Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The bardic poems of Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn (1550–1591) (Author: Tadhg Dall Ó Huiginn)


section 1


¶1] Raise the veil from Ireland; long hath she sought a spouse, finding no mate for her couch after the happiness of the men of Fál was blasted.

¶2] It is long since the Isle of Bregia could discover herself to any; a luckless widow is the wife of Flann— land of splendid stone dwellings.

¶3] She could not but lose her beauty, it is thus with uncared for-women Ireland, land of sparkling, melodious streams, hath the complexion of loneliness.

¶4] Ushnagh's castle, darling of kings, hath been brought to such a state that it is a sorrowful omen to watch over the fair, modest contours of her bright countenance.

¶5] Ireland's capitals have been defiled, one after another; a garment of weeds invests each keep, the white rampart of every castle is become a trench.

¶6] Her round hills have been stripped, her boundaries plowed over, so that 's Rampart, with its firm (?) dwellings of white masonry, is not recognized by the guides.

¶7] Nought remains of them save their traces, they have exchanged comeliness for uncomeliness; the brightly-tapestried castles of Niall's Banbha—a cause of sorrow are they.

¶8] Howbeit, we think the more lightly of this mournful gloom which hangs over Ireland, since 's Rampart, which was named of Art, succour hath been foretold.


¶9] It is in store for it that a man shall come to dissolve its enchantments; needs must, then, that he shall one day take possession of the Field of the Gaels.

¶10] For thee, Conn, son of the Calvach, many a prophet hath truly foretold thee—it is fitting that you should seek one another—Ireland hath been waiting.

¶11] Alas, thou graceful of form, for him who does not give some thing of her desire to the smooth, yew-timbered, bright rampart, first couch of Conn and Cobhthach.

¶12] Look frequently on her bright countenance, bend thine eye upon her in secret; approach her graceful form, speak covertly with Ireland.

¶13] Embrace her, go to her couch, thou beautiful yet icy of flesh; take to thee the spouse of Lugh, lest Ireland be left unwedded.

¶14] Press the lips like berry-bloom, and the shining, snow-white teeth, in a kiss to Bregia of the smooth hill, amidst the welcome of the five provinces.

¶15] Great Niall, son of Eachaidh, from whom thou art sprung, O bright-cheeked countenance, bestowed just such a kiss, whereby he united (under his sway) the fair Dwelling of Eber.

¶16] Another such kiss gave Brian of Bóroimhe, by which he gained without dispute, thou white of hand, that stately dwelling place of the Sons of Míl.

¶17] As with other women in manifold enchantments, thou canst procure with a kiss the release of tearful Banbha, O white-footed, black-lashed youth.

¶18] As with women under enchantments, Ireland, land of rippling waterfalls, plain of great fins, of shallow streams, will be the possession of him who rescues her.


¶19] Long ere her time there was a woman even as this country of the Sons of Míl, in ancient Africa, sandy, bright, of fertile hills, many-rivered, salmonful.

¶20] The man of yore who loved the princess of the wondrous isles changed the white-handed maiden of the soft, shining hair into a great, forbidding she-dragon.

¶21] The daughter of Hippocrates, son of Núl, spent a while in dragon's shape, under many and manifold enchantments, from which it had been difficult to rescue her.

¶22] Be the reason what it may, for one day in each year, in order, to rekindle her sorrow, the gift of beauty was granted to her sparkling, youthful countenance.

¶23] A merchant's son from the land of the west went to her once upon a time, and found the bright, sweetly-speaking, womanly beauty in her modest maiden's form.

¶24] He set the desire of his heart upon the woman, and prayed that the lovely, shining-haired one might be a mate for his own bright figure, though to seek her was a cause of remorse.

¶25] The bright-eyed queen replied, 'I would be thine were it possible, thou wondrous, comely youth, long-handed, gentle, dark-browed.'

¶26] 'By consent or force thou shalt be mine,' said the brown-lashed youth. 'I have forsaken the glances of man, it cannot be,' returned the maiden.

¶27] 'At all other times I am in the shape of a fiery dragon, so that my face (though now) smooth, modestly blushing, beloved, is horrifying to behold.'

¶28] 'Is help in store for thee in days, to come?' said the youth, 'thou bright form, with clear countenance, when dost thou expect thy deliverance?'

