Standish O'Grady.

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acquainted with the soreness of famine.
Yet even thus they refused to make terms
with the new tyranny. " To the sons of


Morna," they said, " we will oppose a reso-
lution which hunger and death shall never
break." But hardship and years began to
tell upon their iron frames, and their great
limbs wasted away. Then some of them
grew too old to do anything but sit by the
fire and keep it alive, while those who were
not so old set traps and springes near the
cabin, and sometimes snared a few birds
and small game, and sometimes did not.
Often the very old warriors turned hungry
eyes on the others as they came back empty-
handed, but no word of reproach was ever
uttered, nor at any time one word signify-
ing that famine had expelled their heroic
determination from their hearts.

This night the younger men returned,
bringing with them a red-winged thrush.
Silently they plucked the bird and sus-
pended it over the red embers by a twine
of twisted grass. Grimly the seniors smiled
as the small bird revolved over the glowing
embers and dropped its scant fatness, which
hissed slightly as it met the fire. They
thought of nights in the Speckled House on
Hill of Allen long ago, the feasts there, the
strong carousing, and all the joyous and
glorious days and nights of their youth,


when Cool, son of Trenmor, their captain,
was strong and unsubdued,

' ' Brothers, we are coming very near the
end," said one noble elder. " There is little
nourishment in this thrush, and yesterday
and the day before we had not even a
thrush. Be it so, but I would like to die
hearing that the tyranny of the sons of
Morna was shaken."

" Dear friend, that thou shalt both hear
and see," answered the one relative of Cool
who had escaped the fury of the Clanna
Morna and the hosts of their trackers. His
name was Crimall, son of Trenmor ; he was
chief over them. " It was surely foretold
to me, how, by a friendless and solitary
youth, a banned, outlawed child of the
wilderness, the sovereignty of the sons of
Morna would be overthrown."

" That we believe," they said, " for it
was surely prophesied, but not that the
youth in skins would arise in our time."

The bird being now roasted, Crimall made
an even division of the same, viz. a seventh
part to each man. Then he said, *' my
coevals, listen to me. I now tell you tidings
which I have concealed for a dark hour like
this. The youth of many prophecies has


appeared and there is perplexity in the
councils of Goll mac Morna. He and his
fierce warriors are already looking for the

In spite of sore famine the old men
dropped their morsels and gazed upon the
withered senior. " Yes, dear and faithful
brothers," continued Crimall, " he has ap-
peared; now from one point, now from
another, he descends upon them out of the
wilderness to burn and to slay, and again
the wilderness covers him. He has the
strength of a hundred men; he is swifter
than a deer, terrible as a dragon, and
glorious as the sun on his fiery wheels. So
much I know for a certainty ; the end truly
draweth nigh. We, the few and faithful,
will again sit at the right hand of our own
Fian-captain, in the flashing hall of the
Tech Brae, on the flat-topped hill."

" Oh, that we could believe thy words,
Crimall, strong-hearted and wise, but even
while we speak, the trackers of the Clanna
Morna may be at the door, and the youngest
of us has not the strength even to raise the
heavy swords, which were like switches in
our hands while our power and manly force
were still with us."


'* Hark," said one of them, " even now
I hear some man bursting through the
brushwood and young trees. Stand to joui
weapons, my brothers; it is an enemy, for
friends in all broad Erin w^e have none."



It was pitiful to see the response to this
challenge, for, though all stood up and
sought to arm themselves and stand on their
defence, they were not able. With diffi-
culty they raised their mighty shields, and
their huge swords trembled in their ancient
and nerveless hands.

Someone knocked at the door, and, as it
seemed, with the butt-end of a great spear,
the weak door was splintered with the blow.
The strongest and youngest of the Fians
stood behind the door and cried, "Art thou
a friend or an enemy ?"

" A friend," answered a young, cheery,
and laughing voice from without.


" Unbar the door," cried old Crimall.
" Deceit is not an attribute of the Clannti
Morna — I will do them that justice. There
was no lying or treachery found amongst
them at any time. Unbar the door."

