians ; take your pipes 
And sound a royal pibroch, one of you, 
Before the chief." 

" Yea, mighty king," said one, 
" The strain I play ye shall remember long," 
And put the mouthpiece to his lips. At once — 
It seemed as earth and sky were sound alone. 
And every sound a maddening battle-call. 
So spread desire of fight through breast and brain, 
And every arm to feat of combat strung. 
Forth went the sallying hosts : the hosts within 
Heard the enlarging tumult from their doors 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 207 

Roll outward ; and the clash and clamour heard 

Of falling foes before ; and, over it, 

The yelling pibroch ; but, anon, the din 

Grew distant and more distant ; and they heard 

Instead, at every door new onset loud. 

And cry of " Fire ! " " Bring fire ! " 

" Behoves us make 
A champion-circuit of the house at large," 
Said Conary. " Thou, Duftach, who, I see, 
Can'st hardly keep the weapon in thy hand 
From flying on these caitiffs of itself. 
Lead thou, and take two cohorts of the guard. 
And let another piper play you on." 

" I fear them, these red pipers," said the boy. 

" Peace, little Ferflath, thou art but a child," 
Said Duftach. " Come, companions ( — patience, 

spear ! — ) 
Blow up the pibroch ; warriors, follow me ! " 

And forth they went, and with them rushed amain 
Senchad and Govnan and the thick-hair'd three 
Of Pictland with a shout ; and all who heard 
Deemed that the spear of Keltar shouted too 
The loudest and the fiercest of them all. 
So issued Duftach's band : the hosts within 
Heard the commotion and the hurtling rout 
Half round the house, and heard the mingling scream 
Of pipes and death-cries far into the night ; 
But distant and more distant grew the din. 
And Duftach came not back : but thronging back 
Came the assailants, and at every door 
Joined simultaneous battle once again. 
Then Conall Carnach, who, at door and door, 



208 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Swift as a shuttle from a weaver's hand, 
Divided help, cried, 

" King, our friends are lost 
Unless another sally succour them ! " 

" Take then thy troop," said Conary ; " and thou 
Red-capp'd companion, see thou play a strain 
So loud our comrades straying in the dark 
May hear and join you." 

" Evil pipes are theirs. 
Trust not these pipers. I am but a child," 
Said Ferflath ; " but I know they are not men 
Of mankind, and will pipe you all to harm." 

" Peace, little prince," said Conall. " Trust in me : 
I shall but make one circuit of the house. 
And presently be with thee ; come, my men, 
Give me the Brierin Conaill, and my spear, 
And sound Cuchullin's onset for the breach." 
And issuing, as a jet of smoke and flame 
Bursts from a fresh replenished furnace mouth, 
He and his cohort sallied : they within 
Heard the concussion and the spreading shock 
Through thick opposing legions overthrown, 
As, under hatches, men on shipboard hear 
The dashing and the tumbling waves without, 
Half round the house ; no more : clamour and scream 
Grew fainter in the distance ; and the hosts 
Gazed on each other with misgiving eyes, 
And reckoned who were left : alack, but few ! 

" Gods ! can it be," said Conary, " that my chiefs 
Desert me in this peril ! " 

" King," said Cecht, 
" Escape who will, we here desert thee not." 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 209 

" Oh, never will I think that Conall fled," 
Said Ferflath. " He is brave and kind and true, 
And promised me he would return again. 
It is these wicked sprites of fairy-land 
Who have beguiled the chiefs away from us." 

" Alack," the Druid cried ; " he speaks the truth : 
He has the seer's insight which the gods 
Vouchsafe to eyes of childhood. We are lost ; 
And for thy fault, oh Conary, the gods 
Have given us over to the spirits who dwell 
Beneath the earth." 

" Deserted I may be, 
Not yet disheartened, nor debased in soul," 
Said Conary " My sons are with me still. 
And thou, my faithful sidesman, and you all 
Companions and partakers of my days 
Of glory and of power munificent, 
I pray the gods forgiveness if in aught, 
Weighty or trifling, I have done amiss ; 
But here I stand, and will defend my life, 
Let come against me power of earth or hell. 
All but the gods themselves the righteous ones, 
Whom I revere." 

" My king," said Cecht, " the knaves 
Swarm thick as gnats at every door again. 
Behoves us make a circuit, for ourselves. 
Around the house ; for so our fortune stands 
That we have left us nothing else to choose 
But, out of doors, to beat them off", or burn 
Within doors ; for they fire the house anew." 
Then uprose kingly Conary himself 



210 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And put his helmet on his sacred head, 

And took his good sharp weapon in his hand, 

And braced himself for battle long disused. 

Uprose his three good sons, and doff'd their cloaks 

Of Syrian purple, and assumed their arms 

Courageously and princely, and uprose 

Huge Cecht at left-hand of the king, and held 

His buckler broad in front. From every side, 

Thinn'd though they were, guardsman and charioteer. 

Steward and butler, cupbearer and groom, 

Thronged into martial file, and forth they went 

Right valiantly and royally. The band 

They left behind them, drawing freer breath, — 

As sheltering shepherds in a cave who hear 

The rattle and the crash of circling thunder, — 

Heard the king's onset and his hearty cheer, 

The tumult, and the sounding strokes of Cecht, 

Three times go round the house, and every time 

Through overthrow of falling enemies, 

And all exulted in the kindling hope 

Of victory and rescue, till again 

The sallying host returned ; all hot they were ; 

And Conary in the doorway entering last 

Exclaimed, " A drink, a drink ! " and cast himself 

Panting upon his couch. 

" Ye cupbearers," 
Cried Cecht, " be nimble : fetch the king a drink : 
Well has he earned this thirst." The cupbearers 
Ran hither, thither ; every vat they tried. 
And every vessel — timber, silver, gold, — 
But drink was nowhere found, nor wine nor ale 
Nor water " All has gone to quench the fire. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 211 

There is not left of liquor in the house 

One drop ; nor runs there water, since the stream 

Was damm'd and turned aside by Ingcel's men, 

Nearer than Tiprad-Casra ; and the way 

Thither is long and rugged, and the foe 

Swarms thick between." 

" Who now among you here 
Will issue forth, and fetch your king a drink ? " 
Said Cecht. One answered, 

" Wherefore not thyself ? " 
" My place is here," said Cecht, " by my king's side : 
His sidesman I." 

" Good papa Cecht, a drink, 
A drink, or I am sped ! " cried Conary. 

" Nay then," said Cecht, " it never shall be said 
My royal master craved a drink in vain. 
And water in a well, and life in me. 
Swear ye to stand around him while ye live 
And I with but the goblet in one hand. 
And this good weapon in the other, will forth 
And fetch him drink ; — alone, or say, with whom ? " 

None answered but the little Ferflath ; he 
Cried, " Take me with thee, papa Cecht, take me ! " 
Then Cecht took up the boy and set him high 
On his left shoulder with the golden cup 
Of Conary in his hand ; he raised his shield 
High up for the protection of the child. 
And forth the great door, as a loosened rock 
(Fly ye, foes all, fly ye before the face 
Of Cecht, the battle-sidesman of the king !) 
That from a hill side shoots into a brake. 



212 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Went through and through them with a hunter's bound ; 
And with another, and another, reached 
The outer rim of darkness, past their ken. 
Then down he set the lad, and hand in hand, 
They ran together till they reached the well 
And filled the cup. 

" My little son, stay here," 
Said Cecht, " and I will carry, if I may. 
His drink to Conary." 

" Oh, papa Cecht, 
Leave me not here," said Ferflath ; "I shall run 
Beside thee, and shall follow in the lane, 
Thou'lt make me through them." 

" Come then," answered Cecht, 
" Bear thou the cup, and see it spill not : come ! " 

But ere they ran a spear-throw, Ferflath cried, 
" Ah me, Fve stumbled, and the water's spilt." 

" Alas," said Cecht, " re-fill, and let me bear." 

But ere they ran another spear-throw, Cecht 
Cried, " Woe is me ; this ground is all too rough 
For hope that, running, we shall ever eff"ect 
Our errand ; and the time is deadly short." 

Again they filled the cup, and through the dawn 
Slow breaking, with impatient careful steps 
Held back their course, Cecht in his troubled mind 
Revolving how the child might bear his charge 
Behind him, when his turn should come for use 
Of both his hands to clear and keep that lane ; 
When, in the faint light of the growing dawn, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 21 3 

Casting his eyes to seaward, lo, the fleet 

Of Ingcel had set sail ; and, gazing next 

Up the dim slope before him, on the ridge 

Between him and Da-Derga's mansion, saw 

Rise into view a chariot-cavalcade 

And Conall Carnach in the foremost car. 

Behind him Cormac son of Conor came 

And Duftach bearing now a drooping spear, 

At head of all their sallying armament. 

Wild, pale, and shame-faced were the looks of all, 

As men who doubted did they dream or wake, 

Or were they honest, to be judged, or base. 

" Cecht, we are late," said Conall, " we and thou. 
He needs no more of drink who rides within." 

" Is the king here ? " 

" 'Tis here that was the king. 
We found him smothered under heaps of slain 
In middle floor." 

" Thou, Ferflath, take the cup 
And hold it to thy father's lips," said Cecht. 

The child approached the cup ; the dying king 
Felt the soft touch and smiled, and drew a sigh ; 
And, as they raised him in the chariot, died. 

" A gentle and a generous king is gone," 
Said Cecht, and wept. " I take to witness all 
Here present, that I did not leave his side 
But by his own command. But how came ye. 
Choice men and champions of the warlike North, 
Tutors of old and samplars to our youth 
In loyalty and duty, how came ye 
To leave your lawful king alone to die ? " 



214 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Cecht," answered Conall, " and thou, Ferflath, 
know, — 
For these be things concern both old and young — 
We hve not of ourselves. The heavenly Gods 
Who give to every man his share of life 
Here in this sphere of objects visible 
And things prehensible by hands of men, 
Though good and just they are, are not themselves 
The only unseen beings of the world. 
Spirits there are around us in the air 
And elvish creatures of the earth, now seen. 
Now vanishing from sight ; and we of these 
(But whether with, or whether without the will 
Of the just Gods I know not,) have to-night 
By strong enchantments and prevailing spells, — 
Though mean the agents and contemptible, — 
Been fooled and baffled in a darkling maze 
And kept abroad despite our better selves. 
From succour of our king. We were enough 
To have brushed them off as flies ; and while we made 
Our sallies through them, bursting from the doors. 
We quelled them flat : but when these wicked sprites,— 
For now I know, men of the Sidks they were — 
Who played their pipes before us, led us on 
Into the outer margin of the night, 
No man amongst us all could stay himself. 
Or keep from following ; and they kept us there, 
As men who walk asleep, in drowsy trance 
Listening a sweet pernicious melody, 
And following after in an idle round 
Till all was finished, and the plunderers gone. 
Haply they hear me, and the words I speak 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 21 5 



May bring their malice also upon me 

As late it fell on Conary. Yet, now 

The spell is off me, and I see the sun. 

By all my nation's swearing-Gods I sw ear 

I do defy them ; and appeal to you 

Beings of goodness perfect, and to Thee 

Great unknown Being who hast made them all, 

Take Ye compassion on the race of men ; 

And, for this slavery of gaysh and sidh 

Send down some emanation of Yourselves 

To rule and comfort us ! And I have heard 

There come the tidings yet may make us glad 

Of such a One new born, or soon to be. 

Nov/, mount beside me, that with solemn rites 

We give the king, at Tara, burial." 



THE HEALING OF CONALL CARNACH. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE. 

[Conor is said to have heard of the Passion of our Lord from 
a Roman captain sent to demand tribute at Eraania. He died 
of a wound inflicted by Keth, son of Magach, and nephew of 
Maev, with a ball from a sling ; ha\nng been inveigled within 
reach of the missile by certain Connaught ladies. His son 
Forbaid characteristically avenged liis death by the assassin- 
ation of Maev, whom he slew, also with a sling, across the 
Shannon, wliile she was in the act of batliing. Noth\\dth- 
standing the repulsive character of many of the acts ascribed 
to Conor, such iis the cruel enforcement of the foot-race upon 
Macha (O licentiam fiiroris, cBgrce reipiibliccB gemiUi prose- 
qiiendam !) and the betrayal of the sons of Usnach, and ab- 
duction of Deirdre, the best part of Irish heroic tradition con- 
nects itself with his reign and period, preceding by nearly tliree 
centiiries the epoch of Connac Mac Art, and the I'^cnian or 
Irish Ossianic romances. The survivor of the men 01 renown 



2l6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

of Conor's era was Conall Carnach, the hero of many picturesque 
legends, one of the most remarkable of wliich affords the groimd- 
work for the following verses.] 

O'er Slieve Few, with noiseless tramping through the 

heavy-drifted snow, 
Bealcu,* Connacia's champion in his chariot tracks the 

foe ; 
And anon far off discerneth, in the mountain-hollow white, 
Slinger Keth and Conall Carnach mingling, hand to hand 

in fight. 

Swift the charioteer his coursers urged across the wintry 

glade : 
Hoarse the cry of Keth and hoarser seem'd to come 

demanding aid ; 
But through wreath and swollen runnel ere the car could 

reach anigh, 
Keth lay dead, and mighty Conall bleeding lay at point 

to die. 

Whom beholding spent and palHd, Bealcu exulting cried, 
" Oh thou ravening wolf of Uladh, where is now thy 

northern pride ? 
What can now that crest audacious, what that pale defiant 

brow, 
Once the bale-star of Connacia's ravaged fields, avail 

thee now ? " 

" Taunts are for reviling woman " ; faintly Conall made 

reply : 
" Wouldst thou play the manlier foeman, end my pain 

and let me die. 

♦Pronounced Bayal-Ku. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 217 

Neither deem thy blade dishonour'd that with Keth's 

a deed it share, , 

For the foremost two of Connaught feat enough and 
fame to spare." 

" No, I will not ! bard shall never in Dunseverick hall 

make boast 
That to quell one northern riever needed two of Croghan's 

host. 
But because that word thou'st spoken, if but life enough 

remains, 
Thou shalt hear the wives of Croghan clap their hands 

above thy chains 

*' Yea, if life enough but linger, that the leech may make 

thee whole, 
Meet to satiate the anger that beseems a warrior's soul, 
Best of leech-craft I'll purvey thee ; make thee whole 

as healing can ; 
And in single combat slay thee, Connaught man to 

Ulster man." 

Binding him in five-fold fetter, wrists and ankles, wrists 

and neck. 
To his car's uneasy litter Bealcu upheaved the wreck 
Of the broken man and harness ; but he started with 

amaze 
When he felt the northern war-mace, what a weight it 

was to raise. 

Westward then through Breiffny's borders, with his 

captive and his dead, 
Track'd by bands of fierce applauders, wives and shrieking 

widows, sped ; 



21 8 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And the chain'd heroic carcass on the fair-green of 

Moy Slaught 
Casting down, proclaim'd his purpose, and bade Lee the 

leech be brought 

Lee, the gentle-faced physician from his herb-plot came, 

and said, 
" Healing is with God's permission : health for life's 

enjoyment made : 
And though I mine aid refuse not, yet, to speak my 

purpose plain, 
I the healing art abuse not, making life enure to pain 

" But assure me, with the sanction of the mightiest oath 

ye know. 
That in case, in this contention, Conall overcome his foe. 
Straight departing from the tourney by what path the 

chief shall choose. 
He is free to take his journey unmolested to the Fews. 

" Swear me further, while at healing in my charge the 

hero lies. 
None shall through my fences stealing, work him mischief 

or surprise ; 
So, if God the undertaking but approve, in six months' 

span 
Once again my art shall make him meet to stand before 

a man." 

Crom their god they then attested, Sun and Wind for 

guarantees, 
Conall Carnach unmolested by what exit he might 

please, 



LAYS OF THE RED BR.\NCH. 2H) 

If the victor, should have freedom to depart Connacia's 

bounds ; 
Meantime, no man should intrude him entering on 

the hospice grounds. 

Then his burden huge receiving in the hospice-portal, 

Lee, 
Stiffen'd limb by limb relieving with the iron fetter key, 
As a crumpled scroll unroll'd him, groaning deep, till laid 

at length, 
Wondering gazers might behold him, what a tower he 

was of strength. 

Spake the sons to one another, day by day, of Bealcu — 
" Get thee up and spy, my brother, what the leech and 

northman do." 
" Lee, at mixing of a potion : Conall, yet in no wise 

dead, 
As on reef of rock the ocean, tosses wildly on his bed." 

" Spy again with cautious peeping ; what of Lee and 

Conall now .'' " 
" Conall lies profoundly sleeping : Lee beside with 

placid brow." 
" And to-day ? " " To-day he's risen ; pallid as his 

swathing sheet. 
He has left his chamber's prison, and is walking on his 

feet." 

" And to-day ? " "A ghastly figure on his javelin 

propp'd he goes." 
" And to-day ? " " A languid vigour through his larger 

gesture shows." 



220 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" And to-day ? " " The blood renewing mantles all 

his clear cheek through." 
" Would thy vow had room for rueing, rashly-valiant 

Bealcu 1 "' 



So with herb and healing balsam, ere the second month 

was past, 
Life's additions smooth and wholesome circling through 

his members vast. 
As you've seen a sere oak burgeon under summer showers 

and dew, 
Conall, under his chirurgeon, fill'd and flourish'd, spread 

and grew". 

" I can bear the sight no longer : I have watch'd him 

moon by moon : 
Day by day the chief grows stronger : giant-strong he 

will be soon. 
Oh my sire, rash-vaHant warrior ! but that oaths have 

built the wall, 
Soon these feet should leap the barrier : soon this hand 

thy fate forestall." 

" Brother, have the wish thou'st utter'd ; we have sworn, 

so let it be ; 
But although our feet be fetter'd, all the air is left us 

free. 
Dying Keth with vengeful presage did bequeath thee sling 

and ball, 
And the sling may send its message where thy vagrant 

glances fall. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 221 

" Forbaid was a master-slinger : Maev, when in her 

bath she sank, 
Felt the presence of his finger from the further Shannon 

bank ; 
For he threw by line and measure, practising a constant 

cast 
Daily in secluded leisure, till he reach'd the mark at 

last. 

" Keth achieved a warrior's honour, though 'twas mid 

a woman's band, 
When he smote the amorous Conor bowing from his 

distant stand. 
Fit occasion will not fail ye : in the leech's lawn below, 
Conall at the fountain daily drinks within an easy throw." 

" Wherefore cast ye at the apple, sons of mine, with 

measured aim ? " 
" He who in the close would grapple, first the distant 

foe should maim. 
And since Keth, his death-balls casting, rides no more 

the ridge of war, 
We, against our summer hosting, train us for his vacant 

car. 

" Wherefore to the rock repairing, gaze ye forth, my 

children, tell." 
" 'Tis a stag we watch for snaring, that frequents the 

leech's well." 
" I will see this stag, though, truly, small may be my 

eye's delight." 
And he climb'd the rock where fully lay the lawn exposed 

to sight. 



222 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Conall to the green well-margin came at dawn and knelt 

to drink, 
Thinking how a noble virgin by a like green fountain's 

brink 
Heard his own pure vows one morning far away and 

long ago : 
All his heart to home was turning ; and his tears began 

to flow. 

Clean forgetful of his prison, steep Dunseverick's windy 

tower 
Seem'd to rise in present vision, and his own dear lady's 

bower. 
Round the sheltering knees they gather, little ones of 

tender years, — 
Tell us mother of our father — and she answers but with 

tears. 

Twice the big drops plash'd the fountain. Then he rose, 

and turning round, 
As across a breast of mountain sweeps a whirlwind o'er 

the ground 
Raced in athlete-feats amazing, swung the war-mace, 

hurl'd the spear ; 
Bealcu, in wonder gazing, felt the pangs of deadly fear 

Had it been a fabled griffin, suppled in a fasting den, 
Flash'd its wheeling coils to heaven o'er a wreck of beasts 

and men, 
Hardly had the dreadful prospect bred his soul more dire 

alarms ; 
Such the fire of Conall's aspect, such the stridor of his 

arms ! 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 223 

" This is fear," he said, " that never shook these limbs 

of mine till now. 
Now I see the mad endeavour ; now I mourn the boastful 

vow. 
Yet 'twas righteous wrath impell'd me ; and a sense of 

manly shame 
From his naked throat withheld me when 'twas offer'd 

to my aim. 

" Now I see his strength excelling : whence he buys it : 

what he pays : 
'Tis a God who has a dwelling in the fount, to whom 

he prays. 
Thither came he weeping, drooping, till the Well-God 

heard his prayer : 
Now behold him, soaring, swooping, as an eagle through 

the air. 

" O thou God, by whatsoever sounds of awe thy name 

we know. 
Grant thy servant equal favour with the stranger and 

the foe ! 
Equal grace, 'tis all I covet ; and if sacrificial blood 
Win thy favour, thou shall have it on thy very well-brink, 

God! 

" What and though I've given pledges not to cross the 

leech's court ? 
Not to pass his sheltering hedges, meant I to his patient's 

hurt. 
Thy dishonour meant I never : never meant I to foreswear 
Right divine of prayer wherever Power divine invites 

to prayer. 



224 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

" Sun that warm'st me, Wind that fann'st me, ye that 

guarantee the oath. 
Make no sign of wrath against me : tenderly ye touch 

me both. 
Yea, then, through his fences steaHng ere to-morrow's 

sun shall rise, 
Well-God ! on thy margin kneeling, I will offer sacrifice." 



" Brother, rise, the skies grow ruddy : if we yet would 

save our sire, 
Rests a deed courageous, bloody, wondering ages shall 

admire : 
Hie thee to the spy-rock's summit : ready there thou'lt 

find the sling ; 
Ready there the leaden plummet ; and at dawn he seeks 

the spring." 

Ruddy dawn had changed to amber : radiant as the 

yellow day, 
Conall issuing from his chamber, to the fountain took 

his way : 
There, athwart the welling water, like a fallen pillar, 

spread, 
Smitten by the bolt of slaughter, lay Connacia's champion 

dead. 



Call the hosts ! convene the judges ! cite the dead man's 

children both ! — 
Said the judges, " He gave pledges ; Sun and Wind ; 

and broke the oath, 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH 225 

And they slew him : so we've written : let his sons attend 
our words." 

• •••••• 

" Both, by sudden frenzy smitten, fell at sunrise on their 
swords." 

Then the judges, " Ye who punish man's prevaricating 

vow, 
Needs not further to admonish : contrite to their will 

we bow, 
All our points of promise keeping : safely let the chief 

go forth." 
Conall to his chariot leaping, turned his coursers to the 

north : 

In the Sun that swept the valleys, in the Wind's encircling 

flight. 
Recognizing holy allies, guardians of the Truth and 

Right ; 
While, before his face, resplendent with a firm faith's 

candid ray. 
Dazzled troops of foes attendant, bow'd before him on 

his way. 

But the calm physician, viewing where the white neck 

join'd the ear. 
Said, " It is a slinger's doing : Sun nor Wind was actor 

here. 
Yet till God vouchsafe more certain knowledge of his 

sovereign will, 
Better deem the mystic curtain hides their wonted demons 

still 

Q 



226 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Better so, perchance, than living in a clearer light, 

like me, 
But believing where perceiving, bound in what I hear 

and see ; 
Force and change in constant sequence, changing atoms, 

changeless laws ; 
Only in submissive patience waiting access to the Cause." 



THE TAIN-QUEST. 

INTRODUCTORY NOTB. 

[The Tain, in Irish Bardic phrase, was an heroic poem com- 
memorative of a foray or plundering expedition on a grander 
scale. It was the duty of the bard to be prepared, at call, with 
all the principal Tains, among wliich the Tain-Bo-Cuailgne, 
or Cattle-Spoil of Quelgny, occupied the first place ; as in it 
were recorded the exploits of all the personages most famous in 
the earher heroic cycle of Irish story, — Conor Mac Nessa, Maev, 
Fergus Mac Roy, Conall Camach, and Cuchullin. 

The earliest copies of the Tain-Bo-Cuailgne are prefaced by 
the wild legend of its loss and recovery in the time of Guary, 
King of Connaught, in the .sixth century, by Murgen, son of the 
chief poet Sanchan, under circixmstances which have suggested 
the following poem. The Ogham characters, referred to in the 
piece, were formed by lines cut tally -wise on the corners of stone 
pillars, and somewhat resembled Scandinavian Runes, examples 
of which, carved on squared staves, may still be seen in several 
museums. The readers of the Tain-Bo-Cuailgne, as it now 
exists, have to regret the overlaying of much of its heroic and 
pathetic material by turgid extravagances and exaggerations, 
the additions apparently of later copyists.] 

" Bear the cup to Sanchan Torpest ; yield the bard his 

poet's meed ; 
What we've heard was but a foretaste ; lays more lofty 

now succeed. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 227 

Though my stores be emptied well-nigh, twin bright 

cups there yet remain, — 
Win them with the Raid of Cuailgne ; chaunt us, Bard, 

the famous Tain ! " 

Thus, in hall of Gort, spake Guary ; for the king, let 

truth be told, 
Bounteous though he was, was weary giving goblets, 

giving gold. 
Giving aught the bard demanded ; but, when for the 

Tain he call'd, 
Sanchan from his seat descended ; shame and anger 

fired the Scald. 

" Well," he said, " 'tis known through Erin, known 

through Alba, main and coast, 
Since the Staff-Book's disappearing over sea, the Tain 

is lost : 
For the lay was cut in tallies on the corners of the staves 
Patrick in his pilgrim galleys carried o'er the Ictian waves. 

" Well 'tis known that Erin's Ollaves, met in Tara 

Luachra's hall, 
Fail'd to find the certain knowledge of the Tain amongst 

them all, 
Though there sat the sages hoary, men who in tlieir day 

had known 
All the foremost kings of story ; but the lay was lost and 

gone. 

" Wherefore from that fruitless session went I forth 

myself in quest 
Of the Tain ; nor intermission, even for hours of needful 

rest, 



228 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Gave I to my sleepless searches, till I Erin, hill and 

plain, 
Courts and castles, cells and churches, roam'd and 

ransack'd, but in vain. 

For the chief delight of sages and of kings was still the 
Tain 

" Made when mighty Maev invaded Cuailgnia for her 

brown-bright bull ; 
Fergus was the man that made it, for he saw the war in 

full. 
And in Maev's own chariot mounted, sang what pass'd 

before his eyes. 
As you'd hear it now recounted, knew I but where Fergus 

lies. 

" Bear me witness. Giant Bouchaill, herdsman of the 

mountain drove. 
How with spell and spirit-struggle many a midnight 

hour I strove. 
Back to life to call the author ! for before Fd hear it said, 
' Neither Sanchan knew it,' rather would I learn it from 

the dead ; 

*' Ay, and pay the dead their teaching with the one price 

spirits crave, 
When the hand of magic, reaching past the barriers of 

the grave. 
Drags the struggling phantom lifeward : — but the Ogham 

on his stone 
Still must mock us undecipher'd ; grave and lay alike 

unknown. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 229 

" So that put to shame the direst, here I stand and own, 

O King. 
Thou a lawful lay requirest Sanchan Torpest cannot 

sing. 
Take again the gawds you gave me, — cup nor crown 

no more will I ; — 
Son, from further insult save me : lead me hence, and let 

me die." 



Leaning on young Murgen's shoulder — Murgen was 

his youngest son — 
Jeer'd of many a lewd beholder, Sanchan from the hall 

has gone : 
But, when now beyond Loch Lurgan, three days thence 

he reach'd his home, 
*' Give thy blessing. Sire," said Murgen. — " Whither 

wouldst thou, son ? " — " To Rome ; 

" Rome, or, haply. Tours of Martin ; wheresoever over 

ground 
Hope can deem that tidings certain of the lay may 

yet be found." 
Answered Eimena his brother, " Not alone thou leav'st 

the west. 
Though thou ne'er shouldst find another, I'll be comrade 

of the quest." 

Eastward, breadthwise, over Erin straightway travell'd 

forth the twain, 
Till with many days' wayfaring Murgen fainted by 

Loch Ein : 



230 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

" Dear my brother, thou art weary : I for present aid 

am flown : 
Thou tor my returning tarry here beside this Standing 

Stone." 



Shone the sunset red and solemn : Murgen, where he 

leant, observed 
Down the corners of the column letter-strokes of Ogham 

carved. 
" 'Tis, belike, a burial pillar," said he, " and these shallow 

lines 
Hold some warrior's name of valour, could I rightly 

spell the signs." 

Letter then by letter tracing, soft he breathed the sound 

of each ; 
Sound and sound then interlacing, lo, the signs took 

form of speech ; 
And with joy and wonder mainly thrilling, part a-thrill 

v/ith fear, 
Murgen read the legend plainly, " Fergus, son of Roy 

IS HERE," 

" Lo," said he, " my quest is ended, knew I but the 

spell to say ; 
Underneath my feet extended, lies the man that made 

the lay : 
Yet, though spell nor incantation Imow I, were the words 

but said 
That could speak my soul's elation, I, methinks, could 

raise the dead 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 23 1 

" Be an arch-bard's name my warrant. Murgen, son of 
Sanchan, here, 

Vow'd upon a venturous errand to the door-sills of Saint 
Pierre, 

Where, beyond Slieve Alpa's barrier, sits the Coiirb 
of the keys, 

I conjure thee, buried warrior, rise and give my wander- 
ings ease. 

