Lyra Celtica

Read these faint runes of Mystery,
O Celt, at home and o'er the sea;
bond is loosed--the poor are free--
The world's great future rests with thee!
Till the soil--bid cities rise--
Be strong, O Celt--be rich, be wise--
But still, with those divine grave eyes,
Respect the realm of Mysteries.

The Book of Orm.

I

ANCIENT IRISH AND SCOTTISH

ANCIENT ERSE

The Mystery of Amergin.    (3)

    I am the wind which breathes upon the sea,
    I am the wave of the ocean,
    I am the murmur of the billows,
    I am the ox of the seven combats,
    I am the vulture upon the rocks,
    I am a beam of the sun,
    I am the fairest of plants,
    I am a wild boar in valout,
    I am a salmon in the water,
    I am a lake in the plain,
    I am a word of science,
    I am the point of the lance of battle,
    I am the God who creates in the head [i.e. of man] the fire [i.e. the thought].

Who is it who throws light into the meeting on the mountain?
Who announces the ages of the moon [If not I]?
Who teaches the place where couches the sun [If not I]?

The Song of Fionn. (4)

May-day, delightful time! How beautiful the colour!
The blackbirds sing their full lay. Would that Lćg were here!
The cuckoos sing in constant strains. How welcome is the noble
Brilliance of the seasons ever! On the margin of the branching woods
The summer swallows skim the stream: the swift horses seek the pool:
The heather spreads out her long hair: the weak fair bog-down grows.
Sudden consternation attacks the signs; the planets,
in their courses running, exert an influence:
The sea is lulled to rest, flowers cover the earth.

Credhe's Lament. (5)

The haven roars, and O the haven roars, over the rushing race of Rinn-dá-bharc!
the drowning of the warrior of loch dá chonn, that is what the wave impinging on the strand laments.  Melodious is the crane, and O melodious is the crane, in the marshlands of Druim-dá-thrén! 'tis she that may not save her brood alive: the wild dog of two colours is intent upon her nestlings.  A woeful note, and O a woeful note, is that which the thrush in Drumqueen emits! but not more cheerful is the wail that the blackbird makes in Letterlee.  A woeful sound, and O a woeful sound, is that the deer utters in Drumdaleish! dead lies the doe of Druim Silenn : the mighty stag bells after her. Sore suffering to me, and O suffering sore, is the hero's death--his death, that used to lie with me! . . . Sore suffering to me is Cael, and O Cael is a suffering sore, that by my side he is in dead man's form! That the wave should have swept over his white body--that is what hath distracted me, so great was his delightfulness.  A dismal roar, and O a dismal roar, is that the shore-surf makes upon the strand! seeing that the same hath drowned the comely noble man, to me it is an affliction that Cael ever sought to encounter it.  A woeful booming, and O a boom of woe, is that which the wave makes upon the northward beach!   beating as it does against the polished rock, lamenting for Cael, now that he is gone.  A woeful fight, and O a fight of woe, is that the wave wages against the southern shore! As for me my span is determined!  A woeful melody, and O a melody of woe, is that which the heavy surge of Tullachleish emits!   As for me: the calamity that is fallen upon me having shattered me, for me prosperity exists no more.  Since now Crimthann's son is drowned,  one that I may love after him there is not in being.  Many a chief is fallen by his hand, and in the battle his shield never uttered outcry!

Cuchullin in his Chariot. (6)

     "What is the cause of thy journey or thy story?"

   The cause of my journey and my story
The men of Erin, yonder, as we see them,
Coming towards you on the plain.
   The chariot on which is the fold, figured and cerulean,
Which is made strongly, handy, solid;
Where were active, and where were vigorous
And where were full-wise, the noble hearted folk
In the prolific, faithful city;--
Fine, hard, stone-bedecked, well-shafted;
Four large-chested horses in that splendid chariot
Comely, frolicsome.

    "What do we see' in that chariot?"

   The white-bellied, white-haired, small-eared,
Thin-sided, thin-hoofed, horse-large, steed-large horses
With fine, shining, polished bridles;
Like a gem; or like red sparkling fire;--
Like the motion of a fawn, wounded;
Like the rustling of a loud wind in winter--
Coming to you in that chariot.--

      "What do we see in that chariot?"