" There is mockery in the voice," said
the old Fian. " It is the voice of one who

" Nay, not mockery," answered Crimall,
** but laughter only. It is the laughter of
a young and happy heart. Unbar the

The old Fian unbarred the door, and a
young man, large and mighty- the wed,
entered the booth laughing, his whole face
suffused with sparkling tides of some great
joy. He was white and ruddy, his bright
face lit up the whole gloomy chamber of
age and sorrow. His lips and cheeks were
smooth, the golden masses of his hair rolled
over his wide shoulders. He wore a huge
rough mantle of many skins of wild-boars
sewn together; his shirt was of deer-skin
laced with leathern thongs; his knees bare,
and his moccasins of untanned hairy ox-
hide. He carried a great shield and spear;
the bright end of a scabbard projected below
his black skin-cloak. He came straight to


Crimall and bending low in reverence
said —

' ' Noble elder, I am a hunter lost in
these woods. I seek supper and a bed, for
I am homeless and supperless."

" Thou art right welcome, O youth,''
said Crimall. " We too are hunters, but
fortune has not smiled on our labours this
day. Nevertheless what we have with us in
the booth is thine."

A sylvan seat, which, indeed, was only
the sawn end of a tree, was set before the
fire for the young hero, and while he con-
versed with Crimall, the others contributed
their small fragments. Then a platter con-
taining the just dismembered bird was
given to him.

*' Would we had better to offer thee,
illustrious youth whom the gods love, but
we can give thee pure water from the spring
and a pleasant bed of heather and rushes,
and our young men will rise early in
the morning and search the snares and
springes. Haply some birds or animals
may be taken therein on which thou mayest
break thy fast well. Music we cannot give
thee, for music hath not been heard amongst
us for a long time ; but there is one amongst


US who is a good historian, and will enter-
tain thee with stories of old times till sweet
sleep makes heavy thine eyelids."

The laughing light died out of the
young man's eyes and lips, as the glittering
sunshine glancing on a million waves fades
from the sea when a black cloud comes over
the sun. He looked at the wretched repast
upon the beechen platter, the little frag-
ments in number the same as the number
of the old men. He marked their hollow
gray faces aud their eyes bright with
famine, bright too just then with the light
of kindness and goodwill. He laid the
platter on the ground beside him, and put
his great hands before his face, and bowed
down his head and wept. The old men
preserved silence. Youth, they thought,
hath many sorrows which cold age cannot





When the boy had made an end of weeping,
he stood up and said —

" Noble old men, good fortune in hunt-
ing doth not fall to every one each day, but
sometimes one man meets with it, and some-
times another. Ill fortune was yours to-day
and may be mine to-morrow, but this day
success has attended my hunting, and there
is with me a sufficiency of food for all. Put
on the fire, I pray you, fresh timber, not
little sticks but big logs, and make a good
fire, for we shall all feast well to-night."

So saying he left the booth, while the old
men, wondering, gazed at one another, and
he presently reappeared bending in the low
doorway and bearing a deer on his
shoulders, the two fore legs caught in one
hand on his breast, and the two hind legs
in another, while the head, with lolling
tongue and branching antlers, hung down

(D 436) H


on one side. It was no fallow-deer, but a
great red-deer of the forest, a buck, very
large and fat. Out over his head then he
flung the huge carcass, which fell with
a heavy dull sound and a clash of the
clattering antlers on the floor of the booth,
and went out, and returned carrying in
his right hand a tusked boar held by
the bristling hair, and in his left a sow
grasped by a leg, and flung them down
beside the deer. He returned once more
trailing behind him a long string of small
game, hares and badgers, wild geese and
swans, fastened together by a stout cord of
cut and twisted hide, so that all the farther
end of the booth was heaped with birds and

" Truly thou art a mighty hunter,
brave and generous youth," said Crimall,
" but bring in now thy hounds. Why
shouldst thou leave them without ? We too,
alas ! love hounds, and thine will be most
welcome at our hearth."

" Truly there are no hounds with me,"
said the lad. " Whatever be the powers
that fashioned me, they have made my limbs
swift and tireless, so that even the red-deer
are not apt to escape from me when I get


upon their traces. Yet, why should I boast ?
You, too, have doubtless in your day run
down swift game. Verily, the tongue of youth
is apt to be loud in declaring its own glory.
Here I think is a sufficiency of meat, and
I chance to have bread too, for I am not a
hunter only, but a warrior and spoiler; I
sacked a lime-white noble Dun this day,
and have brought with me some of the



" Hast thou any other surprises in store
for us, O youth, beloved of the gods ?" said
Crimall, who trembled as he spoke, for fear
and hope made him like ice and fire.