• • • 

" Thou, the first in rhythmic cadence dressing life's 

discordant tale, 
Wars of chiefs and loves of maidens, gavest the Poem 

to the Gael ; 
Now they've lost their noblest measure, and in dark 

days hard at hand, 
Song shall be the only treasure left them in their native 

land. 

" Not for selfish gawds or baubles dares my soul disturb 

the graves : 
Love consoles, but song ennobles ; songless men are 

meet for slaves : 
Fergus, for the Gael's sake, waken ! never let the scornful 

Gauls 
'Mongst our land's reproaches reckon lack of Song within 

our halls ! " 

Fergus rose. A mist ascended with him, and a flash 

was seen 
As of brazen sandals blended with a mantle's wafture 

green ; 



232 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But SO thick the cloud closed o'er him, Eimena, return'd 

at last, 
Found not on the field before him but a mist-heap grey 

and vast. 

Thrice to pierce the hoar recesses faithful Eimena 

essay'd ; 
Thrice through foggy wildernesses back to open air he 

stray'd ; 
Till a deep voice through the vapours fiU'd the twilight 

far and near. 
And the Night her starry tapers kindling, stoop'd from 

heaven to hear 

Seem'd as though the skiey Shepherd back to earth 

had cast the fleece 
Envying gods of old caught upward from the darkening 

shrines of Greece ; 
So the white mists curl'd and glisten'd, so from heaven's 

expanses bare, 
Stars enlarging lean'd and listen'd down the emptied 

depths of air. 

All night long by mists surrounded Murgen lay in 

vapoury bars ; 
All night long the deep voice sounded 'neath the keen, 

enlarging stars : 
But when, on the orient verges, stars grew dim and mists 

retired, 
Rising by the stone of Fergus, Murgen stood a man 

inspired 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 233 

" Back to Sanchan ! — Father, hasten, ere the hour of 

power be past. 
Ask not how obtain'd but Hsten to the lost lay found 

at last ! " 
" Yea, these words have tramp of heroes in them - and 

the marching rhyme 
Rolls the voices of the Era's down the echoing steeps 

of Time." 



So, again to Gort the splendid, when the drinking boards 

were spread, 
Sanchan, as of old attended, came and sat at table-head. 
" Bear the cup to Sanchan Torpest : twin gold goblets. 

Bard, are thine, 
If with voice and string thou harpest, Tain-Bo-Ctiailgne, 

line for line." 

" Yea, with voice and string I'll chant it." Murgen to 

his father's knee 
Set the harp : no prelude wanted, Sanchan struck the 

master key. 
And, as bursts the brimful river all at once from caves 

of Cong, 
Forth at once, and once for ever, leap'd the torrent of 

the song 

Floating on a brimful torrent, men go down and banks 

go by : 
Caught adown the lyric current, Guary, captured, ear 

and eye. 



234 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Heard no more the courtiers jeering, saw no more the 

walls of Gort, 
Creeve Roe's meeds instead appearing, and Emania's 

royal fort. 

Vision chasing splendid vision, Sanchan roll'd the rhyth- 
mic scene ; 

They that mock'd in lewd derision now, at gaze, with 
wondering mien 

Sate, and, as the glorying master sway'd the tightening 
reins of song, 

Felt emotion's pulses faster — fancies faster bound 
along. 

Pity dawn'd on savage faces, when for love of captive 

Crunn, 
Macha, in the ransom-races, girt her gravid loins, to 

run 
'Gainst the fleet Ultonian horses ; and, when Deirdre 

on the road 
Headlong dash'd her 'mid the corses, brimming eye-lids 

overflow' d. 

Light of manhood's generous ardour, under brows 

relaxing shone ; 
When, mid-ford, on Uladh's border, young Cuchullin 

stood alone, 
Maev and all her hosts withstanding : — " Now, for love 

of knightly play. 
Yield the youth his soul's demanding ; let the hosts 

their marchings stay. 



LAYS OF THE RED BRANCH. 235 

" Till the death he craves be given ; and, upon his burial 

stone 
Champion-praises duly graven, make his name and 

glory known ; 
For, in speech-containing token, age to ages never gave 
Salutation better spoken, than, ' Behold a hero's grave.' " 

What, another and another, and he still for combat 

calls } 
Ah, the lot on thee, his brother sworn in arms, Ferdia, 

falls ; 
And the hall with wild applauses sobb'd like women 

ere they wist, 
When the champions in the pauses of the deadly combat 

kiss'd. 

Now, for love of land and cattle, while Cuchullin in 

the fords 
Stays the march of Connaught's battle, ride and rouse 

the Northern Lords ; 
Swift as angry eagles wing them toward the plunder'd 

eyrie's call. 
Thronging from Dun Dealga bring them, bring them 

from the Red Branch hall ! 

Heard ye not the tramp of armies ? Hark ! amid the 

sudden gloom, 
'Twas the stroke of Conall's war-mace sounded through 

the startled room ; 
And while still the hall grew darker, king and courtier 

chill'd with dread, 
Heard the rattlinc? of the war-car of Cuchullin over- 

head. 



236 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Half in wonder, half in terror, loth to stay and loth to 

fly, 

Seem'd to each beglamour'd hearer shades of kings 

went thronging by : 
But the troubled joy of wonder merged at last in mastering 

fear, 
As they heard through pealing thunder, " Fergus, son 

OF Roy is here ! " 

Brazen-sandall'd, vapour-shrouded, moving in an icy 

blast, 
Through the doorway terror-crowded, up the tables 

Fergus pass'd : — 
" Stay thy hand, oh harper, pardon ! cease the wild 

unearthly lay ! 
Murgen, bear thy sire his guerdon." Murgen sat, a 

shape of clay. 



CONG AL 



237 



CHARACTERS. 



DOMNAI,, King of Ireland.— Ruling 

from Duuangay, on the Boj-ne. 
GARRAD-G ANN.— Envoy of King 

Domnal to Congal Claen. 
MALODHAR-MACHA. — Provincial 
King ol Hmain-Macha, near Armagh. 
ULTAN-UONG-HAND.— Chief of Orior, 

Ivouth. 
KELI^ACH, SON OF MALCOVA.— 

Provincial King of Leinstcr. 
CONAL, SON OF BAEDAN.— Chief 
of Sil-Setna, North- West Ulster. 
Chiefs of 
Leinster, fight- 
ing at Moyra 
on the side of 
King Domnal. 



Cairbre Crom, 
aulay of the ships, 
Argnadach, 

AlLILL 






Fergus, 
Angus, 
Erril, 
Carril, 

COLGU, 



Sons of King Domnal. 



CUANNA.— The idiot son of Ultan- 
l,ong-Hand. 

Sweeny, ^ chiefs of ConnaugUt 

Aed-Axen, f fighting at Moyra on 
Aed Buie, ( the side of King 
ECCAD Brec / Domnal. 
Caenfalla Olliolson. — A learned 

Doctor. Fought at Moyra on the 

side of King Domnal. 
Fercar Finn. — Steward to Ultan- 

I<ong-Hand. Fought at Moyra. 
Maldun. — Fought at Moyra on the 

side of King Domnal. 
Bishops Erc and Ronan Finn. — 

Friends of King Domnal. 



CONGAI, CI.AEN.— Provincial King 

of Ulster, son of Scallan Broad 

Shield, Ruling from Rathmore- 

Moy-T<inny, near Antrim. 

KEI,LACH THE HAI^T.— Chief of 

Mourne. Uncle to Congal Claen. 
Cu-Carmoda,> Sons of Kellach the 
Andacii, ) Halt, slain at Moyra. 
Brasil. — Youngest of the seven sons 

of Kellach the Ha't, slain at Moyra. 
SWEENY.— King of Dalaradia, a 
district of Down, Brother of I^afinda. 
Ruling from Rathkeltar, near Down- 
pa trick. 
EOCHAID BuiE. — King of the Dalriads 
of Scotland. Grandfather to Congal 
Claen. 

Sons of Eo- 
chaid Buie- 
King of the 
Dalriads of 
Alba (Scot- 
land). Fought 
at Moyra on 
the side of 
Congal Claen. 
CONAN RODD.— Son of the King of 
Britain. Fought at Moyra on the 
side of Congal Claen. 
CoNAN Finn. — Fought at Moyra on the 

side of Congal Claen. 
Howel, 
Arthur, 
Rees, 
Fermorc Becc. — Fought at Moyra on 

the side of Congal Claen. 
ARDAN.— The Bard. 
Drostan. — The Dniid. 



DOMNAI, BREC, 

Sweeny, 

Aed Green-Mantle, 

Congal Menn, 



I Cousins of Conan Finn, 
i slain at Moj-ra. 



FEMALE CHARACTERS. 

I^AFINDA.- Sister of Sweeny of Rathkeltar, betrothed to Congal Claen. 
lyAVARCAM. — Nurse and attendant on Lafinda. 

Finguala. — Wife of Ultan-Iyong-Hand. 

St. Brigid of Kildare, Daughter of Dubtach. 

Nuns and Monks, Servants of St. Brigid. 

Wives of Domnal Brec and his Brothers. 



SUPERNATURAL BEINGS. 

The Washer of the Ford, \ Manannan Mor Mac Lir 
Herdsman Borcha. 



238 



[ 239 J 



Congal 

BOOK I. 

THE ARGUMENT. 

King Congal, feast-ward bent is turned aside. 
Bard Ardan's arts of spleenful song are tried. 

[Congal Claen, Provincial King of Ulster, although dissatis- 
fied at the curtailment of liis territory by the Supreme King, 
Domnal, accepts that monarch's invitation to a banquet at 
Dimangay on the Boyne. He rides forth from Rath-Keltar, 
near Downpatrick, the abode of liis sub-king Sweeny, to whose 
sister Lafinda Congal was betrothed ; and, on liis journey 
southwards passes through the mountains of Mounie, a district 
ruled by Kellach the Halt, brother to Congal's father Scallan. 
Congal is met by the Chief Bard Ardan, sent by liis uncle to 
invite liim to feast and rest. Kellach, who is a pagan, has 
accorded, in Moume, an asylum to the banished Bards. Garrad, 
envoy of Donmal, who is accompanying Congal, protests, but 
without success. Ardan, referring to the ancient tale of " The 
Sons of Usnach," of " Cuchullin," and of others, succeeds in 
detaining Congal. He is welcomed by Kellach, who dwells 
angrily on the wrongs inflicted by ICing Domnal. He is ans- 
wered by that king's envoy Garrad. Kellach's Bards, after 
the feast sing of the early colonization of Ireland, of the richness 
and wide extent of Ulster, the patrimony of Congal's ancestors 
now diminished by the arbitrament of Doimial. Congal bes- 
tows on the Bard a golden torque, but refuses to break his 
treaty of peace with the monarch.] 

The Hosting here of Congal Claen. 'Twas loud-lark- 
carolling May 
When Congal, as the lark elate, and radiant as the day, 



240 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Rode forth from steep Rath-Keltar gate : nor marvel 

that the King 
Should share the solace of the skies, and gladness of the 

spring; 
For from her high sun-harbouring bower the fortress 

gate above 
The loveliest lady of the North looked down on him 

with love. 
" Adieu, sweet heart ; a short adieu ; in seven days 

hence," he cried, 
" Expect me at your portals back to claim my promised 

bride. 
My heart at last has full content : my love's acceptance 

heals 
All wounds of Fortune : what although Malodhar 

Macha steals, 
By Domnal's false arbitrament, my tributes and my 

land, 
Nor he nor sovereign Domnal's self can steal Lafinda's 

hand. 
Then forward, youths, for Dunangay ; this royal banquet 

sped 
That binds our truce, remains no more but straightway 

back, and wed." 
On went the royal cavalcade, a goodly sight to 

see. 
As westward, o'er the Land of Light, they swept the 

flowery lea ; 
Each shining hoof of every steed upcasting high 

behind 
The gay green turf in thymy tufts that scented all the 

wind, 



CONGAU 241 

While, crossing at the coursers' heads with intersecting 

bounds, 
As swift as skimming swallows played the joyous barking 

hounds. 
First of the fleet resplendent band, the hero Congal 

rode ; 
Dark shone the mighty-chested steed his shapely thigh 

bestrode ; 
Dark, too, at times, his own brow showed that all his 

lover's air 
But mantled with a passing light the gloom of inward 

care. 
Beside him, on a bay-bright steed, in yellow garb arrayed, 
Rode Sweeny, King of Dalaray, the brother of the maid ; 
Attendant on his other hand, with eye that never ceased 
Obsequious watch, came Garrad Gann, the envoy of 

the feast ; 
A troop of gallant youths behind : 'twas glorious to behold 
The coursers' motions and the flow of graceful forms 

and gold. 
So rode they, till, the flowery plain and bushy upland 

pass'd, 
They came at noon where, o'er the woods, Ben-Borcha's 

barriers vast 
Rose in mid-sky : here, where the road divided, at the 

bourne 
That meared the country of the Lord of gloomy- 

mountain'd Mourne, 
Kellach the Halt, the heroes met, in middle of the 

way, 
The Master of the Schools of Mourne, the Arch- Bard 

Ardan ; they 

R 



242 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Alighting made him reverence meet ; and Ardan from 

his car 
Descending, kissed the King and said, 

" Dear youths, ye welcome are 
To Kellach's country Congal Claen, thine uncle's 

herald, I 
In virtue of the Red-Branch bond, beseech thy courtesy 
This day to rest and feast with him." 

" From knight to knight," replied 
King Congal, " 'tis a just request, and ill to be 

denied." 
" Worse to be granted," Garrad said : "to Domnal 

reconciled. 
Behoves thee that thou rather shun one not the Church's 

child ; 
And for his bond of brotherhood, a like request was 

made 
Once, with small good to guest or host, when fraudful 

Barach stayed 
With fatal feasts the son of Roy, and from his plighted 

charge 
Detained him in Dunseverick hall, while Conor, left 

at large 
To deal as lust or hate might prompt with those who 

on the faith 
Of weak MacRoy's safe-conduct came, did Usnach's 

sons to death." 

• • • • 

Said Congal : "If the son of Roy to this constraining 
tie 
Yielded, though charged with mighty cares, great blame 
it were if I, 



CONOAL. 243 

Who, unlike Fergus, journey forth with neither charge 

nor care, 
Should shun my knightly kinsman's cheer with loyal 

mind to share." 
And, climbing by the Poet's side, they took the left- 
hand road, 
And through the gap of mountain sought the aged Chief's 

abode. 
Far on the steep gap's further side a rugged tract 

they found, 
With barren breasts of murky hills and crags encom- 
passed round : 
A hollow sound of blustering winds was from the margin 

sent, 
A river down the middle space with mighty tumult 

went ; 
And still, as further on they fared, the torrent swifter 

flowed, 
And mightier and murkier still the circling mountains 

showed ; 
A dreadful desert as it seemed : till Congal was 

aware 
Of divers goodly-visaged men and youths resorting 

there. 
Some by the flood-side lonely walked ; and other some 

were seen 
Who rapt apart in silent thought paced each his several 

green ; 
And stretched in dell and dark ravine, were some that 

lay supine, 
And some in posture prone that lay, and conn'd the 

written line 



244 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Then to the King's enquiring gaze, where, mounted by 

his side, 
He sat and eyed the silent throng, the grey Arch-Bard 

rephed : 
" See in despite the Clerics' hate, where Kellach's 

care awards 
Rough though it be, a sanctuary to Erin's banished 

Bards. 
A life-time now is well-nigh spent since first our wandering 

feet, 
Compelled by that unjust decree enacted at Drum- 

keat. 
Left home and presidential seat by plenteous board and 

fire 
To sate the rage of impious Aed, ungrateful Domnal's 

sire. 
Twelve hundred men, with one consent, from Erin's 

utmost ends. 
We sought the hills where ruled the Bard's hereditary 

friends. 
Thy sheltering, song-preserving hills, Ultonia ! cess nor 

dues 
Craved we ; but sat and touched our harps beside the 

Strand-End Yews. 

• ■ • • • • 

By this they reached the fort, and found the Chieftain 

Kellach there : 
Before the outer gate he sat, and took the fresher 

air : 
A very aged senior he ; his hearing well-nigh gone. 
Nor walked he longer on his feet, but sat a tolg 

upon : 



CONGAL. 245 

A brazen-footed bench it was, whereon his serving train 
Could bear him gently in and out. 

" My love to Congal Claen," 
He said. " Disabled of my limbs thou find'st me, 

nephew, still ; 
But not yet crippled aught in heart or in the loyal 

will 
I bear my brother Scallan's son ; and much my heart 

is grieved 
At hearing of the shameful wrongs thou hast of late 

received 
At hands of this ungrateful King." 

" Dear kinsman, grieve no more," 
Congal returned ; " these wrongs are all forgotten, 

since we swore 
The oaths of peace ; for peace is made, and will be 

ratified 
By taking of the princess fair, Lafinda, for my bride ; 
And, ere the nuptial knot be tied, on duty's urgent 

wing 
Even now to Dunangay I ride to banquet with the King." 
Said Kellach ; " Small the good will spring from any 

banquet spread 
At Dunangay, where coward Kings, from spacious 

Tara fled, 
At threat of imprecating Clerks, crouch in their narrow 

den. 
But these are not the days of Kings, nor days of mighty 

men." 
Said Garrad Gann ; " A servant here of Domnal : and 

I say 
No narrow house, oh aged Sire, is that of Dunangay. 



246 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FEUGUSON. 

But when Saint Ruan, because the King, Brown Dermid, 

had profaned 
His sanctuary, and his ward, thence ravished, still de- 
tained 
At Tara contumaciously, denounced by book and bell 
His curse against the royal seat, — which righteous judg- 
ment well 
Did Dermid merit ; for he pressed his fugitive's pursuit 
With sacrilegious fury to the very altar foot 
Of Lorrah ; and, when Ruan himself stood in the narrow 

door 
That led to where his ward was hid beneath the chancel 

floor, 
And Dermid feared to pluck him thence, with pick and 

iron crow 
Did break the floor before his feet, and from the crypt 

below 
Dug out Aed Guara, — afterwards, no King at Tara 

dare 
Longer reside ; but each within his patrimonial share 
Ordained the royal seat elsewhere — as south Hy-Niall, 

who chose 
Loch-Leyne-Fort ; or as north Hy-Niall, Fort-Aileach 

and like those 
Did Domnal choose, when Erin's voice gave him the 

sovereign sway. 
By salmon-full abounding Boyne, the house of Dun- 

. an gay. 
There, following royal Tara's plan, with dyke and mound 

he cast 
Seven mighty ramparts round about, to make the mansion 

fast ; 



CONGAL. 247 

And, after the same pattern, did build within the fort 
For him and for his household train, a timbered middle- 
court ; 
Also for each Provincial King a fair assembly hall, 
A prison and a Poet's lodge, and, fairest work of 

all, 
A single-pillared chamber, like as Cormac, learned 

son 
Of Art, at desert Tara in former times had done. 
In which capacious mansion, thou and all thy Bards, 

old man. 
Could lodge, and no man's room be less : so answers 

Garrad Gann." 
" Herald, I hear thy words but ill," said Kellach ; 

" but 'twere well 
For Erin, if Dermid Dun, that day he broke the Cleric's 

cell. 
As justly by the law he might, his fugitive to win, 
Had, where he took Aed Guara out, put Ruan of Lor rah 

in. 
So should our laws have reverence meet ; nor lawless 

Clerks exalt 
Their crooked staves above the wand of Justice, through 

the fault 
Of such as Dermid. But, oh youths, behold the open 

gates 
Where mountain fare on homely boards your courtesy 

awaits." 
They entered : in the hall within abundant boards 

were spread, 
Bard, Brehon, Smith, in order set, each at his table's 

head ; 



248 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But no Priest sat to bless the meat : now, when the feast 

was done, 
Said Kellach, from his middle place, 

" Oh, learned harmonious one, 
Who sittest o'er the Board of Bards of Erin, be our 

cheer 
Graced with such lay as Rury's sons will not disdain 

to hear." 
Then at a sign from Ardan given, a Poet pale and gray 
Rose at the table of the Smith, and sang an antique lay. 
'Twas Ardan sang : " To God who made the elements, 

I raise 
First praises humbly as is meet, and Him I lastly praise ; 
Who sea and land hath meted out beneath the ample 

sky 
For man's inhabitation, and set each family 
To dwell within his proper bounds ; who for the race 

renowned 
Of Rury from old time prepared the fair Ultonian 

ground, 
Green-valley'd, clear-streamed, fishy-bay'd, with moun- 
tain-mirroring lakes 
Belted, with deer-abounding woods and fox-frequented 

brakes 
Made apt for all brave exercise ; that, till the end of 

time, 
Each true Rudrician fair-hair'd son might from his hills 

sublime 
Look forth and say, ' Lo, on the left, from where tumul- 
tuous Moyle 
Heaves at Benmore's foot-fettering rocks with ceaseless 

surging toil, 



CONGAL. 249 

And, half escaping from the clasp of that stark chain 

of stone, 
The soaring Foreland, poised aloft, as eagle newly flown. 
Hangs awful on the morning's brow, or rouses armed 

Cantyre, 
Red kindling 'neath the star of eve the Dalriad's warning 

fire ; 
South to the salt, sheep-fattening marsh and long- 
resounding bay 
Where young Cuchullin camped his last on dread Muir- 

thevne's day ; 
And southward still to where the weird De Danaan kings 

lie hid, 
High over Boyne, in cavern'd cairn and mountain pyramid; 
And on the right hand from the rocks where Balor's 

bellowing caves 
Up through the funnelled sea-cliffs shoot forth the ex- 
ploding waves 
South to where lone Gweebarra laves the sifted sands 

that strow 
Dark Boylagh's banks ; and southward still to where 

abrupt Eas-Roe 
In many a tawny heap and whirl, by glancing salmon 

track't. 
Casts down to ocean's oozy gulfs the great sea-cataract, 
The land is ours I — from earth to sea, from hell to heaven 

above, 
It and its increase, and the crown and dignity thereof !' 
Therefore to God, who gave the land into our hand, 

I sing 
First praises, as the law commands ; next to my lawful 

King, 



250 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FFRGUSON. 

Image of God, with voice and string I cliaunt the loyal 

strain, 
Though well nigh landless here to-day I see thee, Congal 

Claen ; 
Spoiled of Orgallia's green domain, of wide Tir-Owen's 

woods, 
Of high Tir-Conal's herdful hills and fishy-teeming 

floods ; 
Of all the warm vales, rich in goods of glebe-manuring 

men 
That bask against the morning sun along the Royal Glen. 
These are no longer ours : the brood of Baedan's sons in 

these 
Shoot proudly forth their lawless barques, and sweep 

unhostaged seas 
Through all the swift-keel-clasping gulfs of ocean that 

enfold 
Deep-bay'd Moy Inneray and the shores of Dathi's land 

of gold. 
In law-defying conscious strength aloft in Dunamain 
Rude Ultan Long-hand owns no lord on Orior's pleasant 

plain ; 
While o'er Ardsallagh's sacred height, and Creeve Roe's 

flowery meads, 
Malodhar Macha reigns alone in Emain of the steeds. 
But come ; resound the noble deeds and swell the chant 

of praise 
In memory of the men who did the deeds of other days ; 
The old bard-honoring, fearless days, exulting Ulster 

saw. 
When to great Rury's fair-haired race tall Scallan gave the 

law ; 



CONGAL 251 

When, from Troy-Rury to Ardstiaw was neither fort nor 

field. 
But yielded tribute to the king that bore the ell-broad 

shield. 
Hark ! what a shout Ben Evenagh pealed ! how flash 

from sea to shore 
The chariot sides, the shielded prows, bright blade and 

dripping oar ; 
How smoke their causeways to our tramp : beneath our 

oarsmen's toil 
How round the Dalaradian prows, foam down the waves 

of Foyle ! 
Come forth, ye proud ones of Tir-Hugh, your eastern 

masters wait 
To take their tribute-rights anew at broad-stoned Aileach's 

gate ; 
A hundred steeds, a hundred foals, each foal beside his 

dam, 
A hundred pieces of fine gold, each broad as Scallan's 

palm. 
And thick as thumb-nail of a man of churlish birth who 

now 
The seventh successive seed time holds a fallovz-furrowing 

plough : 
Three hundred mantles ; thirty slaves, all females, young 

and fair, 
Each carrying her silver cup, each cup a poet's 

share 
Who sings an ode inaugural. —Alas ! I fondly 

rave : 
Dead, tribute-levying Scallan lies ; and dead in Scallan's 

grave 



252 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Glory and might and prosperous days. The very heavens 

that pour'd 
Abundance on our fields and streams, while that vic- 
torious lord 
Of righteous judgments ruled the land ; the stars that, 

as they ranged 
The bounteous heavens, shed health and wealth, above 

our heads are changed. 
Nor marvel that the sickening skies are altered o'er our 

heads, 
Nor that from heaven's distempered heights malign 

contagion spreads : 
For all the life of every growth that springs beneath the 

sun 
Back to the air returns when once its turn of life is 

done : 
To it all sighs ascend ; to it, on chariot- wheels of 

fire, 
All imprecations from the lips of injured men 

aspire ; 
And when that lofty lodge of life and growth-store of the 

world 
Is choked with groans from burthened hearts and male- 
dictions hurled 
In clamorous flight of accents winged with deadlier 

strength of song 
From livid lips of desperate men who bear enormous 

wrong, 
Heaven cannot hold it ; but the curse outbursting from 

on high 
In blight and plague, on plant and man, blasts all beneath 

the sky. 



CONGAL. 253 

Burst, blackening clouds that hang aloof o'er perjured 

Domnal's halls ! 
Dash down, with all your flaming bolts, the fraud- 
cemented walls, 
Till through your thunder-riven palls heaven's light 

anew be pour'd 
In Law and Justice, Wealth and Song, on Congal's throne 

restored ! " 
Look how the culprit stands confused before the judge, 

while one, 
Who, passing through the woods unseen, has seen the 

foul deed done, 
Relates the manner of the fact ; tells how with treacherous 

blow 
Struck from behind the murdered man sank on the 

pathway ; so 
With flushing cheek, contracted brow, and restless, 

angry eye. 
Sat Congal till the lay was closed : then with a mighty 

sigh 
He breathed his heart ; and standing, spoke ; and, 

speaking, he unbent 
The golden torque that clasped his neck, and by a butler 

sent 
The splendid guerdon to the Bard. 

For what thy lay doth sound 
In praise of Rury's glorious race and Uladh's realm 

renowned, 
Take, Bard, this gift ; but for so much of this untimely 

song 
As sounds in strife betwixt myself and sovereign Domnal, 

long 



254 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

And far from me, his foster-son, be that disastrous day 
Would break the peace we late have sworn : and there- 
fore for thy lay 
I thank thee and I thank thee not." 

• Then round the tables ran 

Much murmuring through the Poet-throng : and thus 

spoke Garrad Gann : 
" The lay is easy that a Bard chaunts at his patron's board, 
With none in presence to repay lewd word with saucier 

word. 
See how a boy who spends his time playing alone at ball, 
Loitering, belike, from school, beside some loft)^ smooth- 
faced wall, 
Strikes softly that the ball may fall convenient to his 

blow. 
And keeps his private game on foot with easy effort 

so. 
But, say, two pairs of players arrive, and join an earnest 

game ; 
Lo, all the easy-taken balls, that late high-curving came, 
Now struck by prompt rebutting hands fly past, shot 

in and out. 
Direct and rapid, hard to hit, missed once at every 

bout ; 
The players at stretch of every limb, like flickering bats 

that ply 
Their dumb quest on a summer's eve, to balk each other, 

fly 
Hither and thither ; all their chests heave ; and on every 

bro\V 
The sweat-drops glisten. So, me seems, oh King, this 

minstrel now, 



CONGAL 255: 

Much like a Cleric in his desk, having none to strive 
withal, 

His game being wholly with himself, keeps up the easy 
ball 

Of safe disloyalty : but let this song of his be heard 

By Domnal's Bards, in Domnal's hall, and take a true 
man's word 

Our angry Master here should give his day of harvest- 
work. 

Ere from the field of fair debate he'd bear his golden 
torque." 
" Enough," said Kellach. " Now to rest : and with 
the earliest ray 

Of dawn, my kinsman-king is free to journey on his way." 



BOOK 11. 



THE ARGUMENT. 



The Royal Feast. The unintended slight. 

Hall Kellach' s Counsel; and the Aids for fight. 

