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Full text of "Selections from ancient Irish poetry"

i 



PROFESSOR KUNO MEYER DEAD. 



CONNECTION 
IRELAND. 



WITH 



EAT CELTIC SCHOLAR. 



J. 

lin- 
1)1. 
Sled 
fup- 

i in 
one 
lass 
itlso 



vRvess Association message says 
i^ii^^e Zeitung " announcea the 
l^^ziK of Prof. Kuno Meyer, the 
MiC scholar, aged 61. 
of u-n in Hamburg, Dr. Meyer 
*^^ his life in Great Britain, 
w U ' Uu ifc biLJk l nifl i rt i M# ii rf i the 
llf^e Gaelic Chair at Liverpool 
l],faere he had previously held 
I»iiniiww(iiwnn Ife was Profes- 
«K§i;S$tudies in Berlin University. 
ies were in Leipzig Univer- 
1/ i (^ jquickly gained a profound 
W ■l^'lGaelic, and became a fre- 
o Ireland and Scotland in 
^^e^^is research work. His lec- 
■ A mwo countries to learned so- 
Ru*iverslty students were re- 
rrthe richness and beauty of 
^■M-js regarding the old tongue 
ons associated with it. 
fO IRELANEl. 

'Jit was claimed that by his 
' researches he restored some 
at* the Celtic civilisation which 
wafcounted or forgotten in the 
of ^ration of the German influ- 
of pe. Undou4)tedly he gave 
CasH:o Celtic studies. His pub- 
Gbeen of enormous service to 
Y.l^anguage movement, indicat- 
^r wonderful sympathy as well 
Un^s range of scholarship. 
w'llTERATURE. 
co^n exaggeration, wrote the 
'I O^Donoghue, " to say that 
bee merit consists in having 
crorld that Irish literature is 
offcollection of genealogies and 
wlis, liut that it includes some 
tranaginative work to be found 
an'Ure. For years Prof. Meyer 
rierd the view, gradually find- 
seta even in the most hostile 
TT-: Ireland alone in Western 
iii)roduciiig genuine literature 
i reigned supreme elsewhere, 
^l his point by the discovery 
?" ;f charming early fragments 
_vy— a poetry evincing an in- 
j^^d a love of nature quite 
Qiny other literature of that 
on loreover, his perfect omii- 



with 

f riis 

(1 a 
I the' 

ton- 
i.th. 
i on 
jaed 
hids 
tent 
ins- 
; P. 
;lrs, 
I by 
Mr. 
fier- 
buit 



,ark 
.P., 

vcs. 

Mice 
jick 

l^- 

khy 

<f to 
jrom 
rice, 

I N. 



duce what must remain classical versions 
of these ancient relics." Only Dr. Siger- 
son, in Mr. O'Donoghue's opinion, has 
given renderings of equal merit. 

WORKS THAT BROUGHT FAME. 

Mention may be made of such works 
"Eine Irische Version der Alexandersac 
his admirable editions of " King ami Her- 
mit," " Four Old Irish Songs of Summer 
and Winter," " Liadain and Curithir," the 
" Primer of Irish Metrics," with a valu- 
able list of the Irish Gaelic poets; "The 
Battle of Vontry," " The Irish Odyssey," 
" Hibernica Minora," and " The Voyage 
of Bran." ImH^ 

On his resignation of the'ILiverpool 
Chair in Dec, 1914, owing to anti-Geiinan 
feeling. Dr. Meyer went to America, where 
he was reported to have been an active 
agent of anti-Allied propaganda. He re- 
fused the offer of a Chair at Harvard be- 




ProfesSor Kuno Meyer. 



lAfayo 



cause of a poem by a prize-winner w'uuli 
he described as a ** shameless insult" to 
Germany. 

At the time of tlie war outbreak he was voted 
the freedom of Dublin and Cork, hut feeling ran 
so high that tlie votes were cancelled, nt»t, how- 
ever, until much controver.sy had ari.sen as to 
whether such honours should not have ^onf to 
him as the great scholar, apart from '■■i "■■ 





the ppesence of this Book 



in 



the].rn. kelly liBRAPy 

has Been made possiBle 

thRouqh the qeneRosity 



of 



Stephen B. Roman 

From the Library of Daniel Binchy 



r^ 



^dJi. 



SELECTIONS FROM 
ANCIENT IRISH POETRY 




Selections from 

Ancient Irish Poetry 



TRANSLATED BY 

KUNO MEYER 



LONDON 
CONSTABLE & COMPANY Ltd 

lo ORANGE STREET LEICESTER SQUARE W.C. 
I9II 



TO 

EDMUND KNOWLES MUSPRATT 

THE ENLIGHTENED AND GENEROUS PATRON 

OF CELTIC STUDIES 

IN THE UNIVERSITY OF LIVERPOOL 

A SMALL TOKEN 

OF AFFECTIONATE REGARD AND GRATITUDE 



INTRODUCTION 

In offering this collection of translations from 
early Irish poetry to a wider pubHc I feel that I 
am expected to give a brief account of the Htera- 
ture from which they are taken — a Uterature so 
little known that its very existence has been 
doubted or denied by some, while others, who had 
the misfortune to make its acquaintance in ill- 
chosen or inadequate renderings, have refused to 
recognise any merit in it. The bias and ignorance 
of English historians and of many professed 
students of Irish history, who continue to write 
without a first-hand knowledge of its sources, 
have also reacted unfavourably upon the study of 
Irish literature. Slowly, however, the fact is 
becoming recognised in ever wider circles that the 
vernacular literature of ancient Ireland is the 
most primitive and original among the literatures 
of Western Europe, and that in its origins and de- 
velopment it affords a most fascinating study. 
Whatever may be its intrinsic merit, its import- 
ance as the earliest voice from the dawn of West 
European civilisation cannot be denied. 

Time and again in the course of their history 
the nations of Western and Northern Europe 
have had to struggle hard for the preservation 
of their national life against a powerful denational- 
ising influence proceeding from Rome. Those 
among them who underwent the Roman conquest 
lost early, together with their liberty, their most 
precious national possession, their native language 
and with it their vernacular literature. Less than 
a century after the slaughter of Vercingetorix 
vii 



Romanised Gauls were carrying off the palm of 
Roman eloquence. By the fifth century the 
Gaulish language was everywhere extinct, without 
having left behind a single record of its literature. 
The same fate was shared by all Celtic nationalities 
of the Continent, and by those numerous Germanic 
tribes that were conquered by Rome, or came 
within the sphere of the later Roman civilisation. 
In Britain, where the Roman occupation was only 
temporary, its denationahsing effect may be 
gauged by the numerous Latin loan-words pre- 
served to the present day in the Welsh language, 
by the partial Romanisation of British personal 
proper names, by the early inscribed stones, which, 
unlike those of Ireland, are all in Latin, and by 
the late and slow beginnings of a literature in the 
vernacular. 

It was only on the outskirts of the Continental 
world, and beyond the sway and influence of the 
Roman Empire, that some vigorous nations pre- 
served their national institutions intact, and 
among them there are only three whom letters 
reached early enough to leave behind some record 
of their pagan civilisation in a vernacular litera- 
ture. These were the Irish, the Anglo-Saxons, 
and, comparative latecomers, the Icelanders. 

Again, when Christianity came with the autho- 
rity of Rome and in the Latin language, now 
imbued with an additional sanctity, there ensued 
in all nations a struggle between the vernacular 
and the foreign tongue for obtaining the rank of 
a literary language — a struggle from which the 
languages of the Continental nations, as well as of 
Britain, emerged only slowly and late. It is not 
viii 



till the end of the eleventh century that we find 
the beginnings of a national literature in France 
and Germany. In Ireland, on the other hand, 
which had received her Christianity not direct 
from Rome but from Britain and Gaul, and 
where the Church, far removed from the centre 
of Roman influence and cut off from the rest of 
Christendom, was developing on national lines, 
vernacular hterature received a fresh impulse 
from the new faith. A flourishing primitive 
Christian literature arose. The national language 
was employed not only for the purposes of instruc- 
tion and devotion, in tombstone or other inscrip- 
tions, but also in religious prose and poetry, and, 
still more remarkable, in learned writings. There 
can, I think, be little doubt that we should hardly 
have any early records of Anglo-Saxon literature 
if the EngHsh had not in the first instance received 
Christianity from the Irish. It had been the 
influence and example of those Irish missionaries 
who converted Northumberland that taught the 
AngHan monk to preserve and cultivate his 
national literature. 

Ireland had become the heiress of the classical 
and theological learning of the Western Empire 
of the third and fourth centuries, and a period 
of humanism was thus ushered in which reached 
its culmination during the sixth and following 
centuries, the Golden Age of Irish civilisation. 
The charge that is so often levelled against Irish 
history, that it has been, as it were, in a backwater, 
where only the fainter wash of the larger currents 
reaches, cannot apply to this period. For once, 
at any rate, Ireland drew upon herself the eyes 
ix 



of the whole world, not, as so often in later times, 
by her unparalleled sufferings, but as the one haven 
of rest in a turbulent world overrun by hordes of 
barbarians, as the great seminary of Christian and 
classical learning, ' the quiet habitation of sanctity 
and literature,' as Doctor Johnson called her in 
a memorable letter written to Charles O'Connor. 
Her sons, carrying Christianity and a new human- 
ism over Great Britain and the Continent, became 
the teachers of whole nations, the counsellors of 
kings and emperors. For once, if but for a century 
or two, the Celtic spirit dominated a large part 
of the Western world, and Celtic ideals imparted a 
new life to a decadent civilisation until they 
succumbed, not altogether to the benefit of man- 
kind, before a mightier system — that of Rome. 

It was during this period that the oral literature, 
handed down by many generations of bards and 
story-tellers, was first written down in the 
monasteries. Unfortunately, not a single tale, 
only two or three poems, have come down to us 
from these early centuries in contemporary manu- 
scripts. In Ireland nearly all old MSS. were de- 
stroyed during the Viking terror which burst upon 
the island at the end of the eighth century.^ 
But, from the eleventh century onward, we have 
an almost unbroken series of hundreds of MSS. 
in which all that had escaped destruction was 
collected and arranged. Many of the tales and 
poems thus preserved were undoubtedly originally 
composed in the eighth century ; some few per- 
haps in the seventh ; and as Irish scholarship 

^ The poems referred to have been preserved in Conti- 
nental manuscripts. 

X 



advances, it is not unlikely that fragments of 
poetry will be found which, from Unguistic or 
internal evidence, may be claimed for the sixth 
century. 

The Celtic nations stand almost alone in this, 
that they did not employ poetry for epical narra- 
tive. There are no ancient Irish epics or ballads. 
So much was prose the natural vehicle of expres- 
sion for Gaelic narrative, that when in later 
centuries the Arthurian epics were done into 
GaeUc, they were all turned from poetry into prose. 
At the same time, most Irish tales and stories 
are interspersed with lyrics put into the mouth 
of the principal heroes, after the manner of the 
cante fable, most familiar to modern readers from 
the French story of Aucassin et Nicolete. My col- 
lection begins with a few specimens of such poems. 

The purely lyrical poetry of ancient Ireland 
may be roughly divided into two sections — that of 
the professional bard attached to the court and 
person of a chief ; and that of the unattached 
poet, whether monk or itinerant bard. 

From the earliest times we know the names of 
many famous bards of ancient Ireland and Scot- 
land. Their songs are interwoven with the history 
of the dynasties and the great houses of the country 
whose retainers they were, and whose joys and 
sorrows they shared and expressed. Thus they 
became the chroniclers of many historical events. 
Of the oldest bardic poetry very little has as yet 
been published, and less translated. But many 
fine examples of a later age will be found in 
Standish Hayes O'Grady's Catalogue of Irish 
Manuscripts in the British Museum, a book which 
xi 



makes one realise more clearly than any other 
that the true history of Ireland has never yet 
been written. My own specimens from the earlier 
centuries include several laments and a sword- 
song, a species of bardic composition which the 
Gaels share with the Norse. 

Rehgious poetry ranges from single quatrains 
to lengthy compositions dealing with all the 
varied aspects of rehgious life. Many of them 
give us a fascinating insight into the peculiar 
character of the early Irish Church, which differed 
in so many ways from the rest of the Christian 
world. We see the hermit in his lonely cell, the 
monk at his devotions or at his work of copying 
in the scriptorium or under the open sky ; or we 
hear the ascetic who, alone or with twelve chosen 
companions, has left one of the great monasteries 
in order to live in greater solitude among the woods 
or mountains, or on a lonely island. The fact 
that so many of these poems are fathered upon 
well-known saints emphasises the friendly attitude 
of the native clergy towards vernacular poetry. 

In Nature poetry the Gaelic muse may vie with 
that of any other nation. Indeed, these poems 
occupy a unique position in the literature of the 
world. To seek out and watch and love Nature, 
in its tiniest phenomena as in its grandest, was 
given to no people so early and so fully as to the 
Celt. Many hundreds of Gaehc and Welsh poems 
testify to this fact.^ It is a characteristic of these 

^ See the admirable paper by Professor Lewis Jones on 
' The Celt and the Poetry of Nature,' in the Transactions 
of the Hon. Society of Cymmrodorion, Session 1892-93, 
p. 46 ff. 

xii 



poems that in none of them do we get an elaborate 
or sustained description of any scene or scenery, 
but rather a succession of pictures and images 
which the poet, Uke an impressionist, calls up 
before us by light and skilful touches. Like the 
Japanese, the Celts were always quick to take an 
artistic hint ; they avoid the obvious and the 
commonplace ; the half-said thing to them is 
dearest. 