   We see in that chariot,
The strong, broad-chested, nimble, gray horses,--
So mighty, so broad-chested, so fleet, so choice;--
Which would wrench the sea skerries from the rocks.--
The lively, shielded, powerful horses;--
So mettlesome, so active, so clear-shining;--
Like the talon of an eagle 'gainst a fierce beast;
Which are called the beautiful Large-Gray--
The fond, large Meactroigh.

      "What do we see in that chariot?"

   We see in that chariot,
The horses; which are white-headed, white-hoofed,
     slender-legged,
Fine-haired, sturdy, imperious
Satin-bannered, wide-chested;
Small-aged, small-haired, small-eared;
Large-hearted, large-shaped, large-nostriled;
Slender-waisted, long-bodied,--and they are foal-like;
Handsome, playful, brilliant, wild-leaping;
Which are called the Dubh-Seimhlinn.

      "Who sits in that chariot?"

   He who sits in that chariot,
Is the warrior, able, powerful, well-worded,
Polished, brilliant, very graceful.--
There are seven sights on his eye;
And we think that that is good vision to him;
There are six bony, fat fingers,
On each hand that comes from his shoulder;
There are seven kinds of fair hair on his head;--
Brown hair next his head's skin,
And smooth red hair over that;
And fair-yellow hair, of the colour of gold;
And clasps on the top, holding it fast;--
Whose name is Cuchullin, Seimh-suailte,
Son of Aodh, son of Agh, son of other Aodh.--
His face is like red sparkles;--
Fast-moving on the plain like mountain fleet-mist;
Or like the speed of a hill hind;
Or like a hare on rented level ground.--
It was a frequent step--a fast step--a joyful step;--
The horses coming towards us:--
Like snow hewing the slopes;--
The panting and the snorting,
Of the horses coming towards thee.

Deirdre's Lament for the Sons
           of Usnach.  (8)

The lions of the hill are gone,
And I am left alone--alone--
Dig the grave both wide and deep,
For am sick, and fain would sleep!

The falcons of the wood are flown,
And I am left alone--alone--
Dig the grave both deep and wide,
And let us slumber side by side.

The dragons of the rock are sleeping,
Sleep that wakes not for our weeping--
Dig the grave, and make it ready,
Lay me on my true-love's body.

Lay their spears and bucklers bright
By the warriors' sides aright;
Many a day the three before me
On their linkéd bucklers bore me.

Lay upon the low grave floor,
'Neath each head, the blue claymore;
Many a time the noble three
Reddened their blue blades for me.

Lay the collars, as is meet,
Of the greyhounds at their feet
Many a time for me have they
Brought the tall red deer to bay.

In the falcon's jesses throw,
Hook and arrow, line and bow
Never again, by stream or plain,
Shall the gentle woodsmen go.

Sweet companions, were ye ever--
Harsh to me, your sister, never
Woods and wilds, and misty valleys,
Were with you as good's a palace.

O, to hear my true-love singing,
Sweet as sounds of trumpets ringing;
Like the sway of ocean swelling
Rolled his deep voice round our dwelling.

O! to hear the echoes pealing
Round our green and fairy shearing,
When the three, with soaring chorus,
Passed the silent skylark o'er us.

Echo now, sleep, morn and even--
Lark alone enchant the heaven!
Ardan's lips are scant of breath,
Neesa's tongue is cold in death.

Stag, exult on glen and mountain--
Salmon, leap from loch to fountain--
Heron, in the free air warm ye--
Usnach's sons no more will harm ye!

Erin's stay no more you are,
Rulers of the ridge of war;
Never more 'twill be your fate
To keep the beam of battle straight!

Woe is me! by fraud and wrong,
Traitors false and tyrants strong,
Fell Clan Usnach, bought and sold,
For Barach's feast and Conor's gold!

Woe to Eman, roof and wall!
Woe to Red Branch, hearth and hall!--
Tenfold woe and black dishonour
To the foul and false Clan Conor!

Dig the grave both wide and deep,
Sick I am, and fain would sleep!
Dig the grave and make it ready,
Lay me on my true-love's body.

The Lament of Queen Maev. (10)

    Raise the Cromlech high!
        Mac Moghcorb is slain,
    And other men's renown
        Has leave to live again.

    Cold at last he lies
        'Neath the burial stone.
    All the blood he shed
        Could not save his own.

    Stately, strong he went,
        Through his nobles all,
    When we paced together
        Up the banquet-hall.

    Dazzling white as lime,
        Was his body fair,
    Cherry-red his cheeks,
        Raven-black his hair.

    Razor-sharp his spear,
        And the shield he bore,
    High as champion's head--
        His arm was like an oar.