[Congal continues liis journey southwards. He encounters 
at the fords of the Boyne, the hermit Ere, whose goose eggs 
have been carried off by the purveyors of Domnal. Ere 
curses feast and guests. Arrived at Dunangay, Congal is 
cordially welcomed by the King. Domnal asks as a favour, 
and in token of reconciliation, that Congal will sit at the banquet 
on his left hand, next his heart. Congal consents, although 
the right hand was his privileged place, but is indignant when 
he sees this assumed by liis rival, Malodhar, to whom Armagh 
and the surrounding territory, formerly liis, had been assigned 
by Domnal. A further insult — the handing to him of the 
goose egg on a wooden dish, while the other provincial Kings 
were served on silver — increases Congal 's wrath. He rises, 
and angrily recounts his grievances ; then leaves the banquet 



256 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

with his followers. At the fords of the Boyne Congal again 
meets the hermit Ere, who had cursed the feast and him. He 
Is pushed aside, and stumbling, falls into the river, and is swept 
down by the current. King Domnal sends in vain to entreat 
the return of Congal, and to assure liim that no insult was 
intended. Congal sends gifts to the poets, and continues his 
journey to Mourne. He recounts his injuries to liis uncle. 
Kellacli gives his voice for war ; promises his aid, and that of 
liis sons ; and advises Congal to proceed to Scotland and seek 
the help of his grandfather, King Eochaid Buie. Congal 
first visits Lafinda ; on liis way to Rath-Keltar has a vision 
of the Herdsman Borcha. He finds his betrothed with her 
maidens by a running stream fulling a splendid cloak ; and 
tells her that their marriage must be postponed. He sails 
for Scotland, visits his grandsire, who consents to send forces 
vmder command of his sons. These princes, Domnal Brec, 
Congal Menn, Sweeny, and Aed, with their wives, contend for 
the honour of entertaining Congal. The Bard Drostan predicts 
disaster. Congal sails for Britain, arrives at Caer Leon ; and 
finds its King and Queen, whose heir has long been absent, 
perplexed by the claims of three candidates to be their long 
lost son. These have been sent to try the ordeal of the Stone 
Maen Amber , which moved only to the touch of Truth. Congal 
is deputed to test their pretensions. He decides in favour of 
Conan Rodd, who is recognised as Prince, and tmdertakes to 
lead the British warriors to the aid of Congal Claen.] 

At early blush of morn, the King of Ulster and his 

train 
Assumed their southern Meath-ward route through 

craggy Mourne again. 
Herd Borcha's peaks behind them left, by Narrow-Water 

side 
They rode, and by the Yews that shade Kin-Troya's 

refluent tide. 
Thence, Ufted lightly on their steeds, up through the 

desert lone. 
Where gloomy Gullion overlooks his realm of quag and 

stone, 



CONGAL. 257 

Passed Brigid's cell ; and, issuing forth high o'er Muir- 

thevne's plain, 
Where Pochard takes the morning sun, passed Brigid's 

cell again. 
" Go where you will, their Saints intrude," said Congal. 

" Nay, 'twas here," 
Sweeny returned, " Lafinda, she to both of us so dear, 
In all her maid-beseeming arts was nurtured in her 

youth 
By Brigid's maids, and learned from them the lore of 

Heavenly truth." 
" And for so dear a pupil's sake," said Congal, " shall 

their schools 
Have favor ; and a warrior's arm protect the pious fools." 
Thence by Dun Dealga's belted mound, safe in whose 

triple wards 
Cuchullin in the days of old caroused his banished Bards, 
Abashed in awe the warriors rode : nor drew they bridle- 
rein 
Till on the woodland height they reached the sacred 

walls of Slane ; 
And from the verdant Hill of Health, outspread at large 

beneath 
On all sides to the bounding sky, beheld illustrious Meath, 
Cattle and crop, and homes of men, commingling gold 

and green 
Refulgent in the noontide ray, and sparkling Boyne 

between. 
As down the hill the warriors rode, to reach the level 

fords, 
A woman met them by the way. She said — 

" Oh, gentle lords, 
s 



258 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Be witness of the shameful wrong the King's purveyors 

here 
Have done against our hermit, Ere ; he, holy man austere, 
Eats not of flesh nor viand else that breath of life informs ; 
But when the winter season comes, amid the northern 

storms 
The wild-geese visit him ; and here, around his guardian 

cell, 
In safety leave their silly nests and store of eggs as well : 
And all our hermit's hoarded store these proud pur- 
veyors now 
Have taken for the King's repast : be witness, warrior, 

thou." 
" Good woman," said the courteous King, " this wrong 

of thine transcends 
My power to help : myself a guest, can make thee no 

amends." 
And onward passed to reach the fords : here by the 

rushing flood 
The aged, angry Ere himself in middle causeway stood. 
His head was bare, his brow was black, his lips with rage 

were wan ; 
As stone crop on a storm-bleached rock stood on the 

rugged man 
The hard grey beard, and with a voice as winter shrill 

and strong 
He cried, 

" Oh, hear my prayer ; oh God ! avenge thy 
servant's wrong. 
Twice twenty years in pinching fast and wasting vigil here 
I've served thine altar : let my prayer now reach thy 

favoring ear : 



CONGAL. 259 

Cursed be the hands that robbed my store, accursed 

the board that bears, 
The roof that shelters the repast, the bidden guest that 

shares." 
And raised, to ring, his altar bell : but with his riding- 
wand 
King Congal struck the empty brass from Erc's uplifted 

hand ; 
And said, 

" For shame, old wicked man ; this impotence of 

rage 
An angry woman would demean ; and ill beseems a 

sage." 
And pushed him from his path aside, and went upon 

his way, 
Regardless, through the flashing fords and up to Dunan- 

gay- 

Up to the royal gates from all the fords of Boyne that 

mom 
Was concourse great of bidden guest on car and courser 

borne. 
And many a chief, as Congal rode the crowded ranks 

between, 
Would check his steeds and pause to mark the hero's 

noble mien. 
Within the courtyard of the fort, and at the open gate 
That to the spacious wine-hall led, did Domnal's self 

await 
The festive throngs ; and, when the troop of Congal 

Claen drew near, 
Advanced before the threshold-step, and with such 

gracious cheer 



26o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As father might returning son, received him ; kiss'd 

his cheek, 
And said, 

" Dear Congal, of thy love the boon I first bespeak 
Is this ; that, as my foster-son, on this auspicious day. 
Which reunites affection's bonds no more to part, I pray 
Thou vi^ilt, in token to the world of mutual love restored. 
Upon my left hand, next my heart, sit at the banquet 

board." 
Said Congal, " Royal Sire, although the law of seats 

be thus, 
That when the monarch boasts, as thou, the race illus- 
trious 
Of North Hy-Niall, the privilege of Ulster in that case 
Is next the king, on his right hand, at banquet to have 

place ; 
Yet be it as thy love would prompt." 

Then by a royal groom 
The Ulster guests were to their baths brought in an 

inner room ; 
And so remained until a steward announced the banquet 

spread, 
And led them to the wine-hall ; there, at Domnal's 

table-head. 
On the left hand of the royal seat, was Congal's place 

assigned, 
Young Dalaradian Sweeny's next, and Garrad Gann 

behind. 
Great was the concourse ; all the seats were full, save 

two alone. 
The Monarch's, and the vacant chair to rightward of 

the throne. 



CONGAL. 261 

Expecting who should enter next, was heard a herald's 

call, 
" The King of Emain Macha here ; and straightway 

up the hall 
Came proud Malodhar ; round him gazed with calm 

audacious air, 
And sitting, as of right, assumed the right hand vacant 

chair. 
The Red-Branch banner from the beam depending o'er 

his head. 
Then Sweeny to King Congal's ear approached his lips 

and said, 
" It bodes no good, oh Congal, that thine ancient rightful 

place 
This upstart of Ardmacha here obtains before thy 

face." 
" Hush, Sweeny," answered Garrad Gann ; " 'tis 

Domnal's love alone 
That places Congal on his left, to heart- ward of the 

throne." 
Ere more was said, the herald's voice again rose loud 

and clear. 
And all the hall rose with the words — " The King of 

Erin here ! " 
And Domnal from his room came forth : his herald 

with him came, 
Proclaiming, 

" Erin's Domnal here ; the one son dear to 
fame 
Of Aed, the son of Ainmir^' ; which Ainmiry for 

sire 
Had Setna, son of Fergus : he, his race if ye require. 



262 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Was son of Conal Gulban, son of Niall the Hostage- 
famed, 
(Nine Kings he held in hostage, and hence was he sur- 

named) ; 
And up from Niall Nine-Hostager we know we may 

ascend 
From King to King to Adam, up to the very end. 
Sprung from which great progenitors is Domnal, for 

whose sake 
Beseech you all with joyous hearts these viands to par- 
take." 
The herald ceased, and Domnal, still upstanding by 
his chair, 
Motioned to Bishop Ronan Finn to give the blessing- 
prayer. 
The blessing given, King Domnal sat ; and, smiling 

courteous, spoke, 
" My love to all, both King and Prince ; high Chiefs 

and humble folk 
Of Erin, welcome ! now to all, ye noble butlers, bring 
The Egg of Appetite and place for each Provincial King 
An Egg of Honor, that our feast — all things being duly 

done, 
From egg to apple — happily be ended as begun." 
With ready speed the serving men the King's behests 
obeyed. 
And wild-goose eggs before the Kings on silver dishes laid. 
Save only before Congal Claen : by fate, or by mischance. 
Or cook's default, or butler's haste, or steward's ignorance. 
Through transposition of his seat not rightly understood, 
The egg of many ills for him was served on dish of 
wood. 



CONGAL 263 

Which, when the men of Ulster saw, they did not deem 

it meet 
That sons of Rury at that board should longer sit or 

eat ; 
And Dalaradian Sweeny said, " Thou eatest of thy shame, 
Meat sent thee on a platter from a King who hates 

thy name ! 
Methought no lord of Oriall, with Kinel-Owen to boot. 
And Kinel-Conal at his back, should sit without dispute 
In Congal's place at banquet. I end as I began : 
Thou eatest thy dishonour." 

Again said Garrad Gann : 
" Hush ! 'twas the cook's or steward's default : mar 

not the feast's repose." 
But Congal said, " Be silent, dog ! " and from the table 

rose. 
Ah ! me, what mighty ills we see from small begin- 
nings rise ! 
Look how a spark consumes the wood a palace-roof 

supplies. 

• • • 

Or as a pilgrim lone and poor, without a guide who goes 

Through an Alp's gap, where hang aloof the silence- 
balanced snows, 

Deeming himself alone with God, will break the aerial 
poise 

With quavering hymn ; the shaken bulks sliding with 
dreadful noise 

Sheer from their rock-shelved slippery lofts, descend in 
ruinous sweep. 

And spill their loud ice-cataracts down all the rattling 
steep. 



264 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

The horrid rumble heard remote by shepherd on his 

lawn, 
He looks, and from the naked peak sees that the snows 

are gone ; 
Then sighs, and says, " Perchance but now 'twas some 

poor traveller's hap 
To journey in the pass beneath." He meanwhile, in 

his gap, 
Lies lifeless underneath his load of ruin heavy and bare, 
And awful silence once again possesses all the air. 
And as the heaping-up of snows in mountain sides apart 
By winds of many wintry years, so heaped in Congal's 

heart 
Wrong lay on wrong ; and now at last in wrath's resistless 

flood 
The long-pent mischief burst its bounds. Up at the 

board he stood 
And spurned the table with his foot, and from his shoulders 

drew 
The festal robe, and at his feet the robe and viands 

threw, 
Rose also eager Garrad Gann. " Oh, King, I pray thee 

sit. 
And thou shall have attendance due and honour as is 

fit." 
But angry Congal, turning in the middle of the hall. 
Dashed down Gann Garrad to the ground. Amazement 

seized on all, 
And terror many. But he stood and spoke them : 

" Have no fear ; 
For grievous though my wrongs have been, I do not 

right them here. 



CONGAL 265 

But here, before this company of Kings and noble Lords, 
I shall recount my wrongs, oh King ; and mark ye 

all my words. 
Thy royal predecessor, oh King, was Sweeny Menn ; 
And him thou didst rebel against ; and into Ulster then 
Came, seeking our allegiance, and leagued with us, 

and I 
Was given thee in fosterage to bind our amity ; 
And with thee here was nurtured, till thou before the 

might 
Of Sweeny Menn, thy rightful King, wast forced to 

take thy flight 
To Alba's hospitable shore ; where generous Eochaid 

Buie, 
My mother's father, for her sake, and for his love of me. 
Did entertain thee and thy train till summers seven were 

flown. 
When I, a youthful warrior, and aged Sweeny grown 
No longer at the lance expert, nor on the whirling car, 
With bent bow able as of old to ride the ridge of war, — 
As when through Moin-an-Catha's pools, waist-deep 

in shameful mire, 
He chased thee on OUarva's banks, — thou of my mother's 

sire 
Didst crave and didst obtain a barque, and with thy slender 

band 
Sett'st sail for Erin secretly ; and where we first made 

land 
Was at Troy Rury : there we held a council ; and 'twas 

there. 
Standing on those brown-rippled sands, thou didst protest 

and swear, 



266 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

If I by any daring feat that warrior-laws allow 

Of force or stratagem, should slay King Sweeny Menn, 

and thou 
Thereby attain the sovereignty, thou straightway wouldst 

restore 
All that my royal forefathers were seized of theretofore. 
Relying on which promise to have my kingdom back, 
I left thee at Troy Rury ; nor turned I on my track 
Till I came to broad-stoned Aileach, There, on the 

sunny sward 
Before the fort, sat Sweeny Menn, amid his royal guard, 
He and his nobles chess-playing. Right through the 

middle band 
I went, and no man's licence asked, Garr-Congail in 

my hand, 
And out through Sweeny's body, where he sat against 

the wall, 
'Twas I that sent Garr-Congail in presence of them all. 
And out through Sweeny's body till the stone gave back 

the blow, 
'Twas I that day at Aileach made keen Garr-Congail go. 
But they, conceiving from my cry — for, ere their bounds 

I broke, 
I gave the warning warrior-shout that justified the stroke 
By warrior-law — that Eochaid Buie and Alba's host had 

come. 
Fled to their fortress, and I sped safe and triumphant 

home. 
Then thou becamest Sovereign ; and, Scallan Broad- 
Shield dead, 
I claimed thy promise to be made King in my father's 

stead ; 



CONGAL. 267 

Not o'er the fragment of my rights regained by him, 

alone, 
But o'er the whole Rudrician realm, as erst its bounds 

were known, 
Ere Fergus Fogha sank before the Collas' robber sword ; 
That thou had'st promised ; and to that I claimed to 

be restored. 
But thou kept'st not thy promise ; but in this didst 

break the same, 
That thou yielded'st not Tir-Conal nor Tir-Owen to 

my claim ; 
And the cantreds nine of Oriall to Malodhar Macha, he 
Who now sits at thy shoulder, thou gavest, and not to 

me. 
And him to-day thou givest my royal place and seat. 
And viands on a silver dish thou givest him to eat, 
And me, upon a wooden dish, mean food which I 

disdain : 
Wherefore upon this quarrel, oh King," said Congal 

Claen, 
" I here denounce thee battle." 

Therewith he left the hall. 
And with him, in tumultuous wise, went Ulster one 

and all, 
And leaped in haste upon their steeds, and northward 

rode amain, 
Till 'twixt them and the men of Meath they left the fords 

of Slane. 
That morn, on thirsty Bregia's breast abundant heaven 

had poured 
Much rain, and now with risen Boyne red ran the flooded 

ford. 



268 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

There, still beside the slippery brink, indenting all the 

ground 
With restless stampings to and fro, the angry Ere they 

found. 
" Ah, wretch," cried Sweeny, " stand aside : avoid 

thy victim's way : 
Thine eggs have hatched us ills enough for one disastrous 

day." 
" I thank thee, God," cried aged Ere, " that through 

the wastes of air 
My voice has reached thy throne, and thou hast heard 

thy servant's prayer." 
" Go thank the fiend thou call'st thy God, where only 

fiends abide," 
Cried Sweeny ; and with furious hand dashed aged 

Ere aside : 
The tottering senior stumbled back, and from the slippery 

verge 
Boyne caught him in an onward whirl ; thence through 

the battling surge 
Below the fords, as 'neath the feet of vigorous youths 

at play 
A rolling football. Ere was rolled, engulfed and swept away; 
While yet from tawny whirl to whirl, the warriors marked 

him cast, 
His right hand, as in act to curse, uplifted to the last. 

• • • 

By early noon next day 
They stood again at Kellach's gates. While yet a javeUn 

flight 
From where the senior sat, he reached both hands with 

stern delight 



CONGAL 269 

To clasp the hand of Congal Claen, " Thank God," 

he cried, " mine eyes 
Have seen my brother Scallan's son at last in such a guise 
As fits a right Rudrician King ; with back to Slavery's 

door 
And face to Fortune : come, sit near ; recount me o'er 

and o'er 
The knave's insidious overtures ; for well I know his wiles 
And well I guessed his feast was dressed with snare- 
disguising smiles." 
Then Congal on the brazen bench sat, and in Kellach's 

ear 
Disclosed his grounds of wrath at large in accents loud 

and clear. 
As Congal's tale proceeded from injurious word to word 
Old Kellach underneath his gown kept handling with 

his sword, 
His sword which none suspected that the bed-rid senior 

wore, 
But which displaying from its sheath, now when the 

tale was o'er. 
He held it up, and, " Take," said he, " a warrior's word 

in pledge. 
If thou take other recompense than reckoning at sword- 
edge 
For these affronts, this sword of mine which, many a 

time before 
I've sheathed in valiant breasts, shall find a bloody sheath 

once more 
Here in this breast : for life for me has long while lost 

its grace, 
By palsied limbs debarred the joy of combat and of chase, 



270 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

And all my later years I've lived for that great day which 

now 
Seems surely coming : for full cause and warrant good 

hast thou 
For war with Domnal. Far less cause had Broad- 
Shield when he slew 
Cuan of Clech, and set his head on the wall-top to view, 
For calling him ' Shrunk Scallan ' : less cause than this 

by far, 
Though Mordred's Queen had slapped the cheek of 

British Gwynevar, 
Had Arthur when he fought Camlan ; from which 

pernicious fray 
Where joined thrice twenty thousand men, but three 

man came away. 

No ! warrant good for war thou hast, and cause of strife 

to spare, 
And kindly-well beseems us all thine enterprise to share. 
Go, summon me my seven good sons ; my young men 

' brave and strong 

Shall with their royal kinsman in this Hosting go along. 
And if my limbs would bear me, as they bore me like 

the wind. 
When once I fought by Scallan 's side, I would not stay 

behind. 
Nor will I, far as men are found to bear me in the front, 
Decline the face of battle yet, when comes the final 

brunt. 
But for so great a strife as this, dear nephew, thou 'It have 

need 
Of other friends and councillors, and other aids indeed. 



CONGAL. 271 

So get thee hence to Alba ; to thy grandsire Eochaid 

Buie : 
Thy mother was his daughter, and thy mother's mother, 

she 
Was daughter, one and well-beloved, of other Eochaid, 

king 
Of Britain, Claim the help of each, and here to Erin 

bring 
Such aids as they will grant to thee ; meantime 'twill 

be my care 
Our own fraternal warrior tribes for combat to prepare." 
This counsel to the King seemed good ; but, ere he 

sought the aid 
Of Alban Eochaid, he devised to speak the royal maid. 
. . • ' • 

The Princess with her women-train without the fort 

he found, 
Beside a limpid running stream, upon the primrose 

ground. 
In two ranks seated opposite, with soft alternate stroke 
Of bare, white, counter-thrusting feet, fulling a splendid 

cloak 
Fresh from the loom : incessant rolled athwart the 

fluted board 
The thick web fretted, while two maids, with arms 

uplifted, poured 
Pure water on it diligently ; and to their moving feet 
In answering verse they sang a chaunt of cadence clear 

and sweet. 
Princess Lafinda stood beside ; her feet in dainty shoes 
Laced softly ; and her graceful limbs in robes of radiant 

hues 



272 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Clad delicately, keeping the time : on boss of rushes 

made 
Old nurse Levarcam near them sat, beneath the hawthorn 

shade. 
A grave experienced woman she, of reverend years, to 

whom 
Well known were both the ends of life, the cradle and the 

tomb ; 
Whose withered hands had often smoothed the wounded 

warrior's bed ; 
Bathed many new-born babes, and closed the eyes of 

many dead. 
The merry maidens when they spied the warlike king 

in view, 
Beneath their robes in modest haste their gleaming feet 

withdrew. 
And laughing all surceased their task. Lafinda blush- 
ing stood 
Elate with conscious joy to see so soon again renewed 
A converse, ah, how sweet, compared with that of nurse 

or maid ! 
But soon her joy met cruel check 

" Lafinda," Congal said. 
And led her by the hand apart ; " this banquet of the 

King's 
Has had an ill result. His feast has been of fare which 

brings 
Hindrance to all festivity. Great insult has been shown 
Me by King Domnal ; such affront as has not yet been 

known 
By any other royal guest in Erin ; therefore now 
I come not, as I thought to come, to ratify the vow 



CONGAL 273 

We made at parting, I and thou : our bridal now must 

wait 
Till this wrong done be made aright : for I to Alba 

straight 
Am gone to ask my grandsire's aid, and thence returning 

go 
First and before all other calls in field to meet my foe. 

• • • • • • • 

She answered, " For a maid like me, the daughter of a 

King 
To grieve for nuptial rites deferred, were not a seemly 

thing. 
Yet, were I one of these, and loved, as humblest maiden 

can, 
And shame would suffer me to shew my tears to any man 
Shed for his sake, I well could weep. Oh, me ! what 

hearts ye own, 
Proud men, for trivialest contempt in thoughtless moment 

shown. 
For rash word from unguarded lips, for fancied scornful 

eye, 
That put your lives and hopes of them you love, in 

jeopardy. 
Yet deem not I, a Princess, sprung myself from warrior 

sires, 
Repine at aught in thy behoof that Honor's law requires. 
Nor ask I what affront, or how offended, neither where 
Blame first may lie. Judge thou of these : these are 

a warrior's care. 
Yet, oh, bethink thee, Congal, ere war kindles, of the ties 
Of nurture, friendship, fosterage ; think of the woeful 

sighs 



274 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Of widows, of poor orphans' cries ; of all the pains and 

griefs 
That plague a people in the path of battle-wagering 

chiefs. 
See, holy men are 'mongst us come with message sweet 

of peace 
From God himself, and promise sure that sin and strife 

shall cease ; 
Else wherefore, if with fear and force mankind must 

ever dwell. 
Raise we the pardon-spreading cross and peace- 
proclaiming cell ? " 
" Raise what we may, Preceptress fair," the sullen 

King replied, 
" Wars were and will be to the end." And from his 

promised bride 
Took hurried parting ; for he feared to trust a lover's 

lips 
With all his secret heart designed. Bealfarsad of the 

ships 
That night received him ; and, from thence, across the 

northern sea 
Went Congal Claen to seek the aid of Alban Eochaid 

Buie. 
Druid Drostan, on the Alban shore, come forth to 

view the day. 
Beheld the swift ship from the south sweep up the shining 

bay, 
And hailed the stranger-warriors as they leaped upon 

the strand. 
" My love be to the goodly barque, and to the gallant 

band : 



CONGAL 275 

Say courteous sons, whence come ye ? " 

Congal said, " From Erin we 
Come, seeiting aid and counsel of my grandsire, Eochaid 

Buie." 
" Dear Congal," cried the Druid, " thou art stately 

grown and tall 
Since first I nursed thee on my knee in Yellow Eochaid's 

hall." 
And embraced him and caressed him, and conducted 

him where sate 
Alban Eochaid at the chess-tables before Dun-Money 

gate. 
He told the King his errand : when the tale of wrongs 

was done. 
Said Eochaid, " It shall ne'er be said that Alba's daugh- 
ter's son 
Took affront of Erin's Domnal without reckoning at 

sword-edge 
Had duly upon stricken field ; and, though my ancient 

pledge 
Forbids that I should raise the spear 'gainst one who 

'neath my roof 
In former times had shelter, not the less in thy 

behoof 
Shall Alba's hosts be forward. Four princely sons are 

ours, 
Thy mother's brothers ; they shall lead thine allied Alban 

powers ; 
Domnal, Sweeny, Aed, and Congal Thou shalt tarry 

here to-day : 
To-morrow, sail for Britain." 

Then said Congal Menn, " I pray 



276 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

My nephew-namesake Congal that to-day he feast with 
me. 
" Nay, rather," answered Domnal Brec, " I, by seniority. 
Have better right to feast the King." 

" For me," said Sweeny, then, 
" Though younger I than either, yet neither Brec nor 

Menn 
Takes Congal Claen's indignity to heart with warmer 
mind." 
" And I," said Aed Green-Mantle, " will not fall far 
behind, 
If by that line ye measure." 

" Peace, Princes," said the King : 
" Your wives are present ; and meseems it were a seemlier 

thing 
That they before your nephew should advance your 

kindly claims ; 
For good men's praises worthier sound on lips of lovely 
dames." 
Then said the wife of Domnal Brec, " There has not 
yet been found 
A man so bountiful as mine on Erse or Alban ground. 
If green Slieve Money were of gold, Slieve Money 

in a day 
From Freckled Domnal's hand would pass : wherefore, 

oh King, I pray. 
In virtue of the open hand, that thou to-day decree 
The feasting of the royal guest to Domnal and to me." 
The wife of Congal Menn spoke next. " Of plunder- 
ing lords is none 
Who knows to turn unlawful spoil to lawful, like the 
son 



CONGAL 277 

Of Yellow Eochaid, Congal ; he whose sword converts 

the prey 
To lawful riches in his house, to keep or give away 
As best his proper mind may prompt, is he, oh King, 

whose plea 
Should stand alike in suit of arms and hospitality." 
Said Sweeny's wife : " What gold and gems ye find 

in Sweeny's hall 
Adorn his drinking-cups, whereof one hundred serve 

the call 
Of daily guests : what other wealth his liberal hand 

provides 
Smokes daily on his open board : he makes no claim 

besides." 
Aed Green-Cloak's fair-faced blooming wife spoke 

last. " Let Congal feast 
With whom his own free will inclines. In breast of 

Aed at least 
'Twill breed no grudge nor envy. Aed's pleasure is 

the same. 
Feasting, or feasted by his friends." So spoke the 

prudent dame. 
Then said the King, " Good reasons have you given, 

my daughters dear ; 
But royal Congal, for to-day, feasts with his grandsire here : 
And here let Domnal come with gifts, and Congal Menn 

with prey. 
And Sweeny with his hundred guests invited yesterday ; 
And here comes Aed Green-Mantle, with his free un- 
grudging mind, 
Better than cups and cattle spoil and hundred guests 

combined." 



278 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

So there the banquet-board was spread. Across the 

tables wide 
Gazing, the fit on Drostan fell. He stood and prophesied. 
" I see a field of carnage. I see eagles in the air. 
Grey wolves from all the mountains. Sons of Eochaid 

Buie, beware. 
A fair grey warrior see I there. Before him, east and 

west, 
A mighty host lies scattered." 

But Domnal and the rest 
Of Eochaid's sons and courtiers made light of what he 

said. 
Saying, " See us happier visions, or we'll get us, in thy 

stead, 
A clerk of Columb's people from lona's friendly cell, 
Who will cast us better fortunes with his book and sacreing 

bell." 
And made their banquet merrily, from jewelled cup and 

horn. 
Quaffing till sunset. 

Soon as light sufficed, at coming morn. 
For sharp-eyed husbandman to note, upon his farm- 
ward way. 
The difference, twixt the aspen leaf and feathery ashen 

spray, 
Impatient Congal, and the youths of Ulster, once 

again, 
With salient surge-compressing prow, launched on the 

dusky main 
Arrived at Caer Leon, and his weighty errand told ; 
Said British Eochaid : 

" I myself am waxen, stiff and old 



CONGAL. 279 

And chief in Eochaid's stead to lead our warriors we 

have none, 
Till, first, Maen Amber's judgment shall in this behalf 

be known. 
For here three youths come claiming, each, to be our 

Conan Rodd, 
Heir of my crown and kingdom, who, journeying abroad 
Upon a sudden boyish feud these many years ago, 
We deemed him dead, and mourned a loss that made 

us lasting woe. 
Till, on the sudden, here to-day those youths of noble mien 
Are come, perplexing mightily my courtiers and my 

Queen : 
Each ruddy as the rising morn ; each on his blooming 

cheek 
Bearing the well-remembered mole that marks the son 

we seek ; 
Each telling tales of former days to Conan only known : 
Wherefore we take this judgment ; for the prudent, 

holy Stone 
Stirs not at touch of Falsehood, though an hundred pushed 

amain ; 
But nods at finger-touch of Truth." 

Then answered Congal Claen : 
" Entrust to me, oh King," said he, " the easy task, to 

prove 
For which of these three candidates Maen Amber ought 

to move." 
" Do as thou wilt," replied the King, 

Then Congal in the gate, 
His short spear in his hand, sat down, the youths' return 

to wait. 