Of ancient love-songs comparatively little has 
come down to us. What we have are mostly 
laments for departed lovers. He who would have 
further examples of Gaelic love-poetry must turn 
to modern collections, among which the Love- 
Songs of Connaught, collected and translated by 
Douglas Hyde, occupy the foremost place. 

A word on the metrical system of Irish poetry 
may conclude this rapid sketch. The original type 
from which the great variety of Irish metres has 
sprung is the catalectic trochaic tetrameter of 
Latin poetry, as in the well-known popular song 
of Caesar's soldiers : — 

' Caesar Gallias subegit, Nicomedes Caesarem, 
Ecce Caesar nunc triumphat qui subegit Gallias ' ; 

or in St. Hilary's Hymnus in laudem Christi, 
beginning : — 

' Ymnum dicat turba fratrum, ymnum cantus 

personet, 
Christo regi concinentes laudem demus debitam.' 

The commonest stanza is a quatrain consisting of 
four heptasyllabic lines with the rhyme at the end 
of the couplet. In my renderings I have made 
no attempt at either rhythm or rhyme ; but I 
xiii 



have printed the stanzas so as to show the structure 
of the poem. For merely practical reasons I have, 
in some cases, printed them in the form of couplets, 
in others in that of verse-hnes. 

I must not conclude without recording here 
also, as I have done elsewhere, my gratitude for 
the constant help and advice given to me in these 
translations by my old friend and colleague. 
Professor J. M. Mackay. 

K. M. 



XIV 



CONTENTS 



MYTH AND SAGA- 



THE ISLES OF THE HAPPY . 
THE sea-god's address TO BRAN 
THE TRYST AFTER DEATH . 
DEIRDRE'S farewell to SCOTLAND 

deirdre's lament 

the hosts of faery . 

from the vision of mac conglinne 



PAGE 

3 

7 

9 

IS 

17 

19 

20 



RELIGIOUS POETRY— 

THE deer's CRY 

AN EVEN-SONG 

PATRICK'S BLESSING ON MUNSTER 

THE hermit's SONG 

A PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN 

eve's LAMENT 

ON THE FLIGHTINESS OF THOUGHT . 

TO CRINOG 

THE devil's tribute TO MOLING 
MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL 
THE mothers' LAMENT AT THE SLAUGHTER OF 
THE INNOCENTS 



25 
28 

29 

30 
32 

34 
35 
37 

39 
41 

42 



SONGS OF NATURE- 
KING AND HERMIT 
SONG OF THE SEA 
SUMMER HAS COME 
SONG OF SUMMER 
SUMMER IS GONE 
A SONG OF WINTER 
ARRAN . 



47 
51 
53 
54 
56 
57 
59 



XV 



LOVE POETRY- 
PAGE 

THE SONG OF CREDE, DAUGHTER OF GUARE . 63 

LIADIN AND CURITHIR 65 

BARDIC POETRY— 

a dirge for king niall of the nine hostages 69 

the song of carroll's sword ... 72 

eochaid's lament 75 

lament on king malachy ii 77 

MISCELLANEOUS— 

THE MONK AND HIS PET CAT . . . . 81 

COLUM CILLE'S GREETING TO IRELAND . . 83 

ON ANGUS THE CULDEE 86 

COLUM CILLE THE SCRIBE 87 

THE LAMENT OF THE OLD WOMAN OF BEARE . 88 

THE DESERTED HOME 92 

CORMAC MAC CULENNAIN SANG THIS . . 94 

ALEXANDER THE GREAT 95 

QUATRAINS - 

THE SCRIBE 99 

ON A DEAD SCHOLAR 99 

THE CRUCIFIXION 99 

THE PILGRIM AT ROME lOO 

HOSPITALITY lOO 

THE BLACKBIRD lOO 

MOLING SANG THIS lOO 

THE CHURCH BELL IN THE NIGHT . . .101 

THE VIKING TERROR lOI 

FROM THE TRIADS OF IRELAND ... 102 

FROM THE INSTRUCTIONS OF KING CORMAC 105 

NOTES m 



XVI 



MYTH AND SAGA 



THE ISLES OF THE HAPPY 

Once when Bran, son of Feval, was with his warriors in 
his royal fort, they suddenly saw a woman in strange 
raiment upon the floor of the house. No one knew whence 
she had come or how she had entered, for the ramparts 
were closed. Then she sang these quatrains to Bran 
while all the host were listening. 

I bring a branch of Evin's ^ apple-tree, 
In shape alike to those you know : 
Twigs of white silver are upon it, 
Buds of crystal with blossoms. 

There is a distant isle, 

Around which sea-horses glisten : 

A fair course against the white-swelling surge — 

Four pedestals uphold it. 

A delight of the eyes, a glorious range 
Is the plain on which the hosts hold games : 
Coracle contends against chariot 
In Silver- white Plain ^ to the south. 

Pedestals of white bronze underneath 
Glittering through ages of beauty : 
Fairest land throughout the world, 
On which the many blossoms drop. 

An ancient tree there is in bloom, 
On which birds call to the Hours : 
In harmony of song they all are wont 
To chant together every Hour. 

Colours of every shade gUsten 
Throughout the gentle- voiced plains : 
Joy is known, ranked around music. 
In Silver-cloud Plain ^ to the south. 

^ The name of one of the Isles of the Happy. 
3 



Unknown is wailing or treachery 
In the homely cultivated land : 
There is nothing rough or harsh, 
But sweet music striking on the ear. 

Without grief, without gloom, without death. 

Without any sickness or debility — 

That is the sign of Evin : 

Uncommon is the like of such a marvel. 

A beauty of a wondrous land, 
Whose aspects are lovely. 
Whose view is wondrous fair. 
Incomparable is its haze.^ 

Then if Silverland ^ is seen. 
On which dragon-stones and crystals drop — 
The sea washes the wave against the land, 
A crystal spray drops from its mane. 

Wealth, treasures of every hue 

Are in the Land of Peace ^ — a beauty of freshness : 

There is Ustening to sweet music. 

Drinking of the choicest wine. 

Golden chariots on the plain of the sea 
Heaving with the tide to the sun : 
Chariots of silver on the Plain of Sports,^ 
And of bronze that has no blemish. 

Steeds of yellow gold are on the sward there. 
Other steeds with crimson colour, 
Others again with a coat upon their backs 
Of the hue of all-blue heaven. 

^ ' Ese vapor transparente y dorado, que solo se ve en 
los climas meridionales.' 
* The name of one of the Isles of the Happy. 

4 



At sunrise there comes 

A fair man illumining level lands : 

He rides upon the white sea-washed plain, 

He stirs the ocean till it is blood. 

A host comes across the clear sea. 
They exhibit their rowing to the land : 
Then they row to the shining stone 
From which arises music a hundredfold. 

It sings a strain unto the host 
Through ages long, it is never weary : 
Its music swells with choruses of hundreds — 
■ They expect neither decay nor death. 

Many-shaped Evna by the sea, 

Whether it be near, whether it be far — 

In which are thousands of many-hued women. 

Which the clear sea encircles. 

If one has heard the voice of the music, 

The chorus of httle birds from the Land of Peace, 

A band of women comes from a height 

To the plain of sport in which he is. 

There comes happiness with health 
To the land against which laughter peals : 
Into the Land of Peace at every season 
Comes everlasting joy. 

Through the ever-fair weather 

Silver is showered on the lands, 

A pure-white chff over the range of the sea 

Receives from the sun its heat. 

There are thrice fifty distant isles 
In the ocean to the west of us : 
Larger than Erin twice 
Is each of them, or thrice. 
5 



A wonderful child will be born after ages, 
Who will not be in lofty places, 
The son of a woman whose mate is unknown, 
He will seize the rule of the many thousands. 

A rule without beginning, without end. 

He has created the world so that it is perfect : 

Earth and sea are His — 

Woe to him that shall be under His unwill ! 

'Tis He that made the heavens, 

Happy he that has a white heart ! 

He will purify multitudes with pure water, 

'Tis He that will heal your sicknesses. 

Not to all of you is my speech. 
Though its great marvel has been revealed : 
Let Bran Usten from the crowd of the world 
To the wisdom told to him. 

Do not sink upon a bed of sloth ! 
Let not intoxication overcome thee ! 
Begin a voyage across the clear sea, 
If perchance thou mayst reach the Land of 
Women. 



THE SEA-GOD'S ADDRESS TO BRAN 

Then on the morrow Bran went upon the sea. When he 
had been at sea two days and two nights, he saw a man 
in a chariot coming towards him over the sea. It was 
Manannan, the son of Ler, who sang these quatrains to 
him. 

To Bran in his coracle it seems 

A marvellous beauty across the clear sea : 

To me in my chariot from afar 

It is a flowery plain on which he rides. 

What is a clear sea 

For the prowed skiff in which Bran is, 

That to me in my chariot of two wheels 

Is a deUghtful plain with a wealth of flowers. 

Bran sees 

A mass of waves beating across the clear sea : 
I see myself in the Plain of Sports 
Red-headed flowers that have no fault. 

Sea-horses glisten in summer 
As far as Bran can stretch his glance : 
Rivers pour forth a stream of honey 
In the land of Manannan, son of Ler. 

The sheen of the main on which thou art, 

The dazzHng white of the sea on which thou rowest 

about — 
Yellow and azure are spread out. 
It is a Hght and airy land. 

Speckled salmon leap from the womb 
Out of the white sea on which thou lookest : 
They are calves, they are lambs of fair hue. 
With truce, without mutual slaughter. 
7 



Though thou seest but one chariot-rider 
In the Pleasant Plain of many flowers, 
There are many steeds on its surface, 
Though them thou seest not. 

Large is the plain, numerous is the host, 
Colours shine with pure glory, 
A white stream of silver, stairs of gold 
Afford a welcome with all abundance. 

An enchanting game, most delicious. 
They play over the luscious wine. 
Men and gentle women under a bush. 
Without sin, without transgression. 

Along the top of a wood 
Thy coracle has swum across ridges, 
There is a wood laden with beautiful fruit 
Under the prow of thy little skiff. 

A wood with blossom and with fruit 
On which is the vine's veritable fragrance, 
A wood without decay, without defect. 
On which is a foliage of a golden hue. 

We are from the beginning of creation 
Without old age, without consummation of clay. 
Hence we expect not there might be frailty — 
Transgression has not come to us. 

Steadily then let Bran row ! 
It is not far to the Land of Women : 
Evna with manifold bounteousness 
He will reach before the sun is set. 



THE TRYST AFTER DEATH 

Fothad Canann, the leader of a Connaught warrior-band, 
had carried off the wife of Ahll of Munster with her con- 
sent. The outraged husband pursued them and a fierce 
battle was fought, in which Fothad and Alill fell by each 
other's hand. The lovers had engaged to meet in the 
evening after the battle. Faithful to his word, the spirit 
of the slain warrior kept the tryst and thus addressed his 
paramour : 



Hush, woman, do not speak to me ! My thoughts 

are not with thee. 
My thoughts are still in the encounter at 

Feic. 



My bloody corpse Ues by the side of the Slope of 

two Brinks j 
My head all unwashed is among warrior-bands in 

fierce slaughter. 

It is bhndness for any one making a tryst to set 

aside the tryst with Death : 
The tryst that we made at Claragh has been kept 

by me in pale death. 

It was destined for me, — unhappy journey ! at 
Feic my grave had been marked out ; 

It was ordained for me — O sorrowful fight ! to 
fall by warriors of another land. 



'Tis not I alone who in the fulness of desires has 

gone astray to meet a woman — 
No reproach to thee, though it was for thy sake — 

wretched is our last meeting ! 
Had we known it would be thus, it had not been 

hard to desist, 

9 



The noble-faced, grey-horsed warrior-band has 

not betrayed me, 
Alas ! for the wonderful yew-forest/ that they 

should have gone into the abode of clay ! 

Had they been alive, they would have revenged 
their lords ; 

Had mighty death not intervened, this warrior- 
band had not been unavenged by me. 

To their very end they were brave ; they ever strove 

for victory over their foes ; 
They would still sing a stave — a deep-toned shout, 

— they sprang from the race of a noble lord. 

That was a joyous, lithe-limbed band to the very 

hour when they were slain : 
The green-leaved forest has received them — it was 

an all-fierce slaughter. 

Well-armed Domnall, he of the red draught, he 
was the Lugh ^ of the well-accoutred hosts : 

By him in the ford — it was doom of death — Congal 
the Slender fell. 

The three Eoghans, the three Flanns, they were 

renowned outlaws ; 
Four men fell by each of them, it was not a 

coward's portion. 

Swiftly Cu-Domna reached us, making for his 

namesake : 
On the hill of the encounter the body of Flann the 

Little will be found. 

1 A kenning for a band of warriors. ' The flowers of 
the forest have all wede away.* 
' A famous mythical hero. 
10 



With him where his bloody bed is thou wilt find 

eight men : 
Though we thought them feeble, the leavings of 

the weapon of Mughirne's son. 

Not feebly fights Falvey the Red ; the play of his 

spear-strings withers the host ; 
Ferchorb of radiant body leapt upon the field and 

dealt seven murderous blows. 

Front to front twelve warriors stood against me 

in mutual fight : 
Not one of them all remains that I did not leave 

in slaughter. 

