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along that land he suddenly saw Etain



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 127

standing by a spring of water where she
had gone to wash her hair. Beside her
was a silver comb and a silver basin with
four birds chased on it and amethysts
set in the rim. She had thrown off her
purple cloak, and it lay on the grass
beside her. Her tunic was a rich green
silk under red embroidery of gold, and
the gold and green flashed in the sun.
With her white arms she was undoing
her hair to wash it ; and her hair was
long and golden ; it was in two tresses,
each woven of four strands, and each
strand was fastened with a golden ball.
Her skin was white as foam, her eyes
blue as hyacinths, and no fairer maid had
ever been seen.

When Eochy saw her he was seized
with desire for her.

" What is thy name," he asked,
" and who is thy father ? "

" My name is Etain," she answered,
" and my father is Etar."

Then Eochy made no delay ; he paid
the customary gifts to Etar, wedded
Etain, and brought her back to Tara to
be his queen.



128 SAVITRI

Eochy had a brother called Ailill ;
and when Etain came to Tara, and Ailill
saw her, he was seized with a great long-
ing and love for her. And he blamed
himself for loving his brother's wife,
and he turned his eyes away from her.
But all was in vain ; the picture of Etain
was in his heart if it was not in his eyes,
and so it happened that after a little
while he fell ill and nothing could cure
him. Eochy was sorry for his brother's
illness, and asked him what was the matter
with him, and Ailill sighed and said he
did not know.

The king was to go on a royal progress,
and he left Etain behind him, and gave
into her charge his brother Ailill. " Deal
gently with him," he said to her, " as
long as he lives, and if he dies place a
stone over his burial mound and write
his name on it in letters of Ogham."

When Eochy had gone, Etain went to
see Ailill, and when she came into his
room Ailill gazed at her, and his sickness
was somewhat relieved.

" Alas, Ailill," said Etain, " thou hast
been lying in thy bed a long time — art
thou indeed so ill ? "



i



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 129

" Yes," replied Ailill ; " I no longer
delight in the sounds of the harp ; I
cannot drink the milk that is placed
beside me."

" What is it thou art suffering from,
poor Ailill ? " asked Etain.

" If I told thee," answered Ailill,
" the words would choke me as I spoke
them."

" What is the cause of thy illness ? "
she said.

" Thy marriage with Eochy," he
answered.

And again she asked him gently,
" What is thy illness, AihU ? Tell me ;
for I know many healing secrets, and
perhaps I could cure thee if I knew thy
illness."

Then Ailill could contain himself no
longer, and he broke out :

" Love is my illness — love which I
have endured for a year.

" It is a fierce love — closer than the skin.

" It is the four quarters of the earth.

" It rushes up higher than heaven.

" It is a battle with a dream.

";It is drowning in icy water.

" It is a treasure under the sea.

9



130 SAVITRI

" It is wooing an echo.

" This is my love — this is my passion
for the woman I desire in vain."

And Etain stood looking at Ailill ; and
she understood his illness and the cause
of it, and she was sorry for him. And out
of pity she said :

" Ailill, thou shalt have thy desire.
Come to-morrow at daybreak to the hill
beyond the castle, and I will give thee
what thou needest for thy recovery."

All through the night Ailill lay awake,
longing for the morning ; but when the
morning came his eyes were heavy with
sleep and he did not wake till the sun
was high in the heavens. Etain went
to the hill beyond the castle at daybreak,
and she had not been there long when
a man, seeming like Ailill, came towards
her. But she knew it was not Ailill,
and she waited for him to come. When
she had waited long she returned to the
castle and found Ailill awaking from his
sleep, lamenting bitterly that he had
missed the tryst.

" Do not be sorrowful," said Etain ;
" there is a morrow to follow to-day."



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 131

And the next day again Etain went
up to the hill ; and again Ailill came
not, but a man came in the likeness of
Ailill ; and it was so a third time. And
the third time Etain spoke to the man
and said :

" My tryst is not with thee ; why
dost thou come ? As for the man I
would have met here it is not from love
of him or fear of him that I come, but
only from pity. And it is fitting that I
should save the man from his sickness
which is upon him from love of me."