28o POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

First came a ruddy youth, who cried, " Make way — 
The Amber Stone, 
Steadfast as Skiddaw to the rest, moved free for me 
alone." 
Said Congal, " None may enter here, till first he 
answer me 
My question : See this gateway wide : now, hero, if 

thou be 
The royal son thou boast'st thyself ; resolve me with 

what sort 
Of gate wilt thou, when thou art King, make fast this 
royal fort ? " 
" When I am King," replied the youth, " my subjects 
shall behold 
My gates resplendant from afar with plates of yellow 
gold." 
" A proud Churl's answer," Congal said. " Pretender, 
stand aside. 
" If false Maen Amber bowed to thee, the juggling 
demon lied." 
Next came another ruddier youth, saying, " Although 
the Stone 
Moved but a little at my touch, I am the heir 
alone." 
Then Congal questioned him in turn ; and prompt 
in turn he spoke — 
" Steel-studded, cross-barr'd, bolted down on native 
heart of oak." 
" That thou art not a Churl, as he, thy prompt words 
well evince," 
Said Congal ; " but they also show that neither art thou 
Prince." 



CONGAL. 281 

Last came a hero ruddiest and tallest of the three, 
Saying, " Although the Amber Stone moved not at 

all for me, 
I not the less am Conan Rodd." 

Then Congal Claen once more 

Put him his question, like as put to either youth before. 

The hero answered : " Were I King in Britain's 

Dragon-den, 
The gate planks of my house should be the boardly breasts 

of men ; 
For kinglier sight by sea or land doth no man's eye 

await. 
Than faces bright, in time of need, of good men in the 

gate." 
" Embrace me. Prince," cried Congal. " Thou art 

the royal son ; 
And thou shalt lead my British aids." And so the thing 

was done. 
Thence Congal sailed to Frank-land and to Saxon- 
land afar, 
Aids from the ocean-roaming Kings engaging for the 

war ; 
Wherewith and with his British aids, and allied Alban 

power. 
For Erin, from Loch Linnhe side, he sailed in evil hour. 



282 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 



BOOK III. 

THE ARGUMENT. 

The rising-out of Erin's guard and Ghosts. 
Conan's Resolve ; and re-encouraged Hosts, 

[Congal having sought for aids in Frank-land and Saxon- 
land, returns with them to Ulster. They encounter evil 
omens. The sliips are burned by lightning. Kellach the Halt 
addresses the discouraged allies. He asserts that the con- 
flagration of the fleet is a good omen. They march inland 
and encamp. The tramp of giant footsteps is heard at night. 
Congal leaves the camp ; challenges the Spectre, but obtains 
no answer. He seeks xlrden in his tent. The Bard pronounces 
the Demon to be Manannan Mor Mac Lir, whose ofl&ce it was 
in Pagan days to protect from invasion the coasts of Ireland. 
Those who had courage to interrogate the Demon, learned 
from him future events, but if imanswered, were doomed to die 
within the year. Congal heroically accepts his destiny. Next 
day the hosts reach liis Fort of Rathmore. After rest and 
refreshment they prepare to cross the Ollarva. In the river 
they encounter a horrible Spectre ; a woman steeping in the 
water bloody mantles and mutilated corpses. She announces 
herself as the Washer of the Ford, and holds aloft to Congal 
what seemed his own severed head. The dauntless King, 
sword in hand, plunges into the ford and swears he will not turn 
back wliile a single warrior adheres to him. Conan Rodd fol- 
lows, and grasps his hand. The Spectre vanishes. Kellach, 
contemptuous of the auguries, addresses the army. They 
cross the river, and dejectedly continue their march. At 
early dawn, Lafinda, attended by an aged woman, approaches 
in a chariot. She recounts to Congal a vision of St. Brigid, 
of Kildare, enjoining her to meet the hosts, and tell them to 
" turn back or perish." Congal is incredulous. Lafinda 
tenderly appeals to him, but in vain, and intimates that she will 
take the veil. The horses are turned, lashed by the attendant, 
who stands revealed as St. Brigid, and mth I^afinda all dis- 
appear within a wood. Congal springs after, but in vain. 
The dispirited leaders hold council. Some advise retreat to 
the coast, there to entrench themselves, till a fleet is fitted out 
to bear them to their homes. Aed, Conan Rodd, and the 
Eling of ^vochlan, advise a courageous advance. The Bard 



CONGAL. 283 

Ardan encourages them. Congal tliank-ng God for the gift 
of such friends, appeals to the Hosts. They march onward 
with renewed courage to the battlefield of Moyra.] 

The dusky Dalaradian heights at hand appearing now, 
King Congal, as apart he stood, and from his galley's 

prow 
Beheld the swift ships far dispersed across the ocean 

dark, 
As harnessed steers, when, for a prize, within some rich 

man's park, 
They cut in clay, with coulter clean, the onward-reddening 

line. 
With slant keels ceaseless turning up the white-foam'd 

barren brine. 
And black, pernicious, woe-charged sides, and tall masts 

forward bow'd. 
Intent to launch their fatal freight on Erin, groaned 

aloud : 
And " Much-loved native hills," he said, " I grieve that 

thus I come 
Not charged with cups or cattle-spoil, nor carrying 

captives home. 
Nor bearing boast of friends relieved or enemies con- 
fused, 
As other ship-returning Kings have heretofore been used ; 
But laden deep with death and woe, of all my race the 

first 
To bring the hireling stranger in, I come in hour accurst." 
Exclaimed an aged mariner who by the main-mast 

stood — 
" O'er all the Dalaradian hills there hangs a cloud of 

blood. 



284 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Gore-drops fall from its edges." 

" Peace, fool," the King returned, 
" 'Twas but the early morning mist that in the sunrise 

burned." 
And cried to thrust the barques ashore where in a winding 

bay, 
Far camped along the margent foam, the hosts of Ulster 

lay 
Expectant. Forth the anchors went ; and shoreward 

swinging round. 
The lofty poops of all the fleet together took the 

ground. 
Harsh grinding on the pebbly beach : then, like as 

though a witch. 
Brewing her charm in cauldron black, should chance 

at owlet's scritch 
Hooting athwart the gloom, to turn her head aside, the 

while 
Winds bellow, and the fell contents on all sides over- 
boil ; 
So, down the steep, dark galley's sides leaped they : so, 

spuming o'er. 
They crowded from the teeming holds, and spread 

along the shore 
In blackening streams. The Ulster hosts with acclama- 
tion loud 
Gave welcome ; and the ranks were filled. 

But while they stood, a cloud 
Stood overhead ; and, as the thought a dreaming man 

conceives. 
Which he, the while, some wondrous thing of import 

vast believes, 



CONGAL, 285 

Grows folly, when his waking mind scans it ; so, in the 

frown 
Of that immense, sky-filHng cloud the great hills dwindled 

down ; 
And all the sable-sided hulks that loomed so large 

before 
Small now as poor men's fisher-craft showed on the 

darkened shore. 
Awed in the gathering gloom, the hosts stood silent ; 

till there came 
A clap of thunder, and therewith a sheet of levin- 
flame 
Dropt in white curtain straight frcm heaven between 

them and the ships : 
And when the pale day-light returned, after that keen 

eclipse, 
In smoke and smouldering flame the barques stood 

burning : o'er their sides 
The sailors leaped : while moaning deep, sudden, the 

refluent tides 
Gave all their dry keels to the wind : the wind whose 

waftings fair 
Had borne them thither through the deep, thence bore 

them off" through air, 
In fire and smoke : through all the host, like flakes of 

driving snow. 
The embers fell ; and all their cheeks scorched in the 

fervid glow. 
Then thus exclaimed the Prankish King : " Our first 

step on this land 
Is with no cheering omen, friends ; for if Jehovah's 

hand 



286 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

It be that casts this thunderbolt, but small success, I 

fear 
Attends our enterprise ; but come, give all your labours 

here 
To quench the galley first that lies to windward of the 

fleet ; 
For ill betides Invader left without way of retreat." 
Then many a man with rueful eye looked o'er the 

naked main, 
And wished himself, with neither spoil nor glory, at home 

again. 
But " Fear not, friends," cried Congal Claen. " Ye 

have not sought us here 
For stay so short ye need repine if portion of the 

year 
Be spent in fitting a fleet. 



No loss but time and care replace. 

A stumble at the start is oft the winning of the race." 
So counselled Congal ; and the hosts with better courage 
strove 

To quench the flames ; but still the flames intenser- 
rising drove 

Wide through the fleet, from barque to barque : then, 
in the midst, a cry 

Was heard from Kellach : 

" Lift me up, companions ; raise me high 

That all may see me, and my words of all be under- 
stood. 

Sons, hold your hands. Desist," he cried. " Let burn ! 
The omen's good. 



CONGAL 287 

Fire is the sire of Life and Force. The mighty men 

of yore 
Still burned the barques that landed them on whatsoever 

shore 
They chose for conquest. Warriors then were men 

indeed, and scorned 
Alike the thought and means of flight. From batde 

none returned 
Then but the victors. Heroes then, untaught the art 

to yield, 
Ere standing fight would slay the steeds that bore them 

to the field ; 
Ere joining battle by a bridge, would leave the bridge 

behind 
Broken, lest lightest thought of flight should enter any 

mind. 



Thus Nuad of the wSilver-Hand from Dovar setting sail, 
Charged with the King-discerning might of vocal Lia 

Fail, 
When first for Erin's coasts he steered, and made the 

sacred strand, 
Waited for no chance lightning-flash, but with his proper 

hand 
Fired all his long-ships, till the smoke that from that 

burning rose 
Went up before him, herald-like, denoncing to his foes 
Death and despair : they deeming him a necromancer 

clad 
In magic mists, stood not, but fled : wherefore be rather 

glad 



288 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

That what your own irresolute hands this day have 

failed to do 
Heaven's interposing hand hath done ; and bravely 

done it, too : 
Since even so this rolling cloud with all its embers 

red, 
That like a mighty spangled flag now waves above my 

head, 
Announces to that coward King of Tara that, once 

more, 
" The heroes of the North have burned their barques 

on Erin's shore." 
He ended, and from gown and beard shook forth the 

falling fire, 
While all the hosts with loud acclaim approved the 

sentence dire ; 
And leaving there their blackening barques consuming 

by the wave. 
Marched inland, and their camp at eve pitched by King 

Teuthal's grave, 
'Twixt Ullar's and Ollarva's founts. 

Around the Mound of Sighs 
They filled the woody-sided vale ; but no sweet sleep 

their eyes 
Refreshed that night : for all the night, around their 

echoing camp, 
Was heard continuous from the hills, a sound as of the 

tramp 
Of giant footsteps ; but so thick the white mist lay 

around 
None saw the Walker save the King. He, starting at 

the sound, 



CONGAL 289 

Called to his foot his fierce red hound ; athwart his 

shoulders cast 
A shaggy mantle, grasped his spear, and through the 

moonlight passed 
Alone up dark Ben-Boli's heights, toward which, above 

the woods. 
With sound as when at close of eve the noise of falling 

floods 
Is borne to shepherd's ear remote on stilly upland 

lawn, 
The steps along the mountain side with hollow fall 

came on. 
Fast beat the hero's heart ; and close down-crouching 

by his knee 
Trembled the hound, while through the haze, huge as 

through mists at sea, 
The week-long-sleepless mariner descries some mountain- 
cape, 
Wreck-infamous, rise on his lee, appeared a monstrous 

Shape 
Striding impatient, like a man much grieved, who walks 

alone 
Considering of a cruel wrong : down from his shoulders 

thrown 
A mantle, skirted stiff with soil splashed from the miry 

ground. 
At every stride against his calves struck with as loud 

rebound 
As makes the mainsail of a ship brought up along the 

blast, 
When with the coil of all its ropes it beats the sounding 

mast. 

u 



290 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

So Striding vast, the giant pass'd ; the King held fast his 

breath ; 
Motionless, save his throbbing heart ; and chill and 

still as death 
Stood listening while, a second time, the giant took the 

round 
Of all the camp : but when at length, for the third time, 

the sound 
Came up, and through the parting haze a third time 

huge and dim 
Rose out the Shape, the valiant hound sprang forth and 

challenged him 
And forth, disdaining that a dog should put him so to 

shame, 
Sprang Congal, and essayed to speak. 

" Dread Shadow, stand. Proclaim 
What would'st thou, that thou thus all night around 

my camp should'st keep 
Thy troublous vigil ; banishing the wholesome gift of 

sleep 
From all our eyes, who, though inured to dreadful sounds 

and sights 
By land and sea, have never yet in all our perilous nights 
Lain in the ward of such a guard." 

The Shape made answer none ; 
But with stern wafture of his hand, went angrier striding 

on, 
Shaking the earth with heavier steps. Then Congal 

on his track 
Sprang fearless. 

" Answer me, thou Churl," he cried. " I bid thee 

back 1 " 



CONGAL. 291 

But while he spoke, the giant's cloak around his shoul- 
ders grew 
Like to a black bulged thunder-cloud ; and sudden 

out there flew 
From all its angry swelling folds, with uproar unconfined, 
Direct against the King's pursuit, a mighty blast of 

wind : 
Loud flapped the mantle tempest-lined, while fluttering 

down the gale, 
As leaves in Autumn, man and hound were swept into 

the vale. 
And heard, o'er all the huge uproar, through startled 

Dalaray 
The giant went, with stamp and clash, departing south 

away. 
The King sought Ardan in his tent ; and to the wakeful 

Bard, 
Panting and pale, disclosed at length what he had seen 

and heard ; 
Considering which a little time, the Master sighed and 

spoke. 
" King, thou describest by his bulk and by his clapping 

cloak 
A mighty demon of the old time, who with much dread 

and fear 
Once filled the race of Partholan ; Manannan I\Ior Mac 

Lir, 
Son of the Sea. In former times there lived not on the face 
Of Erin a sprite of bigger bulk or potenter to raise 
The powers of air by land and sea in lightning, tempest, 

hail. 
Or magical thick mist, than he ; albeit in woody Fail 



292 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Dwelt many demons at that time : but being so huge of 

Umb, 
Manannan had the overward of the coast allotted him, 
To stride it round, from cape to cape, daily ; and if 

a fleet 
Hove into sight, to shake them down a sea-fog from 

his feet ; 
Or with a wafture of his cloak flap forth a tempest straight 
Would drive them off' a hundred leagues ; and so he 

kept his state 
In churlish sort about our bays and forelands, till at last 
Great Spanish Miledh's mighty sons, for all he was so 

vast. 
And fell a churl, in spite of him, by dint of blows, made 

good 
Their landing, and brought in their Druids : from which 

time forth, the brood 
Of Goblin people shun the light ; some in the hollow 

sides 
Of hills lie hid ; some hide beneath the brackish ocean- 
tides ; 
Some underneath the sweet-well springs. Manannan, 

Poets say. 
Fled to the isle which bears his name, that eastward 

lies halfway 
Sailing to Britain ; whence at times he wades the narrow 

seas. 
Revisiting his old domain, when evil destinies 
Impend o'er Erin : but his force and magic might are 

gone : 
And at such times 'tis said that he who, 'twixt twilight 

and dawn, 



CONGAL. 293 

Meets him and speaks him, safely learns a year's events 

to be." 
" But he who speaks him," Congal said, " and gains 

no answer — he ? " 
" Within the year, the Seers agree," said Ardan, " he 

must die ; 
For death and silence, we may see, bear constant com- 
pany." 
" Be it so, Bard," replied the King. " To die is 

soon or late 
For every being born alive the equal doom of Fate. 
Nor grieve I much ; nor would I grieve if Heaven had 

so been pleased 
That either I had not been born, or had already ceased, 
Being born, to breathe ; but while I breathe so let my 

life be spent 
As in renown of noble deeds to find a monument." 
By this the moonlight paled in dawn ; and onward to 

Rathmore 
Of green Moy-Linney marched the hosts, and round 

King Congal's door 
Pitched camp again ; where copious feasts, by Kellach's 

care prepared, 
Refreshed them, and the gift of sleep their weary eye 

lids shared. 
And now, at dawn, to cross the fords, hard-by the 

royal town. 
The fresh, well-ordered, vigorous bands in gallant ranks 

drew down : 
When, lo, a Spectre horrible, of more than human size, 
Full in the middle of the ford took all their wondering 

eyes. 



294 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

A ghastly woman it appeared, with grey dishevelled hair 
Blood-draggled, and with sharp-boned arms, and fingers 

crook'd and spare 
Dabbling and washing in the ford, where mid-leg deep 

she stood 
Beside a heap of heads and limbs that swam in oozing 

blood, 
Whereon and on a glittering heap of raiment rich and 

brave 
With swift, pernicious hands she scooped and pour'd 

the crimson' d wave. 
And though the stream approaching her ran tranquil, 

clear and bright, 
Sand-gleaming between verdant banks, a fair and peaceful 

sight. 
Downward the blood-polluted flood rode turbid, strong 

and proud. 
With heady-eddying dangerous whirls and surges dashing 

loud. 
All stood aghast. But Kellach cried, " Advance me 

to the bank ; 
I'll speak the Hag." 

But back, instead, his trembling bearers shrank. 
Then Congal from the foremost rank a spear-cast forward 

strode. 
And said, 

" Who art thou, hideous one ; and from what 
curst abode 
Comest thou thus in open day the hearts of men to 

freeze ; 
And whose lopp'd heads and severed limbs and bloody 

vests are these .'' " 



CONGAL 295 

" I am the Washer of the Ford," she answered ; " and 

my race 
Is of the Tuath de Danaan line of Magi ; and my place 
For toil is in the running streams of Erin ; and my cave 
For sleep is in the middle of the shell-heaped Cairn 

of Maev, 
High up on haunted Knocknarea ; and this fine carnage- 
heap 
Before me, and these silken vests and mantles which 

I steep 
Thus in the running water, are the severed heads and 

hands 
And spear-torn scarfs and tunics of these gay-dressed, 

gallant bands 
Whom thou, oh Congal, leadest to death. And this," 

the Fury said, 
Uplifting by the clotted locks what seemed a dead man's 

head, 
" Is thine own head, oh Congal." 

Therewith she rose in air. 
And vanished from the warrior's view, leaving the river 

bare 
Of all but running water. But Congal drew his sword 
And with a loud defying shout, plunged mad'y in the ford, 
Probing the empty pools ; then stood, and from the 

middle flood 
Exclaimed : 

" Here stand 1, and here swear that till the 
tide of blood 
Thus laves my knees, I will not turn for threat of Devil 

or Ghost, 
Fairy or lying Spirit accurst, while one of all this host 



296 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Follows my leading." 

Conan Rodd sprang kindling forth, and cried, 
" I fail thee not, for one, my King : " and stood by 

Congal's side. 
Grasping his hand. Halt Kellach wept, and cried, 

" Ah, recreant ones, 
Great Rury's cheek is red for shame, to see Ultonian 

sons 
Like goblin-daunted children small, scared at a nurse's 

lay. 
Thus hanging back on Honor's track, while Britons 

lead the way. 
Fear not the Hag ; I know her well, accurst one ! She 

appears 
To battle entering warriors once in every seven years ; 
And seven and seven years, exact, it is since last before 
I saw her foul ill-favoured face, the day that Domnal 

Mor 
And Scallan Broad-Shield gave the breach on royal 

Sweeny Menn 
At red Troy-Brena : 'twas at dawn ; and in the cressy 

fen 
By the loch-side, where afterwards, crossing the trea- 
cherous quag. 
So many of us sank engulfed, we saw the hideous Hag 
Stoop'd at her washing. Not a man of all the gazing 

host 
But shook to see the carnage pile before the grisly ghost ; 
Each deeming that his own lop^^'d head, conspicuous 

'mid the pile, 
Lay glaring ; and this very head, gathering defilement 

vile. 



CONGAL. 297 

Saw I among them ; yet I came from that fight scatheless 

forth ; 
And therefore hold her prophecies are but of little 

worth. 
But, would to God, these limbs had then been stiff as 

now they are, 
Ere I for thankless Domnal's sake had part in such a 

war ; 
Or now were strong and supple-swift as then indeed 

they were, 
So should ye never see me here, and British Conan 

there." 
So Kellach spoke ; and all their hearts grew great 

with manly shame ; 
And as a flood flows through a flood, up through the 

fords they came. 
Raising OUarva : all their shields and shining belts were 

wet 
With clear, cold, fishy-streaming floods against the strong 

bar set 
Of limbs heroic and deep chests. But when the fords 

were pass'd 
And the long columns drew their strength forth on the 

champaign vast, 
Fear fell again on Congal's host, and much oppressed 

with awe, 
They pondered what they late had heard, and what, 

but now, they saw. 
Southward in gloomy-gliding ranks, hushed all in dumb 

dismay, 
The hosts across the upland bare, and through the 

morning grey, 



298 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As drifting cloud at close of day that tracks the heaven 

serene, 
Held on their dark unechoing march athwart the Fassagh 

green, 
Till on a car afar were seen, by two swift coursers drawn, 
Herself, Lafinda, and her Nurse, advancing through 

the dawn. 
Swift they approached : the ruddy blaze of sunrise 

round them spread 
Seemed with a diadem of rays to crown each radiant 

head. 
" Congal," the royal maiden said, " be not incensed, 

I pray, 
That thus in presence of the hosts I cross thy war-like 

way ; 
For need admitting no delay impels me ; and the ire 
Of one I dare not disobey constrains the message dire. 
Last night, at midnight, by my bed an awful form there 

stood. 
Whom by her vermeil-lettered book, and by her purple 

hood. 
And hoary, glory-beaming locks, that shone like sunlit 

snow. 
For Blessed Brigid of Kildare I could not choose but 

know ; 
And said, ' Awake : arise : go forth : thy nurse, Lavar- 

cam, waits 
With car and ready-harnessed steeds without the fortress 

gates : 
Mount by her side, and northward forth ride fearless 

till the dawn 
Show thee an army on its march across the upland lawn ; 



CON GAL. 2()<) 

Then to the King who leads that host say thus, Oh 

mighty King, 
From Duftach's daughter of Kildare I thee this message 

bring : 
Turn back or perish : thou and all thy Hosting : for 

the path 
From hence to Moyra on both sides is hedged about 

with wrath, 
And paved for foot of every man who in thy conduct 

treads 
With slippery, horror-staring floor of slaughtered heroes' 

heads.' 
So spoke she ; I by strong constraint drawn to the gates, 

obeyed ; 
And here, through shadows of the night, as in a dream 

conveyed, 
Now find myself, but in no dream ; and, horror-filled, 

I see 
These mighty-marching, death-devoted heroes led by 

thee, 
Oh Congal." 

Congal, answering, said : " Dear maid, 
thou art deceived : 
These visions of the feverish night are not to be 

believed. 
But come ; such poor refreshment now as warriors' 

tents afford, 
Take ; and when seasonable rest thy strength shall have 

restored, 
A noble escort shall attend thy home-returning car, 
Such as befits thy father's child : and when this short- 
lived war 



300 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Is ended — for this host shall soon abate the tyrant's 

pride — 
With Erin for thine escort, thou, a crowned and royal 

bride, 
I, crowned and happy, by thy side, kings by our bridle- 
rein, 
Shall up to fair Rath-Keltar ride, never to part again." 
" Congal," the Princess pale replied, " no bridal 

pomp for me 
Is destined, if thou harkenest not to Brigid's embassy ; 
Save haply such a bridal pomp as, entering Brigid's 

cell, 
A handmaiden of Christ may hope." 

Said he, " The powers 
of hell 
Have sought to turn me, and have failed ; and though 

in thee I find 
My only heaven, yet neither thou shalt bend my steadfast 

mind." 

" Damsel," said Kellach from his chair, " these dreams 

that haunt the bed 
Of timorous virgins vanish all when once the maids 

are wed. 
And royally thou shalt be wed, and gallantly be 

brought 
Home to a dream-defying bed when once this breach 

is fought." 
" Ah, aged Scorner," cried the Nurse, who by the 

Princess stood, 
" Thou never wanted'st ribald taunt for aught was pure 

or good. 



CONGAL. • 301 

Beware, lest on both soul and limb God's angry judg- 
ments fall, 
For to thy crooked counsellings we owe these mischiefs 

all." 
Said Kellach : " If a withered Hag, with prophecies 

of death, 
Had power to turn sword-girded men back upon Honour's 

path, 
Thou hadst no need to waste thy breath on us who, 

even now 
Are here despite the menaces of an uglier witch than 

thou." 
" Wretch," cried the dame, " abide thy fate ; " and 

car and coursers wheeled, 
Her aspect changing awfully ; and, as she swept the 

field, 
Brigid, they thought, stood plain revealed : and steeds 

and car became 
Bright in her presence as in glow of forge-excited 

flame 
But with a greyhound's bound, the King leaped to 

the reins, and cried, 
" Daughter of Duftach, stay thy steeds : turn back : 

restore my bride ! " 
But Brigid lashed the spurning steeds : they by the sharp 

whip stung. 
Off", with a foam-dispersing snort, the baffled hero 

flung : 
But back again fierce Congal sprung, with lion's leap 

and roar 
Terrific, shouting as he ran, 

" Thou robber Saint, restore 



302 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

My bride ! " 

And at the wide-maned steeds, where side by 
side they flew 
With earth-and-heaven-defying hand, his mortal javeHn 

threw. 
But Brigid motioned with her hand, and from the chariot 

seat. 
Glancing oblique, the spear returned innocuous to his 

feet. 
The eyes of all the astonished host Garr-Congail's flight 

pursued ; 
And, when they looked again, the car was lost within 

the wood. 
Mute stood the hosts, in awe subdued ; and fear 

blanched many a cheek, 
Ruddy till then ; then thus began the Prankish King to 

speak : 
" God wars against this war, oh Kings ; and pledged 

albeit I be 
To succour valiant Congal Claen against the enmity 
Of Domnal, King of Erin, no promise have I given 
To succour valiant Congal Claen 'gainst God the King 

of Heaven, 
Who, by His Saints, this day declares for Domnal. 

Therefore now 
Thus I advise : here found we straight a splendid cell, 

and vow. 



To Brigid whom amongst them all wi''>e men may chiefly 
fear 



CONGAL. 303 

As owning most main power in act ; but, Brigid's wrath 

appeased, 
With gifts of gems and gold in dower she yet may be 

pleased, 
Haply, to aid us ; or, at least, to leave in even scale 
The balanced chances of the war, till greater might 

prevail." 
Prince Sweeny Menn spoke next. He said : 

" Sirs, since no man can say 
How strife untried may terminate, methinks the wiser way 
Were to prepare against the worst ; which, seeing our 

galleys' loss, 
I thus advise. Draw to the coast. There camp ; and 

dig a fosse, 
With rampart suitable, across some jutting foreland's 

height ; 
So shall we sit secure till friends get warning of our 

plight ; 
And send their ships to aid our flight ; if such be God's 

decree 
That after all our splendid hopes of spoil and victory, 
Flight needs must be our last resource. But here in 

open field, 
Far from supplies, I counsel not to camp, nor yet to 

build." 
Said Aed Green-Mantle: " Kings, our plight is even 

as the case 
Of venturous fowler who pursues his game into a place, 
High up a slippery sea-rock's face, where jutting rocks 

impend, 
Which, though too steep for going down, a man may 

yet ascend. 



304 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Being bold and cautious ; but behoves such cHmber 

that he cast 
No backward, hesitating glance on any peril past 
Until he gain the level land, where he can stand, and 

say, 
' So have I reached to Safety's height by Danger's only 

way,' 
And so it is ; between the sea and Domnal's gathering 

host. 
We climb a precipice where he who looks behind is lost : 
But he who, scorning to turn back or make a doubtful 

stop. 
Looks and strives upward, lays his hand on Safety at 

the top. 
Wherefore, since doubt is, doubtless, death ; and ways 

of flight are none. 
For Life's and Honour's sake alike, I counsel, up, and 

Next Conan Rodd stepped forth to speak ; and as 

his head he raised 
Men's hearts rose with him, and the sun with fresh 

eff"ulgence blazed. 
Said Conan : " As I judge great Kings and Princes, 

'twere but vain 
To promise, if the word, gone forth, were now recalled 

again 
On show of first impediment : and vainer still it were 
For warriors to devote themselves forth from their 

seventh year 
To feats of arms, if when at length indulgent Fates 

provide 
Heroic opportunity, they left the boon untried. 