" What thing above all other things in
the world wouldst thou see with greatest
joy, son of Trenmor, son of Basna ?"
And Crimall answered straight —
" The bag that was at my brother's
girdle in the battle of Cnoca, with his
jewels of sovereignty and power within it,


and the head of Luchat Mael, and both in
the hands of my brother's only son."

" I have them with me," cried the lad,
as he threw back his boar-skin mantle, and
held out the jewel-bag in one hand and a
huge black head in the other. ' ' Here is
Cool's treasure-bag and the treasures in it,
and here is Luchat Mael's head, whom I met
and slew this day in fair fight, and I am
Cool's youngest son whom the druidesses
bore away after the battle, and I am waging
war on the Clanna Morna and rending their
tyranny, and all Ireland is a shaking sod
under my feet."

Then the old men all together cried aloud
for joy, yea, they screamed together like
eagles or the sea-gulls of the cliffs of Erris
when they wheel and cry in their multi-
tudes between the gray cliffs and the sea, so
the old men cried; and they flung their
arms around the youth and kissed his head
and his cheeks, and his shoulders, his hands,
and feet, and wept till their voices were
choked with lamentation, and their eyes
became like rivers of salt water, and a third
part of the night went by before they made
an end.

Afterwards they washed their faces in


pure water, and laughed as much as before
they wept. Then they turned their minds
to supper, and skinned and cut up the game,
and roasted great steaks of venison on the
red embers. Also they cleared out the old
disused Fian oven, and stewed and seethed
great quantities of flesh in steam, and if
they had any bright attire left, or any orna-
ment, it was brought forth, and they ate,
and drank, and caroused, and related to
each other their many adventures, and the
old men ever kept their eyes upon Finn and
noted every word that came from his mouth.
When they had conversed for a long time,
Finn said : " Now, if it is pleasing to you,
I will play for you on my clairseach and
sing, for what is a feast without music and
singing ?" From his great boarskin mantle
then he produced a little harp and rem-oved
the sheath of fine soft white doeskin, and,
when he had turned the pegs and brought
the strings to the correct tone, he said : " I
will sing you my own songs, that you
may judge of my proficiency in poetry, as I
learned it from the six poets with whom I
associated in the woody dells of Slieve
Crot." He sang for them a song in praise
of the wind, beginning —


Sweet to me is the voice of the wind,
AHke when he whispers in the leaves
And when he sounds his strong dord in the tree-
Bending the forests in his wrath.

He sang a second song in praise of the
sea, " the boundless unconquerable realms
of Lir," and a third in honour of the sun,
and a fourth in honour of the earth.

Crimall said, " Those are good songs,
my son. I like thy verses well and especially
those in honour of the firm, strong, rocky,
and all-supporting earth. We, the Fians
of thy sire, were accustomed to kiss the
earth three times before we went into any

" That custom shall be maintained,"
said Finn; and then he said, " I have
a wonder with me, that is to say, a man
and a woman, and they are not seen.
The man's height is the span of my hand,
and the woman's somewhat less, and there
are not in the seen worlds, or in the unseen,
a pair of singers and musicians like them.
Cnu-Derole and Blana, sing and play for
the noble Fians, who were my father's dear
friends and comrades."


Thereat the Fians heard slow, sweet,
fairy music and singing, strange, unearthly
harmonies and songs in an unknown tongue,
low, faint, and remote. The Fians wept
hearing them.

" They are husband and wife," said
Finn; " and they never cease to be in love
with each other. They are with me always,
and I am as dear to them as they are to me."