" It were more fitting for thee to
tryst with me," said the man ; " for when
thou wast Etain of the Horses I myself
was thy husband."

" What meanest thou ? " cried Etain,
"[and who art thou and what is thy
name ? "

" My name," said he, " is Midir the
Proud, and I am one of the kings of
Fairyland. We were separated by the
spells of Fuamnach, but she is dead now,
and thou canst safely return to dwell
with me."

" Return with thee ! " exclaimed
Etain. " Leave Eochy, the King of



132 SAVITRI

Ireland, for a man whose lineage and
land are unknown ! "

" My lineage," replied Midir, " is the
lineage of the fairies — the people of
Dana — and I am one of the sons of
Dagda. As for my land, it is a land of
music, where smooth, clear streams flow
through a Great Plain, to which the
plains of Ireland are but deserts. In
that land there is no ' mine ' and ' thine ' ;
there is no old age ; love is no sin ; we
behold men and are not seen of them.
In that land the crowns of hair are like
primroses, bodies are white as snow,
cheeks pink like foxgloves, and eyes like
blackbirds' eggs. Come with me to this
land, oh, lady ; great happiness will be
thine ; thou shalt eat sweet food, and
drink new milk and ale."

But Etain replied, " I will not go with
thee ; I know thee not ; I will not leave
Eochy for a stranger."

" What if Eochy should give thee up
to me ? " asked Midir.

" Then I will go with thee," she re-
plied.

After this Etain returned to the castle ;



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 133

and she found Ailill cheerful and well ;
and the illness had fallen away from him,
and the love of Etain that had caused
the illness had vanished too, and he was
a sound, strong man, once more. Etain
and Ailill both rejoiced, and so did
Eochy when he returned home ; and he
thanked Etain for the care she had taken
of AiHll.

Not long after, Eochy the king rode
forth from Tara ; he rode up a steep hill
and looked at the plain below. It was
summer-time, and the plain was beautiful
with many colours ; the trees were
blossoming and glowing with green, white,
and pink. And as Eochy looked at the
plain, suddenly there appeared before
him a young man seated on a brown
horse that curveted and pranced, and
shook its tail and curly mane in the
sunlight. The youth had golden hair
and bright eyes ; his mantle was green
and long, and waved in the wind ; on his
back he had a shield with a golden boss
and a golden rim, and in his hand he held
a five-pointed spear.

" Hail, king," said he to Eochy, " I am



134 SAVITRI

come to put myself under thy pro-
tection."

" Welcome," replied Eochy ; " my pro-
tection thou shalt have, though I know
not who thou art."

" My name is in no way renowned,"
replied the youth. " I am called Midir
the Proud."

" Why hast thou come ? " asked
Eochy.

" I am come to play a game of chess
with thee," replied Midir.

" I would gladly play with thee,"
returned Eochy, " but the queen is now
asleep, and the chess-board is in her
chamber."

" I have with me a chess-board on
which we might play," said Midir, and
he took out a chess-board of silver and
chess men of gold.

" What shall the stake be ? " asked
Eochy, " for I will not play without a
stake."

" Let the stake be whatever the winner
asks," said Midir ; and Eochy agreed.

The first game they played Eochy won,
for Midir did not put forth all his
cunning ; and Eochy desired him to



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 135

clear away the stones and rocks in the
plains of Meath. The second game they
played Eochy won ; and he ordered
Midir to cut down the forest of Breg.
The third game they played Eochy still
won ; and he commanded Midir to build
a causeway over the bog of Lamrach.

And at night when Eochy slept, Midir
and his host of fairies came and per-
formed all these tasks, so that in the
morning when the king looked upon the
face of the land he was amazed. And he
was eager to play chess again with Midir ;
and they played, and this time Midir was
the winner.

" My stake is forfeit to thee," said
Eochy.

^- '' Had I chosen it had been forfeit in
all the games," answered Midir.

" What dost thou ask me to grant ? "
asked the king.

And Midir answered, " That I may hold
Etain in my arms and kiss her on the lips."
i^Then the king was silent ; but at last
he said, " Come again one month from
to-day and the thing thou hast asked shall
be granted."