¶29] 'It is destined for me that a knight from the warriors of Féilim's Land shall come when I am in dragon's shape, with a kiss whereby I shall be delivered.'


¶30] 'The compassionate warrior shall be a husband to me, it is destined for him that he shall be made king over the islands, a thing difficult to accomplish.'

¶31] 'It is destined for me', said the youth, 'I am from Ireland, to bestow that kiss which shall quench thy rage, thou curly-haired maiden, so young and noble.

¶32] 'How could the thing thou sayest be destined for thee, my heart's fruit?' said the stately maiden, 'since thou hast never been a knight.'

¶33] On hearing that, the merchant's son took orders of chivalry; he departed from the rosy maiden of the soft, shining hair to learn a strange calling.

¶34] At the break of day he came again to visit the maiden; astonishing was the state in which he found the gracious beauty of the fair, soft tresses.

¶35] He found in the early morn the graceful figure with smooth brows, and the smooth, silky, heavy, luxuriant tresses, transformed into an awesome, fiery dragon.

¶36] On beholding the terrifying monster he fled in panic; that expedition ended in his death; a case not easy to succour.

¶37] The daughter of Hippocrates then returned to her chamber, and the heart of the white-footed, sweet-voiced maiden was full of sorrow.

¶38] She vowed that from that day on she would arise for no man until the coming of the prophesied one who was destined to release her from her bonds.

¶39] And even yet—long is the suffering—her gray modest-lashed eye, her pleasing form, her rosy countenance await her deliverer.

¶40] Ireland is that woman, O silky of hair, thou art the woman who shall deliver Ireland; and the hideous visage of the dragon is the tormenting host of ruthless foreigners.


¶41] Draw near to her, thou curly-headed one, do not shrink from the dragonlike aspect which clothes the sweet, beguiling streams of the Boyne; deliver Ireland from her disfigurement.

¶42] Many say of thee, Conn, descendant of Conn the Hundredfighter, thou heedest not that Cobhthach's Plain has been for some time in the custody of foreigners.

¶43] They are right, O bright countenance, not very thankful are the Sons of Míl to thee, Conn, son of the Calvach, as regards the famed land of bright apple-trees.

¶44] Even though thou mayst not be supreme in the Land of the Gaels, thou thick-haired one, it is in thy power, Conn, to free the country of Banbha from its fetters.

¶45] It is easy for thee to win triumphs, the Sons of Míl are eager for war; it needs few forays, thou man of the Inny, to stir up Banbha.

¶46] A house takes fire from the one beside it; if thy intention of battle be heard, from thy head of wavy tresses the rest will take it; it is a ready desire that is ignited.

¶47] Even as the spreading of a flame, throughout this Plain of Cobhthach every territory will have its own reaver, from thy raids upon the foreign soldiery.

¶48] And the result, O wondrous form, shall be that the people of every territory, together with thee, O face ruddy as the berry, from which the stream is calm, shall storm the dividing boundaries of Gael and foreigner.

¶49] Take command of them, Conn, and lead them to Frewen; thou bright-handed warrior of Bregia, revivify the soldiery of the Gael.

¶50] Forsake not for Donegal, or the bay of Eas Dá Éagann, or ancient Loch Foyle, of the sparkling wines, the royal rampart of Tara in the east.


¶51] Alas, if anyone found that for the cocket of Sligo Bay, or for bright Croghan of the fair equipment thou wouldst abandon ancient Tara of Tuathal Teachtmhar.

¶52] The words of soothsayers, the utterances of saints, mate her with thee, O wavy tresses; did they not prophesy of yore the salmon from Frewen's fair harbor?

¶53] Prophets of thy rule, thou lord of Bearnas, are the promise of fruit on the green-leafed bough, the fury of the stream bearing its produce, the wave concealed beneath the washed-up treasure.

¶54] Abundance of milk from a small number of cattle, abundance of corn stacks before summer, and—soothsayers through whom thou art most clearly recognized—the ruined buildings of the churches repaired.

¶55] Thou at the service of all, and all submitting to thee; thou above everyone, and everyone above thee; thou at the pleasure of every man, and for all that, the Gaels at thy mercy.

¶56] The noble Gaels welcome thee to this enterprise, O cheerful heart; as a woman with her unlawful mate, so is Ireland with thy warriors.