Then we two exchanged spears, I and Alill, 

Eoghan's son : 
We both perished — O the fierceness of those stout 

thrusts ! 
We fell by each other though it was senseless : it 

was the encounter of two heroes. 



Do not await the terror of night on the battle-field 

among the slain warriors : 
One should not hold converse with ghosts ! betake 

thee home, carry my spoils with thee ! 

Every one will tell thee that mine was not the 

raiment of a churl : 
A crimson cloak and a white tunic, a belt of silver, 

no paltry work ! 

My five-edged spear, a murderous lance, whose 

slaughters have been many ; 
A shield with five circles and a boss of bronze, by 

which they used to swear binding oaths. 
II 



The white cup of my cup-bearer, a shining gem, 
will glitter before thee j 

My golden finger-ring, my bracelets, treasures with- 
out a flaw. King Nia Nar had brought them 
over the sea, 

Cailte's brooch, a pin with luck, it was one of his 

marvellous treasures : 
Two heads of silver round a head of gold, a goodly 

piece, though small. 

My draught-board — no mean treasure ! — is thine ; 

take it with thee. 
Noble blood drips on its rim, it lies not far hence. 

Many a body of the spear-armed host lies here and 

there around its crimson woof ; 
A dense bush of the ruddy oak-wood conceals it 

by the side of the grave. 

As thou carefully searchest for it thou shouldst 

not speak much : 
Earth never covered anything so marvellous. 

One half of its pieces are yellow gold, the other 

are white bronze ; 
Its woof is of pearls ; it is the wonder of smiths 

how it was wrought. 

The bag for its pieces, — 'tis a marvel of a story — 
its rim is embroidered with gold ■ 

The master-smith has left a lock upon it which no 
ignorant person can open. 

A four-cornered casket, — it is but tiny — made of 

coils of red gold ; 
One hundred ounces of white bronze have been put 

into it firmly. 

12 



For it is of a coil of firm red gold, Dinoll the gold- 
smith brought it over the sea ; 

Even one of its clasps only has been priced at seven 
slave-women. 1 

Memories describe it as one of Turvey's master- 
works : 

In the time of Art — he was a luxurious king — 
'tis then Turvey, lord of many herds, made it. 

Smiths never made any work comparable with 

it; 
Earth never hid a king's jewel so marvellous. 

If thou be cunning as to its price, I know thy 
children will never be in want ; 

If thou hoard it, a close treasure, none of thy off- 
spring will ever be destitute. 

There are around us here and there many spoils 

of famous luck : 
Horrible are the huge entrails which the Morrigan ^ 

washes. 

She came to us from the edge of a spear, 'tis she 

that egged us on. 
Many are the spoils she washes, terrible the hateful 

laugh she laughs. 

She has flung her mane over her back — it is a stout 
heart that will not quail at her : 

Though she is so near to us, do not let fear over- 
come thee ! 

^ A slave-woman (rated at three cows) was the standard 
of value among the ancient Irish. 
* A battle-goddess. 

13 



In the morning I shall part from all that is human, 

I shall follow the warrior-band ; 
Go to thy house, stay not here, the end of the night 

is at hand. 

Some one will at all times remember this song of 

Fothad Canann ; 
My discourse with thee shall not be unrenowned, 

if thou remember my bequest. 

Since my grave will be frequented, let a con- 
spicuous tomb be raised ; 
Thy trouble for thy love is no loss of labour. 

My riddled body must now part from thee awhile, 
my soul to be tortured by the black demon. 

Save for the worship of Heaven's King, love of this 
world is folly. 

I hear the dusky ousel that sends a joyous greeting 

to all the faithful : 
My speech, my shape are spectral — hush, woman, 

do not speak to me ! 



14 



DEIRDRE'S FAREWELL TO SCOTLAND 

A beloved land is yon land in the east, 
Alba ^ with its marvels. 
I would not have come hither ^ out of it, 
Had I not come with Noisi, 

Beloved are Dun Fidga and Dun Finn, 
Beloved is the fortress above them. 
Beloved is the Isle of the Thorn-bush, 
And beloved is Dun Sweeny. 

Caill Cuan ! 

Unto which Ainnle would go, alas ! 
Short we thought the time there, 
Noisi and I in the land of Alba. 

Glen Lay ! 

There I used to sleep under a shapely rock. 
Fish and venison and badger's fat, 
That was my portion in Glen Lay. 

Glen Massan ! 

Tall is its wild garlic, white are its stalks : 

We used to have a broken sleep 

On the grassy river-mouth of Massan. 

Glen Etive ! 

There I raised my first house. 

Dehghtful its house ! when we rose in the 

morning 
A sunny cattle-fold was Glen Etive. 

Glen Urchain ! 

That was the straight, fair-ridged glen ! 
Never was man of his age prouder 
Than Noisi in Glen Urchain. 

^ i.e. Scotland. ^ i.e. to Ireland. 

15 



Glen Da Ruadh ! 

Hail to him who hath it as an heritage ! 
Sweet is the cuckoo's voice on bending branch 
On the peak above Glen Da Ruadh. 

Beloved is Draighen over a firm beach ! 
Beloved its water in pure sand ! 
I would never have left it, from the east, 
Had I not come with my beloved. 



i6 



DEIRDRE'S LAMENT 

And Deirdre dishevelled her hair and began kissing Noisi 
and drinking his blood, and the colour of embers came 
into her cheeks, and she uttered this lay. 

Long is the day without Usnagh's Children ; 
It was never mournful to be in their company. 
A king's sons, by whom exiles were rewarded. 
Three lions from the Hill of the Cave. 

Three dragons of Dun Monidh, 

The three champions from the Red Branch : 

After them I shall not live — 

Three that used to break every onrush. 

Three darhngs of the women of Britain, 
Three hawks of Slieve GuUion, 
Sons of a king whom valour served, 
To whom soldiers would pay homage. 

Three heroes who were not good at homage. 

Their fall is cause of sorrow — 

Three sons of Cathba's daughter, 

Three props of the battle-host of Coolney. 

Three vigorous bears, 
Three lions out of Liss Una, 
Three Uons who loved their praise. 
Three pet sons of Ulster. 

That I should remain after Noisi 
Let no one in the world suppose ! 
After Ardan and Ainnle 
My time would not be long. 

Ulster's high-king, my first husband, 
I forsook for Noisi's love : 
Short my life after them, 
I will perform their funeral game. 
B 17 



After them I will not be alive — 
Three that would go into every conflict, 
Three who liked to endure hardships. 
Three heroes who never refused combat. 

man that diggest the tomb. 

And that puttest my darhng from me, 
Make not the grave too narrow, 

1 shall be beside the noble ones. 



i8 



THE HOSTS OF FAERY 

White shields they carry in their hands. 
With emblems of pale silver ; 
With ghttering blue swords, 
With mighty stout horns. 

In well-devised battle array, 
Ahead of their fair chieftain 
They march amid blue spears, 
Pale-visaged, curly-headed bands. 

They scatter the battalions of the foe. 
They ravage every land they attack, 
Splendidly they march to combat, 
A swift, distinguished, avenging host ! 

No wonder though their strength be great 
Sons of queens and kings are one and all ; 
On their heads are 
Beautiful golden-yellow manes. 

With smooth comely bodies. 
With bright blue-starred eyes. 
With pure crystal teeth, 
With thin red lips. 

Good they are at man-slajdng. 
Melodious in the ale-house. 
Masterly at making songs, 
Skilled at playing fidchell.^ 

^ A game like draughts or chess. 



19 



FROM THE VISION OF MAC CONGLINNE 

A vision that appeared to me, 
An apparition wonderful 

I tell to all : 
There was a coracle all of lard 
Within a port of New-milk Lake 

Upon the world's smooth sea. 

We went into that man-of-war, 
'Twas warrior-like to take the road 

O'er ocean's heaving waves. 
Our oar-strokes then we pulled 
Across the level of the main, 
Throwing the sea's harvest up 

Like honey, the sea-soil. 

The fort we reached was beautiful. 
With works of custards thick, 

Beyond the lake. 
Fresh butter was the bridge in front. 
The rubble dyke was fair white wheat. 

Bacon the palisade. 

Stately, pleasantly it sat, 
A compact house and strong. 

Then I went in : 
The door of it was hung beef, 
The threshold was dry bread, 

Cheese-curds the walls. 

Smooth pillars of old cheese 
And sappy bacon props 

Alternate ranged ; 
Stately beams of mellow cream. 
White posts of real curds 

Kept up the house. 

20 



Behind it was a well of wine. 
Beer and bragget in streams, 

Each full pool to the taste. 
Malt in smooth wavy sea 
Over a lard-spring's brink 

Flowed through the floor. 

A lake of juicy pottage 
Under a cream of oozy lard 

Lay 'twixt it and the sea. 
Hedges of butter fenced it round, 
Under a crest of white-mantled lard 

Around the wall outside. 

A row of fragrant apple-trees, 

An orchard in its pink-tipped bloom, 

Between it and the hill, 
A forest tall of real leeks, 
Of onions and of carrots, stood 

Behind the house. 

Within, a household generous, 
A welcome of red, firm-fed men, 

Around the fire : 
Seven bead-strings and necklets seven 
Of cheeses and of bits of tripe 

Round each man's neck. 

The Chief in cloak of beefy fat 
Beside his noble wife and fair 

I then beheld. 
Below the lofty caldron's spit 
Then the Dispenser I beheld, 

His fleshfork on his back. 

Wheatlet son of Milklet, 
Son of juicy Bacon, 
Is mine own name. 

21 



Honeyed Butter-roll 
Is the man's name 

That bears my bag. 

Haunch of Mutton 
Is my dog's name, 

Of lovely leaps. 
Lard, my wife, 
Sweetly smiles 

Across the brose. 

Cheese-curds, my daughter. 
Goes round the spit. 

Fair is her fame. 
Corned Beef is my son, 
Who beams over a cloak, 

Enormous, of fat. 

Savour of Savours 

Is the name of my wife's maid : 

Morning-early 

Across New-milk Lake she went. 

Beef-lard, my steed. 
An excellent stallion 

That increases studs ; 
A guard against toil 
Is the saddle of cheese 

Upon his back. 

A large necklace of delicious cheese-curds 

Around his back j 
His halter and his traces all 

Of fresh butter. 



22 



RELIGIOUS POETRY 



THE DEER'S CRY 

Patrick sang this hymn when the ambuscades were laid 
against him by King Loeguire (Leary) that he might 
not go to Tara to sow the faith. Then it seemed to 
those lying in ambush that he and his monks were wild 
deer with a fawn, even Benen, following them. And its 
name is ' Deer's Cry.' 

I arise to-day 

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of 

the Trinity, 
Through belief in the threeness, 
Through confession of the oneness 
Of the Creator of Creation. 

I arise to-day 

Through the strength of Christ's birth with His 

baptism, 
Through the strength of His crucifixion with 

His burial. 
Through the strength of His resurrection with 

His ascension, 
Through the strength of His descent for the 

judgment of Doom. 

I arise to-day 

Through the strength of the love of Cherubim, 

In obedience of angels. 

In the service of archangels. 

In hope of resurrection to meet with reward, 

In prayers of patriarchs. 

In predictions of prophets, 

In preachings of apostles. 

In faiths of confessors, 

In innocence of holy virgins, 

In deeds of righteous men. 

I arise to-day 

Through the strength of heaven : 

Light of sun, 

25 



Radiance of moon, 
Splendour of fire, 
Speed of lightning, 
Swiftness of wind, 
Depth of sea. 
Stability of earth, 
Firmness of rock. 

I arise to day 

Through God's strength to pilot me : 

God's might to uphold me, 

God's wisdom to guide me, 

God's eye to look before me, 

God's ear to hear me, 

God's word to speak for me, 

God's hand to guard me, 

God's way to lie before me, 

God's shield to protect me, 

God's host to save me 

From snares of devils. 

From temptations of vices, 

From every one who shall wish me ill, 

Afar and anear. 

Alone and in a multitude. 

I summon to-day all these powers between me and 

those evils. 
Against every cruel merciless power that may 

oppose my body and soul, 
Against incantations of false prophets, 
Against black laws of pagandom. 
Against false laws of heretics. 
Against craft of idolatry. 

Against spells of women and smiths and wizards. 
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body 

and soul. 

Christ to shield me to-day 
Against poison, against burning, 
26 



Against drowning, against wounding, 

So that there may come to me abundance of 

reward. 
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, 
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, 
Christ on my right, Christ on my left, 
Christ when I he down, Christ when I sit down, 

Christ when I arise, 
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me, 
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks of me, 
Christ in every eye that sees me, 
Christ in every ear that hears me. 

I arise to-day 

Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the 

Trinity, 
Through belief in the threeness. 
Through confession of the oneness 
Of the Creator of Creation. 



27 



AN EVEN-SONG 

Patrick sang this 

May Thy holy angels, O Christ, son of living God, 
Guard our sleep, our rest, our shining bed. 

Let them reveal true visions to us in our sleep, 
O high-prince of the universe, O great king of the 
mysteries ! 

May no demons, no ill, no calamity or terrifying 

dreams 
Disturb our rest, our wilhng, prompt repose. 

May our watch be holy, our work, our task. 
Our sleep, our rest without let, without break. 



28 



PATRICK'S BLESSING ON MUNSTER 

God's blessing upon Munster, 
Men, women, children ! 
A blessing on the land 
Which gives them fruit ! 

A blessing on every wealth 

Which is brought forth on their marches ! 

No one to be in want of help : 

God's blessing upon Munster ! 