    Never aught but truth
        Spake my noble king;
    Valour all his trust
        In all his warfaring.

    As the forkéd pole
        Holds the roof-tree's weight,
    So my hero's arm
        Held the battle straight.

    Terror went before him,
        Death behind his back,
    Well the wolves of Erinn
        Knew his chariot's track.

    Seven bloody battles
        He broke upon his foes,
    In each a hundred heroes
        Fell beneath his blows.

    Once he fought at Fossud,
        Thrice at Ath-finn-fail.
    'Twas my king that conquered
        At bloody Ath-an-Scall.

    At the Boundary Stream
        Fought the Royal Hound,
    And for Bernas battle
        Stands his name renowned.

    Here he fought with Leinster--
        Last of all his frays--
    On the Hill of Cucorb's Fate
        High his Cromlech raise.

The March of the Faerie Host. (12)

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

They scatter the battalions of the foe,
They ravage every land I have attacked,
Splendidly they march to combat
An impetuous, distinguished, avenging host!

No wonder though their strength be great:
Sons of kings and queens are one and all.
On all 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-slaying.

Vision of a Fair Woman. (13)
(Aisling air Dhreach Mna.)

Tell us some of the charms of the stars:
Close and well set were her ivory teeth;
White as the canna upon the moor
Was her bosom the tartan bright beneath.

Her well-rounded forehead shone
Soft and fair as the mountain-snow;
Her two breasts were heaving full;
To them did the hearts of heroes flow.

Her lips were ruddier than the rose;
Tender and tunefully sweet her tongue;
White as the foam adown her side
Her delicate fingers extended hung.

Smooth as the dusky down of the elk
Appeared her shady eyebrows to me;
Lovely her cheeks were, like berries red;
From every guile she was wholly free.

Her countenance looked like the gentle buds
Unfolding their beauty in early spring;
Her yellow locks like the gold-browed hills
And her eyes like the radiance the sunbeams bring.

The Fian Banners.  (14)

    The Norland King stood on the height
        And scanned the rolling sea ;
    He proudly eyed his gallant ships
        That rode triumphantly.

    And then he looked where lay his camp,
        Along the rocky coast,
    And where were seen the heroes brave
        Of Lochlin's famous host.

    Then to the land he turn'd, and there
        A fierce-like hero came;
    Above him was a flag of gold,
        That waved and shone like flame.

    "Sweet bard," thus spoke the Norland King,
        "What banner comes in sight?
    The valiant chief that leads the host,
        Who is that man of might?"

    "That," said the bard, is young MacDoon,
        His is that banner bright;
    When forth the Féinn to battle go,
        He's foremost in the fight."

    "Sweet bard, another comes; I see
        A blood-red banner toss'd
    Above a mighty hero's head
        Who waves it o'er a host?"

    "That banner," quoth the bard, "belongs
        To good and valiant Rayne;
    Beneath it feet are bathed in blood
        And heads are cleft in twain."

    "Sweet bard, what banner now I see
        A leader fierce and strong
    Behind it moves with heroes brave
        Who furious round him throng?"

    "That is the banner of Great Gaul:
        That silken shred of gold,
    Is first to march and last to turn,
        And flight ne'er stained its fold."

"Sweet bard, another now I see,
High o'er a host it glows,
Tell whether it has ever shone
O'er fields of slaughtered foes?"

    That gory flag is Cailt's," quoth he,
        "It proudly peers in sight ;
    It won its fame on many a field
        In fierce and bloody fight."

    "Sweet bard, another still I see
        A host it flutters o'er;
    Like bird above the roaring surge
        That laves the storm-swept shore."

    "The Broom of Peril," quoth the bard,
        Young Oscur's banner, see:
    Amidst the conflict of dread chiefs
        The proudest name has he."

    The banner of great Fionn we raised
        The Sunbeam gleaming far,
    With golden spangles of renown
        From many a field of war.

    The flag was fastened to its staff
        With nine strong chains of gold,
    With nine times nine chiefs for each chain
        Before it foes oft rolled.

    "Redeem your pledge to me," said Fionn;
        "And show your deeds of might
    To Lochlin as you did before
        In many a gory fight."

    Like torrents from the mountain heights
        That roll resistless on ;
    So down upon the foe we rushed,
        And victory won.

OLD GAELIC

The Rune of St Patrick. (17)
    "The Faedh Fiada"; or,
    "The Cry of the Deer."