CONGAL. 305 

For me, when first within my breast I felt the generous 

flame, 
And said, ' I'll be a warrior,' my youthful dream of 

fame 
Was all of more than mortal foes, such as great Chiefs 

of yore 
Were wont to meet in desert vast or shadowy forest hoar ; 
Tree-wielding Giants, mighty Churls who, through the 

echoing glades 
Of dreary forests, to their dens, would drag lamenting 

maids ; 
Fell Sorcerers by enchanted gates ; or in his earthy 

hold 
The fire-exhaling wakeful Worm coiled round the guarded 

gold: 
Or haply still more glorious foes, such as, with eager 

joy» 

I've heard our Poets sing were those that fought the 

breach of Troy, 
When Gods from Heaven came down in arms, and 

godlike men beneath 
Withstood them, mortal foot to foot immortal, to the 

death. 
Fired by which noble fantasy, ere yet my youthful cheek 
Bore manly down, I left my home, in foreign lands 

to seek 
Glorious adventure : many lands I visited ; and saw 
Many renowned cities of men, each by its proper law 
Governed, and by its proper hosts guarded ; and mighty 

wars 
In all lands waging ; yet I found neither in field of 

Mars, 

X 



306 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Nor on the long-shipped deep, nor yet in fell or forest 

drear, 
The shape or substance could withstand a brave man's 

searching spear ; 
But, by the keen steel tried, would all confess an equal 

birth 
Drawn, death-obnoxious as my own, from dust of vulgar 

earth. 
And, for their mighty miracles and prodigies sublime, 
Of antique Gods, and holy Saints, these from the olden 

time 
Had, as they said, ceased utterly ; and now were only 

known 
In lays and legends of their Clerks, as idle as our 

own. 
Wherefore, with glory-thirsting hearty that still insatiate 

burned, 
I from their barren battle-fields and empty camps 

returned. 
Resolved amid my native woods, and in the sacred 

gloom 
Of Stones of power, to seek again some conqueror of the 

tomb ; 
Great Arthur, with the apple-bloom of green Avallon's 

bowers 
Still redolent ; or Uther's self from Caer Sidi's towers ; 
But sought in vain : my scornful Steel on vulgar foes 

employed. 
Nor dread of Deity conceived, nor love of man enjoyed ; 
Till, glorious in a castle gate, like lion in the road, 
Couchant, I first saw Congal Claen ; and at first sight 

bestowed 



CONGAL. 307 

Faith and affection on the King ; for never had I seen 
In all the earth a potentate of countenance or mien 
Royal as his,- and as a youth amid the virgin throng 
Will move with unembarrassed heart, in gay indifference, 

long ; 
Till, in a moment, some one maid's unconscious glance 

constrains 
His soul to homage, and he thence bound in her thrall 

remains ; 
So I, who all my prime of years 'mongst noblest men 

had passed. 
And seen no man I'd deign to call or friend or lord ; 

at last, 
Taken in a moment, saw and owned my captain, friend, 

and King ; 
In whose just quarrel being engaged, I here to Erin bring 
My British aids ; and here at last, in open day behold 
Immortal beings visibly commingling, as of old. 
In mortal struggles. Here at length I find my youthful 

dream 
Made real. Here the mighty deeds of antique heroes 

seem 
No longer all inimitable. Here Hercul's self might 

own 
Fit labour for another Toil, nor ask the task alone. 
Wherefore with awful joy elate, I stand ; and bid thee 

hail, 
Last hero-stage of all the world, illustrious Innisfail ! 
Land of the lingering Gods ! green land, still sparkling 

fresh and fair 
With morning dew of lieroism dried up and gone else- 
where 1 



308 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Wherefore, no penitential cell for me ! But rather 

raise, 
Here, where old Honor stands revived, the Stone of 

other days. 
Grey, vast, majestic ; such as when degenerate men 

behold. 
They'll say, ' Some noble thing was done here in the days 

of old.' 
Such as when Poets view, they'll say, when ages hence 

are flown, 
' Great hearts and mighty hands were theirs who raised 

the Standing Stone.' " 
He said ; and on a great grey rock, half- buried in 

the field. 
Stood in the flaming of his arms, and waved his golden 

shield. 
Loud cheered the Welshmen ; and the King of Lochlan 

to his side 
Leaped with a rivalling flash and clash ; and caught 

his hand, and cried, 
" I swear by Woden and the might of hammer-hurling 

Thor, 
I love thee, Conan ; and with thee am henceforth through 

this war 
True comrade, good or ill betide I, too, have seen 

the homes 
Of mightiest Caesars ; and beneath Byzantium's proudest 

domes 
Have borne the Waring's guardian axe, in shelter of 

whose blade 
The laws that bind the Imperial world, both Priest and 

King, are made. 



CONGAL 309 

But gilded arch, nor marble porch, nor incense-scented 

air, 
Nor silken couch had ever charm, for me, that could 

compare 
With home in Lochlan : with the burg beside the Northern 

sea, 
Where runs the roebuck on the hill, where floats the 

pinnace free : 
Where still the ancient Gods receive, in forest and in 

cave, 
With rites of sacrifice unfeigned, the worship of the 

brave ; 
And for their smoking altar-meeds sincere, return us 

still 
The conscious courage dominant, the power and kingly 

will 
To rule the fore-shores of the world, with all their citied 

sides, 
Where'er the wandering moons uplift the ship-uplifting 

tides. 
Ill would beseem the sea-borne kings of Letha's midmost 

coasts 
Here, in this outer spot of earth, to blench at sight of 

ghosts, 
Earthmen, or beldames of the cells ; though clad in 

shapes of air 
And owning shows of strength divine, that martial 

men elsewhere 
Meet not, nor ever deemed they'd meet, since Woden 

to their dens, 
In Lappish deserts and the depths of Finmark's icy 

fens, 



510 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Cast out the Trolls. My sentence then is, march, 

and meet your foes 
Of mortal mould with mortal arms. Let be the feud 

of those 
As fate hereafter may dispose. We reck not : neither 

crave 
Their aid prophetic to foresee well-filled, the foeman's 

grave. 
This is my sentence. 
Fairy nor Fire-drake 
Keep back the Kemper. 
At home in the burg, 
Leaves he the maiden 
Boon for the bridal ; 
Abroad, on the holme. 
Leaves he the harvest 
Ripe for the reaper ; 
The bowl, on the board 
In the hall of the banquets, 
Leaves he untasted, 
When lances uplift 
The foe in field. 
Noting the Norsemen 
Out on the water-throng, 
Hark ! how the Eagle 
Vaunts to the Vulture. 
' Spread the wing. Scald-neck,' 
Says she and screams she ; 
' Seest thou the Sea-Kings, 
Borne o'er the gannet-bath. 
Going to garner 
Every bird's eyrie ? ' 



CONGAL 3 1 1 

Fell from her fishy perch 
Answers the Bald-beak, 
' Scream no more, little one ; 
Feeders are coming.' 
Hearkening their colloquy, 
Grins the grey beast. 
The wolf on wold. 
This is my sentence : 
These are the Norseman's 
Pandect and Canon. 
Thyrfing is thirsty ; 
Quern-biter hungers ; 
Shield-walker wearieth 
Shut in the scabbard. 
This is my sentence : 
Bring us to battle." 

Fierce response gave three parts of the field ; 
And loud the Eastman's iron axe on many a target 
pealed. 

As when the tree-tops of a wood first feel a blast of 

wind, 
One rustling oak begins to stir, then stirs the oak 

behind ; 
Thence on in gradual-deepening grooves, and on in 

widening rings. 
The tree-commingling tumult moves till all the forest 

swings ; 
So battle-impulse through them went ; so, at the bard's 

appeal. 
With thirst of combat, far and wide, they leaped and 

clashed the steel 



312 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Then Congal, staying where he strode infuriate to 

and fro, 
With fair white hand dashed from his cheek the briny 

overflow, 
And cried, 

" Oh, this it is, oh God, to have, in time of need, 
Men in the gate ! and therefore I, though little used 

indeed 
To call on any name of God, yet, by whatever 

name 
Men call Thee, Thou who givest to men wives, children, 

riches, fame. 
And rarer than the worth of wives, and which the wealth 

transcends 
Of fame, as fame the worth of gold ; who givest a man 

his friends, 
I thank and praise Thee. Oh, brave friends, what 

though this goblin crew 
From all their earth-wombs foul, where'er they lurk 

from general view, 
Be by our coming thus stirred up ; even as I've seen 

elsewhere 
The coming of a young rich man into a public fair 
Set all the banded cheats astir ? 'Tis, that a com- 
mon fear 
Besets them — being in a bond, leagued and consorting 

here, — 
That their united reign is o'er, once we achieve the 

crown 
Of Erin, and set up the law that casts all phantoms 

down. 



CONGAL. 313 

Free as the eagle which, indeed, when he has stooped 

to prey 
His quarry in a hollow vale, at first must make his way 
With gyres contracted 'twixt the hills ; till to a level run 
With his horizon ; but he then soars straightway at 

the Sun : 
Or as a seaman, being embayed, heaves oft his swerving 

boom 
Starboard and larboard ; then, at last, having attained 

sea-room, 
Lies his straight course, with keel direct cutting the 

ocean vast. 
While sun and rain, and wind and tide, and day and 

night flit past : 
So, flitting past our constant march, let these weak 

shades troop on : 
We, to our own hearts level arisen ; we. Doubt's last 

headlands gone. 
Launched on our main-sea enterprise, go forth with 

steadfast mind. 
Nor turn a wavering look aside, nor cast a glance behind, 
While God betwixt us and our foes, impartial, leaves 

the event : 
For no man can contend with God, He being omni- 
potent ; 
But far removed from human strife, leaves to the daring 

man 
By force of valour to achieve such conquest as he can, 
Whether o'er other mortal men less valiant ; or o'er 

those 
Inferior demons of the air 'Tis through such over- 
throws, 



314 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Given in just quarrel, comes renown a man no other 

way 
Can compass ; for such conqueror, the Bard's heroic lay 
Gives perpetuity of fame : the Statue-smith for him 
To forms of glory consecrates each marble-moulded 

limb : 
For him, when on his nation's behalf he rises up to speak, 
The council of the wise sit hushed : for him young 

Beauty's cheek 
Glows with the rose : all lips disclose their smiles for 

him whose arm 
Protects all life's delights for all : to him in war's alarm. 
As to the husband of the State, the trembling mothers 

run. 
Holding their little ones : to him each generous-nurtured 

son 
Hurries instinctive ; as at sea when tempests over- 
whelm 
Faint hearts with horror in the hold, then chiefly round 

the helm 
Gather brave seamen. But the man whose sullen breast, 

exempt 
From generous impulse, prompts him forth upon no 

brave attempt, 
Lives sordidly and dies despised. He dares no stormy 

sea. 
Outflying Honor upon the wings of wintry tempests 

he 
Smiles at no spiteful impotent trick malicious Fortune 

plays ; 
Follows no friend with loyal steps through ghost- 
prohibited ways ; 



CONGAL 3 1 5 

Burns with no emulous thirst of fame, when glowing 

tongues declare 
Brave aspirations ; as ye now, oh friends stand burning 

there. — 
For lo, I see on all your cheeks the blush of manly 

shame ; 
Lo, now I see in all your eyes the generous sparkling 

flame. 
Presage of conquest. Lo, the path to Moyra, where 

the foe 
Waits us, lies open. Forward, sons of Rury, forward, 

ho! 
Grandsons of Woden ; clans of Hu ; before us lies 

renown 
Safety and strength and native laws, revenge and Erin's 

crown." 
He said : and w hile with shouts on shouts the echoing 

heavens were rent, 
The mighty hosts with courage renewed, all with a one 

consent 
Moved onward. As a great black barque, compact of 

many a tree. 
That, on her launch from some high beach, shoots down 

at once to sea ; 
Or like as when, in time of thaw, a snow-drift deep and 

wide. 
By strong winds in a hollow place lodged on a mountain 

side, 
Fetches away with loosening crash ; or like as when, a 

cloud 
Lumbering the sky, strong winds arise, and all the aerial 

crowd 



3l6 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Fall on at once; it bulges, bursts, rolls out, and over- 
spreads 

The face of heaven with ominous gloom above amazed 
men's heads ; 

So ominously, so at once, with clash and muttering jar 

Swift, dark, on Moyra's fated field rolled down the 
cloud of war. 



BOOK IV 



THE ARGUMENT. 



King Domnal's muster, ere the fight proceeds. 
Mad Sweeny's flight ; and Northern Conal's deeds. 

[Garrad rejoins King Domnal, and tells of the approach ot 
Congal and liis forces. He describes to the Monarch their 
array ; Scottish troops on the right, Northmen on the left, 
Franks in the centre, with Britons behind ; and, over all, Ulster, 
with Congal Claen. King Domnal advances to Moyra and 
takes up his position. The Leinster hosts were on his right, 
or eastern flank ; those of Connaught on the left ; the house- 
hold troops of Meath in the centre, in line with those of Lea 
Moha, or South of Ireland. Behind this eastern wing as most 
exposed in situation were placed renowned Clan Colla and other 
Northern clans. The Monarch addresses his hosts. First 
those of Connaught, whom he reminds of the achievements 
of Queen Maev, King Dathy, and Owen Bell. Next the des- 
cendants of Mainy Mor, fighting imder the Crozier of St. 
Grellan. Afterwards he confides to the T^inster troops his 
five sons, who are enrolled in their ranks. He reminds the 
Firbolg soldiers of their ancestry. To his household troops 
of Meath he repeats the peaceful overtures he had made in 
vain to Congal. To the Southern contingent he speaks of the 
heroism of Curoi Mac Daire. To liis kinsman of Clan Colla 
he tells the tale of their champions Colla-Uais, CoU-da-Cree, 
Colla-Menn, and impresses on Malodliar of Armagh, and Ultan 
I/ing-Hand of Orior, that their fortunes depend on the issue of 
this fight. He recounts to his own Ulster clan the Kinel-Owen, 
their descent from Niall Nine-Hostager, and reminds them that 



CONGAL. 317 

they had received St. Patrick's benediction. He calls on God 
to bless his cause. The hostile armies, now face to face, engage 
in deadly conflict. Sweeny the brother of Lafinda, fighting 
on Congal's side, is .seized %vith frenzy ; the curse denounced 
by ICrc haunts him, and, in sight of l)otli armies, he flies in terror 
from tlie field. His comrades would have slain him for his 
cowardice, but are assured by Ardan the Bard, that Sweeny's 
terror was supernatural. The leaders on both sides engage in 
personal encounters. The four sons of Eochaid of Alba rush 
on four provincial cliiefs of Leinster, who are slain by these 
Scottish uncles of Congal Claen. Three of King Domnal's sons 
attack three of the victors ; all receive their death wounds. 
His two younger sons assault Domnal Brec, who surrenders 
to them. King Donuial on liis appeal, though lamenting the 
death of his sons, admits liim to ransom. The subsequent 
fortunes of Donuial Brec, afterwards King of Scotland. His 
successors crowned at Scone on the Stone of Destiny, now re- 
moved to Westminster for the coronation of British Sovereigns. 
Congal's Prankish aids encounter, and are defeated by Clan 
Conail. The victors attack the warriors of IMoume, posted 
on the hill of Augnafoskar, on whose summit sits Kellach 
the Halt, borne on liis chair. He sends son after son into the 
tliickest of the fight. They fail to break the ranks, and attack 
Clan-Colla. Congal goes to the aid of Kellach. His friend 
Conan Rodd, with his contingent from Wales, assaults the 
Connaught forces. Conan Rodd engages in turn, and slays 
four of their chiefs. Conan Pinn, who had also embraced the 
cause of Congal, fights wdtli Kellach, son of Malcova, nephew, 
and afterwards successor of King Donuial, who kills liim. Con- 
gal Claen, wdtli liis Ulster troops, attacks Clan-Conail, led by 
Conal, son of Baedan. They wrestle together. Conal flings 
Congal to the ground ; Conan Rodd conies to liis rescue, and 
slays Conal He is attacked by Kellach, son of Malcova, who 
falls from the impetuosity of his charge. Conan Rodd refrains 
from taking advantage. Kellach rises and renews the fight ; 
Conan falls. Congal interposes, and challenges Kellach, Ultaii- 
Long-Hand interferes ; and the warriors on both sides join in 
deadly strife.] 

Sudden as wild-drake from his reeds beside the sedgy 

Bann, 
Forth from his rushy covert flew swift-watchful Garrad 

Gann 



3l8 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Scout of the North ; nor turned aside for dyke or mearing- 

mound, 
Till, in the gorge of green Glen Ree, the King himself 

he found 



Said Garrad, " King, Clan-Congail comes : I saw 

Magabra's height 
At sunset flaming with his spears ; and all the woods in 

sight 
Far as the lake-reflected light their passes gave to 

view 
With arms and standards sparkling bright, and war- 
cars thronging through." 
" What standards show they ? " said the King, " and 

in what order, say 
Does my unhappy foster-son his impious aids array ? " 
Said Garrad, " On his battles right the standards 

were to see 
Of Alba's hosts in all the fields of frighted Aghalee ; 
While Lochlan's ravens, birds accurst in many a widow's 

dirge 
Flapped o'er his far-extended left to green Kilultagh's 

verge. 
The ensigns of his middle front shone bright with silken 

sheen ; 
White, swarmed with golden bees, they were ; and 

men of warlike mien 
Long-hair 'd and blue-eyed marched beneath. Once, 

when I sailed beyond 
The Ictian sea, and saw, on march, the sons of Phara- 

mond, 



CONGAL. 319 

('Twas on the Catalaunian plain, in dusty war-cloud 

rolled, 
They passed me as I rode the route King Dathi took 

of old), 
Such seemed the ensign, and such seemed the fair, 

bee-blazon'd ranks : 
Wherefore I deem the centre-front of Congal's host 

are Franks ; 
Yet little-trusted, as I judge ; for close behind them 

came, 
Led by a lofty chief whose locks shone red as bickering 

flame, 
The fierce, sharp- vengeful, savage men of Britain ; 

and again 
Behind the Britons, over all, Ulster and Congal Claen." 
Said Domnal, " While I live and reign, it never shall 

be said 
The hosts of Erin, with the King of Erin at their head, 
Sat in the shelter of a camp, or shunned the open 

ground. 
While foreign foe or rebel King within the realm was 

found. 
And since on Moyra openly their hosts encamp to-night, 
On Moyra openly at dawn shall Erin give them fight." 
Whereon throughout the expectant camp's four quarters, 

Domnal sped 
The welcome word to arm and march ; and soon the 

measured tread 
Of tramping legions told there passed by moor and 

quaking fen. 
From Domnal's camp to Lagan bank, thrice twent)^ 

thousand men. 



320 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Arrived on Moyra's southern verge, beneath the stars 

they lay, 
Wrapped in their warrior cloaks, till morn advanced 

her ensigns grey. 
Dawn-early, Domnal, — offering done, — athwart the 

dusky glade 
In long-drawn battle, east and west, the royal host 

arrayed. 
And this the order of the line. To left of all the field. 
Fast flanked by forest and by fen, as by a natural shield, 
Connacia kept the western wing : thence stretching to 

the right. 
The many legioned Leinster hosts prolonged the beam 

of fight 
To where, in midmost place of all, a plashed imper- 
vious wood 
Embattled thick around himself Meath's household 

phalanx stood. 
Lea-Moha next in order fair took up the spiky line. 
And bore it with a bristling edge to where your battle- 
sign. 
Renowned Clan-Colla, flaunted high above the eastern 

wing : 
Here, on the wide unsheltered wold, the careful- valiant 

King 
In mutual-succouring order close his Northern strength 

arrayed ; 
First, Kindred-Owen ; Orgiall next ; to take or tender 

aid 
When needful ; and beyond them both, as valour's 

meet reward. 
You clans of Conal, of them all the glory and the guard. 



CONGAL. 321 

The hosts embattled, Domnal now, drawn in the 

royal car, 
An Animating-Progress made down all the front of 

war ; 
And first Connacia's host he spoke, 

" Descendants of the 
brave 
Who from Ultonia once before, with cattle-plundering 

Maev, 
Bore spoil immense and deathless fame ; to you, of all 

the host, 
Is given the hero-coveted, much-envied, outmost post 
Of all the field. Maintain it well. My presence shall 

impart 
The conscious might of lawful power to every arm and 

heart. 
For wondrous is the might that clothes a true king's 

countenance. 
In life or death. Remember how, when through the 

fields of France 
Your sires the thunder-blackened limbs of glorious 

Dathi bore, 
No shelter from the Gauls' pursuit had they, from Alp 

to shore, 
But the dread visage of the King turned backward as they 

fled; 
Yet safely sped they through them all, home, with their 

mighty dead. 
Third in descent again from whom, your Monarch, 

Owen Bel, 
Tomb'd, armed and facing to the foe, even as in fight 

he fell, 



322 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Upon the Sligo's southern bank, throughout a year 

and day, 
By mere enchantment of his gaze, kept all the North at 

bay ; 
Nor could their bravest cross the fords so overlooked, until 
They stole King Owen from his cairn, and northward 

by Loch Gill 
Tomb'd him, face downward ; from which time the 

disenchanted fords 
Are won or lost, as greater might or less impels your 

swords. 
But here, with better auspices, you keep the battle-wing, 
To-day, in presence of a crowned and lawful living 

Kincr." 
The Crohan warriors, pleased to hear North-nurtured 

Domnal learned 
In legends of the distant West, a glorying shout returned. 
Next where Hy-Mainy's haughty ranks, 'neath Grellan's 

staff arrayed, 
Stood ruddy in the reddening morn, the King his 

chariot stayed. 
" Brave youths," said Domnal, " what although the 

breadth of Erin lies 
Between us and the splendid seats which under western 

skies 
Ye wrested, by Saint Grellan's aid, from Bolgic hordes 

of yore. 
Ere Morne's and Colla's names were merged in name 

of Mainy Mor ? 
Yet neither lapse of time nor tract of distance can efface 
From Ulster's breast the glorious name of Cradle oi 

your Race 



CONGAL 323 

Lo, yonder see the mountains blue, to whose recesses 

borne 
Your tide of overteeming life flowed out from full 

Cremorne, 
Ere yet lean Dartry's plenteous loins that mightier swarm 

sent forth 
To plant beyond smooth Shannon's flood the manhood 

of the North ; 
Whence now returned, by many a plain and many a 

waving wood, 
As sea-run salmon that at last ascend the parent flood, 
All other bays and forelands pass'd, in needful hour 

ye come 
Exulting in your strength, to strike for kindred and for 

home. 
But exhortation none of mine need ye to whet the swords 
Oft edged to victory before by better-spoken words — 
' Mighty men, sons of Mainy, 
By the Staff and its wonders 
Ye bear for your banner. 
By the Crozier of Grellan, 
Hy-Mainy's sole Standard ; 
That wand at whose waving 
The flower of the Firvolg, 
Of old on Moy-Liagh, 
For their falsehood sank swallowed, 
Thirty hundred together, 
In a moment, without remnant, 
In the maw of the Moy : 
By your taxes, by your tributes. 
By your freely-offered firstlings, 
On the door-sills of Kilcloony : ' 



324 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

By Grellan's own warrant, 

Saying ' surely while ye pay me 

My taxes and my tributes, 

And exalt me my Crozier, 

God and I will give you conquest,' 

Now remember ye the manhood of the days of Mainy 

Mor." 
Then all the pleased Hy-Manian host with loud and 

proud acclairp 
Shouted ; and Domnal to the front of Leinster's legions 

came. 
" Lagenians of the palm-broad spears," the Monarch 

said, " and ye 
Fair-tunic'd warriors of Leix and festive Ossory, 
From you, in manhood's joyous prime, my gentle spouse 

I chose ; 
To you, in age, I now assign the guardianship of those 
Five war-accomplished youths, our sons, whom 'mid 

your ranks enrolled. 
In duty's place, with proud delight I even now behold. 
My Fergus Fair ; my Angus dear ; my Erril Open- 
Hand ; 
My Carril, and my Colgu gay Be ye a rallying band 
Impervious round the youths beloved ; that, when our 

work is done. 
The anxious mother may again embrace each princely 

son." 
Proud Leinster closer round the youths arrayed her 

spear-thick hedge ; 
And warranted with warrior oaths the safety of the 

pledge. 



CONGAL 325 

The light of darkly-kindUng eyes and fervid faces 

glanced 
Down all the beaming Bolgic line, while Domnal next 

advanced 
To speak the household Meathian troops. 

" Ye men of Meath," said he, 
" Are witness that this day's debate has not been sought 

by me. 
Whate'er a King with honor might, I offered Congal 

Claen ; 
And offered oft ; which he, as oft, rejected with disdain. 
Demanding crowns and kingdoms back which have not, 

since the days 
Of the three Collas, appertained to any of his race. 
Three hundred years and three and one, it is, since, at 

the date 
Three hundred-thirty-three from Christ, these three 

laid desolate 
Emania, Ulster's royal seat till then, and over-ran 
All that Clan Rury theretofore to westward of the 

Bann 
And southward of the Yewry held ; from which time 

hitherto 
Ultonia's bounds embrace no more than at this day 

they do, 
From Mourne to Rathlin : small the tract : yet in that 

little space 
Ambition how exorbitant, how huge a pride has place ! 
And from Clan-Colla, in their turn, a hundred years 

have fiown. 
Since Earca's son, Murkertach, won Tyrconnell and 

Tyrone ; 



326 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

O'er which Rudrician ne'er shall reign. So nothing at 

our hands 
Remains to give King Congal but the battle he de- 
mands." 
" Battle for battle ! Spear for spear ! " from thousand 

throats upflew 
The voice of fight-accepting Meath. The Monarch, 

in review, 
Thence passed along Lea Moha's line. 

"Sons of the South," he said; 
" Thus far beneath our Northern stars with fearless 

steps ye tread, 
Remembering, as beseems your race, the olden glorious 

days 
When Curoi and his Ernaan Knights divided Erin's 

praise 
With all our bravest of the Branch. On Cahir-Conroi's 

crest 
The hero from his tomb looks down where 'neath the 

glowing west 
The strand of Ventry shines at eve : again the hollow 

roar 
. Of trampling tides is in his ears : locked on the level 

floor 
The glorious wrestlers stamp the sands : let come the 

waves : let burst 
All ocean downward on their heads : none parts his 

hold, till first 
He casts the invader to his feet. The invading galleys 

ride 
Regardant on the heaving blue, behind the white-maned 

tide : 



CONGAL 327 

The white-maned, proud-neck-arching tide leaps to their 
feet ; it leaps 

Around their arms ; it leaps with might above expiring 
heaps 

Of Gauls and Gaels in mutual clasp washed o'er the wreck- 
strewn sands, 

Where drowned they rather than desert their first defensive 
stands. 

Such heroes hath Momonia nursed ; Momonia's sacred 
shore 

By you defended, grates beneath invading keels no more : 

But, driven from hero-guarded coasts, our new invaders 
swarm 

In Ulster's unprotected ports : yet, even here, thine arm, 

Momonia, reaching all the length of Erin through, shall 
draw 

MacDaire's blade again, and make a Ventry at Moy-rah." 
Well pleased, Momonia's warriors heard the Mon- 
arch's flattering words ; 

And Domnal to Clan-Colla came. 

" Kinsmen, illustrious lords 

Of Orgiall," said he : " since the day our three fore- 
fathers stood 

In Tara's wine-hall, to provoke to shedding of their 
blood 

King Muredach (for 'mongst the four, whiche'er should 
first be slain, 

With his posterity the crown was destined to remain) ; 

No day has risen so full of need for Eochaid Domlan's 
race 

As this which now above our heads begins to rise apace. 



328 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Great lords from all their loins have sprung ; Kings 

from the loins of some, 
And other mightier monarchs thence are destined yet 

to come : 
Yea, though perchance in after days forgetful of their 

stem, 
The rulers of the Western world shall draw their race 

from them. 
And thou, Malodhar, eldest born, and noblest of them 

all. 
This day must hold or lose the lands won by the mighty 

Coll : 
For, other cause of enmity proud Congal Claen has 

none 
Than this, that I refuse to strip Clan Colla of its own ; 
And have confirmed, and do hereby, as far as in me 

lies, 
Confirm Malodhar of Armagh in all the seignories 
Won by his sires, as I have told. And, Ultan Long- 
Hand, thou 
Who rul'st Orior. his sub-King, yea, all who hear me 

now. 
Remember, that not mine alone the fortune, that en- 
dures 
Or passes with this day's event, but his, and thine, and 

yours." 
" King," said Malodhar, " have no fear : the voice 

of Fate that gave 
The Collas in Cantyre their call to cross the wintry 

wave. 
To thee alike assigns the realms of Erin, and to me 
Orgallia's rule subordinate, in perpetuity. 



CONGAL. 329 

Nor other change will Erin feel from Congal's mad 

essay 
Than this, belike, that Orgiall's bounds, meared by 

Glen Ree to-day, 
May march to-morrow with the sea ; for so her license 

ran, 
' From proud Emania to the sea ; from Farsad to the 

Bann.' " 
" Conquer thy wish " ; discreetly said the prudent 

King, aloud. 
But also said, " This under- King is somewhat over- 
proud." 
So pondering, to the Kinel-Owen, his own familiar 

clan. 
He came, and, still his ancient lore recalling, thus began : 
" Twin branches of one stately stem are Conal's race 

and yours. 
Children of Owen ; at one birth our great progenitors 
Owen and Conal Gulban, sons of many-hostaged Neal, 
Sprang from one womb : one blessing both of holy 

Patrick's zeal 
Had in one cradle : equal power through Erin far and 

wide 
By blessed Kearnach, from one bed, for both was pro- 
phesied ; 
When to their hands the dying saint confided Patrick's 

Bell 
And Columb's Gospels ; charging them, as oft as it 

befell 
That either martial tribe should stand in combat's ordered 

line, 
That Bell or Book should ever be its proper battle-sign. 