" You have another wonder at your
girdle," said Crimall, " though jou know it
not. I mean the inexhaustible horn that is
in thy father's treasure-bag. Wash thy
hands, my son, and be not afraid to remove
it. It is wrapped in the skin of an ermine."
Finn washed his hands, and took out the
horn, and removed the ermine skin. The
horn was rimmed with silver and had little
breastplates of crystal, like eyes. " Fill the
horn," said Crimall, " and hand it to me."
Finn did so, and Crimall took a long, deep
draught out of it, and handed it to the old
man who sat next him, who did the same,
and handed it to a third. So it came to
Finn last, who thought that he surely would
empty the horn ; but when he gave over, the
horn was not half empty, and when he put
it again in Crimall's hands it was full to the


brim and overflowing. Crimall took the
goblet and emptied it into the fire. There
went up from the fire a thick blue smoke,
shot with stars and lightnings, and a sweet
perfume filled the whole booth.

" That is indeed a wonder," said Finn;
" this goblet must be one of che marvels of
the earth."

' ' It is," said Crimall ; ' ' the name of it is
Elba. I shall tell thee its story another
time. I have shown thee its properties now
to teach thee the nature of the treasures
contained in that bag, in order that you may
cherish and safeguard it. That horn has
other properties also. If it is filled with
water, he who drinks will find in it the
liquor that he likes best, and this will
happen whether the horn be filled with
fresh water from the spring or with salt
water from the sea. That bag is filled with
instruments of enchantment." Finn care-
fully wrapped up the goblet and put it back
into the bag.

Finn, of course, told the old men all his
history. The following is his account of the
way in which he won his wife.




** After I escaped from the watery strong-
hold of that robber who had slain my friends
and tutors, the six poets, I was with the two
heroines once more in the Slieve Bloom
forests. I used to hunt for them continually,
and our larder was never empty. When I
next went abroad, I came to Eantry, on the
shore of the great bay of Bera in the south.
I offered my services to the King of Bantry.
He asked me what I could do, and I said I
could hunt. The King of Bantry made me
his hunter. I used to hunt for him in the
woods and mountains of the wild adjoining
country. There was one spot there very
dear to me on account of its beauty ; it is
called the Rough Glen (Glen-gariffe). There
are beautiful little bays and inlets of the sea
there, and overhanging mountains and
streams, and delightful woods. The birds
sing there in the winter. Once while I was
hunting at a distance from home, I saw a


number of people assembled, kings, and
nobles, and noble ladies in holiday attire —
a very gay and delightful scene. I came to
the assembly and mingled with the wild
people of the district who were onlookers.
No one knew me in that place, nor was it
known anywhere, save to my two benefact-
resses, that I was the lost son of Cool, son of
Trenmor. Amongst the noble ladies was
one seated on a throne, with others in at-
tendance on her, and guards. She was
young, but looked proud and disdainful.
Never before in dreams or with my waking
eyes had I seen any maiden so beautiful. I
turned to a bystander and said, " Who is
this princess who is like the morning star,
and what is the meaning of this assembly ?"
She heard me, for there was a waiting
silence upon the assembly, and turned her
eyes towards me. Then she started, as I
thought, and blushed and looked away

*' The bystander answered, ' Thou art
surely a stranger in this country. That
princess, who is like the morning star for
beauty, is the only daughter of the King of
Rushy Ciarrai. Many noble youths and
famous champions have sought her in mar-


riage, J3ut from the first she declared that it
was a ges to her' (a druidic commandment)
' not to marry any man who could not leap
yonder deep cleft in the mountain side ; and
truly it is an awful leap, and those who have
attempted it are at the bottom of the cleft.
There has been no relenting in her, and no
compassion, so powerful is the ges, as some
think, or so great is her love of virginity,
as others say. This morning a king's son
named Crimthann hath promised to leap
the chasm or perish there like others.'

" I pressed through the wild people, and
knew that she was ever aware of my doings
even when pride restrained her from look-
ing towards me. I was clad in my skins,
and these fastened together in any wise. I
came to the nobles, and saluting them
respectfully, asked whether I might pass
through that presence and examine the
cleft. For answer tw^o of them undertook
to push me back, but I stood like a rock
against them, and they and others at the
same time raised against me their voices
and their weapons. The maiden was
agitated and alarmed at this, and said,
"Let the hunter youth examine the cleft if
it be pleasing to him. See you not that he


is a stranger?" All in my skins as I was,
truly a wild spectacle, I bowed low to the
maiden, and thanked her for her courtesy,
and went to the chasm's edge. Far below,
a torrent ran through the ravine, so distant
that it was dumb; and at the other side
were sharp crags and crooked points of
rock. I measured the distance with my
eye, and felt certain that I could make the
leap, for, owing to my manner of life, I was
truly a good leaper. I returned, and, be-
cause I had found favour in her eyes, came
and took my stand amongst the nobles and
men of war, and was well received by them
on this second occasion.