At Tara to-day in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And the fire with all the strength it hath,
And the lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness
        All these I place,
        By God's almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

            Columcille cecenit. (18)

O, Son of my God, what a pride, what a pleasure
        To plough the blue sea!
The waves of the fountain of deluge to measure
        Dear Eiré to thee.

We are rounding Moy-n-Olurg, we sweep by its head, and
        We plunge through Loch Foyle,
Whose swans could enchant with their music the dead, and
        Make pleasure of toil.

The host of the gulls come with joyous commotion
        And screaming and sport,
I welcome my own"Dewy-Red" from the ocean
        Arriving in port. *

O Eiré, were wealth my desire, what a wealth were
        To gain far from thee,
In the land of the stranger, but there even health were
        A sickness to me!

Alas for the voyage O high King of Heaven
        Enjoined upon me,
For that I on the red plain of bloody Cooldrevin
        Was present to see.

How happy the son is of Dima; no sorrow
        For him is designed,
He is having, this hour, round his own hill in Durrow
        The wish of his mind.

The sounds of the winds in the elms, like the strings of
        A harp being played,
The note of the blackbird that claps with the wings of
        Delight in the glade.

With him in Ros-Grencha the cattle are lowing
        At earliest dawn,
On the brink of the summer the pigeons are cooing
        And doves in the lawn.

Three things am I leaving behind me, the very
        Most dear that I know,
Tir-Leedach I'm leaving, and Durrow and Derry,
        Alas, I must go!

Yet my visit and feasting with Comgall have eased me
        At Cainneach's right hand,
And all but thy government, Eiré, has pleased me,
        Thou waterfall land.
___________________
*Dearg-drUchtach--i.e. "Dewy-Red"--was the name of St Columba's boat.
___________________

SAINT COLUMBA

Columcille fecit. (20)

Delightful would it be to me to be in Uchd Ailiun
    On the pinnacle of a rock,
That I might often see
    The face of the ocean;
That I might see its heaving waves
    Over the wide ocean,
When they chant music to their Father
    Upon the world's course;
That I might see its level sparkling strand,
    It would be no cause of sorrow;
That I might hear the song of the wonderful birds,
    Source of happiness;
That I might hear the thunder of the crowding waves
    Upon the rocks;
That I might hear the roar by the side of the church
    Of the surrounding sea;
That I might see its noble flocks
    Over the watery ocean;
That I might see the sea-monsters,
    The greatest of all wonders;
That I might see its ebb and flood
    In their career;
That my mystical name might be, I say,
    Cul ri Erin;*   (*That is, "Back turned to Ireland.")
That contrition might come upon my heart
    Upon looking at her;
That I might bewail my evils all,
    Though it were difficult to compute them;
That I might bless the Lord
    Who conserves all,
Heaven with its countless bright orders,
    Land, strand and flood;
That I might search the books all,
    That would be good for my soul;
At times kneeling to beloved Heaven;
    At times psalm singing;
At times contemplating the King of Heaven,
    Holy the chief;
At times at work without compulsion,
    This would be delightful.
At times plucking duilisc from the rocks;
    At times at fishing;
At times giving food to the poor;
    At times in a carcair:* (*Solitary cell.)
The best advice in the presence of God
    To me has been vouchsafed.
The King whose servant I am will not let
    Anything deceive me.

The Song of Murdoch the Monk. (22)

Murdoch, whet thy knife, that we may shave our crowns to the Great King.
Let us sweetly give our vow, and the hair of both our heads to the Trinity.
I will shave mine to Mary; this is the doing of a true heart:
To Mary shave thou these locks, well-formed, soft-eyed man.
Seldom hast thou had, handsome man, a knife on thy hair to shave it;
Oftener has a sweet, soft queen comb'd her hair beside thee.
Whenever it was that we did bathe, with Brian of the well-curled locks,
And once on a time that I did bathe at the well of the fair-haired Boroimhe,
I strove in swimming with Ua Chais, on the cold waters of the Fergus.
When he came ashore from the stream, Ua Chais and I strove in a race :
These two knives, one to each, were given us by Duncan Cairbreach;
No knives were better: shave gently then, Murdoch.
Whet your sword, Cathal, which wins the fertile Banva;
Ne'er was thy wrath heard without fighting, brave, red-handed Cathal.
Preserve our shaved heads from cold and from heat, gentle daughter of Iodehim,
Preserve us in the land of heat, softest branch of Mary.

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