330 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And promised, oft as either host, arrayed as now ye are, 
Should muster for defensive fight or just aggressive war, 
The Word of saving Truth with them, the Tongue of 

Power with you 
Respectively, that victory should all your steps pursue : — 
A prophecy in part fulfilled ; in ampler measure still 
Remaining for a riper day of glory to fulfil. 
This present day well nigh brings round an even hundred 

years 
Since, in his just aggressive war, Murkertach's western 

spears 
Flashed thro' Clan-Colla's broken bounds, in cantred- 

covering sweep, 
From Erne to smooth Mayola's meads and proud Ben- 

Evenagh's steep : 
And so it is ; one century, if but to-day's event 
March with the words of prophecy, shall see your tribe's 

extent 
Meted by mountain, and by sea : for surely never yet 
Was juster war defensive waged than this, wherein, 

beset 
As deer in hunter's narrowing ring, or ring'd bull at 

his stake, 
We needs must fight for leave to live, if not for glory's 

sake. 
Behold, there breathes not on the earth the creature 

born so base 
But will, to spending of its life, defend its dwelling- 
place ; 
Be it the wolf's leaf-bedded lair, the rook's dark tops 

of trees. 
Or bare shelf of the barren rock, where, over yeasty seas, 



CONGAL. 331 

The aitless gull intends her brood ; and baser than 

the beasts 
Were we, if, having to defend our homes of love, our 

feasts 
Of joyous friendship, our renown, our freedom, and 

above 
All else, our heavenly heritage of Christ's redeeming 

love. 
From this rude inroad unprovoked of Gentile robbers, we 
Fought not the fight of valiant men to all extremity. 

• ••••• 

Up, God ! and let the foes of God, and them that hate 

him, fly : 
As wax consumes within the fire, as smoke within the 

sky. 
So let them melt and perish quite : but he who loves 

Thy laws 
His head in battle cover Thou, and vindicate his cause." 
" Amen," Cloc-Patrick's clerks replied ; and clear 

above the swell 
Of thousand hoarse-applauding throats, was heard the 

Standard-Bell. 
Last to his own illustrious tribe, though first in power 

and fame. 
In danger's gap, to right of all the embattled hosts, he 

came. 
" Kinsmen," he said, " to other tribes I've off"ered, 

on my way, 
Words of incitement to renown ; as fitting for the day 
Just rising on so great a strife as, since the days of Con 
The Hundred-Battled, morning sun has never looked 

upon. 



332 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But from these hortative harangues, — since vain were 

the attempt 
To add to valour infinite, — Clan Conail stands exempt. 
For why, what says the noble verse ? — 
' Clan-Conail for the battle 
Never needed other prompting 
Than the native manly vigour 
Of a King-descended people, 
Whose own exulting prowess, 
Whose own fight-glorying valour, 
And old ancestral choler. 
And hot blood overboiling, 
Are war-goads self-sufficing. 
Would'st see them war-excited ? 
Would'st see the Clans of Enna 
Let loose their native fury ? 
Would'st see the Sons of Conang 
How they look in time of slaughter ? 
Sil-Angus at their spear-sport, 
Sil-Fidrach at their sword-play, 
Sil-Ninid rout enforcing, 
Sil-Setna panic-pouring ? 
Set before them then the faces 
Of foemen in their places. 
With lances levelled ready, 
And the battle, grim and bloody. 
Coming onward o'er the tramp-resounding plain r 
But insult not Conal's nation 
With a battle-exhortation 

When with battle's self their hands you entertain.' 
And lo, the very valour- rousing sight the Bard prescribes 
Presents itself before our eyes ; for yonder Congal's tribes 



CONGAL. 333 

Begin to move. Up Book, and march ! God and 

Columba be 
Your wanted warrant that ye march to glorious victory ! " 
And, as when fire by chance has caught a furzy moun- 
tain-side, 
Behind its bickering front of flame, in blackness swift 

and wide, 
The spreading ruin onward rolls ; so down King Dom- 

nal's van, 
Flashed back from glittering helm and shield, the morning 

radiance ran ; 
So, dark behind their fiery front, in far evolving throng 
The enlarging legions spread, and poured their serried 

strength along. 
And as, again, when Lammas floods from echoing 

uplands go. 
Down hurrying to the quaking vale that toils in foam 

below ; 
So wide, so deep, so terrible, so spreading, swift and vast. 
With tempest-tramp from Congal's camp the adverse 

columns pass'd : 
Every phalanx like a castle ; every captain, at its head. 
Like pillar of a castle-gate, when camping Kings have 

spread 
Their leaguer to the rampart-foot, and pick and broad- 
axe play 
Rebounding on the sounding plank that holds the war 

at bay. 
Ah ! many a brave young son was there, to hang on 

whose broad breast 
Was joy to the proud mother ; many a brother much 

caressed 



334 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

By white-arm' d smiling sisters ; many a lover who yet 

bore 
The parting kiss from virgin lips his lips should meet 

no more ; 
And sons who stood by fathers' sides, with pious ardour 

warm, 
Each deeming death were well-incurred to shield that 

head from harm, 
Blooming in love and manly strength ; and many a 

faithful pair 
Of milk-united fosterers and ancient friends was 

there. 
Swiftly they cleared the narrowing space of plain ground 

interposed ; 
And, bearing each an even front, from wing to wing 

they closed. 
A shudder at the closing shock thrill'd through the 

grassy plain. 
And all the sedgy-sided pools of Lagan sighed 

again. 
In balanced scale, in even fight, — no thought on 

either side 
Of yielding back, — the eager hosts their work of battle 

plied, 
Stern, dark, intense, incessant, as forging smiths that 

smite 
In order on the stithy head through spark-showers 

hailing white. 
And, as when woodsmen to their work, through copse 

and stubble go, 
Grasping the supple red-skinned twigs with darting 

bill-hooks, so 



CONGAL. 335 

With frequent grasp and deadly grip, plucked from their 

slippery stand, 
They went continual to the earth : the grassy-vestured land, 
Stamped into dust, beneath them glowed ; the clear 

fresh morning air 
Vexed with the storm of twirling arms, and tossing heads 

and hair. 
Around them reeked ; while, overhead, in dense un- 
wholesome pall, 
A sweat-and-blood-engendered mist rose steaming over all. 
Dire was the front-rank warriors' case ; nor, in their 

deadly need, 
Did son of father longer think, or friend of friend take 

heed ; 
But each deemed all the strength and skill his prowess 

could command 
But scant enough to serve the need that claimed his 

proper hand ; 
Fresh hands with deadHer- wielded blades, new foes 

with angrier frown. 
Succeeding ceaseless in the front, fast as the old went 

down. 
Fed from behind the ranks renewed ; from these 

continual fed 
The intermediate heaps increased. Still no man turned 

or fled 
Till on the Dalaradian King, unhappy Sweeny, fell 
The terrors of a dreadful fate, in manner strange to tell. 
To Sweeny, as the hosts drew near, ere yet the fight 

should join, 
Seemed still as if between them rolled the foam-strown 

tawny Boyne : 



336 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And as the swiftly nearing hosts consumed the narrow- 
ing space, 
And arrow-flights and javelin-casts and sword-strokes 

came in place, 
Through all the rout of high-raised hands and wrathful 

glaring eyes, 
Erc's look of wrath and lifted hand before him seemed 

to rise ; 
Through all the hard-rebounding din from breasts of 

Gaels and Gauls, 
That jarred against the vault of heaven, when clashed 

the brazen walls, 
Through all the clangorous battle-calls and death-shouts 

hoarse and high, 
Erc's shriller curse he seemed to hear and Erc's despairing 

cry. 
Much did the hapless warrior strive to shake from breast 

and brain 
The illusion and the shameful wish fast rising, but in 

vain ; 
The wish to fly seized all his limbs ; the stronger dread 

of shame 
Contending with the wish to fly, made spoil ot all his 

frame. 
His knees beneath him wavered ^ as if shaken by the 

stress 
Of a rapid-running river ; his heart, in fear's ex- 
cess. 
Sprang to and fro within him, as a wild-bird newly 

caged. 
Or a stream-ascending salmon in a strong weir's trap 

engaged . 



CONGAL, 337 

Room for escape the field had none : and Sweeny there 

had died 
Perforce in front ; his shame unknown ; his name a 
word of pride 

To all his race, for many a feat of valour nobly done, 

And much renown from conquered Chiefs in former 
battles won ; 

But that the terror in his soul at length to madness grew, 

And, with a maniac's strength of ten, he burst the rere 
rank through 

And fled in presence of both hosts. 

So light and swift he ran, 

It seemed as if exalting fear had left, of all the man, 

Only the empty outward show. Then many cried to 
slay 

The flying Chief ; but Ardan stood between : 

" Insane ones, stay 

Your idle impious shafts," he cried ; " no coward's flight 
is here ; 

But sacred frenzy sent from Heaven. The wings of 
vulgar fear 

Ne'er lifted weight-sustaining feet along the airy ways 

In leaps like these : but ecstasies there be of soul, that 
raise 

Men's bodies out of Earth's constraint ; and, so exalted, 
he 

Acquires the sacred Omad's name, and gains immu- 
nity 

From every earthly violence. 'Twas thus Wood Merlin 
gained 

His seership on Arderidd field : else Britain had re- 
mained 



338 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Still unenriched of half her lore. So, turn you, and 

engage 
Your spears where men who fly you not, await your 

juster rage." 
So Ardan counselled ; and the line of battle stood 

renewed. 
While Sweeny o'er the distant plain his lonely flight 

pursued, 
Noiseless, as flits, at daylight gone, the level-coasting 

crane. 
Meantime, on Moyra, shout and clang of battle rose 

again, 
As singling from the vulgar sort, the chiefs of note began 
In feats of separate hardihood, to mingle in the van. 

And first the royal sons who led the allied Alban host, 
Despite the strength of circling quags and Dathi's guardian 

ghost, 
Thrice on Connacia's line of fight, four island ospreys flew, 
And twice and thrice with grasp of might broke Grellan's 

staff in two. 
But at their third swift-swooping charge, where Leinster 

stood arrayed 
Beneath her four Provincial Kings, their course was 

rudely stayed. 
Which four illustrious Kings who led the Broadspear 

ranks, were these ; 
First, Cairbre Crom, the wealthy lord of tunic-bleaching 

Leix ; 
Next, haughty Aulay of the Ships, who exercised his 

rule 
Where hurdle-causeways span the mire of LiflFey's dusky 

pool ; 



CONOAL. 339 

Argnadach next, whose grassy dun o'er green Hy-Drone 

presides 
Where bright by brown Bahana wood the fishful Barrow 

glides ; 
And lastly Ailill, hapless lord of wide domains, for whom 
Hy-Faily's serfs no more need till the sunny slopes of 

Bloom. 
These four before the Albanian four their armoured 

breasts opposed, 
And straight the eight in fell debate, for life and glory, 

closed 
But valiant though these Leinster Kings, and war- 
accomplished too, 
'Twas not for them the royal hope of Alba to subdue. 
Who oft had trained adventurous arms on Saxon and 

on Gaul, 
With brass-hook'd halbard oft had plucked the Briton 

from his wall ; 
And oft, twixt beetling brow above and slippery brink 

below, 
Had wrestled with the Fortren Pict, knee-deep in 

Grampian snow. 
Argnadach, first, beneath the spear of Aed Green- 
Mantle died ; 
Tall Ailill next lay stretched in death, by Sweeny, at 

his side ; 
To Domnal of the Freckled Brow imperious Aulay then 
Resigned his head ; and Cairbre Crom succumbed to 

Congal Menn. 
When Domnal's own illustrious sons beheld the 

carnage made 
Of Leinster's leaders, to the front they also sprang in aid ; 



340 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Fergus and Angus side by side ; young Erril Open 

Hand, 
Carril and Colgu ; five to four : the war-flushed con- 
quering band 
Of Alban brothers, four to five, as loud the Princes 

cried 
" Sons of the King of Erin here," with louder shout 

replied, 
" Sons here of Alba's mightier King, to match them, 

man to man." 
And, three at once selecting three, an equal strife began ; 
Equal in youth ; in royal birth in eager warlike will. 
Equal ; and in the athlete's art and warrior's deadly skill, 
Alas ! too equal ; for, ere long, by many a mutual wound, 
Each slain by each, three princely pairs pressed all the 

equal ground 
But Domnal Brec, by Carril and by Colgu both assailed, 
Although 'gainst either single foe he had in fight pre- 
vailed. 
Withstood not their conjoint attack : but, casting down 

his shield, 
Said, " Cousins, I claim benefit of gossipred, and yield." 
So, leaving there the princely six stretched 'mongst the 

common dead, 
Carril and Colgu to the King their Alban captive led. 
Then thus the captive Domnal said, 

" Oh, King, these youthful sons 
Have done me warrior-wrong in both assailing me at 

once ; 
Which is no deed of princely-nurtured youths : and 

therefore, I 
Am put to plea of fosterage and consanguinity ; 



CONGAL 341 

Shewing unto your Clemency, my father Eochaid Buie 
Was foster-son of Columb-Kill, the son of Felimy, 
The cousin of thy father Aed : wherefore, oh King, 

I claim 
Safety and ransom at thy hands in holy Columb's name." 
" And in that venerable name," said Domnal — and 

he crossed 
His breast devoutly as he spoke,—" thy suit shall not 

be lost : 
For precious-sweet at every time the ties of nurture 

are, 
But most so when they mitigate, as now, the woes of 

war : 
Woes which beseems not that a King in battle-armour 

dressed 
Should further speak of, here a-field. But Thou who 

seest my breast. 
Thou knowest, oh God, how sharper far than foe's 

dividing brand — 
My Fergus fair ; my Angus dear ; my Erril Open- 
Hand !— 
Are this day's pangs of death and shame. But, Kinsman, 

for thy share, 
A goshawk for a captured King, subdued in fight impair. 
Shall answer all the ransomer's need. And, for the 

wrong thee done. 
Thou shalt, in duel, have amends ; if either culprit 

son 
Escape the labour of to-day." 

And therefore so it was 
That Freckled Domnal, set at large, for the above said 

cause, 



342 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Which neither Prince might contravene, though for the 

issue loth, 
In equal single combat had the conquest of them 

both ; 
Yet neither slew ; but gave their lives in barter of his 

own : 
Which Freckled Domnal afterwards sat on the Alban 

throne, 
A famous sovereign : and his race in Yellow Eochaid's 

hall 
Reigned after him ; till Selvach, son of Fercar, named 

the Tall, 
To proud Dunolly's new-built burg transferred the 

royal chair, 
('Twas in his time Columba's Clerks, because they 

would not bare 
The head- top to the tonsuring shears of Ceolfrid, neither 

count 
Their Easters by the Roman moons, were sent beyond 

the Mount 
By Necton and his Fortren Picts ; when, in the Gael's 

despite. 
His Saxon builders, from the Tyne, brought North the 

general rite.) 
And after Selvach, once again to shift the wandering 

throne. 
Came conquering Kenneth Alpinson, the first who sat 

at Scone, 
Full King of Scotland, Gael and Pict ; whose seat to-day 

we see 
A third time moved, there permanent and glorious to 

be, 



CONGAL. 343 

Where, in Westminster's sacred aisles, the Three-Joined- 

Realm awards 
Its meed of solemn sepulture to Captains and to Bards ; 
And to the hands pre-designate of awful right, confides 
The Sceptre that confers the sway o'er half of ocean's 

sides. 
But Domnal's brothers in one grave on Irish Moyra 

lie ; 
And to this day the place from them is called Cairn- 
Albany. 
The hardy Saxon little recks what bones beneath decay, 
But sees the cross-signed pillar stone, and turns his 

plough away. 
So on the battle's western verge the doubtful strife 

was waged : 
Meantime, upon King Congal's left, the Prankish host 

engaged 
Clan-Conail ; and Clan-Conail marched o'er prostrate 

Franks, until 
They pressed the battle to the plain beneath the very 

hill 
Where ranked the warrior-hosts of Mourne. Halt 

Kellach in his chair 
Placed on the summit of the slope, sat 'midst his bravest 

there : 
And, as a hunter, having his dogs leashed on a rising 

ground, 
A tall stag drinking in the vale, slips swift hound after 

hound ; 
Or as a man who practises against a mark, hurls forth 
Dart after dart ; or as a youth whose time is Uttle 

Worth, 



344 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Goat-herd or poet idly bent, from some bald sea-cliff's 

crown 
Dislodges fragments of the rock, to send them rolling 

down, 
And claps his hands to see them leap, as, gathering speed, 

they go, 
With high whirls smoking to the foot ; with such fierce 

rapture so 
Son after son the Halt one sent, and smoking charge 

on charge 
Hurled down from Augnafoskar's brow against the 

glittering marge 
Of levelled spear and burnished targe that, 'mid the 

throng below. 
Marked where Clan-Conail's front advanced o'er Frank- 
land's overthrow. 
But neither swift Cu-Carmoda, for all his greyhound 

spring. 
Nor headlong Anlach hurling down with force of javelin- 
fling. 
Nor Brasil bounding from his bank with crash of whirling 

crag 
Could bend the steadfast beam of fight stretch'd out 

beneath thy flag. 
Oh son of Baedan ; but, as dogs entangled 'mong the 

brakes, 
Or mark-short darts that by the butts uplift their quivering 

stakes, 
Or rolling rocks that at the foot break into pieces 

small. 
So clung, transfixed ; so, sounding, broke against that 

brazen wall 



CONGAL. 345 

Charge after charge. But as a pack of curled waves 

clamouring on 
Divide and ride to either side, resurging, round a stone 
That makes the tide-mark ; or as storms, rebounding 

from the breast 
Of some impassive mountain huge, go raving forth in 

quest 
Of things prehensible, broad oaks, or vvide-eaved homes 

of men. 
To wreak their wrath on ; bellowing forth from every 

hollow glen 
That girds the mighty mountain foot, they on the open 

vale 
Issue tremendous : groan the woods : the trembling 

mothers pale 
Beneath their straining rafters crouch, or, driven from 

hut and hall, 
Hie to the covert of some rock or rock-built castle wall : 
So Brasil's battle, burst in twain against the steadfast 

face 
Of Kinel-Conail, still pursued, oblique, its headlong race 
Past the impenetrable ranks ; and, swift as winter wind. 
Fell thundering down the lanes of death, on Orgiall's 

host behind. 
Clan-CoUa split before the shock : Clan-Brassilagh 

poured in ; 
And dire confusion filled the plain, and dreadful grew 

the din. 
Grief and great heat of anger filled the breast of Congal 

Claen 
When tidings reached him that the sons of Eochaid Buie 

were slain. 



346 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON 

Till now, with Conan by his side, the King had, from his 

car, 
Ordained the onsets of the hosts, and overseen the war. 
Now, " Conan, noble friend," he said, " whate'er at 

cither's hand 
The duty of a field-arraying sovereign can demand 
We see accomplished ; and the time is come when 

thou and I 
Are free to feed our proper souls with war's satiety ; 
Thou to achieve increase of fame amid the warlike 

throng. 
And I to sate enormous hate bred by a life of wrong. 
Lo, where the generous Alban chiefs, who, for the love 

they bore 
Me, hapless wretch, left all they loved on lone Loch 

Etive's shore, 
Lie wrapped in death or deadlier bonds. There lies 

the path for thee 
To reinstate our battle's right ; and fame and fortune 

be 
Attendant with thee. Leave to me this Northern robber 

horde 
Whose march insulting on our left needs some robuster 

sword 
Than aged Kellach's : he, I judge, will not long sit at 

ease. 
Unless with some impediment of weightier mould than 

these 
I bar the access to his chair. Farewell a while ; and 

now 
For vengeance I and destiny ; for fame and friendship 

thou." 



CONGAL. 



347 



As lightning that divides a bolt forkvvise in upper 

air, 
To left and right, from Congal's car, forth sprang the 

glittering pair. 
First on Connacia's shaken ranks impetuous Conan 

flew. 
Four chiefs in turn engaged him there. All these the 

hero slew ; 
And the lopp'd head of each in turn took from the coUar'd 

neck ; 
Sweeny, to wit ; Aed Alen, Aed Buie and Eccad Brec ; 
In rough Tir-Eera Sweeny ruled, the son of Carrach he ; 
Aed Alen in Moy-Eola ; in Hy-Mainy, Aed the Buie ; 
In castled Leyny, Eccad Brec. These Conan Rodd 

subdued ; 
And Welshmen, with him, of the rest a mighty multi- 
tude. 
Meanwhile the main Britannic host 'neath Conan Finn 

arrayed. 
Who, midmost, fought the men of Meath, much i .issed 

true Conan's aid. 
He of the Gates of Heart of Oak had freely, as became 
One who in Congal's choice of Kings the second place 

might claim. 
Followed his glorious judge to war ; and now with loyal 

heart 
Matched against Kellach Mor performed a valiant 

warrior's part. 
Son of Malcova, erewhile King, was Kellach : nephew 

so 
Of Domnal ; and of all who came to Congal's over- 
throw. 



348 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Conal Mac-Baedan sole except, in prowess and renown 

Foremost ; and destined afterwards, himself, to wear 
the crown. 

With him contended Conan Finn : but Kellach lopped 
his head. 

And cast it to his shouting friends ; then mingled rage 
and dread 

Fell on the thick-Welsh-speaking host ; and forth in 
reckless rage 

Three cousins of the vanquished chief sprang, eager to 
engage 

The victor ; Howel, Arthur, Rees ; together forth they 
sprung 

And with three far-exulting leaps their spears together 
flung ; 

And with three mutual-echoing shouts their blades toge- 
ther drew : 

But Kellach from the collared necks of these three sons 
of HCi 

Took their respective glittering spoils, and, holding up 
ihe same, 

Said, " Who will stake another cast upon the noble 
game ? " 
There marched that day 'mong Congal's host a valiant- 
hearted man, 

But little-bodied, Fermorc Becc : he, standing in the 
van. 

Beheld his allies' fate, and heard the conqueror's taunt- 
ing call, 

And said, 

" Although thou be the Great, and though I 
be the Small, 



CONGAL. 349 

Yet have I seen it so befall, oh Kellach, that, at 

play, 
The puniest piece upon the board has borne the prize 

away : 
And for that glorious prize, thy head — and I shall lay it 

low 
Right soon, — I play this cast, and stake my life upon the 

throw." 
He played his spear-cast manfully ; no man of all the 

host 
Could but admire ; but, gamesomely, the prize he played 

for, lost 
Then many hearts beat thick, and tears from some 

stern eyes there broke 
At seeing dauntless Fermorc stand to bide the answer- 
ing stroke. 
But generous Kellach, with a smile, reversed his lifted 

spear. 
And 'mid the laughter of the hosts pushed Fermorc to 

the rere. 
The soul of Fermorc swelled with shame ; and but that 

eager bands 
Of friends all round restrained him, he had on himself 

laid hands. 
Such feats of arms by Conan Rodd and Kellach Mor 

were done 
To right and centre of the field. Meantime the royal 

son 
Of Scallan Broad-Shield, on the left, in gloomy-vengeful 

wrath. 
At head of Ulster, toward the host of Conal held his 

path. 



350 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As when a grampus makes among the ripple-raising 
shoals 
Of landward-coasting ocean-fry, the parted water 

rolls 
Before the plunging dolphin, so the hosts on either 

side 
Fell off from Congal as he came in swiftness and in 

pride. 
On each hand scattering death he went : with sword- 
strokes some he smote 
In handed fight : with javelin-casts he others slew 

remote ; 
Till, 'twixt him and the steadfast front of Conal's host, 

the plain 
Lay unimpeded to his charge save by the fall'n and 
slain. 
Clan-Conail, now lock close your shields, make fast 
your battle-front ; 
The might, the might of Ulster comes, and Congal 

gives the brunt. 
And proudly kept thy host their place, oh Conal, till the 

stroke 
Of Congal's own close-wielded mace a bloody passage 

broke. 
Then, though your battle-border long had baffled all 

his best, 
Shield-lock' d and shoulder-riveted, with many a valiant 

breast 
That burned with Northern valour as courageous as his 

own. 
Yet before the face of Congal ye were crushed and over- 
thrown, 



CONGAL. 351 

ChafT-clispersed and ember-scattered ; till the strong 

fraternal arm 
Of Kindred-Owen reached between, and stayed your 

further harm. 
Ill brooked Sil-Setna's generous Chief, young Conal, 

to behold 
The noblest warriors of his race in confluent tumult 

roll'd 
Like sheep to shelter of the fold ; and, as fierce Congal 

closed 
His rallying ranks to charge anew the fresh foes inter- 
posed, 
Strode forth 'twixt gathering host and host, and said 

" Behold, I claim 
Safety and single combat, King, and proffer thee the 

same." 
" Who art thou," Congal said, " who thus would 

stay the swelling tide 
Of Ulster's might, to aggrandize a single warrior's 

pride ? " 
" The Son of Baedan I," replied the Chief, " w^ho 

from thy race 
Wrested Moy Inneray ; and who used, once, make 

my dwelling-place 
In broad-stoned Aileach ; but who now in Conang's 

halls abide. 
Since Aileach's gate-posts have of late been stained by 

parricide." 
" No need for further woman's words," said Congal ; 

and his cheek 
Grew shameful red : " Accept the fate thy folly dares to 

seek." 



352 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

So closed their parley ; and the hosts kept each its 

former place ; 
While they, with deadly-lifted spears, moved through 

the middle space. 
High beat heroic Conal's heart. In every exer- 
cise. 
Of Erin's athletes hitherto his arm had borne the 

prize. 
Of all the fearless footsteps, formed 'twixt cliff and 

climbing sea, 
From dizzy League to Torrey's straits, the fearlessest 

had he : 
And oft, when on the heaving skiff, mid baffled waves 

he hung. 
Ere up grey Maulin's eyried lofts of Balor's Stairs he 

sprung ; 
Oft, when, a-fowling, poised, he swung between the slip- 
pery brow 
And thundering deep, his soul had longed for danger 

such as now, 
Guerdoned with glory, called him forth, before a nation's 

eyes, 
To strive, in Country's righteous cause, for Fame's 

eternal prize. 
They cast their spears together. Each resounding 

weapon stood 
To socket in the opposing shield ; and Congal's point 

drew blood. 
Then forth, to snatch his weapon back, the King of 

Ulster sprung ; 
But Conal, with a wrestler's leap, his arms around him 

flung ; 



CONGAL. 353 

By flank and shoulder taking hold : nor was King Congal 

slow 
With ready-darted hands expert to grapple with his 

foe, 
Shoulder and flank : a moment thus stood either mighty 

man ; 
Then, in a gathering heave, their game the athlete pair 

began, 
With lifts and thrusts impetuous ; with swift-reversing 

pulls, 
And solid stands immovable, as young encountering 

bulls ; 
And counter-prancing dizzy whirls ; till, in the rapid 

round, 
The feet of either hero seemed to leave the circling 

ground. 
Though firm as palace-pillars stood their feet beneath 

them still ; 
For neither yet felt any lack of athlete force or 

skill ; 
But each deemed victory his own : for Congal, where 

he stood, 
Saw the fast-falling drops that soon would sink the 

swelling flood 
Of Conal's strength ; and Conal, still unconscious of the 

waste. 
Invoked his glorious sires, and all his loins with rigour 

braced ; 
Son of the son of Nindid, son of Fergus, as he 

was. 
Son of great Conal Gulban ; — and he pushed him without 

pause ; — 

2 A 



354 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Son of renowned Nine-Hostager ; — and one great heave 

he gave 
Of his whole heroic body, as the sea upheaves a 

wave, 
A long strong-rising wave of nine, that from the wallowing 

floor 
Of ocean, when a storm has ceased, nigh to some beachy 

shore, 
, Shows with a sudden black-piled bulk, and swallowing 

in its sweep 
Accumulated water - heaps from all the hollowed 

deep, 
Soars, foams, o'erhangs its glassy gulfs ; then, stooping 

with a roar 
Immeasurable of sea-cascades, stuns all the sounding 

shore : 
With such a heave great Conal rose, rushed onward, 

overhung 
His down-bent foe, and to the earth the King of Ulster 

flung. 
As seaweed from the sunken rock the wave's return 

leaves bare, 
From Congal's head unhelmeted forth flew the spreading 

hair. 
Soiled in the dust. Exulting shouts, and shouts of rage 

and grief 
Rose from the breathless hosts around, as Conal, con- 
quering Chief, 
Stood ; — so some arch-built buttress stands in bending 

strength inclined ; — 
Preparing with his belt of war the captive King to 

bind. 