A blessing on their peaks, 
On their bare flagstones, 
A blessing on their glens, 
A blessing on their ridges ! 

Like sand of sea under ships 
Be the number of their hearths : 
On slopes, on plains. 
On mountain-sides, on peaks. 



29 



THE HERMIT'S SONG 

I wish, O Son of the living God, O ancient, eternal 

King, 
For a hidden little hut in the wilderness that it 

may be my dwelUng. 

An all-grey lithe Httle lark to be by its side, 
A clear pool to wash away sins through the grace 
of the Holy Spirit. 

Quite near, a beautiful wood around it on every 

side, 
To nurse many-voiced birds, hiding it with its 

shelter. 

A southern aspect for warmth, a little brook across 

its floor, 
A choice land with many gracious gifts such as be 

good for every plant. 

A few men of sense — we will teU their number — 
Humble and obedient, to pray to the King : — 

Four times three, three times four, fit for every need. 
Twice six in the church, both north and south : — 

Six pairs besides myself. 

Praying for ever the King who makes the sun 
shine. 

A pleasant church and with the linen altar-cloth, 
a dwelling for God from Heaven i 

Then, shining candles above the pure white 
Scriptures. 

One house for all to go to for the care of the body, 
Without ribaldry, without boasting, without 
thought of evil. 

30 



This is the husbandry I would take, I would choose, 

and will not hide it : 
Fragrant leek, hens, salmon, trout, bees. 

Raiment and food enough for me from the King 

of fair fame, 
And I to be sitting for a while prajdng God in 

every place. 



31 



A PRAYER TO THE VIRGIN 

-.. Gentle Mary, noble maiden, give us help ! 

Shrine of our Lord's body, casket of the mysteries ! 

Queen of queens, pure holy maiden, 
- Pray for us that our wretched transgression be 
forgiven for Thy sake. 

— Merciful one, forgiving one, with the grace of the 

Holy Spirit, 
Pray with us the true- judging King of the goodly 
ambrosial clan. 

Branch of Jesse's tree in the beauteous hazel-wood, 

— Pray for me until I obtain forgiveness of my foul 

sins. 

Mary, splendid diadem. Thou that hast saved our 

race. 
Glorious noble torch, orchard of Kings ! 

BrilUant one, transplendent one, with the deed of 

pure chastity, 
Fair golden illumined ark, holy daughter from 

Heaven ! 

Mother of righteousness. Thou that excellest all 

else. 
Pray with me Thy first-born to save me on the 

day of Doom. 

Noble rare star, tree under blossom, 

Powerful choice lamp, sun that warmeth every one. 

Ladder of the great track by which every saint 

ascends, 
Mayst Thou be our safeguard towards the glorious 

Kingdom. 

32 



Fair fragrant seat chosen by the King, 
The noble guest who was in Thy womb three times 
three months. 

Glorious royal porch through which He was in- 
carnated, 

The splendid chosen sun, Jesus, Son of the living 
God. 

For the sake of the fair babe that was conceived in 

Thy womb. 
For the sake of the holy child that is High-King in 

every place. 

For the sake of His cross that is higher than any 

cross, 
For the sake of His burial when He was buried in 

a stone-tomb. 

For the sake of His resurrection when He arose 

before every one, 
For the sake of the holy household from every 

place to Doom, 

Be Thou our safeguard in the Kingdom of the good 

Lord, 
That we may meet with dear Jesus — that is our 

prayer — hail ! 



33 



EVE'S LAMENT 

I am Eve, great Adam's wife, 
'Tis I that outraged Jesus of old ; 
'Tis I that robbed my children of Heaven, 
By rights 'tis I that should have gone upon the 
cross. 

I had a kingly house to please me. 
Grievous the evil choice that disgraced me, 
Grievous the wicked advice that withered me ! 
Alas ! my hand is not pure. 

Tis I that plucked the apple. 

Which went across my gullet : 

So long as they endure in the light of day. 

So long women will not cease from folly. 

There would be no ice in any place, 
There would be no gHstening windy winter. 
There would be no hell, there would be no sorrow. 
There would be no fear, if it were not for me. 



34 



ON THE FLIGHTINESS OF THOUGHT 

Shame to my thoughts, how they stray from 

me ! 
I fear great danger from it on the day of eternal 

Doom. 

During the psalms they wander on a path that is 

not right : 
They fash, they fret, they misbehave before the 

eyes of great God. 

Through eager crowds, through companies of 

wanton women. 
Through woods, through cities — swifter they are 

than the wind. 

Now through paths of loveUness, anon of riotous 
shame ! 

Without a ferry or ever missing a step they go 

across every sea : 
Swiftly they leap in one bound from earth to 

heaven. 

They run a race of folly anear and afar : 
After a course of giddiness they return to their 
home. 

Though one should try to bind them or put 

shackles on their feet, 
They are neither constant nor mindful to take a 

spell of rest. 

Neither sword-edge nor crack of whip will keep 

them down strongly : 
As slippery as an eel's tail they glide out of my 

grasp. 

35 



Neither lock nor firm-Vaulted dungeon nor any 

fetter on earth, 
Stronghold nor sea nor bleak fastness restrains 

them from their course. 

O beloved truly chaste Christ to whom every eye 

is clear, 
May the grace of the seven-fold Spirit come to 

keep them, to check them ! 

Rule this heart of mine, O dread God of the ele- 
ments. 

That Thou mayst be my love, that I may do Thy 
will. 

That I may reach Christ with His chosen com- 
panions, that we may be together ! 
They are neither fickle nor inconstant — not as I am. 



3^ 



TO CRINOG 

Crinog, melodious is your song. 
Though young no more you are still bashful. 
We two grew up together in Niall's northern land, 
When we used to sleep together in tranquil 
slumber. 

That was my age when you slept with me, 

peerless lady of pleasant wisdom : 

A pure-hearted youth, lovely without a flaw, 
A gentle boy of seven sweet years. 

We lived in the great world of Banva ^ 
Without sullying soul or body, 
My flashing eye full of love for you. 
Like a poor innocent untempted by evil. 

Your just counsel is ever ready. 
Wherever we are we seek it : 
To love your penetrating wisdom is better 
Than glib discourse with a king. 

Since then you have slept with four men after me. 
Without folly or faUing away : 

1 know, I hear it on all sides. 

You are pure, without sin from man. 

At last, after weary wanderings. 
You have come to me again. 
Darkness of age has settled on your face : 
Sinless your life draws near its end. 

You are still dear to me, faultless one. 
You shall have welcome from me without stint ; 
You will not let us be drowned in torment : 
We will earnestly practise devotion with you. 

^ A name for Ireland. 

37 



The lasting world is full of your fame, 
Far and wide you have wandered on every track : 
If every day we followed your ways, 
We should come safe into the presence of dread 
God. 

You leave an example and a bequest 
To every one in this world. 
You have taught us by your life : 
Earnest prayer to God is no fallacy. 

Then may God grant us peace and happiness ! 

May the countenance of the King 

Shine brightly upon us 

When we leave behind us our withered bodies. 



38 



THE DEVIL'S TRIBUTE TO MOLING 

Once as Moling was praying in his church he saw 
a man coming in to him. Purple raiment he wore and 
a distinguished form had he. ' Well met, cleric ! ' 
says he. ' Amen ! ' says Moling. * Why dost thou 
not salute me ? ' says the man. ' Who art thou ? ' 
says Moling. ' I am Christ, the Son of God,' he 
answers. ' I do not know that,' says Moling. ' When 
Christ used to come to converse with God's servants, 
'twas not in purple or with royal pomp he would come, 
but in the shape of a leper.' ' Then dost thou not believe 
in me ? ' says the man. ' Whom dost thou suppose to be 
here ? ' 'I suppose,' says Moling, ' that it is the Devil 
for my hurt.' ' Thy unbeUef will be ill for thee,' says the 
man. ' Well,' says MoUng, raising the Gospel, ' here is 
thy successor, the Gospel of Christ.' ' Raise it not, 
cleric ! ' says the Devil ; ' it is as thou thinkest : I am 
the man of tribulations.' ' Wherefore hast thou come ? ' 
says Moling. ' That thou mayst bestow a blessing upon 
me.' ' I will not bestow it,' says Moling, ' for thou dost 
not deserve it. Besides, what good could it do thee ? ' 
' If,' says the Devil, ' thou shouldst go into a tub of honey 
and bathe therein with thy raiment on, its odour would 
remain upon thee unless the raiment were washed.' ' How 
would that affect thee ? ' asks Moling. ' Because, though 
thy blessing do nought else to me, its good luck and its 
virtue and its blossom will be on me externally.' ' Thou 
shalt not have it,' says Moling, ' for thou deservest it not.' 
' Well,' said the Devil, ' then bestow the full of a curse on 
me.' ' What good were that to thee ?' asks Moling. 'The 
venom and the hurt of the curse will be on the lips from 
which it will come.' ' Go,' says Mohng ; ' thou hast no right 
to a blessing.' ' Better were it for me that I had. How 
shall I earn it ? ' ' By service to God,' says Mohng. ' Woe 
is me ! ' says the Devil, ' I cannot bring it.' ' Even a 
trifle of study.' ' Thine own study is not greater, and yet 
it helps me not.' ' Fasting, then,' says Moling. ' I have 
been fasting since the beginning of the world, and not the 
better thereof am I.' ' Making genuflexions,' says Moling. 
' I cannot bend forward,' says the Devil, ' for backwards 
are my knees.' ' Go forth,' says Mohng ; ' I cannot teach 
thee nor help thee.' Then the Devil said : 

He is pure gold, he is the sky around the sun, 
He is a vessel of silver with wine, 
He is an angel, he is holy wisdom. 
Whoso doth the will of the King. 

39 



He is a bird round which a trap closes, 
He is a leaky ship in perilous danger, 
He is an empty vessel, a withered tree, 
Who doth not the will of the King above. 

He is a fragrant branch with its blossom, 

He is a vessel full of honey, 

He is a precious stone with its virtue, 

Whoso doth the will of God's Son from Heaven. 

He is a blind nut in which there is no good. 
He is a stinking rottenness, a withered tree. 
He is a branch of a blossomless crab-apple, 
Whoso doth not the will of the King. 

Whoso doth the will of God's Son from Heaven 
Is a brilliant summer-sun. 
Is a dais of God of Heaven, 
Is a pure crystalline vessel. 

He is a victorious racehorse over a smooth plain, 
The man that striveth after the Kingdom of great 

God ; 
He is a chariot that is seen 
Under a triumphant king. 

He is a sun that warms holy Heaven, 

A man with whom the Great King is pleased. 

He is a temple blessed, noble. 

He is a holy shrine bedecked with gold. 

He is an altar on which wine is dealt. 
Round which a multitude of melodies is sung, 
He is a cleansed chalice with liquor. 
He is fair white bronze, he is gold. 



40 



MAELISU'S HYMN TO THE ARCHANGEL 
MICHAEL 

O angel ! 

Bear, O Michael of great miracles, 

To the Lord my plaint. 

Hearest thou ? 

Ask of forgiving God 

Forgiveness of all my vast evil. 

Delay not ! 

Carry my fervent prayer 

To the King, to the great King ! 

To my soul 

Bring help, bring comfort 

At the hour of its leaving earth. 

Stoutly 

To meet my expectant soul 

Come with many thousand angels ! 

O soldier ! 

Against the crooked, wicked, militant world 

Come to my help in earnest ! 

Do not 

Disdain what I say ! 

As long as I live do not desert me ! 

Thee I choose. 

That thou mayst save my soul. 

My mind, my sense, my body. 

O thou of goodly counsels, 
Victorious, triumphant one, 
Angelic slayer of Antichrist ! 
41 



THE MOTHERS' LAMENT AT THE 
SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS 

Then, as the executioner plucked her son from her breast, 
one of the women said : 

Why do you tear from me my darling son, 

The fruit of my womb ? 

It was I who bore him. 

My breast he drank. 

My womb carried him about. 

My vitals he sucked, 

My heart he filled. 

He was my life, 

'Tis death to have him taken from me. 

My strength has ebbed, 

My speech is silenced. 

My eyes are blinded. 



Then another woman said : 

It is my son you take from me. 

I did not do the evil. 

But kill me — me ! 

Kill not my son ! 

My breasts are sapless. 

My eyes are wet. 

My hands shake. 

My poor body totters. 

My husband has no son. 

And I no strength. 

My hfe is hke death. 

O my own son, O God ! 

My youth without reward. 

My birthless sicknesses 

Without requital until Doom. 

My breasts are silent, 

My heart is wrung, 

42 



Then said another woman : 

Ye are seeking to kill one. 

Ye are killing many. 

Infants ye slay, 

The fathers ye wound, 

The mothers ye kill. 

Hell with your deed is full, 

Heaven is shut, 

Ye have spilt the blood of guiltless innocents. 



And yet another woman said : 

O Christ, come to me ! 

With my son take my soul quickly ! 

great Mary, Mother of God's Son, 
What shall I do without my son ? 

For Thy Son my spirit and sense are killed. 

1 am become a crazy woman for my son. 
After the piteous slaughter 

My heart is a clot of blood 
From this day till Doom. 



43 



SONGS OF NATURE 



KING AND HERMIT 

Marvan, brother of King Guare of Connaught in the 
seventh century, had renounced the life of a warrior- 
prince for that of a hermit. The king endeavoured to 
persuade his brother to return to his court, when the 
following colloquy took place between them. 