" Then from the west there came a
splendid company, led by a young man
nobly attired, wearing a brooch of gold in
his five-times-folded mantle ; a very grace-
ful youth, whose form and shapely limbs
seemed to promise success in that venture,
so that the blood seemed to stand still in my
heart, for fear that he might succeed, and
when I looked to the maid she was pale, too,
fearing that the young man might accomp-
lish the leap.

" He approached, and having made her
a reverence, and addressed her and her


people in an eloquent manner, he withdrew,
and stripped off his mantle and jerkin of
fine satin, so that there was upon him only
a close-fitting light shirt. He took oh" his
shoes, too, and put on others carefully pre-
pared for such a feat. Then, when he w^as
in readiness, a trumpet sounded, and he ran
towards the chasm, having the fleetness of
a deer and the gracefulness of a fawn, so
that I said, ' Surely the man will leap the
cleft and I shall die.' But when he neared
the chasm and saw the crooked rocks and
crags at the other side, and becam.e aware
of the dark, fearsome depths of the ravine,
he hesitated and swerved, baulking the leap.
Then the maiden looked at me, and from her
two eyes, and her lips, and her whole coun-
tenance, I saw love for myself pour forth in
torrents, and she saw the same flow from me
to her, for no one observed us on that

" The young man, Crimthann, after he
had been encouraged by his people, ad-
dressed himself to the leap a second time,
and yet a third, but he ever swerved, baulk-
ing the leap ; and in the end broke into tears
and went away. Then I arose, and, taking
courage, stood before the throne and offered


to take the leap which Crimthann had
refused, if the maid would accept me for
her husband. She was silent and pale with
terror, and did not answer. Her father and
the attendant nobles told me that she would
not, and, laughing, they bade me save my
neck for the service of my king, and that
whole bones were better than broken ones,
and other such-like speeches.

' ' I said that I would not take an answer
from them, only from the damsel, that it
was her and not any of themselves I desired
to marry. She said som.ewhat in a low voice
to her father. He raised his head and said,
laughing —

" ' She says that she never saw anyone
worse dressed.'

" That may be," I answered, " but it is
not my skins that I propose as a husband,
but myself, and my question is not

" After a further colloquy her father
spoke again and said —

' ' ' My daughter is sorry to have taunted
thee with thy attire, and she could w^ish her
husband in other things to resemble thee,
but will not consent to the leap.'

" Then," said I, " if the damsel v/ill not


give me the same promise that she made to
others, I shall leap the chasm notwithstand-
ing, and having reached the far side I shall
return to my lord."

' ' When she heard that, and saw that I
was fully determined, she burst into tears
and consented, and her father said —

" ' I am truly sorry for thee, O brave
yoiith, and how shall I make an excuse to
thy lord, who is my foster-brother, when he
learns that between us we have killed his

" Then rejoicing, I chose my distance
from the chasm's edge, and I threw off none
of my attire, only laced it with a thong close
to me that the skins might not impede me
in my flight over the cleft. And I ran to the
edge and sprang, though a woman's scream
rang in my ears, and rose with an airy bird-
like motion, and lighted with my two feet
on the other side on smooth ground beyond
the rocks, and in like manner I sprang
back, and I approached the noble company
and asked them whether that was sufficient,
speaking deliberately, for I was in no way
exhausted or out of breath. Thej were
astonished and pale, but when I offered to
do it again they said that it was enough.


" In this manner I won my dear wife.

' ' I went with that company to the King
of Rushy Ciarrai's palace, and I got there
splendid raiment fit for a king's son, and
our marriage was celebrated with great
honour. And now, dear friends, I tell you
one of my secrets. There is a prophetic
faculty with my wife, and the vision of
unseen things. It was revealed to her that

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