CONOAL. 355 

But Conan Rodd, whom conquering rage had sped from 

wing to wing, 
Drawn by the clamour, from afar beheld the prostrate 

King. 
Unconscious of the truce, that yet had not had lawful 

end. 
He ran, he leaped, as shaft from string, he flew, to save 

his friend ; 
And valiant Conal scarce beheld, scarce felt the fatal 

thrust, 
Till his great heart was split in twain, and he too in the 

dust. 
Up started Congal ; Conan's arms the reeling warrior 

raised ; 
And Conan's shoulder stayed his steps, as, panting and 

amazed, 
He gained his chariot-seat ; but while with inspirations 

deep 
He breathed his breast, from 'midst of Meath forth 

sprung with clanging leap 
Great Kellach, King Malcova's son : with rage and 

noble scorn 
Dilating, in the midst he stood, and cried — 

" Base Briton, turn. 
From me receive the meed of death that warrior-law 

decrees 
The impious wretch who violates his combat-guaran- 
tees." 
Said Conan, " Though my love could dare the breach 
of sterner laws 
At friendship's call ; this judgment thou dost give 
without a cause. 



356 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

For nought, in truth, of any pause or parleying truce 

I knew 
When, newly on the field arrived, to aid my King I 

flew. 
If for his life a life be due, take thou a warrior's word. 
No freer soul e'er paid a debt more loyally incurred." 
He wrung the hand that Congal reached ; their hearts 

within them burned 
With tenderness they might not speak ; and to the 

combat turned 
Conan his cast delivered first. The spear, from 

Kellach's shield 
Glancing oblique, struck socket-deep, innocuous, in the 

field. 
Then Kellach, with a dreadful smile, in towering strides 

drew near ; 
And, with the might of both his hands upheaving high 

his spear. 
Smote Conan's buckler in the midst : the brazen bosses 

flew 
Disrupted : but, with sudden sleight, the agile warrior 

threw 
Shield and shield-cumbered spear aside ; and Kellach, 

overborne 
By his own force, as sinks an elm from yielding roots 

uptorn. 
Went prone amid the brazen wreck. Three paces 

back withdrew 
Conan, and bared his blade, and said, 

" Rise, Kellach, and renew 
An equal combat, if thou wilt. I shall not fear in thee 
Defeat of generous soul, or breach of warrior-warranty." 



CONGAL. 357 

" Conan, my life is in thy hands," said Kellach. 

" Take or give. 
Thou hast in me a foe to death, whilst thou and I shall 

live." 
Then, spear and buckler laid aside, his sword he 

slowly bared ; 
Cast on dead Conal's form, a glance ; and stood for 

fight prepared. 
As when two mastiffs chance to meet upon a public 

way, 
And break their leashes, and engage ; their keepers in 

dismay 
Back from the fang-commingling fray on either hand 

recoil ; 
So stood the hosts at gaze, while they resumed their 

deadly toil. 
And well might wearied combatant his own dread 

work forbear 
To view the warlike practice of the sword-accomplished 

pair ; 
So, timing, with instinctive sway, consenting eye and 

hand. 
They wove the dazzling woof of death 'twixt gleaming 

brand and brand ; 
So, mingling their majestic steps in combat's rapid 

round. 
They trod the stately brawls of Mars across the listed 

ground. 
At every strong-delivered stroke Red Conan dealt his 

foe, 
The Welshmen clapped applauding hands ; at every 

answering blow 



358 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FER(iUSON. 

Heard with the crush of hauberk burst, or shivering 

helm, the voice 
Of Erin, Ulster's host except, went up with cheerful 

noise. 
But, valiant swordsman though he be, the bravest, 

soon or late, 
Must, in his proper time, expect the even stroke of 

fate : 
And slower motions, and a mist of darkness round his 

brow. 
Warned Conan that his stately head to fate should also 

bow. 
When Kellach felt his force abate, and saw his sight 

was gone. 
He yielded back ; but darkly still blind Conan battled 

on. 
Till, not, indeed, like lofty elm in leafy time of 

year, 
But like a storm-dismantled mast, that, with its tattered 

gear, 
(The long-tormented keel, at last, heaved by a land- 
ward swell 
Against the rock), goes overboard, at Kellach's feet he 

fell. 
But Kellach took no trophy ; for, with dark brows 

newly helmed, 
Congal approached and said, 

" Although that hand hath overwhelmed 
My soul with woe ; and righteous rage would justify 

my spear 
In piercing, shieldless, as thou art, and combat- wearied 

here, 



CONGAL. 359 

The autlior of so huge a grief ; yet for the sake of hi:ii 
Whose clear renown no breath of thine shall e'er have 

power to dim, 
Go, arm thee, and have needful rest : anon, when apt 

to mate 
With one fresh-breathed and armed as I, return and 

have thy fate." 
" Congal, I swear I go not hence without my meed of 

fame," 
Cried Kellach, and seized Conan's crest, to drag him. 

As the flame 
Bursts, at the breath of outer air, through fire-concealing 

smoke. 
So, forth in fiercer blaze anew the wrath of Congal broke ; 
And at the chief he aimed a stroke had stretched upon 

the field 
War's noblest victim offered yet, but swift, with guardian 

shield. 
Huge Ultan Long-Hand thrust between ; and others 

not a few 
From Conal's and Clan-Colla's ranks to aid their cham- 
pion flew. 
The Ultonian warriors, hitherto regardant, as behoved 
Just combatants, and clans of Hu that yet no step had 

moved, 
Though seeing him they chiefly loved before their faces 

slain. 
And all the remnant of the Franks at once burst in 

amain : 
Amid the concourse, Congal Claen rushed to a deadly 

close 
With Ultan, and o'er all the plain enormous tumult rose. 



360 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL TERGUSON 



BOOK V 

THE ARGUMENT. 

The Shrew ; the Fool ; the final overthrow. 
What else remains, the verse, itself, will show. 

[Cuanna, the idiot son of Ultan-Long-Hand, armed with a 
bill-hook, follows in the track of the armies of Moyra. He 
learns that his father has fallen by the javelin of Congal, and 
vows revenge. He meets Congal returning from a combat 
with Caenfalla, and challenges him, but the hero declines the 
unequal conflict. Cuanna from beliind gives liim a mortal 
woimd with the bill-hook, which Congal will not revenge. 
The idiot youth makes his way to King Domnal, and recoimts 
liis story. Congal straps his belt over the wound, and though 
conscious that he is dying, prepares to resist Maldun, who 
attacks liim, strikes off his right hand, yet flees, before him. 
Kellach, son of Malcova, comes forth refreshed to attack Congal 
but seeing his disabled condition will not fight ; he calls on the 
hero to yield. Congal swoons from loss of blood. A terrible 
storm of wind and hail blinds the hosts, who seem to hear in the 
thunder the flapping cloak of Manannan Mac Lir, and the whistle 
of the giant Herdsman. When the storm sweeps past Congal 
has disappeared. His army fly the field and are hotly pursued 
by the forces of King Domnal. Kellach the Halt alone remains 
on his seat, and seeks — in vain — to arrest the flight of the 
fugitives. He hears that his seven sons are slain ; the youngest, 
however, has survived and seeks liis father. Brasil comes 
to carry liis parent from the field, but in the act of raising 
Kellach on ids shoulders, is slain by an arrow. Kellach is 
carried on his chair into the presence of King Domnal and his 
Bishops. They exhort liim to repentance and accuse him of 
being the author of the war. He dies a pagan ; and, like 
King Laery — buried erect, weapons in hand, in the outer 
rampart on Tara — is interred, sitting upright on his brazen- 
chair. Congal, withdrawn, he knows not how, from the battle- 
field at Moyra, revives from liis swoon, and finds himself in his 
native vale in Antrim, with Ardan by liis side. The thought of 
the ruin he has brought on the friends who fought for liim 
agonizes his heart, and he weeps bitter tears. A veiled nun, 
in whom he recognises his Lafinda, approaches from a neigh- 
bouring convent and kneels to aid him. Her unhappy brother 



CONGAL. 361 

Sweeny, doomed to perpetual wanderings, appears in the 
distance ; Lafinda grows red %vith shame, but is assured by 
Ardan that he is a victim — demon driven — not a coward. As 
Sweeny addresses his sister, a splendid vision of Manannan 
Mac lyir passes before their eyes, disappears, and Sweeny also 
vanishes. Ivafinda addresses herself to Congal : while they 
converse he dies. She performs for liim the last offices of the 
dead, and re-enters the convent of St. Brigid. Ardan, left 
alone, prays for one ray of Heavenly light, such as had been 
vouchsafed to Congal. P'^our Seniors of the fraternity come 
from the convent, and raising the dead hero on a bier, bear 
liim in. They invite the Bard to enter, and promise liim safety 
from the vengeance of the approaclving hosts. He thanks 
them, but elects to remain outside. They re-enter ; close the 
gate, " while up the hill the hosts of Domnal came."] 



In Ultan Long-Hand's house, that day, at pleasant 

Dunamain, 
It chanced, his Queen, Finguala, and the women of her 

train 
Were busied heating water for the bath ; and with them 

there 
Went, moping idly, Cuanna, long-handed Ultan's heir ; 
An orphan and an idiot. While as yet a little page 
He had been sent to Tara, to the King, in fosterage ; 
But, ere the second week was passed within the royal 

school. 
King Domnal's tutors finding him, or deeming him, 

a fool, 
Had sent him to Hy-Brazil back : where Cuanna whiled 

away 
His hours amongst the women. Now his stepmother, 

that day. 
Had bade him fetch fresh firewood for the heating of 

the bath ; 
And Cuanna, had idiot-like raked up from pool and path 



362 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Green birchen twigs, and oziers dank, and brambles 

clogged with mire. 
And with the smoky fuel green had well nigh quenched 

the fire. 
" Done like thee," cried the stepmother, with angry 

bitter taunt ; 
" Done like an idiot, as thou art ! Aye, wo is me ; 

we want 
Another sort of son this day, than such an one as 

thou, 
Thou good-for-nothing imbecile ! Know'st not that 

even now 
Thy sire and royal foster-sire on Moyra's bloody 

plain 
Are fighting for their lives, like men, 'gainst cruel Congal 

Claen ; 
Are fighting for their lives and crowns, their wives and 

children dear, 
Like valiant men, at Moyra, and thou stand'st idling 

here ? " 
" Show me the way to Moyra," Cuanna answered, all 

a-flame. 
" Small skill there needs to find it," replied the bitter 

dame : 
" Get thee down to Neur-Kin-Troya, where the hosts 

have left their track 
Plain enough for even an idiot to follow there and 

back." 
" Bestow me arms and armour," cried Cuanna. 

" Spear or shield 
There is not left within the house since Ultan took 

the field," 



CONGAL. 363 

Replied the Queen : but this was false : for much she 

stood in dread 
Lest Cuanna's scattered sparks of sense should gather 

to a head, 
And all her hopes to see her own first-born assume the 

sway 
Be, in the elder son's return to reason, swept away. 
Wherefore she sought to urge him forth with words of 

taunt and scorn, 
Naked, to war, that so perchance the youth might not 

return. 
" Arms yet enough are left behind," said Cuanna ; 

and he strode 
To where the bill-hook lay wherewith, that morning, he 

had mowed 
The dank soft twigs as with a scythe ; and scythe-sharp 

was the blade, 
And spear-keen was the iron spike the skilful smith 

had made 
Projecting from the burnished hook ; and javeUn-long 

the shaft 
Of tough ash 'twixt its brazen straps. 

" Spear here," he cried, 
and laughed : 
And, to the bath-house turning next, with ready art 

undid 
The bolts that to the cauldron-head secured the brazen 

lid. 
" Shield here," he cried, and laughed again ; and with 

a leathern throng 
Passed through the handle's inner eyes, in cross-lapped 

bandage strong 



364 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

He braced the great disk to his arm. But when the 

Queen beheld 
Young Cuanna's practice, fear and rage her jealous 

bosom swelled ; 
And, " Fool," she cried, " thou wouldst destroy the 

cauldron that thy Sire 
Bought with three hundred kine : restore the cover, 

I desire, 
Instantly to its former place." 

But Cuanna laughed in scorn ; 
And when the Queen laid hands on him, and would, 

herself, have torn 
The boss'd brass from his arm, with force so sudden 

Cuanna shook 
Her weak grasp off, and gave withal so terrible a look 
Of bloody meaning, that the Queen and all the maids 

and wives 
About her fled a spear-cast off in terror of their lives. 
Clapping their hands and raising loud their helpless 

ulalooSy 
While Cuanna took his downward route straight for 

the Strand-End-Yews. 
Arrived at Neur-Kin-Troya, all the Strand-End brown 

and vast 
Was scored with tracks where chariot-wheels and weighted 

steeds had passed. 
The hoof-prints pointing to the North : and northward, 

on the trail 
Of horse and chariot, all alone, went Cuanna up the 

vale. 
On came the royal idiot on the strong track of the war, 
Till past the fords of Ornav he descried the fight afar : 



CONGAL. 365 

And the first man he encountered on the borders of the 

strife 
Was Fercar Finn, his father's steward : he had escaped 

with Hfe, 
But deeply wounded ; and he cried, his labouring gasps 

between, 
" Good, my dear Cuanna, wherefore thou in such a 

bloody scene ? " 
" I come to slay false Congal," the generous fool 

replied ; 
" And learn to be a warrior by my royal father's 

•side." 
" Alas, dear child, since long ere noon thy royal Sire 

lies slain. 
Pierced by a javelin, through the heart, by cruel Congal 

Claen." 
" Right soon will I revenge his death," cried Cuanna. 

" Tell me where 
" The traitor fights." 

" Where thickest ranks thou seest recoiling, there 
Be sure, is Congal. But beware : thou canst not bear 

the shock 
Of battle with thy youthful frame : besides, they all 

would mock 
Thine arms fantastic : for who yet ere sought a battle- 
field 
With bill-hook for a spear, and lid of cauldron for a 

shield ? " 
" Let mock who will," the youth replied ; "for see ; 

the tide of war 
Seethes like the rising seas Fve seen on Cuan Carlinne's 

bar! 



366 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON, 

And all the hosts are this way driven. Now for the 

first essay 
In arms of Cuanna, called the Fool no longer from 

to-day." 
And heading onward through the press, within a little 

space, 
He found himself with Congal Claen confronted, face 

to face. 

" Take not my words in anger, I beseech thee, brother 

mine," 
Said Congal ; " well I know that strife is no concern 

of thine." 
And would have passed him by in scorn : but Cuanna, 

as he pass'd, 
Pressed hard his foot against the ground, and made a 

mighty cast 
Of the great bill-hook from behind : just where the 

rings were laced 
Whereby the brass-seamed coat of mail round Congal's 

side was braced 
The weapon entered : through the rings of brittle brass, 

and through 
The deer-skin war-shirt underneath the rugged weapon 

flew, 
And deep within his flank hung fixed : but, deep as 

was the wound, 
It did not yet suffice to bring strong Congal to the ground. 
He turned, and might have slain the fool ; but Congal's 

heart disdained 
That weapons of a warrior should with idiot blood be 

stained. 



CONGAL. 367 

He laid his glittering weapons on the green grass at 

his feet, 
And with both hands essayed to drag the weapon from its 

seat, 
But failed : a second time he tugg'd with painful sick 

essay, 
And failed : but at the third attempt the javelin came 

away. 
Then round his lacerated side he drew his glittering 

belt. 
Resumed his arms, and stood erect, as though he scarce 

had felt 
The wound that through his vitals was diffusing death 

the while ; 
And said, 

" It grieves me, Cuanna, that the weak hands 
imbecile 
Of one devoid of reason, should have dealt the fatal 

blow ; 
For, that it is a mortal hurt thou'st given me, well I 

know : 
And well I knew my death to-day at Moyra stood decreed : 
Yet thought to find my destiny at other hands indeed. 
Had many-battled Kellach dealt the final blow of fate, 
I by a King, and like a King, had died with mind elate. 
Or Crunvall, to whose royal Sire the stroke of fate I 

gave, 
To die by him had been to feed the vengeance of the 

brave : 
But thus at last to perish by thy weak, inglorious spear, 
Forgive me, foolish Cuanna ; this is hard indeed to 

bear. 



368 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Nought answered Cuanna ; but caught up his weapon 

where it lay, 
And towards the royal standard straight proceeded 

through the fray, 
Where Domnal stood among his Chiefs and Bishops. 

Hard bested 
He was to pass the thronging groups, 'mongst whom 

already spread 
The rumour that a stranger youth had slain the dreaded 

King : 
But, ever pressing on, at length he stood within the 

ring 
Before the Monarch ; and exclaimed, in eager accents 

clear, 
Laying his bill at Domnal's feet, " The blood of Congal 

here." 
Then, some who saw the feat achieved, avouching it 

for truth. 
The King exclaimed, " Oh glorious deed ; and thou, 

oh happy youth, 
Say who thou art, and ask such boon as Domnal can 

bestow, 
For this, thy realm-enfranchising and mischief-ending 

blow." 
Then Cuanna from his brow and face put back the 

matted hair. 
And drew his body to its height, and with a graceful 

air. 
For tall and comely was the youth, and of a manly 

mould. 
His simple story to the King with modest freedom 

told. 



CONGAL. 369 

" My name is Cuanna, eldest son of Ultan, who, 

sometime, 
Was King in Orior. When a child, my wicked Nurse, 

whose crime 
Goes still unpunished, with a doll, dressed as a goblin, 

so 
Scared me, that ever since I've lost my reason ; but 

I know 
Enough to know that cunning wretch, ere yet my mother 

died, 
Inveigled Ultan to her bed ; and now, where once 

she plied 
Her menial office, sits his Queen. Now, when I grew 

of age 
For nurture, I to thee, oh King, was sent in pupilage : 
But, ere I spent the second week within your Ilighness's 

school, 
Thy tutors, finding, or, at least, supposing, me a fool. 
Returned me home ; and as a fool and idiot ever since 
I've had their usage — used, indeed, not as an idiot prince. 
But as a menial slave, by her, who longs to see me 

dead. 
That her own son, without dispute, might reign in 

Ultan's stead. 
Wherefore, to-day, she would have urged me forth to 

battle here. 
Naked, pretending that the house held neither shield 

nor spear, 
Although in Ultan's inner hall a hundred men might 

find 
Weapons and tackle competent, and still leave store 

behind. 

2B 



370 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And so, with such rude substitutes as these which here 

ye see 
Perforce I came : and God to these has given the 

victory. 
And now, oh King, the boon I crave is, to be set at 

large 
Forthwith from Queen Finguala's thrall ; and from 

the shameful charge 
Of women tutors ; and to wear a good sword by my 

side. 
And have my hound to chase the deer, and have my 

horse to ride. 

• * • • • ■ 

" All that thou wouldst," replied the King, " dear 

Cuanna, shall be done. 
And furthermore, I make a vow, thy wicked stepdame's 

son 
Shall never sit in Ultan's place : and if in Dunamain 
Arms but for one be found, she wears, for life, the cap- 
tive's chain." 
" 'Tis good," said Cuanna ; and sat down ; and 

from the gravelly soil 
Picking the pebbles smooth, began to toss, with patient 

toil. 
The little stones from hand to hand, alternate back 

and palm. 
Regardless of the presence round, and lapsed in childish 

calm. 
But Congal, conscious that his strength by slow degrees 

decayed, 
Resolved, while yet his arm had nerve to lift the wearying 

blade, 



CONGAL. 371 

To Spend his still-remaining power in one supreme 

attack, 
That Ulster so with victory, though Kingless, might 

go back. 
Then once again the lines of fight were stretched from 

wing to wing 
Of Congal's battle ; and the hosts led by the vigorous 

King, 
For so to all their eyes he seemed, once more in dense 

array 
Across the corpse-encumbered mead moved to renew 

the fray 
An onset terrible it was : on all the fight till then 
Fell not so many of the flower of Erin's youths and men. 
Full on Momonia fell the brunt ; the burst Momonian 

host 
An arrow-flight on either hand recoiled ; and well nigh lost 
For Domnal seemed the day ; when lo, forth came Aed 

Bennan's son, 
His bedfellow and fosterer in former days, IMaldun, 
And challenged Congal to the strife : thrice had he 

thought before 
To raise his courage to the feat ; and thrice his feet 

forbore 
To bear him past the sheltering ranks : but now, that 

Cuanna's blow, 
Through Congal's ghastly cheek, proclaimed that life 

was ebbing low, 
He deemed the hour at length arrived when he might 

safely dare 
The King's encounter : and he cried, " Turn, Congal, 

and prepare 



372 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

To meet a traitor's recompense. No second rumour vain 
Shall now delude us, heralding the King of Ulster slain." 

And therewithal he cast his spear. But Congal's 

rallying look, 
For all the boldness of his speech, his heart within him 

shook ; 
And feebly, with a wavering flight, the aimless javelin 

strayed 
Past Congal's shoulder. Then the King swung high 

his glittering blade, 
And gathering all the force that still lodged in his mighty 

frame. 
Struck on the helmet of Maldun ; but struck with luck- 
less aim. 
For, even as crest and crashing helm half yielded to 

the stroke, 
Short from its rivets, at the hilt, the faithless weapon 

broke ; 
And, high as from a tree-top, in the pairing time of 

spring, 
A warbling bird springs up to heaven, its lay of love to 

sing. 
So high above the warriors' heads leaped Congal's 

flickering blade : 
But the blind counter-stroke Maldun, with aimless 

instinct, made. 
As Congal from his crest drew back the remnant of the 

brand, 
Sheer from the King's extended wrist smote off" the 

good right hand. 



CONGAL. 373 

Then maddened Congal would have closed ; but, at 

his aspect dread, 
Maldun, unconscious of his own achievement, turned and 

fled. 
" Aye, go thy ways," exclaimed the King, in bitter 

scornful ire ; 
" Thou now art treading worthily the footsteps of thy 

sire. 
I little thought, though well prepared to meet a warrior's 

doom, 
That 'twas from hands like his and thine the stroke of 

fate should come." 
With this, the Meathmen's parting ranks to Congal's 

gaze revealed 
Kellach, new-armed, and fresh from rest, advancing 

on the field. 
So from his cloud the eagle comes ; so from the leafy 

walks 
Of brown Gaetulian thicket-sides the lordly lion stalks. 
Darkness came with him : all the heavens with sudden 

gloom were spread, 
And gathering mists of faintness closed rourwi Congal's 

drooping head ; 
But still he kept his wavering feet, still waved his flickering 

shield. 
And said, 

" Oh Kellach, thou art late My conquest now 
can yield 
Small fame ; but if Malcova's son desire, in future 

days. 
With idiot Cuanna and with hint to share inglorious 

praise 



374 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Approach and slaughter Congal Claen, where maimed 

and bare he stands, 
An easy prey to butcher-s words, left by ignoble 

hands " 
" No, Congal," generous Kellach said : "no blood 

of thine shall dim 
The weapons of Malcova's son, while armed and whole 

of limb 
He ; mutilated, swordless thou ; nor shall this spear 

deprive 
Young Cuanna of his just renown : but yield thyself 

alive." 
He sank his spear half-raised to cast, and sprang to 

seize the King ; 
But, ere he reached him, Congal dropped ; and with 

a swooping v/ing. 
Sudden and black, the storm came down : with scourge 

of hissing hail 
It lashed the blinded, stumbling hosts : a shrill loud- 
whistling wail 
And thunderous clamors filled the sky, it seemed, with 

such a sound 
As though to giant herdsman's call there barked a giant 

hound 
Within the cloud above their heads ; and loud rebounding 

strokes 
They also heard, or seemed to hear, the claps of flapping 

cloaks 
Within the bosom of the cloud : so deemed they ; but 

anon 
The storm rolled northward ; and the hosts perceived 

the King was gone. 



CONGAL. 375 

Light from the sun, and panic-dread diffusive as the 

light, 
From heaven at once together fell on Congal's line of 

fight ; 
And though they held no counsel, nor did man confer 

with man. 
Yet through the whole invading host, from wing to centre, 

ran 
The desperate simultaneous wish to turn from Domnal's 

face 
Their firm opposing bucklers, and expose him, in their 

place. 
Their shoulders and their hollow spines, exchanging 

strength and fame, 
Safety and pride, for helpless flight, destruction, death 

and shame. 
Then dire was their disorder, as the wavering line at 

first 
Swayed to and fro irresolute ; then, all disrupted, 

burst 
Like waters from a broken dam effused upon the 

plain, 
The shelter of Killultagh's woods and winding glens to 

gain. 
To expedite their running, in their shameful-vieing 

race, 
Helmet and shield they cast away, long lance and ;ron 

mace . 
Gold-sparkling swords and shirts of mail in glittering 

heaps were spread. 
Resplendent, gleaming 'mongst the heaps of wounded 

and of dead. 



376 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

But, though prodigious plunder so encumbered all their 

track, 
For beaten gold nor cloth of gold would Domnal's Chiefs 

hold back 
Their eager hands from vengeance, or their feet from 

warrior-toil ; 
But, leaving slave and horse boy to collect the glittering 

spoil. 
Themselves, with leaps and spurnings amid the entangling 

throes 
Of writhing, prostrate enemies, with close, limb-severing 

blows. 
Urged on the pitiless pursuit ; the helpless flying crowd 
Consumed beneath the wasting sword as melts the 

morning cloud. 
Death levels all : and where they ran, hard by the 

brink of death. 
Speed was the last distinction left ; and he whose store 

of breath 
Sufficed to bear him farthest forth, was deemed of all 

the rest. 
Richest : nor ran there there a man who, if he had pos- 
sessed 
The world and all its cattle, would have grudged to 

give the whole 
For one hour's fleetness of a deer to gain the sheltering 

goal. 

There many a haughty noble ran, of stripe and badge 
bereft ; 

Ran many a lithe-ham'd vaulter, without leap or breath- 
ing left ; 



CONGAL. 377 

And men who, in the morning, would have rather died 
than fled, 

Now, even as wide-winged running birds, with labour- 
ing arms outspread 

And shoulders raised alternate, bounded forward like 
the wind, 

Eager only in their horror to leave friend and foe behind. 
Of all the field Halt Kellach on his chair alone sat 
still. 

Where placed to view the battle on the airy, green- 
sloped hill : 

And, like a sea-rock that alone of all around stands fast, 

Mid scudding clouds, and hurr^'ing waves, and hoarse 
tides racing past, 

So sat he rooted mid the rout ; so, past his brazen chair 

Was poured the heavy-rolling tide of ruin and despair : 

And oft he cried to those who fled, with shrill, disdainful 
call, 

" Stand fast : fear nothing : turn like men ! " but none 
gave heed at all ; 

Till, Druid Drostan hurrying by, like maniac horror- 
driven. 

He hailed him mid the long-hair'd rout, " Bald-head, how 
fare my Seven ? " 

" Slain all," was all the sage replied, as labouring on he 
went : 

Then Kellach leaned upon his couch, and said, " I am 
content." 

Nor spoke he more till Elar Derg cried, " Old man of 
the chair, 

Courage : young Brasil still survives, and seeks thee 
everywhere." 



378 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And Brasil's self, emerging from the flying throng, 

appeared, 
Bloody and faint, but calling out incessant as he neared, 
" Ho, father, I am with thee. Courage, father ; I am 

here : 
Up ; mount upon my shoulders : I have strength to bear 

thee clear." 
And ran and knelt beside the chair, to heave him on 

his back ; 
But as he stopped, even through the curls that clustered 

on his neck. 
An arrow smote him. Kellach said, " Best so. I 

thank thee, God, 
" That by no son of mine the path of shame will now 

be trod." 
And leaned again upon his couch ; and set his hoary 

head 
Awaiting death, with face as fixed as if already dead. 
But keen-eyed Domnal, where he stood to view the 

rout, ere long 
Spying that white unmoving head amid the scattering 

throng, 
Exclaimed, " Of all their broken host one only man I see 
Not flying ; and I therefore judge him impotent to be 
Of use of limb. Go : take alive," he cried, " and hither 

fetch 
The hoary-haired unmoving man : 'tis Kellach, hapless 

wretch, 
The very author of the war. There lives not on the 

face 
Of earth a man stands so in need of God's forgiving 

grace : 



CONGAL. 379 

And, — for he was my father's friend, and that white 

helpless head 
Stirs my compassion, — though my foe, I would not 

see him sped 
Unshrived to that accounting dread ; if yet your pious 

care. 
Oh, Pontiffs, may prevail to bend his stubborn heart 

to prayer." 
Said Bishop Ere, — the kinsman he of Ere of Slane, — 

" The ban 
Already has gone duly forth against the impious man : 
And till the power that laid it on, that sentence shall 

reverse. 
He who to Kellach proffers grace, is partner in his curse." 
Said Senach, " No authentic note to me has yet arrived 
Of such a sentence. If he will, the Senior shall be 

shrived." 
" I know the man," said Ronan Finn. " A Pagan 

strong : beware 
Lest he repay with blasphemy your proffered call to 

prayer." 
While thus the Prelates ; from their side, as strong- 
cast javelin, sent 
From palm of long-armed warrior, a swift battalion went 
And, breaking through the hindmost line, where Kellach 

sat hard by, 
Took him alive ; and chair and man uphoisting shoulder- 
high, 
They bore him back, his hoary locks and red eyes gleaming 

far. 
The grimmest standard yet displayed that day o'er all 

the war ; 



380 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

And grimly, where they set him down, he eyed the 

encircling ring 
Of Bishops and of chafing Chiefs who stood about the 

King. 
Then, with his crozier's nether end turned towards 

him, Bishop Ere 
Said, " Wretch abhorred, to thee it is we owe this bloody 

work ; 
By whose malignant counsel moved, thy hapless nephew 

first 
Sought impious aid of foreigners ; for which be thou 

accurst.' 
And turned and left them. 