GuARE 

Why, hermit Marvan, sleepest thou not 
Upon a feather quilt ? 
Why rather sleepest thou abroad 
Upon a pitchpine floor ? 

Marvan 

I have a shieling in the wood, 

None knows it save my God : 

An ash-tree on the hither side, a hazel-bush beyond, 

A huge old tree encompasses it. 

Two heath-clad doorposts for support, 
And a lintel of honeysuckle : 
The forest around its narrowness sheds 
Its mast upon fat swine. 

The size of my shieling tiny, not too tiny, 

Many are its familiar paths : 

From its gable a sweet strain sings 

A she-bird in her cloak of the ousel's hue. 

The stags of Oakridge leap 
Into the river of clear banks : 
Thence red Roiny can be seen. 
Glorious Muckraw and Moinmoy.^ 

A hiding mane of green-barked yew 
Supports the sky : 

Beautiful spot ! the large green of an oak 
Fronting the storm. 

^ Names of well-known plains. 

47 



A tree of apples — great its bounty ! 
Like a hostel, vast ! 

A pretty bush, thick as a fist, of tiny hazel- 
nuts, 
A green mass of branches. 

A choice pure spring and princely water 
To drink : 

There spring watercresses, yew-berries, 
Ivy-bushes thick as a man. 

Around it tame swine lie down. 
Goats, pigs. 

Wild swine, grazing deer, 
A badger's brood. 

A peaceful troop, a heavy host of denizens of the 

soil, 
A-trysting at my house : 
To meet them foxes come. 
How dehghtful ! 

Fairest princes come to my house, 
A ready gathering : 
Pure water, perennial bushes, 
Salmon, trout. 

A bush of rowan, black sloes, 
Dusky blackthorns, 
Plenty of food, acorns, pure berries, 
Bare flags, 

A clutch of eggs, honey, delicious mast, 
God has sent it : 
Sweet apples, red whortleberries. 
And blaeberries. 

48 



Ale with herbs, a dish of strawberries 
Of good taste and colour, 
Haws, berries of the juniper, 
Sloes, nuts. 

A cup with mead of hazel-nut, blue-bells, 

Quick-growing rushes, 

Dun oaklets, manes of briar, 

Goodly sweet tangle. 

When brilliant summer-time spreads its coloured 

mantle, 
Sweet-tasting fragrance ! 
Pignuts, wild marjoram, green leeks. 
Verdant pureness ! 

The music of the bright red-breasted men, 
A lovely movement ! 

The strain of the thrush, famiUar cuckoos 
Above my house. 

Swarms of bees and chafers, the little musicians of 

the world, 
A gentle chorus : 
Wild geese and ducks, shortly before summer's 

end, 
- The music of the dark torrent. 

An active songster, a lively wren 
From the hazel-bough. 
Beautiful hooded birds, woodpeckers, 
A vast multitude ! 

Fair white birds come, herons, seagulls. 
The cuckoo sings between — 
No mournful music ! dun heathpoults 
Out of the russet heather. 
D 49 



The lowing of heifers in summer. 
Brightest of seasons ! 
Not bitter, toilsome over the fertile plain. 
Delightful, smooth ! 

The voice of the wind against the branchy wood 
Upon the deep-blue sky : 
Falls of the river, the note of the swan, 
Dehcious music ! 

The bravest band make cheer to me. 

Who have not been hired : 

In the eyes of Christ the ever-young I am no worse 

off 
Than thou art. 

Though thou rejoicest in thy own pleasures, 
Greater than any wealth ; 
I am grateful for what is given me 
From my good Christ. 

Without an hour of fighting, without the din of 

strife 
In my house, 

Grateful to the Prince who giveth every good 
To me in my shieUng. 

GUARE 

I would give my glorious kingship 
With the share of my father's heritage — 
To the hour of my death I would forfeit it 
To be in thy company, my Marvan. 



50 



SONG OF THE SEA 

A great tempest rages on the Plain of Ler, bold 

across its high borders 
Wind has arisen, fierce winter has slain us ; it has 

come across the sea, 
It has pierced us like a spear. 

When the wind sets from the east, the spirit of the 

wave is roused. 
It desires to rush past us westward to the land 

where sets the sun. 
To the wild and broad green sea. 



When the wind sets from the north, it urges the 

dark fierce waves 
Towards the southern world, surging in strife 

against the wide sky. 
Listening to the witching song. 

When the wind sets from the west across the salt 
sea of swift currents. 

It desires to go past us eastward towards the Sun- 
Tree, 

Into the broad long-distant sea. 

When the wind sets from the south across the land 

of Saxons of mighty shields. 
The wave strikes the Isle of Scit, it surges up to 

the summit of Caladnet, 
And pounds the grey-green mouth of the Shannon. 

The ocean is in flood, the sea is full, delightful is 

the home of ships. 
The wind whirls the sand around the estuary, 
Swiftly the rudder cleaves the broad sea. 
51 



With mighty force the wave has tumbled across 

each broad river-mouth. 
Wind has come, white winter has slain us, around 

Cantire, around the land of Alba, 
Slieve-Dremon pours forth a full stream. 

Son of the God the Father, with mighty hosts, save 
me from the horror of fierce tempests ! 

Righteous Lord of the Feast, only save me from 
the horrid blast. 

From Hell with furious tempest ! 



52 



SUMMER HAS COME 

Summer has come, healthy and free, 
Whence the brown wood is aslope ; 
The slender nimble deer leap. 
And the path of seals is smooth. 

The cuckoo sings sweet music. 
Whence there is smooth restful sleep ; 
Gentle birds leap upon the hill. 
And swift grey stags. 

Heat has laid hold of the rest of the deer- 
The lovely cry of curly packs ! 
The white extent of the strand smiles, 
There the swift sea is. 

A sound of playful breezes in the tops 
Of a black oakwood is Drum Daill, 
The noble hornless herd runs. 
To whom Cuan-wood is a shelter. 

Green bursts out on every herb. 
The top of the green oakwood is bushy. 
Summer has come, winter has gone, 
Twisted holUes wound the hound. 

The blackbird sings a loud strain. 
To him the live wood is a heritage, 
The sad angry sea is fallen asleep. 
The speckled salmon leaps. 

The sun smiles over every land, — 

A parting for me from the brood of cares 

Hounds bark, stags tryst. 

Ravens flourish, summer has come ! 



53 



SONG OF SUMMER 

Summer-time, season supreme ! 
Splendid is colour then. 
Blackbirds sing a full lay 
If there be a slender shaft of day. 

The dust-coloured cuckoo calls aloud : 
Welcome, splendid summer ! 
The bitterness of bad weather is past. 
The boughs of the wood are a thicket. 

Panic startles the heart of the deer. 
The smooth sea runs apace — 
Season when ocean sinks asleep. 
Blossom covers the world. 



Bees with puny strength carry 

A goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms ; 

Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud, 

The ant makes a rich meal. 



The harp of the forest sounds music, 
The sail gathers — perfect peace ; 
Colour has settled on every height. 
Haze on the lake of full waters. 

The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses. 
The lofty cold waterfall sings 
A welcome to the warm pool — 
The talk of the rushes has come. 

Light swallows dart aloft. 
Loud melody encircles the hill, 
The soft rich mast buds. 
The stuttering quagmire prattles. 
54 



The peat-bog is as the raven's coat, 

The loud cuckoo bids welcome, 

The speckled fish leaps — 

Strong is the bound of the swift warrior. 

Man flourishes, the maiden buds 

In her fair strong pride. 

Perfect each forest from top to ground. 

Perfect each great stately plain. 

Dehghtful is the season's splendour, 
Rough winter has gone : 
Every fruitful wood shines white, 
A joyous peace is summer. 

A flock of birds settles 

In the midst of meadows, 

The green field rustles. 

Wherein is a brawUng white stream. 

A wild longing is on you to race horses. 
The ranked host is ranged around : 
A bright shaft has been shot into the land. 
So that the water-flag is gold beneath it. 

A timorous, tiny, persistent little fellow 
Sings at the top of his voice, 
The lark sings clear tidings : 
Surpassing summer-time of delicate hues ! 



55 



SUMMER IS GONE 

My tidings for you : the stag bells. 
Winter snows, summer is gone. 

Wind high and cold, low the sun, 
Short his course, sea running high. 

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone — 
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry. 

Cold has caught the wings of birds ; 
Season of ice — these are my tidings. 



56 



A SONG OF WINTER 

Cold, cold ! 

Cold to-night is broad Moylurg, 

Higher the snow than the mountain-range. 

The deer cannot get at their food. 

Cold till Doom ! 

The storm has spread over all : ■ 

A river is each furrow upon the slope, 

Each ford a full pool. 

A great tidal sea is each loch, 

A full loch is each pool : 

Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross, 

No more can two feet get there. 

The fish of Ireland are a-roaming, 

There is no strand which the wave does not pound. 

Not a town there is in the land, 

Not a bell is heard, no crane talks. 

The wolves of Cuan-wood get 
Neither rest nor sleep in their lair, 
The little wren cannot find 
Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon. 

Keen wind and cold ice 
Has burst upon the little company of birds, 
The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking. 
Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood. 



Cosy our pot on its hook. 
Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon : 
The snow has crushed the wood here. 
Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo. 
57 



Glenn Rye's ancient bird 
From the bitter wind gets grief ; 
Great her misery and her pain. 
The ice will get into her mouth. 

From flock and from down to rise — 
Take it to heart ! — were folly for thee 
Ice in heaps on every ford — 
That is why I say ' cold ' ! 



58 



ARRAN 

Arran of the many stags, 

The sea strikes against its shoulder, 

Isle in which companies are fed. 

Ridge on which blue spears are reddened. 

Skittish deer are on her peaks, 
Delicious berries on her manes. 
Cool water in her rivers. 
Mast upon her dun oaks. 

Greyhounds are in it and beagles, 
Blackberries and sloes of the dark blackthorn, 
Her dwellings close against the woods, 
Deer scattered about her oak-woods. 

Gleaning of purple upon her rocks. 
Faultless grass upon her slopes, 
Over her fair shapely crags 
Noise of dappled fawns a-skipping. 

Smooth is her level land, fat are her swine. 
Bright are her fields. 

Her nuts upon the tops of her hazel-wood, 
Long galleys sailing past her. 

Delightful it is when the fair season comes. 
Trout under the brinks of her rivers. 
Seagulls answer each other round her white cHff , 
DeUghtful at all times is Arran ! 



59 



LOVE POETRY 



THE SONG OF CREDE, DAUGHTER OF 
GUARE 



In the battle of Aidne, Crede, the daughter of King Guare 
of Aidne, beheld Dinertach of the Hy Fidgenti, who had 
come to the help of Guare, with seventeen wounds upon 
his breast. Then she fell in love with him. He died, 
and was buried in the cemetery of Colman's Church. 



These are arrows that murder sleep 
At every hour in the bitter-cold night : 
Pangs of love throughout the day 
For the company of the man from Roiny. 

Great love of a man from another land 
Has come to me beyond all else : 
It has taken my bloom, no colour is left. 
It does not let me rest. 

Sweeter than songs was his speech. 

Save holy adoration of Heaven's King ; 

He was a glorious flame, no boastful word fell from 

his lips, 
A slender mate for a maid's side. 

When I was a child I was bashful, 
I was not given to going to trysts : 
Since I have come to a wayward age, 
My wantonness has beguiled me. 

I have every good with Guare, 

The King of cold Aidne : 

But my mind has fallen away from my people 

To the meadow at Irluachair. 

There is chanting in the meadow of glorious Aidne 
Around the sides of Colman's Church : 
Glorious flame, now sunk into the grave — 
Dinertach was his name. 
63 



It wrings my pitiable heart, O chaste Christ, 

What has fallen to my lot : 

These are arrows that murder sleep 

At every hour in the bitter-cold night. 



64 



LIADIN AND CURITHIR 

Liadin of Corkaguiney, a poetess, went visiting into the 
country of Connaught. There Curithir, himself a poet, 
made an ale-feast for her. ' Why should not we two 
unite, Liadin ? ' saith Curithir. ' A son of us two would 
be famous.' ' Do not let us do so now,' saith she, ' lest 
my round of visiting be ruined for me. If you will come 
for me again at my home, I shall go with you.' That fell 
so. Southward he went, and a single gillie behind him 
with his poet's dress in a bag upon his back, while Curithir 
himself was in a poor garb. There were spear-heads in 
the bag also. He went till he was at the well beside 
Liadin's court. There he took his crimson dress about 
him, and the heads were put upon their shafts, and he 
stood brandishing them. 

Meanwhile Liadin had made a vow of chastity ; but 
faithful to her word she went with him. They proceed 
to the monastery of Clonfert, where they put themselves 
under the spiritual direction of Cummin, son of Fiachna. 
He first imposes a slight probation upon them, allowing 
them to converse without seeing each other. Then, chal- 
lenged by Liadin, he permits them a perilous freedom. 
In the result he banishes Curithir, who thenceforward 
renounces love and becomes a pilgrim. When Liadin 
still seeks him he crosses the sea. She returns to the 
scene of their penance, and shortly dies. When all is 
over. Cummin lovingly lays the stone where she had 
mourned her love, and upon which she died, over the 
grave of the unhappy maiden. 



Curithir 

Of late 

Since I parted from Liadin, 
Long as a month is every day, 
Long as a year each month. 



Liadin 

Joyless 

The bargain I have made ! 
The heart of him I loved I wrung, 
E 65 



'Twas madness 

Not to do his pleasure, 

Were there not the fear of Heaven's King. 