136 SAVITRI

Now in his heart Eochy feared an evil
end to the business, and he resolved to
prevent Midir from entering the castle.
So he summoned the champions of
Ireland to Tara, and he placed them all
round the castle, both inside and out, to
guard it from the approach of any-
stranger. And on the last day of the
month, on the appointed night, Eochy
was feasting in the hall of the castle, and
Etain went to him to pour him out a
goblet of wine, and suddenly they saw
Midir, radiant and beautiful, standing
before them.

" King," said Midir, " when I lost to
thee I kept my promise and did as thou
didst desire. Now thou hast lost, keep
thy promise and give me Etain."

When Etain heard these words she
blushed and looked on the ground, for
she remembered how she had agreed
to go with Midir if Eochy gave her to
him.

Eochy was confused and angry, but at
last he said to Midir :

" Take her then in thy arms, here,
before us all."

And Midir took his weapons in his left



THE COURTSHIP OF ETAIN 137

hand and held Etain in his right arm ;
and they rose up in the air and flew out
by a window in the roof. Then Eochy
and his champions rushed out of the
castle, and above their heads they saw
two white swans which circled round
Tara and then vanished from their sight
in the blue sky.

In this manner Etain of the Horses
returned to Midir the Proud, one of the
kings of Fairyland.



LIST OF BOOKS USED



SAVITRI.

The Mahabarata. Trans., Protap Chandra Roy. (Cal-
cutta, 1884.) Lays of Ancient India. R. Dutt.
(London, 1894.) Indian Myth and Legend. D. A.
Mackenzie. (London, n.d.)

THE LAY OF THE ASH TREE.

Lais. Marie de France. Seven of the Lays done into
English, by E. Rickert. (London, 1901.)

YANKA AND HER BROTHERS.

Contes de la Bosnie. M. Colonna. (Paris, n.d.) Volks-
lieder der Serben. Karajick. (Halle, 1825.) Servian
Popular Poetry. Trans., John Bowring. (London,
1827.) Po'emes Nationaux du Peuple Serbe. Yak-
CHiTCH et Robert. (Paris, 1918.)

SAINT IRIA.

Romanceiro Portuguez. Ed. V. E. Hardung. (Leipzig,
1877.) Choix de Vieux chants Portuguais. Puymaigre.
(Paris, 1 88 1.)

VASSILISSA THE WISE.
Epic Songs of Russia. I. E. Hapgood. (New York, 1S86.)

JANET AND TAMLIN.

English and Scottish Ballads. F. A. Child.



LIST OF BOOKS USED 139

LIBUSSA THE PROPHETESS.

Chronicon Bohemorum. Cosmas Pragensis. Ed., Migne.
(Paris, 1854.) Bohmische Chronik. Wenceslaus
Hajeck. Trans., Sandel. (Leipzig, 1596.) Chants
heroiques et chansons populaires des Slaves de Bobime.
Trans., Louis Leger. (Paris, 1866.)

JOUKAHAINEN'S SISTER.

Kalevala. Trans., W. F. Kirby. (London, n.d.) Le
Kalevala. Trans., L. Leongeon le Due. (1879.)
Kalevala. Trans., Y. M. Crawford. (1889.)

THE BAMBOO-CUTTER'S STORY.

Myths and Legends of Japan. F. H. Dairs. (London,
1912.) The Old Bamboo- Hewer's Story. Trans.,
F. Victor Dickins. (London, 1888.)

THE BUILDING OF SKADAR.

Servian Popular Poetry. Trans., J. Bowring. (London,
1887.) Poemes Nationaux du Peuple Serbe. Yak-
CHITCH ET Robert. (Paris, 19 18.) Chants de Guerre
de la Serbie. Leo d'Orfer. (Paris, 1916.) Hero
Tales and Legends of Serbia. Woislav Petrovitch.
(London, 1917.)

ETAIN AND MIDIR.

Heroic Romances of Ireland. A. A. Leahy. (London,
1905.) Legends of the Celtic Race. T. W. Rolleston.
(London, 191 1.)



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Online LibraryMarjorie StracheySavitri & other women → online text (page 6 of 6)