Senach then approaching, mildly said, 
" No curse so strong, but in the blood for man's redemp- 
tion shed, 
May man dissolve ; and also thou, unhappy, if thou 

wilt, 
May'st purchase peace and pardon now, and every 

stain of guilt 
That soils thy soul, may'st wash away ; if but with 

heart sincere 
Thou wilt repent thee, and embrace the heavenly boon 

which here 
I offer." 

" Speak him louder, Sir," said harsher Ronan 
Finn. 
" Kellach, repent thy sins," he cried ; " and presently 

begin : 
For few the moments left thee now : and, ere the hour 

be past. 
Thy lot may, for eternity, in Heaven or Hell be cast." 



CONGAL. 381 

" Repent thy sins," said Domnal ; " and implore the 
Church's grace ; 

So shall thy life be spared thee yet a little breathing- 
space." 
Then Kellach from the Bishops' gaze withdrew his 
wavering glance, 

And, fixing his fast-glazing eyes on Domnal's counten- 
ance, 

Said, " I am old, and mainly deaf ; and much of what 
they say 

I hear not : but I tell thee this ; we'd not be here 
to-day 

But for this trick of cursing ; wherein much more expert 

Are these front-shaven Druids than in any manly art." 
" Injurious Kellach," said the King, " beware the 
chastening rod 

The Church of Christ reserves for those who mock 
the priests of God." 
" Of no good God are these the priests," said Kellach ; 
" and, for me, 

I ne'er sought evil Spirit's aid 'gainst any enemy : 

But what I've learned in better times among my noble 
peers. 

That I have practised and upheld for well-nigh four- 
score years ; 

And never asked from clerk or witch, by sacrifice or 
charm. 

To buy a demon's venal help to aid my own right arm ; 

But in my house, good Poets, men expert in song and 
lay, 

I've kept, in bounteous sort, to teach my sons the pros- 
perous way 



382 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Of open truth and manliness : for, ever since the time 
When Cathbad smothered Usnach's sons in that foul 

sea of slime 
Raised by abominable spells at Creeveroe's bloody 

gate, 
Do ruin and dishonour still on priest-led Kings await. 
Wherefore, by Fergus, son of Roy, ere that year pass'd 

away, 
Emania was left bare and black ; and so lies at this 

day : 
And thou in desert Tara darest not, thyself, to dwell, 
Since that other bald magician, of Lorrah, from his 

bell 
Shook out his maledictions on the unoffending hill." 
Said Domnal, " By my valour, old man, thou doest 

ill, 
Comparing blessed Saints of Christ with Pagan priests 

of Crom." 
" Crom, or whomever else they serve," said Kellach ; 

" them that come 
Cursing, I curse." 

Then Ronan Finn, upheaving high his bell, 
Rang it, and gave the banning word ; and Kellach 

therewith fell 
Off his tolg side upon the ground, stone dead. The 

Poets there. 
Next night, in secret, buried him upon his brazen 

chair. 
Brass-armed complete for standing fight, in Cahir- 

Laery's wall. 
Sun-smitten Laery, rampart-tomb'd, awaits the judgment- 
call, 



CONGAL. 383 

Facing the Leinstermen ; years roll ; and Leinster is 
no more 

The dragon-den of hostile men it was in days of yore ; 

Still, constant till the day of doom, while the great stone- 
work lasts, 

Laery stands listening for the trump, at whose wall- 
bursting blasts 

He leaps again to fire thy plain, oh LifFey, with the 
glare 

Of that dread golden-bordered shield : thus ever, on 
his chair, 

Kellach awaits from age to age, the coming of the time 

Will bring the cursers and the curs'd before the Judge 
sublime. 
But, rapt in darkness and in swoon of anguish and 
despair, 

As in a whirlwind, Congal Claen seemed borne thro' 
upper air ; 

And, conscious only of the grief surviving at his heart, 

Now deemed himself already dead, and that his death- 
less part 

Journeyed to judgment ; but before what God's or 
demon's seat 

Dared not conjecture ; though, at times, from tramp 
of giant feet 

And heavy flappings heard in air, around and under- 
neath, 

He darkly surmised who might be the messenger of 
death 

Who bore him doomward : but anon, laid softly on the 

ground, 
His mortal body with him still, and still alive he found. 



384 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Loathing the Ught of day he lay ; nor knew nor reck'd 

he where ; 
For present anguish left his mind no room for other 

care ; 
All his great heart to bursting filled with rage, remorse 

and shame, 
To think what labour come to nought, what hopes of 

power and fame 
Turned in a moment to contempt ; what hatred and 

disgrace 
Fixed thenceforth irremovably on all his name and 

race ; — 
Till Ardan's voice beside him rose, " Lo, Congal, we 

are here, 
Not, I attest all Earth and Heaven, through willing 

flight or fear : 
But, when from Kellach's last assault I caught thee to my 

car 
Fainting, a frenzy seized the steeds, and swept us from 

the war ; 
And all night long, with furious hoofs, and necks that 

scorned control. 
They've borne us northward, and have here attained 

their fated goal." 
Then Congal raised his drooping head, and saw with 

bloodshot eyes 
His native vale before him spread ; saw grassy Collin 

rise 
High o'er the homely Antrim hills. He groaned with 

rage and shame. 
" And have I fled the fiield," he cried ; " and shall my 

hapless name 



CONGAL. 385 

Become this byword of reproach ? Rise ; bear me 

back again, 
And lay me where I yet may He among the valiant slain. " 
" The steeds," said Ardan, " 'neath the yoke, behold, 

lie stiff in death. 
Here fate has fixed that thou and I shall draw our last 

of breath ; 
For I am worn with weight of years, and feebly now 

inhale 
The vital air : and newer life from mountain and from 

vale 
Rises and pushes me aside. A voice that seems to 

cry, 
* Make way ; make straight another way,' is filling earth 

and sky." 
A thought came into Congal's mind, — how sent let 

faith divine, — 
He said, " No man had ever shame or grief compared 

to mine. 
A fugitive against my will : in sacrilegious feud, 
A proud invader, shamefully by idiot hands subdued. 
But more than for myself I mourn my generous friends 

deceived, 
And all their wives and little ones of lord and sire 

bereaved." 
Tears sent from whence the thought had come, — let 

faith divine their source, — 
Rose at the thought to Congal's eyes, and pressed with 

tender force 
Unwonted passage ; and he wept, with many bitter 

sighs, 
In sudden vision of his life and all its vanities. 



386 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

As when a tempest — which, al! day, with whirhvind, 

fire and hail, 
Vexing mid-air, has hid the sight of sunshine from the 

vale, — 
Towards sunset rolls its thunders up : fast as it mounts 

on high, 
A flood of placid light re-fills the lately troubled sky ; 
Shine all the full down-sliding streams, wet blades and 

quivering sprays, 
And all the grassy-sided vales with emerald lustre blaze ; 
So, in the shower of Congal's tears, his storms of passion 

pass'd ; 
So, o'er his long distempered soul came tranquil light 

at last. 
Ere wonder in his calming mind had found reflection's 

aid. 
There came across the daisied lawn a veiled religious 

maid 
From wicket of a neighbouring close ; and, as she nearer 

drew. 
The peerless gesture and the grace indelible he knew. 
She, when she saw the wounded man was Congal, 

stood and prayed 
A little space, and trembled much : then came, and 

meekly said, 
" Sir, thou art wounded ; and I come from Brigid's cell 

hard by 
To tend thy wants, if thou wilt brook a sister's charity." 
" And is my aspect also, then, so altered," Congal 

cried, 
" That thou, Lafinda, knowest me not, that shouldst 

have been my bride ? " 



CONGAL. 387 

" Bride now of Christ," she answered low ; "I know 

thee but as one 
For whom my heavenly Spouse has died." 

" And other nuptials none 
Desire I for thee now," he said ; "for nothing now 

is mine. 
Save the fast-fleeting breath of life I hasten to resign." 
She knelt to aid him. As she knelt, light-wafted o'er 

the green. 
In shadow of a passing cloud, was flying Sweeny seen. 
Whom, when, at first, Lafinda knew, her cheek, so pale 

but now, 
And all the veil allowed to view of neck and marble brow. 
Grew red with shame. But Congal said, 

" Although the assembled host 
Have seen him fly, yet scorn him not, nor deem thy 

brother lost, 
More than his Chief, who also fled." 

" The red blood on thy cheek," 
Said Ardan, " maid, mis-seems thee not. Though 

vowed submiss and meek. 
Thou art a royal daughter still. But deem not that 

he flies, 
Impelled by dread of mortal foe. The demons of the 

skies, 
Wielding the unseen whips of God, are they who drive 

them on, 
Mad, but in no disgraceful flight unworthy Colman's 

son." 
" Sister," said Sweeny ; and he came, with light foot, 

gliding nigh ; 
" I come not hither as he comes, in sight of home to die. 



388 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

My day, indeed, is distant yet : and many a wandering 

race 
Must I with wind and shower maintain ; and many 

a rainbow chase 
Across the wet-bright meads, ere I, like him, obtain 

release 
From furious fancy's urgent stings, and lay my limbs 

in peace. 
Lo, all is changed. In Brigid's cell thou, now, a close- 
shut nun, 
That wert the assemblies pride before. I with the 

clouds and sun. 
And bellowing creatures of the glade, for comrades of 

my way. 
Roam homeless ; I, that was a king of thousands yes- 
day." 
" Grieve not for me," Lafinda said. " In Brigid's 

cell I find 
The calm enforcing discipline and humbleness of 

mind 
My nature needed, and yet needs. And thou, my 

brother wild, 
Take ghostly counsel ; and thou, too, may'st yet be 

reconciled 
To God and reason." 

Sweeny said : " Some holy man, perchance 
May aid me ; but unless he dv/ell where morning 

sunbeams dance 
In spray of upland waterfalls, or tell his beads 

below 
Where, deep in murky mountain-clefts the moon-white 

waters flow, 



CONGAL. 389 

Small chance is his and mine to meet : for thei'e my 

path must lie ; 
And thither rise my feet to run o'er crags and hill-tops 

high. 
But not alone I course the wild. Although apart from 

men, 
Shapes of the air attend my steps, and have me in their 

ken." 
Even as he spoke, soft-rustling sounds to all their 

ears were borne. 
Such as warm winds at eve excite 'mongst brown-ripe 

rolling corn. 
All, but Lafinda, looked : but she, behind a steadfast 

lid, 
Kept her calm eyes from that she deemed a sight unholy, 

hid. 
And Congal reck'd not if the Shape that passed before 

his eyes 
Lived only on the inward film, or outward 'neath the 

skies. 
No longer soiled with stain of earth, what seemed 

his mantle shone 
Rich with innumerable hues refulgent, such as 

one 
Beholds, and thankful-hearted he, who casts abroad 

his gaze 
O'er some rich tillage-country-side, when mellow Autumn 

days 
Gild all the sheafy foodful stooks ; and broad before 

him spread, — 
He looking landward from the brow of some great sea- 
cape's head, 



390 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

Bray or Ben-Edar — sees beneath, in silent pageant 
grand, 

Slow fields of sunshine spread o'er fields of rich, corn- 
bearing land ; 

Red glebe and meadow-margin green commingling to 
the view 

With yellow stubble, browning woods, and upland tracts 
of blue ; — 

Then, sated with the pomp of fields, turns, seaward, 
to the verge 

Where, mingling with the murmuring wash made by 
the far-down surge, 

Comes up the clangorous song of birds unseen, that, 
low beneath. 

Poised off the rock, ply underfoot ; and, 'mid the blos- 
soming heath. 

And mint-sweet herb that loves the ledge rare-air'd, at 
ease reclined. 

Surveys the wide pale-heaving floor crisped by a curling 
wind ; 

With all its shifting, shadowy belts, and chasing scopes 
of green, 

Sun-strown, foam-freckled, sail-embossed, and blacken- 
ing squalls between. 

And slant, cerulean-skirted showers that with a drowsy 
sound. 

Heard inward, of ebullient waves, stalk all the horizon 
round ; 

And haply, being a citizen just 'scaped from some 
disease 

That long has held him sick indoors, now, in the brine- 
fresh breeze. 



CONGAL. 391 

Health-salted, bathes ; and says, the while he breathes 

reviving bliss, 
" I am not good enough, oh God, nor pure enough for 

this ! "— 
Such seemed its hues. His feet were set in fields of 

waving grain ; 
His head, above, obscured the sun : all round the leafy 

plain 
Blackbird and thrush piped loud acclaims : in middle 

air, breast-high, 
The lark shrill carolled : overhead, and halfway up 

the sky. 
Sailed the far eagle : from his knees, down dale and 

grassy steep. 
Thronged the dun, mighty upland droves, and mountain- 
mottling sheep. 
And by the river-margins green, and o'er the thymy meads 
Before his feet, careered, at large, the slim-knee'd, 

slender steeds. 
It passed. Light Sweeny, as it passed, went also 

from their view : 
And conscious only of her task, Lafinda bent anew 
At Congal's side. She bound his wounds, and asked 

him, " Has thy heart 
At all repented of its sins, unhappy that thou art ? " 
" My sins," said Congal, " and my deeds of strife 

and bloodshed seem 
No longer mine, but as the shapes and shadows of a 

dream : 
And I myself, as one oppressed with sleep's deceptive 

shows, 
Awaking only now to life, when life is at its close." 



392 POEMS BY SIR SAMUEL FERGUSON. 

"Oh, grant," she cried with tender joy, " Thou, who 

alone canst save. 

That this awaking be to Hght and life beyond the grave ! " 

'Twas then the long-corroded links of life's mysterious 

chain 

Snapped softly ; and his mortal change passed upon 

Congal Claen. 
As sank the limbs relaxed in death, from Brigid's 

neighbouring cell. 
With clang importunate began the Sisters' morning bell. 
She closed the eyes ; the straightened limbs in comely 

posture laid ; 
And, going with submissive steps, the call to prayer 

obeyed. 
Then Ardan spread his hands to heaven, and said, 

" I stand alone. 
Last wreck remaining of a Power and Order over-thrown, 
Much needing solace : and, ah me, not in the empty 

lore 
Of Bard or Druid does my soul find peace or comfort 

more ; 
Nor in the bells or crooked staves or sacrificial shows 
Find I the help my soul desires, or in the chaunts of 

those 
Who claim our Druids' vacant place. Alone and faint, 

I crave, 
Oh God, one ray of Heavenly Hght to help me to the 

grave, 
Such even as thou, dead Congal, hadst ; that so, these 

eyes of mine 
May look their last on f^rn-iVi an^' heaven with calmness 

such as thine." 



CONGAL. 393 

The wicket opened once again, and forth came Seniors 

four, 
Who, raising Congal on a bier, the royal body bore 
Into the consecrated close. While yet half open lay 
The wicket-gate, the distant sounds of tumult and 

affray 
Came on the breeze. 

" Old man," said one ; " approaching foes begin 
To fill the vale with death. If thou wouldst save thy 

life, come in." 
" Servants of Brigid," Ardan said. " To God be 

thankful praise, 
Who turns the hearts of men like you towards me in 

tender ways : 
Yet, since my King has found the peace I seek to share, 

outside 
Your Saint's enclosure, here will I the will of Heaven 

abide." 
" On his own head. Lord, not on ours," they said, 

" let lie the blame." 
And closed the gate ; while up the hill the hosts of 

Domnal came 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. 



183; 



1833 



The Forging of the Anchor . . Feb. Blackwood 

The Wet Wooing .... April 

L/ight and Darkness . . . Oct. 

An Irish Garland . . . .Jan. 

The Forrest-Race Romance . Feb. 

The Fairy WeU .... April 

Songs after Ber anger . . . May 

Regner Lodbrog .... June 

Nora Boyle Sept. 



Return of Claneboy 
Don Gomez and the Cid 
Pierce Bodkin 



Dialogue between 
Heart 



Head and 



Willie and Pate 

Tale of a Tub 
1834. Inaugural Ode 

Hilloa our Fancy 
1834. Athens: A Sonnet 

Grana Weal 

Captain Bey 

Sixpenny Manifesto 

Grana Weal's Garland . 

The Fairy Thorn .... 

The Forester's Complaint . 

Hardiman's " Irish Minstrelsy," 



Dec. 

Aug. Dublin Univ. Magazine 

Oct. 

Nov. 
Nov. 
Dec. 

Jan. 

Feb. 



March 



April 



The Stray Canto . , . .July 
Hardiman's " Irish Minstrelsy," 



II. 



Aug. 



Irish Storyists Sept. 

Fancy, the Scene Shifter . 
Hardiman's " Irish Minstrelsy," 



HI. 



Oct. 



395 



396 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. 



1834. 
1835. 



1836. 



1838. 



1839. 
1840. 



1840. 
1843. 
1844. 



1843, 



Hardiman's " Irish Minstrelsy," 
IV. ....... 

This number contains his trans- 
lations fron the Irish ; some 
of them included in " l,ays 
of the Western Gael," 1864. 

Hibernian Nights' Entertain- 
ments 

Shane O'Neill 

Hibernian Nights' Entertain- 
ments 



Nov. Dublin Univ. Magazine 



Hibernian Nights' Entertain- 
ments 

Three Ballads 

The Sketcher Foiled : A Poem . 

Attractions of Ireland . 

Curiosities of Irish Literature . 

Scotic Controversy .... 

The Involuntary Experimen- 
talist 

Article on the Brehon Laws . 

Sonnet : A Vision of Noses . 

Father Tom and the Pope . 
Reprinted in " Tales from 
Blackwood," and pirated 
more than once in America. 
One edition by Morhead, 
Simpson and Bond, New 
York, 1868. 

Gallery of Illustrious Irishmen — 
Petrie 

Essay, " Of the Antiquity of the 
Harp and Bagpipe in Ire- 
land," contributed to Bun- 
ting's " Ancient Music of 
Ireland " ... 

Dublin Penny Journal 

Clarendon on the Horse . 

Mrs. H. Gray's " Etruria 

Ordnance Survey Memoir 

Eugene Sue 

Burns 



Dec. 

Feb. Blackwood. 

Jan., Feb., March, April, 
June, July, Aug., Sept., 
Nov., Dec. Dublin Univ. 
Magazine. 

Jan., March, April, May 
Dublin Univ. Magazine 

Jan. 

July 

July, Sept., Dec. „ 

March, May 

June, Oct. 

Oct. Blackwood 

Knight's Penny Cyclopaedia 

May Blackwood 



Dec. Dublin Univ. Magazine 



Hodges and Smith, Dublin. 

Jan. Dublin Univ. Magazine 

Feb. 

Nov. 

April 

Dec. 

Jan. and lilarch 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. 397 

Mrs. Barrett Browning . . . Feb. iHibliti Univ. Magazine 

Petrie's Round Towers . . . April 

O'Connor's Irish Brigade . . May ,, 

Jerusalem Sept. „ 

The Welshmen of Tirawley . ,, „ 
Letter to Hallam : Henri de 

Londres ..... Nov. „ 

Irish Novelists Dec. ., 

Betham's " Etruria Celtica " . April Blackwood 

1847. Article and Poem on Thomas 

Davis Feb. 

Lines on Mangan .... May 

Architecture in Ireland . , . June Dublin Univ. Magazine 

1848. Reeves's "Ecclesiastical Antiqui- 

ties " Feb. 

" Annals of the Four Masters " . March, May 
Nineveh April 

1848. Inheritor and Economist : A 

Poem May 

1849. Ruskin's " Seven Lamps of 

Architecture " .... July 

Dublin : A Satire, after Juvenal 
Fergusson on Fortification . . Aug. 
Hungary : A Poem . . . Sept. 
Physical Geography^The Air . Nov. 
Fallacies of the Fallacies . . Dec. 

1850. Irish Tourists : Giraldus Cam- 

brensis Jan., Feb., Mar. 

Rummage Review .... Nov. 

The Siege of Dunbeg . . . Feb. Blackwood 

1851. Ruskin's " Stones of Venice " . Sept. Dublin Univ. Magazine 

1852. Celto-Scythic Progress . . March „ 
Chesney on Artillery . . . April 

1853. Clonmacnois, Clare, and Aran . Jan. and April 
Archytas and the Mariner . . April ., 
Nineveh June ,, 

1863. Westminster Abbe)' .... Sept. Blachtvood. 

1864. Lays of the Western Gael . . Bell and Daldy, London. 

Second Edition, 18S0 . . Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 

Dublin. 

1864. The Cromlech on Kuwth . . Day and Sou, London. 



398 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 



1867. 



1868. 



Lord Romilly's Irish Publica- 
tions 

Our Architecture. Dublin After- 
noon Lectures .... 

Note on the Sources and Nomen- 
clature appended to his 
wife's " Story of the Irish 
before the Conquest " . 



1872. 



1876. 



Congal 

Second Edition, 1893 . 

Preface to the " Leabhar Breac," 
as Chairman of the Com- 
mittee of Irish MSS. and 
V.P. Royal Irish Academy 



Quarterly Review. 

Bell and Daldy, London. 



Published by Bell and Sons, 
London, and included in 
the Second Edition of 
1890. 

G. Bell and Sons, London. 



Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 
Dublin. 



1877. The Widow's Cloak . . 


. Dec. Blackwood 




1878. The Gascon O'Driscol . 


. . May 




1880. Poems 


. Bell and Sons, London ; 


and 



1882. A Word with John Bright . 
Shakespearian Breviates . 

1883. The Forging of the Anchor. 

Illustrated 

1887. Ogham Inscriptions in Ireland, 

Wales and Scotland . 

This posthumously published 
book is founded on the Rhind 
Lectures delivered in Edin- 
burgh in 1884, with addi- 
tional material added. It 
w^ould have contained photo- 
graphs from all his Ogham 
casts had its author lived to 
carry out his design. 

First, Second, and Third Series 
Hibernian Nights' Enter- 
tainments 

1888. The Remains of St. Patrick 



McGee, DubUn. 
March Blackwood 
Hodges and Figgis, Dublin. 

Cassell and Co., London. 

David Douglas, Edinburgh. 



Sealy, Bryers and Walker 
Dublin. 

Sealy, Bryers and Walker, 
Dublin. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 399 

The follovvinjj is a list of the Papers by Sir Samuel Ferguson 
published in the " Transactions " and " Proceedings " of the Academy: 

PAPERS PUBUSHED IN THE " TRANSACTIONS." 

1838. On the Antiquity of the Kiliee or Boomerang. 

1867. On the Rudiments of the Common Law, discoverable in the 
published Portion of the " Seuchus Mor." 

1880. Fasciculus of Prints from Photographs of Casts of Ogham 
Inscriptions. 

1882. Sepulchral Cellae. 

1885. Patrician Documents. 

PAPERS PUBLISHED IN THE " PROCEEDINGS." 

1838. On the Antiquity of the Kiliee or Boomerang. 

Continuation of the above. 

Remarks on the late Publication of the Society of Northern 
Antiquaries. 

1 84 1. On the classification of Ancient Military Weapons found in 
Ireland. 

1863. Account of Inscribed Stones in the Sepulclrral Monument 

called " Mane Nelud," in the Department of Moriban, 
Brittany. 

Account of Further Explorations at Locmariaquer, in Brittany. 

1864. Account of Ogham Inscriptions in the Cave at Rathcroghan, 

Co. Roscommon. 

1864. On the Passage in the " Historia Auglorum " of Henry of 
Huntingdon relative to Stonehenge. 

1870-71. On the Difficulties attendant on the Transcription of 
Ogham Legends, and the Means of Removing them. 

1872. On Ancient Cemeteries at Rathcroghan, and elsewhere in 

Ireland (as affecting the question of the site of the Cemetery 
at Taltin). 

On some Evidence touching the Age of Rath-Caves. 

On some Links in the Chain of Connection between the Early 
Populations of A.sia and Central America. 

On Paper Casts of Ancient Inscriptions in the Counties of 
Galway and Mayo. 

1873. On the Ogham- Inscribed Stone of Callan Mountain, Co. Clare. 

On the Completion of the Biliteral Key to the Values of the 
Letters in the South British Ogham Alphabet. 

On the Collateral Evidences corroborating the Biliteral Key 
to the South British Ogham Alphabet. 

On the Evidences bearing on Sun-worship at Moiut Callan, 
Co. Clare. 



400 BIBLIOGRAPHY. 

1874. On an Ogham-Inscribed Stone from Mount Music, Co. Cork. 
Ou a recently discovered Ogham Inscription at Breastagh, 

in the Co. of Alayo. 
On an Ogham-Inscribed Stone (No. i) at Monataggart, Co. 

Cork. 
On Further Ogham Inscriptions discovered at Monataggart. 

1875. Additional Note on Ogham Inscriptions at Monataggart, Co. 

Cork. 
On an Ogham Inscription at MuUagh, Co. Cavan. 
On the alleged Literary Forgery respectmg Sun-worship on 

Mount Callan. 

1876. On the Ceremonial Turn called " Desiul." 

1879. On a passage in the " Confessio Patricii." 
Do. No. II. 

1880. On the Doorway of the Round Tower of Kildare. 

1882. On the Legend of Dathi. 
Presidential Address. 

1883. On some Passages in the " Confessio " of St. Patrick. 
On a Mode of Sub-Aqueous Tunnelling. 

On the Kenfig Inscription. 

On .some Passages in the " Confessio " of St. Patrick. 

EXTANT PORTRAITS OF FERGUSON. 

A .sketch in crayons by Sir F. W. Barton, taken in 1848. 
An oil painting by Miss Kate Morgan, 1880. 

A large oil painting by Miss Purser, 18S6. The property of the Royal 
Irish Academy. 



INDEX OF FIRST LINES. 

Page 
A. 

A plenteous place is Ireland for hospitable cheer, ... 60 

B. 

Bark that bears me through foam and squall, ... 57 

Bear the cup to Sanchan Torpest ; yield the bard his poet's 

meed ;......... 226 

Bird that pipest on the bough, ..... 86 

Brightest blossom of the spring ..... 47 

C. 

Come in, sweet Thought, come in ; . . . . . 90 

Come, see the Dolphin's anchor forged — 'tis at a white heat 

now ;......... 71 

Crom Crunch and his sub-gods twelve .... i 

D. 

Dear Wilde, the deeps close o'er thee ; and no more . . loi 



Enchanter who reignest ....... 46 

F. 

Farewell to fair Alba, high house of the Sun, . . . 179 

Finn on the mountain found the mangled man, . . . 13 

From England's gilded halls of state ..... 81 

Full peace was Erin's under Conary, ..... 184 

G. 

Get up, our Anna dear, from the weary spinning-wheel, . 62 

God be with the Irish host, ...... 41 

I. 

I'd wed you without herds, without money or rich array . 53 

In old OPriscol's pedigree, ...... 32 

Isaac, the generous heart conceives no ill . . . . 104 



402 



INDEX OF FIRST LINES. 



I,ittle maideu, in the rain, . 
L,one and weary as I wander'd. 



Page 
99 
43 



M. 

Misfortune's train may chase our joys, .... 58 

My breast was as a briary brake ..... 9-2 

My heart is in woe, ....... 38 

O. 

O'er Slieve Few, with noiseless tramping through the heavy- 
drifted snow, ........ 216 

Oh, had you seen the Coolun, ...... 54 

Oh, Mary, dear, oh, Mary, fair, ...... 52 

Oh, my fair Pastheen is my heart's delight, .... 50 

Once, ere God was crucified, . . . . . .117 

One day. King Fergus, Leid^ I^uthmar's son, ... 30 



Put your head, darliug, darling, darling. 



56 



R. 

Rugged land of the granite and oak, . 

S. 
Scoma Boy, the Barretts' bailiff, lewd and lame, 
Setanta, if bird-nesting in the woods. 
Since hopeless of thy love I go, . 



18 
107 
60 



The Hosting here of Congal Claen. 'Twas loud-lark- 
carolling May ........ 239 

The lions of the hill are gone, . . . . . .180 

There's a widow Lady worthy of a word of kindly tone . 95 

The shades of eve had cross'd the glen • • • • 75 

The sun has set, the stars are still ..... 49 

They err who say this long- withdrawing line ... 98 

They heaved the stone ; they heap'd the cairn : . . . 6 

Thou'rt sad . . . . . . . . .134 

To God give foremost praises ...... 94 



INDEX OF FIRST LINES 



403 



U. 

Up in the mountain solitudes, and in a rebel ring, . 

W. 
Whence ' Emain Macha ? ' And the pangs intense 
Whene'er I see soft hazel eyes .... 
When glades were green where Dublin stands to-day. 
Where the Morning's hinges turn, 
Whoever the youth who by Heaven's decree . 



Page 
65 



105 

59 

124 

83 

48 



'J.'-SOUrHfltrjRtGlOfJAL 




AA Qooe'os's'ls