Twas a trifle 

That wrung Curithir's heart against me : 

To him great was my gentleness. 

A short while I was 

In the company of Curithir : 

Sweet was my intimacy with him. 

The music of the forest 

Would sing to me when with Curithir, 

Together with the voice of the purple sea. 

Would that 

Nothing of all I have done 

Should have wrung his heart against me ! 

Conceal it not ! 

He was my heart's love. 

Whatever else I might love. 

A roaring flame 

Has dissolved this heart of mine — 

Without him for certain it cannot live. 



66 



BARDIC POETRY 



A DIRGE FOR KING N I ALL OF THE NINE 
HOSTAGES (+ A.D. 405) 

TUIRN SON OF TORNA 

When we used to go to the gathering with Echu's ^ 

son, 
Yellow as a bright primrose was the hair upon the 

head of Cairenn's ^ son. 

TORNA 

Well hast thou spoken, dear son. A bondmaid 

should be given thee 
For the sake of the hair which thou hast likened 

to the colour of the crown of the primrose. 

Eyelashes black, deUcate. equal in beauty, and 

dark eyebrows — 
The crown of the woad, a bright hyacinth, that 

was the colour of his pupils. 

TuiRN SON OF TORNA 

The colour of his cheeks at all seasons, even and 

symmetrical : 
The fox-glove, the blood of a calf — a feast without 

a flaw ! the crown of the forest in May. 

TORNA 

His white teeth, his red lips that never reproved in 

anger — 
His shape like a fiery blaze overtopping the 

warriors of Erin. 

* Niall's father. * Niall's mother. 

69 



Like the moon, like the sun, hke a fiery beacon was 

the splendour of Niall : 
Like a dragon-ship from the wave without a flaw 

was Niall, Echu's son. 

TUIRN SON OF TORNA 

This is a yearnful music, the wail of every mouth in 

Kerry — 
It increases my grief in my house for the death of 

Muredach's ^ grandson. 

Saxons will ravage here in the east, noble men of 

Erin and Alba, 
After the death of Niall, Echu's noble son — it is a 

bitter cause of reproach. 

TORNA 

Saxons with overwhelming cries of war, hosts of 

Lombards from the continent, 
From the hour in which the king fell Gael and Pict 

are in a sore straight. 

TuiRN SON OF TORNA 

Upon Tara's rampart his fair hair shone against 

his ruddy face : 
Like unto the colour of his hair is red gold or the 

yellow iris, 

TORNA 

'Twas great deUght, 'twas great peace to be in the 

company of my dear foster-son,^ 
When with Echu's son — it was no small thing — 

we used to go to the gathering. 

^ Niall's grandfather. * i.e. Niall. 

70 



TUIRN SON OF TORNA 

Darling hero of the white shoulder ! whose tribes 

are vast, a beloved host : 
Every man was under protection when we used to 

go to forgather with him. 



73 



THE SONG OF CARROLL'S SWORD 

(A.D. 909) 

Hail, sword of Carroll ! Oft hast thou been in the 

great woof of war, 
Olt giving battle, beheading high princes. 

Oft hast thou gone a-raiding in the hands of kings 

of great judgments. 
Oft hast thou divided the spoil with a good king 

worthy of thee. 

Oft where men of Leinster were hast thou been in 

a white hand, 
Oft hast thou been among kings, oft among great 

bands. 

Many were the kings that wielded thee in fight, 
Many a shield hast thou cleft in battle, many a 
head and chest, many a fair skin. 

Forty years without sorrow Enna of the noble 

hosts had thee. 
Never wast thou in a strait, but in the hands of a 

very fierce king. 

Enna gave thee — 'twas no niggardly gift — to his 

own son, to DunUng, 
For thirty years in his possession, at last thou 

broughtest ruin to him. 

Many a king upon a noble steed possessed thee 

unto Dermot the kingly, the fierce : 
Sixteen years was the time Dermot had thee. 

At the feast of Allen Dermot the hardy-born 

bestowed thee, 
Dermot, the noble king, gave thee to the man of 

Mairg, to Murigan. 

72 



Forty years stoutly thou wast in the hand of 

Allen's high-king, 
With Murigan of mighty deeds thou never wast a 

year without battle. 

In Wexford Murigan, the King of Vikings, gave 

thee to Carroll : 
While he was upon the yellow earth Carroll gave 

thee to none. 

Thy bright point was a crimson point in the battle 

of Odba of the Foreigners, 
When thou leftest Aed Finnhath on his back in 

the battle of Odba of the noble routs. 

Crimson was thy edge, it was seen ; at Belach 

Moon thou wast proved, 
In the valorous battle of Alvy's Plain throughout 

which the fighting raged. 

Before thee the goodly host broke on a Thursday 

at Dun Ochtair, 
When Aed the fierce and brilhant fell upon the 

hillside above Leafin. 

Before thee the host broke on the day when Kelly 

was slain, 
Flannagan's son, with numbers of troops, in high 

lofty great Tara. 

Before thee they ebbed southwards in the battle of 

the Boyne of the rough feats, 
When Cnogva fell, the lance of valour, at seeing 

thee, for dread of thee. 

Thou wast furious, thou wast not weak, heroic was 

thy swift force. 
When Aihll Frosach of Fdl ^ fell in the front of the 

onset. 

^ A name for Ireland. 

73 



Thou never hadst a day of defeat with Carroll of 

the beautiful garths, 
He swore no lying oath, he went not against his 

word. 

Thou never hadst a day of sorrow, many a night 

thou hadst abroad } 
Thou hadst awaiting thee many a king with 

many a battle. 

O sword of the kings of mighty fires, do not fear 

to be astray ! 
Thou shalt find thy man of craft, a lord worthy of 

thee. 

Who shall henceforth possess thee, or to whom 

wilt thou deal ruin ? 
From the day that Carroll departed, with whom 

wilt thou be bedded ? 

Thou shalt not be neglected until thou come to 

the house of glorious Naas : 
Where Finn of the feasts is they will hail thee with 

* welcome.' 



74 



EOCHAID ON THE DEATH OF KING AED 
MAC DOMNAILL UA NiifelLL i 

Aed of Ailech, beloved he was to me, 

Woe, God, that he should have died ! 

Seven years with Aed of Ath 1 — 

One month with Mael na mBd ^ would be longer ! 

Seven years I had with the King of Ross, 
DeUghtful was my time with the lord of Slemish, 
Though I were but one month with the king ip the 

south, 
I know that it would weary me. 

Many honours the king gave to me. 
To pleasure me he brought down stags : 
A herd of horses he gave to me in my day, 
The great son of the woman from Magh Ai. 

Alas, O Comgall, master of harmonies. 
That the son of Domnaill should be food for worms ! 
Alas that his face should be on the ground ! 
Alas for noble Ailech without Aed ! 

From the day that great Aed was slain 
Few men on earth but are in want : 
Since he has died that was another Lugh,^ 
It were right to shed tears of blood. 

Tara is deprived of her benefactor, 
A blight is upon his kindred, 
Torture is put upon the rays of the sun, 
Glorious Erin is without Aed. 

1 Who had fallen in the battle of Craeb Tholcha, a.d. 
1 004. 

2 King of South Leinster. 

^ A famous mythical hero. 

75 



Fair weather shines not on the mountain-side, 
Fine-clustering fruit is not enjoyed, 
The gloom of every night is dark 
Since earth was put over Aed. 

Ye folk of great Armagh, 

With whom the son of the chief lies on his back. 

Cause of reproach will come of it 

That your grave is open before Aed. 

In the battle of Craeb Tholcha in the north 
I left my fair companions behind ! 
Alas for the fruit of the heavy bloodshed 
Which severed Eochaid and Aed ! 



76 



ERARD MAC COISSE ON THE DEATH OF 
KING MALACHY lU 

Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath ! ^ 
Alas that thy lord is not alive ! 
The high-king of Meath of the pohshed walls. 
His death has thrown us off our course. 

Thou without games, without drinking of ale, 
Thou shining abode of the twisted horns ! 
After Malachy of noble shape 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath ! 

I upon the green of thy smooth knolls 
Like Ronan's son after the Fiana, 
Or like a hind after her fawn, 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath 1 

I got three hundred speckled cups. 
Three hundred steeds and bridles 
In this famous fort of noble shape — 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath ! 

After Malachy and sweet Brian,^ 

And Murchad* that was never weak in hurdled 

battle. 
My heart has been left without a leap of vigour, 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath ! 

Ochone ! I am the wretched phantom. 
Small are my wages since the three are gone. 
Greater than my own ruin is my cause of lament, 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath ! 

1 King of Ireland. He died in 1022. 

* The Fort of the Shields, on Lough Ennel, Co. West- 
meath. 

^ i.e. Brian Boru, who had fallen in 1014 in the battle 
of Clontarf. 

* Brian's son, fallen at Clontarf. 

77 



Och ! 'tis I that am the body without head, 
I, Mac Coisse, chief of all poets — 
Now that my skill and my vigour are gone, 
Alas for thy state, O Dun na Sciath I 



78 



MISCELLANEOUS 



THE MONK AND HIS PET CAT 

I and my white Pangur 
Have each his special art : 
His mind is set on hunting mice, 
Mine is upon my special craft. 

I love to rest — better than any fame ! — 
With close study at my little book : 
White Pangur does not envy me : 
He loves his childish play. 

When in our house we two are all alone— 
A tale without tedium ! 
We have — sport never-ending ! 
Something to exercise our wit. 

At times by feats of derring-do 
A mouse sticks in his net, 
While into my net there drops 
A difficult problem of hard meaning. 

He points his full shining eye 
Against the fence of the wall : 
I point my clear though feeble eye 
Against the keenness of science. 

He rejoices with quick leaps 
When in his sharp claw sticks a mouse : 
I too rejoice when I have grasped 
A problem difficult and dearly loved. 

Though we are thus at all times. 
Neither hinders the other, 
Each of us pleased with his own art 
Amuses himself alone. 
F 8i 



He is a master of the work 
Which every day he does : 
While I am at my own work 
To bring difficulty to clearness. 



82 



COLUM CILLE'S GREETING TO IRELAND 

Delightful to be on the Hill of Howth 
Before going over the white-haired sea : 
The dashing of the wave against its face, 
The bareness of its shores and of its border. 



Delightful to be on the Hill of Howth 
After coming over the white-bosomed sea ; 
To be rowing one's little coracle, 
Ochone ! on the wild-waved shore. 



Great is the speed of ray coracle, 
And its stern turned upon Derry : 
Grievous is my errand over the main, 
Travelling to Alba of the beetling brows. 

My foot in my tuneful coracle. 
My sad heart tearful : 
A man without guidance is weak. 
Blind are all the ignorant. 

There is a grey eye 

That will look back upon Erin : 

It shall never see again 

The men of Erin nor her women. 



I stretch my glance across the brine 
From the firm oaken planks : 
Many are the tears of my bright soft grey eye 
As I look back upon Erin. 

My mind is upon Erin, 
Upon Loch Lene, upon Linny, 
Upon the land where Ulstermen are. 
Upon gentle Munster and upon Meath. 
83 



Many in the East are lanky chiels. 
Many diseases there and distempers. 
Many they with scanty dress, 
Many the hard and jealous hearts. 

Plentiful in the West the fruit of the apple-tree. 
Many kings and princes ; 
Plentiful are luxurious sloes, 
Plentiful oak-woods of noble mast. 

Melodious her clerics, melodious her birds. 
Gentle her youths, wise her elders. 
Illustrious her men, famous to behold. 
Illustrious her women for fond espousal. 

It is in the West sweet Brendan is, 
And Colum son of Criffan, 
And in the West fair Baithin shall be. 
And in the West shall be Adamnan. 

Carry my greeting after that 
To ComgaU of eterneil hf e : 
Carry my greeting after that 
To the stately king of fair Navan. 

Carry with thee, thou fair youth. 
My blessing and my benediction. 
One half upon Erin, sevenfold, 
And half upon Alba at the same time. 

Carry my blessing with thee to the West, 
My heart is broken in my breast : 
Should sudden death overtake me. 
It is for my great love of the Gael. 

Gael ! Gael ! beloved name ! 
It gladdens the heart to invoke it : 
Beloved is Cummin of the beauteous hair. 
Beloved are Cainnech and ComgaU. 
84 



Were all Alba mine 

From its centre to its border, 

I would rather have the site of a house 

In the middle of fair Derry. 

It is for this I love Derry, 
For its smoothness, for its purity, 
And for its crowd of white angels 
From one end to another. 

It is for this I love Derry, 

For its smoothness, for its purity ; 

All full of angels 

Is every leaf on the oaks of Derry. 

My Derry, my little oak-grove. 

My dwelling and my little cell, 

O living God that art in Heaven above. 

Woe to him who violates it ! 

Beloved are Durrow and Derry, 
Beloved is Raphoe with purity. 
Beloved Drumhome with its sweet acorns. 
Beloved are Swords and Kells ! 

Beloved also to my heart in the West 
Drumchff on Culcinne's strand : 
To gaze upon fair Loch Foyle — 
The shape of its shores is deUghtful. 

Dehghtful it is. 

The deep-red ocean where the sea-gulls cry. 

As I come from Derry afar. 

It is peaceful and it is deUghtful. 



85 



ON ANGUS THE CULDEE (+ ca. 830) 

Delightful to sit here thus 

By the side of the cold pure Nore : 

Though it was frequented, it was never a patho 

raids 
In glorious Disert Bethech.^ 

Disert Bethech, where dwelt the man 

Whom hosts of angels were wont to visit ; 
A pious cloister behind a circle of crosses, 
Where Angus son of Oivlen used to be. 

Angus from the assembly of Heaven, 
Here are his tomb and his grave : 
'Tis hence he went to death, 
On a Friday, to holy Heaven. 

'Tis in Clonenagh he was reared, 
In Clonenagh he was buried : 
In Clonenagh of many crosses 
He first read his psalms. 

* ' Beechen Hermitage.' 



86 



COLUM CILLE THE SCRIBE 

My hand is weary with writing, 

My sharp quill is not steady, 

My slender-beaked pen juts forth 

A black draught of shining dark-blue ink. 

A stream of the wisdom of blessed God 
Springs from my fair-brown shapely hand : 
On the page it squirts its draught 
Of ink of the green-skinned holly. 

My little dripping pen travels 
Across the plain of shining books, 
Without ceasing for the wealth of the great- 
Whence my hand is weary with writing. 



87 



THE LAMENT OF THE OLD WOMAN OF 
BEARE 

The reason why she was called the Old Woman of Beare 
was that she had fifty foster-children in Beare. She had 
seven periods of youth one after another, so that every 
man who had lived with her came to die of old age, and 
her grandsons and great-grandsons were tribes and races. 
For a hundred years she wore the veil which Cummin had 
blessed upon her head. Thereupon old age and infirmity 
came to her. *Tis then she said : 

Ebb-tide to me as of the sea ! 
Old age causes me reproach. 
Though I may grieve thereat — 
Happiness comes out of fat. 

I am the Old Woman of Beare, 
An ever-new smock I used to wear : 
To-day — such is my mean estate — 
I wear not even a cast-off smock. 

It is riches 

Ye love, it is not men : 
In the time when we lived 
It was men we loved. 

Swift chariots, 

And steeds that carried off the prize, — 

Their day of plenty has been, 

A blessing on the King who lent them ! 

My body with bitterness has dropt 
Towards the abode we know : 
When the Son of God deems it time 
Let Him come to deliver His behest. 

My arms when they are seen 

Are bony and thin : 

Once they would fondle. 

They would be round glorious kings. 



When my arms are seen, 

And they bony and thin, 

They are not fit, I declare, 

To be uplifted over comely youths. 

The maidens rejoice 

When May-day comes to them : 

For me sorrow is meeter. 

For I am wretched, I am an old hag. 

I hold no sweet converse, 

No wethers are killed for my wedding-feast. 

My hair is all but grey. 

The mean veil over it is no pity. 

I do not deem it ill 

That a white veil should be on my head : 
Time was when many cloths of every hue 
Bedecked my head as we drank the good ale. 

The Stone of the Kings on Femen, 

The Chair of Ronan in Bregon, 

'Tis long since storms have reached them. 

The slabs of their tombs are old and decayed. 

The wave of the great sea talks aloud, 
Winter has arisen : 
Fermuid the son of Mugh to-day 
I do not expect on a visit. 

I know what they are doing : 
They row and row across 
The reeds of the Ford of Alma — 
Cold is the dwelling where they sleep. 

'Tis ' O my God ! ' 

To me to-day, whatever will come of it. 
89 



I must take my garment even in the sun : * 
The time is at hand that shall renew me. 

Youth's summer in which we were 
I have spent with its autumn : 
Winter-age which overwhelms all men. 
To me has come its beginning. 

Amen ! Woe is me I 

Every acorn has to drop. 

After feasting by shining candles 

To be in the gloom of a prayer-house ! 

I had my day with kings 
Drinking mead and wine : 
To-day I drink whey-water 
Among shrivelled old hags. 

I see upon my cloak the hair of old age, 
My reason has beguiled me : 
Grey is the hair that grows through my skin — 
'Tis thus I am an old hag. 

The flood-wave 
And the second ebb-tide — 
They have all reached me, 
So that I know them well. 

The flood-wave 

Will not reach the silence of my kitchen : 
Though many are my company in darkness, 
A hand has been laid upon them all. 

O happy the isle of the great sea 
Which the flood reaches after the ebb ! 
As for me, I do not expect 
Flood after ebb to come to me. 

^ * Je tremble a present dedans la canicule.' — Moliftre, 
Sganarelle, scfene 2. 

90 



There is scarce a little place to-day 
That I can recognise : 
What was on flood 
Is all on ebb. 



91 



THE DESERTED HOME 

Sadly talks the blackbird here. 
Well I know the woe he found : 
No matter who cut down his nest, 
For its young it was destroyed. 

I myself not long ago 
Found the woe he now has found. 
Well I read thy song, O bird, 
For the ruin of thy home. 

Thy heart, O blackbird, burnt within 
At the deed of reckless man : 
Thy nest bereft of young and egg 
The cowherd deems a trifling tale. 

At thy clear notes they used to come. 
Thy new-fledged children, from afar j 
No bird now comes from out thy house, 
Across its edge the nettle grows. 

They murdered them, the cowherd lads. 
All thy children in one day : 
One the fate to me and thee. 
My own children hve no more. 

There was feeding by thy side 
Thy mate, a bird from o'er the sea : 
Then the snare entangled her, 
At the cowherds' hands she died. 

O Thou, the Shaper of the world ! 
Uneven hands Thou layst on us : 
Our fellows at our side are spared. 
Their wives and children are alive. 
92 



A fairy host came as a blast 
To bring destruction to our house : 
Though bloodless was their taking off. 
Yet dire as slaughter by the sword. 

Woe for our wife, woe for our young ! 
The sadness of our grief is great : 
No trace of them within, without — 
And therefore is my heart so sad. 



93 



CORMAC MAC CULENNAIN SANG THIS 

Shall I launch my dusky little coracle 
On the broad-bosomed glorious ocean ? 
Shall I go, O King of bright Heaven, 
Of my own will upon the brine ? 

Whether it be roomy or narrow, 
Whether it be served by crowds of hosts — 
O God, wilt Thou stand by me 
When it comes upon the angry sea ? 



94 



ALEXANDER THE GREAT 

Four men stood by the grave of a man, 
The grave of Alexander the Proud • 
They sang words without falsehood 
Over the prince from fair Greece. 

vSaid the first man of them : 
' Yesterday there were around the king 
The men of the world — a sad gathering ! 
Though to-day he is alone.' 

' Yesterday the king of the brown world 
Rode upon the heavy earth : 
Though to-day it is the earth 
That rides upon his neck.' 

' Yesterday,' said the third wise author, 
' Philip's son owned the whole world : 
To-day he has nought 
Save seven feet of earth.' 

' Alexander the liberal and great 
Was wont to bestow silver and gold : 
To-day,' said the fourth man, 
' The gold is here, and it is nought.' 

Thus truly spoke the wise men 
Around the grave of the high-king : 
It was not foolish women's talk 
What those four sang. 



95 



QUATRAINS 



THE SCRIBE 

A hedge of trees surrounds me, 
A blackbird's lay sings to me ; 
Above my lined booklet 
The trilling birds chant to me. 

In a grey mantle from the top of bushes 
The cuckoo sings : 
Verily — may the Lord shield me ! — 
Well do I write under the greenwood. 



ON A DEAD SCHOLAR 

Dead is Lon 

Of Kilgarrow, O great hurt ! 

To Ireland and beyond her border 

It is ruin of study and of schools. 



THE CRUCIFIXION 

At the cry of the first bird 

They began to crucify Thee, O cheek like a swan ! 
It were not right ever to cease lamenting — 
It was like the parting of day from night. 

Ah ! though sore the suffering 
Put upon the body of Mary's Son — 
Sorer to Him was the grief 
That was upon her for His sake. 

99 



THE PILGRIM AT ROME 

To go to Rome 

Is much of trouble, little of profit : 

The King whom thou seekest here, 

Unless thou bring Him with thee, thou wilt not find. 



HOSPITALITY 

O King of stars ! 

Whether my house be dark or bright, 
Never shall it be closed against any one. 
Lest Christ close His house against me. 

If there be a guest in your house 
And you conceal aught from him, 
'Tis not the guest that will be without it. 
But Jesus, Mary's Son. 



THE BLACKBIRD 

Ah, blackbird, thou art satisfied 
Where thy nest is in the bush : 
Hermit that clinkest no bell. 
Sweet, soft, peaceful is thy note. 



MOLING SANG THIS 

When I am among my elders 
I am proof that sport is forbidden : 
When I am among the mad young folk 
They think that I am their junior. 

100 



THE CHURCH BELL IN THE NIGHT 

Sweet little bell 

That is struck ^ in the windy night, 

I liefer go to a tryst with thee 

Than to a tryst with a foolish woman. 



THE VIKING TERROR 

Bitter is the wind to-night, 

It tosses the ocean's white hair : 

To-night I fear not the fierce warriors of Norway 

Coursing on the Irish Sea. 

^ The tongueless Irish bells were struck, not rung. 



lOI 



FROM THE TRIADS OF IRELAND 

Three slender things that best support the 
world : the slender stream of milk from the cow's 
dug into the pail ; the slender blade of green corn 
upon the ground ; the slender thread over the 
hand of a skilled woman. 

The three worst welcomes : a handicraft in the 
same house with the inmates ; scalding water 
upon your feet ; salt food without a drink. 

Three rejoicings followed by sorrow : a wooer's, 
a thief's, a tale-bearer's. 

Three rude ones of the world : a youngster 
mocking an old man ; a robust person mocking 
an invahd ; a wise man mocking a fool. 

Three fair things that hide ugliness : good 
manners in the ill-favoured ; skill in a serf ; 
wisdom in the misshapen. 

Three sparks that kindle love : a face, 
demeanour, speech. 

Three glories of a gathering : a beautiful wife, 
a good horse, a swift hound. 

Three fewnesses that are better than 
plenty : a fewness of fine words ; a fewness of 
cows in grass ; a fewness of friends around good 
ale. 

Three ruins of a tribe : a lying chief, a false 
judge, a lustful priest. 

Three laughing-stocks of the world : an angry 
man, a jealous man, a niggard. 

Three signs of ill-breeding : a long visit, staring, 
constant questioning. 

Three signs of a fop : the track of his comb in 
his hair ; the track of his teeth in his food ; the 
track of his stick behind him. 

Three idiots of a bad guest-house : an old hag 
with a chronic cough ; a brainless tartar of a girl ; 
a hobgoblin of a gillie. 

Three things that constitute a physician : a 

102 



complete cure ; leaving no blemish behind ; a 
painless examination. 

Three things betokening trouble : holding 
plough-land in common ; performing feats 
together ; alliance in marriage. 

Three nurses of theft : a wood, a cloak, night. 

Three false sisters : ' perhaps,' ' may be,' 'I 
dare say.' 

Three timid brothers : ' hush ! ' ' stop ! ' 
' listen ! ' 

Three sounds of increase : the lowing of a cow 
in milk ; the din of a smithy ; the swish of a 
plough. 

Three steadinesses of good womanhood : keep- 
ing a steady tongue ; a steady chastity ; a steady 
housewifery. 

Three excellences of dress : elegance, comfort, 
lastingness. 

Three candles that illume every darkness : 
truth, nature, knowledge. 

Three keys that unlock thoughts : drunkenness, 
trustfulness, love. 

Three youthful sisters : desire, beauty, gener- 
osity. 

Three aged sisters : groaning, chastity, ugliness. 

Three nurses of high spirits : pride, wooing, 
drunkenness. 

Three coffers whose depth is not known : the 
coffers of a chieftain, of the Church, of a privi- 
leged poet. 

Three things that ruin wisdom : ignorance, 
inaccurate knowledge, forgetfulness. 

Three things that are best for a chief : justice, 
peace, an army. 

Three things that are worst for a chief : sloth, 
treachery, evil counsel. 

Three services, the worst that a man can serve : 
serving a bad woman, a bad lord, and bad land. 

Three lawful handbreadths : a handbreadth 
103 



between shoes and hose, between ear and hair, 
and between the fringe of the tunic and the knee. 

Three angry sisters : blasphemy, strife, foul- 
mouthedness. 

Three disrespectful sisters : importunity, 
frivolity, fiightiness. 

Three signs of a bad man : bitterness, hatred, 
cowardice. 



104 



FROM THE INSTRUCTIONS OF KING 
CORMAC 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' what are the dues of a chief and of an ale-house ? ' 
' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. 

' Good behaviour around a good chief. 
Lights to lamps. 

Exerting oneself for the company, 
A proper settlement of seats. 
Liberality of dispensers, 
A nimble hand at distributing, 
Attentive service, 
Music in moderation. 
Short story-telling, 
A joyous countenance, 
Welcome to guests. 
Silence during recitals. 
Harmonious choruses.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' what were your habits when you were a lad ? ' 
' Not hard to teU,' said Cormac. 

' I was a listener in woods, 
I was a gazer at stars, 
I was blind where secrets were concerned, 
I was silent in a wilderness, 
I was talkative among many, 
I was mild in the mead-hall, 
I was stern in battle, 
I was gentle towards allies, 
I was a physician of the sick, 
I was weak towards the feeble, 
I was strong towards the powerful, 
I was not close lest I should be burden- 
some, 
I was not arrogant though I was wise, 
105 



I was not given to promising though I was 

strong, 
I was not venturesome though I was swift, 
I did not deride the old though I was young, 
I was not boastful though I was a good 

fighter, 
I would not speak about any one in his 

absence, 
I would not reproach, but I would praise, 
I would not ask, but I would give,— 

for it is through these habits that the young 
become old and kingly warriors.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' what is the worst thing you have seen ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac, ' Faces of 
foes in the rout of battle.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' what is the sweetest thing you have heard ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. 

' The shout of triumph after victory. 
Praise after wages, 
A lady's invitation to her pillow.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' how do you distinguish women ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. ' I distinguish 
them, but I make no difference among them. 

' They are crabbed as constant companions, 
haughty when visited, 
lewd when neglected, 
silly counsellors, 
greedy of increase ; 
they have tell-tale faces, 
they are quarrelsome in company, 
steadfast in hate, 
forgetful of love, 
anxious for alliance, 
io6 



accustomed to slander, 

stubborn in a quarrel, 

not to be trusted with a secret, 

ever intent on pilfering, 

boisterous in their jealousy, 

ever ready for an excuse, 

on the pursuit of folly, 

slanderers of worth, 

scamping their work, 

stiff when paying a visit, 

disdainful of good men, 

gloomy and stubborn, 

viragoes in strife, 

sorrowful in an ale-house, 

tearful during music, 

lustful in bed, 

arrogant and disingenuous, 

abettors of strife, 

niggardly with food, 

rejecting wisdom, 

eager to make appointments, 

sulky on a journey, 

troublesome bedfellows, 

deaf to instruction, 

bUnd to good advice, 

fatuous in society, 

craving for delicacies, 

chary in their presents, 

languid when solicited, 

exceeding all bounds in keeping others 

waiting, 
tedious talkers, 
close practitioners, 
dumb on useful matters, 
eloquent on trifles. 

Happy he who does not yield to them ! 
They should be dreaded hke fire, 
they should be feared like wild beasts. 
Woe to him who humours them ! 
107 



Better to beware of them than to trust 

them, 
better to trample upon them than to fondle 

them, 
better to crush them than to cherish them. 
They are waves that drown you, 
they are fire that burns you, 
they are two-edged weapons that cut you, 
they are moths for tenacity, 
they are serpents for cunning, 
they are darkness in light, 
they are bad among the good, 
they are worse among the bad.* 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
* what is the worst for the body of man ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. ' Sitting too 
long, lying too long, long standing, lifting heavy 
things, exerting oneself beyond one's strength, 
running too much, leaping too much, frequent 
falls, sleeping with one's leg over the bed-rail, 
gazing at glowing embers, wax. Westings, new 
ale, bull-flesh, curdles, dry food, bog-water, rising 
too early, cold, sun, hunger, drinking too much, 
eating too much, sleeping too much, sinning too 
much, grief, running up a height, shouting against 
the wind, drying oneself by a fire, summer-dew, 
winter-dew, beating ashes, swimming on a full 
stomach, sleeping on one's back, foolish romping.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' what is the worst pleading and arguing ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. 

' Contending against knowledge, 
contending without proofs, 
taking refuge in bad language, 
a stiff delivery, 
a muttering speech, 
hair-splitting, 

io8 



uncertain proofs, 

despising books, 

turning against custom, 

shifting one's pleading, 

inciting the mob, 

blowing one's own trumpet, 

shouting at the top of one's voice.' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' who are the worst for whom you have a com- 
parison ? ' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. 

' A man with the impudence of a satirist, 
with the pugnacity of a slave- woman, 
with the carelessness of a dog, 
with the conscience of a hound, 
with a robber's hand, 
with a bull's strength, 
with the dignity of a judge, 
with keen ingenious wisdom, 
with the speech of a stately man, 
with the memory of an historian, 
with the behaviour of an abbot, 
with the swearing of a horse-thief, 

and he wise, lying, grey-haired, violent, swearing, 
garrulous, when he says " the matter is settled, 
I swear, you shall swear." ' 

' O Cormac, grandson of Conn,' said Carbery, 
' I desire to know how I shall behave among the 
wise and the foolish, among friends and strangers, 
among the old and the young, among the innocent 
and the wicked.' 

' Not hard to tell,' said Cormac. 

' Be not too wise, nor too foolish, 
be not too conceited, nor too diffident, 
be not too haughty, nor too humble, 
be not too talkative, nor too silent, 
be not too hard, nor too feeble. 
109 



If you be too wise, one will expect too much of 

you; 
if you be too foolish, you will be deceived ; 
if you be too conceited, you will be thought 

vexatious ; 
if you be too humble, you will be without honour ; 
if you be too talkative, you will not be heeded ; 
if you be too silent, you will not be regarded ; 
if you be too hard, you will be broken ; 
if you be too feeble, you will be crushed.' 



no 



NOTES 

' The Isles of the Happy ' and ' The Sea-god's Address 
to Bran ' are poems interspersed in the prose tale called 
' The Voyage of Bran son of Febal to the Land of the 
Living.' For text and translation see my edition (London : 
D. Nutt, 1895), pp. 4 and 16. The tale was probably first 
written down early in the eighth, perhaps late in the 
seventh century. 

' The Tryst after Death ' [Reicne Fothaid Canainne) 
belongs to the ninth century. For the original text and 
translation see my ' Fianaigecht, a collection of hitherto 
inedited Irish poems and tales relating to Finn and his 
Fiana ' (Dublin : Hodges, Figgis and Co., 1910), p. 10 ff. 

' Deirdre's Farewell to Scotland ' and ' Deirdre's 
Lament ' are taken from the well-known tale called ' The 
Death of the Children of Usnech.' The text which is here 
rendered is that of the Middle-Irish version edited -and 
translated by Whitley Stokes (Irische Texte, ii., Leipzig, 
1884), pp. 127 and 145. My rendering follows in the 
main that of Stokes. 

' The Hosts of Faery.' — From the tale called ' Laegaire 
mac Crimthainn's Visit to the Fairy Realm of Mag Mell,' 
the oldest copy of which is found in the Book of Leinster, 
a MS. of the twelfth century, p. 2756. See S. H. O'Grady's 
Silva Gadelica (Williams and Norgate, 1892), vol. i. p. 256 ; 
vol. ii. p. 290, where, however, the verse is not translated. 

The two poems from the ' Vision of Mac Conglinne ' are 
taken from my translation of the twelfth-century bur- 
lesque so called (D, Nutt, 1892), pp. 34 and 78. 

' A Dirge for King Niall of the Nine Hostages.' — Text 
and translation in Festschrift fur Whitley Stokes (Har- 
rassowitz, Leipzig, 1900), p. i if., and in the Gaelic Journal, 
X. p. 578 fE. Late eighth or early ninth century. 

' The Song of Carroll's Sword.' — Edited and translated 
in Revue Celtique, xx. p. 7 ff., and again in the Gaelic 
Journal, x. p. 613. DaMn mac Mdre, to whom the poem 
is ascribed, was chief bard to King Carroll (Cerball) mac 
Muiregan of Leinster, who reigned from about a.d. 885 
to 909. 

' Eochaid's Lament.' — Text published in Archiv fur 
celtische Lexikographie (Niemeyer, Halle a. S., 1907), 
vol. iii. p. 304. 

Ill 



' Lament on King Malachy ii.' — Ibid., p. 305. 

' King and Hermit.' — First published and translated by 
me under that title with Messrs. D. Nutt, 1901. The 
language is that of the tenth century, 

' Song of the Sea.' — Text and translation in Otia 
Merseiana (the publication of the Arts Faculty, University 
College, Liverpool), vol. ii. p. 76 ff. Though the poem is 
ascribed to the celebrated poet Rumann, who died in 
748, its language points to the eleventh century. *• 

' Summer has come.' — Text and translation in my Four 
Songs of Summer and Winter (D. Nutt, 1903), p. 20 ff. 
The piece probably dates from the tenth century. 

' Song of Summer.' — Ibid., p. 8 ff., and Eriu, the 
Journal of the School of Irish Learning, i. p. 186. The 
date is the ninth century, I think. 

' Summer is gone.' — Ibid., p. 14. Ninth century. 

' A Song of Winter.' — From the story called ' The 
Hiding of the Hill of Howth,' first printed and translated 
by me in Revue Celtique, xi. p. 125 ff. Probably tenth 
century. 

'Arran.' — Taken from the thirteenth -century prose 
tale called Agallamh na SenSrach, edited and translated 
by S. H. O'Grady in Silva Gadelica. The poem refers to 
the island in the Firth of Clyde. 

' The Song of Crede, daughter of Guare.' — See text 
and translation in ^riu, ii. p. 15 ff. Probably tenth 
century. 

' Liadin and Curithir.' — First published and translated 
by me under that title with Messrs. D. Nutt, 1902. It 
belongs to the ninth century. 

' The Deer's Cry.' — For the text and translation see 
Stokes and Strachan, Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus (Uni- 
versity Press, Cambridge), vol. ii. p. 354. I have adopted 
the translation there given except in some details. The 
hymn in the form in which it has come down to us cannot 
be earlier than the eighth century. 

' An Evening Song.' — Printed in my Selections from 
Old-Irish Poetry, p. i. Though ascribed to Patrick, the 
piece cannot be older than the tenth century. 

' Patrick's Blessing on Munster.' — Taken from the 
Tripartite Life of Patrick, edited by Whitley Stokes (Rolls 
Series, London, 1887), p. 216. Not earlier than the ninth 
century. 

112 



' The Hermit's Song.' — See Enu, vol. i. p. 39, where the 
Irish text will be found. The poem dates from the ninth 
century. 

' A Prayer to the Virgin.' — See Strachan's edition of 
the original in ^riu, i. p. 122. There is another copy 
in the Bodleian MS. Laud 615, p. 91, from which I have 
taken some better readings. The poem is hardly earlier 
than the tenth century. 

' Eve's Lament.' — See Eriu, iii. p. 148. The date is 
probably the late tenth or early eleventh century. 

' On the Flightiness of Thought.' — See £riu, iii. p. 13. 
Tenth century. 

' To Crinog.' — The Irish text was published by me in 
the Zeitschrift fUr celtische Philologie, vol. vi. p. 257. 
The date of the poem is the tenth century. Crinog was 
evidently what is known in the literature of early Chris- 
tianity as a-ydwqT'f], virgo subintroducta (aweKTciKTos) or 
conhospita, i.e. a nun who lived with a priest, monk, or 
hermit like a sister or ' spiritual wife ' {uxor spiritualis). 
This practice, which was early suppressed and abandoned 
everywhere else, seems to have survived in the Irish 
Church till the tenth century. See on the whole subject 
H. Achelis, Virgines Subintroductae, ein Beitrag zu i., 
Kor. vii. (Leipzig, 1902). 

' The Devil's Tribute to Mohng.' — For text and trans- 
lation see Whitley Stokes's Goideltca, 2nd ed.,p. 180, and 
his edition of Filire Oingusso, p. 154 fi. I have in the 
main followed Stokes's rendering. 

' Maelisu's Hymn to the Archangel Michael.' — Text and 
translation in the Gaelic Journal, vol. iv. p. 56. Maelisu 
ua Brolchdin was a writer of religious poetry both in Irish 
and Latin, who died in 1056. 

' The Mothers' Lament at the Slaughter of the Inno- 
cents.' — See text and translation in the Gaelic Journal, 
iv. p. 89. The piece probably belongs to the eleventh 
century. 

' Colum Cille's Greeting to Ireland.' — From Reeves' 
edition of Adamnan's Life of St. Columha, p. 285. 
The poem, like most of those ascribed to this saint, is 
late, belonging probably to the twelfth century. 

' The Lament of the Old Woman of Beare.' — Text and 
translation in Otia Merseiana, i. p. 119 ff. The language 
of the poem points to the late tenth century. 

H 113 



08065 



' The Deserted Home.' — See Gaelic Journal, iv. p. 42. 
Probably eleventh century. 

' Colum Cille the Scribe.' — See Gaelic Journal, viii. p. 49. 
Probably eleventh century. * 

' The Monk and his Pet Cat.' — Text and translation in 
Thesaurus Palaeohibernicus, ii. p. 293. I have made my 
own translation. The language is that of the late eighth 
or early ninth century. 

' The Crucifixion.' — From Leabhar Breac, p. 262 marg. 
sup. and p. 168 marg. inf. 

' Pilgrimage to Rome.' — See Thes. Pal., ii. p. 296. 

' On a Dead Scholar.' — From the notes to the Filire 
Oingusso, ed. Wh. Stokes (Henry Bradshaw Society, 
vol. xxix.), p. 198. 

' Hospitality.' — From the Brussels MS,, 5100-4, p. 5, 
and Leabhar Breac, p. 93, marg. sup. 

' The Scribe.' — See Thes. Pal., ii. p. 290. 

'Moling sang this.' — From the notes to the Filire 
Oingusso, ed. Wh. Stokes, p. 150. 

' The Church Bell.' — See Irische Texte, iii. p. 155. 

' The Blackbird.' — From Leabhar Breac, p. 36, marg. 



The ' Triads of Ireland.' Edited and translated by me 
in the Todd Lecture Series of the Royal Irish Academy, 
vol. xiii. (Hodges, Figgis and Co., Dublin, 1906). The 
collection was made towards the end of the ninth century. 

The ' Instructions of Kingi Cormac' Edited and 
translated by me in the Todd Lecture Series, vol. xv. 
(Dublin, 1909). Early ninth century. 



Printed by T. and A. Constable, Printers to His Majesty 

at the Edinburgh University Press 



PB l^2^ .S4 1911 SMC 

Selections from ancient 
Irish poetry