Lyra Celtica

III

ANCIENT ARMORICAN

(Breton)

 

            ANCIENT BRETON

        The Dance of the Sword. (53)
            (Ha Korol ar C'Hieze.)

        Blood, wine, and glee
            Sun, to thee,--
        Blood, wine, and glee!
                       Fire! fire! steel, Oh! steel!
                       Fire, fire! steel and fire!
                      Oak! oak, earth, and waves!
                      Waves, oak, earth and oak!

        Glee of dance and song,
            And battle-throng,--
        Battle, dance, and song!
                       Fire! fire! steel, etc.

        Let the sword blades swing
            In a ring,--
        Let the sword blades swing!
                      Fire! fire! steel, etc.

        Song of the blue steel,
            Death to feel,--
        Song of the blue steel!
                      Fire! fire! steel, etc.

        Fight, whereof the sword
            Is the Lord,--
        Fight of the fell sword!
                      Fire! fire! steel, etc.

        Sword, thou mighty king
            Of battle's ring,--
        Sword thou mighty king!
                      Fire! fire! steel, etc.

        With the rainbow's light
            Be thou bright,--
        With the rainbow's light!
                      Fire! fire! steel, Oh! steel!
                     Fire, fire! steel and fire!
                    Oak! oak, earth and waves!
                    Waves, oak, earth, and oak!

The Lord Nann and the Fairy. (55)
(Aotron Nann Hag ar Gorrigan.)

The good Lord Nann and his fair bride
Were young when wedlock's knot was tied--
Were young when death did them divide.

But yesterday that lady fair
Two babes as white as snow did bear;
A man-child and a girl they were.

"Now, say what is thy heart's desire,
For making me a man-child's sire?
'Tis thine, whate'er thou may'st require,--

"What food soe'er thee lists to take,
Meat of the woodcock from the lake,
Meat of the wild deer from the brake."

"Oh, the meat of the deer is dainty food!
To eat thereof would do me good,
But I grudge to send thee to the wood."

The Lord of Nann, when this he heard,
Hath gripp'd his oak spear with never a word;
His bonny black horse he hath leap'd upon,
And forth to the greenwood hath he gone.

By the skirts of the wood as he did go,
He was ware of a hind as white as snow.

Oh, fast she ran, and fast he rode,
That the earth it shook where his horse-hoofs trode.

Oh, fast he rode, and fast she ran,
That the sweat to drop from his brow began--

That the sweat on his horse's flank stood white;
So he rode and rode till the fall o' the night.

When he came to a stream that fed a lawn,
Hard by the grot of a Corrigaun.

The grass grew thick by the streamlet's brink,
And he lighted down off his horse to drink.

The Corrigaun sat by the fountain fair,
A-combing her long and yellow hair.

A-combing her hair with a comb of gold,--
(Not poor, I trow, are those maidens cold).--

"Now who's the bold wight that dares come here
To trouble my fairy fountain clear?

Either thou straight shall wed with me,
Or pine for four long years and three;
Or dead in three days' space shall be."

"I will not wed with thee, I ween,
For wedded man a year I've been;

"Nor yet for seven years will I pine,
Nor die in three days for spell of thine;

"For spell of thine I will not die,
But when it pleaseth God on high.

"But here, and now, I'd leave my life,
Ere take a Corrigaun to wife.

              *         *          *
"O mother, mothe! for love of me,
Now make my bed, and speedily,
For I am sick as a man can be.

"Oh, never the tale to my lady tell;
Three days and ye'll hear my passing bell;
The Corrigaun hath cast her spell."

Three days they pass'd, three days were sped,
To her mother-in-law the ladye said:
"Now tell me, madam, now tell me, pray,
Wherefore the death-bells toll to-day?

"Why chaunt the priests in the street below,
All clad in their vestments white as snow?"

"A strange poor man, who harbour'd here,
He died last night, my daughter dear."

"But tell me, madam, my lord, your son
My husband-whither is he gone?"

"But to the town, my child, he's gone;
And at your side he'll be back anon."

"What gown for my churching were't best to wear,
My gown of grain, or of watchet fair?"

"The fashion of late, my child, hath grown,
That women for churching black should don."

As through the churchyard porch she stept,
She saw the grave where her husband slept

"Who of our blood is lately dead,
That our ground is new raked and spread?"

The truth I may no more forbear,
My son--your own poor lord--lies there!"

She threw herself on her knees amain,
And from her knees neer rose again.

That night they laid her, dead and cold,
Beside her lord, beneath the mould
When, lo! --a marvel to behold!--

Next morn from the grave two oak-trees fair,
Shot lusty boughs high up in air;

And in their boughs--oh wondrous sight!--
Two happy doves, all snowy white--

That sang, as ever the morn did rise,
And then flew up--into the skies!

Alain the Fox. (58)

The bearded fox is yelping, yelp, yelping through the glades;
Woe to the foreign rabbits! His eyes are two keen blades.

His teeth are keen; his feet are swift; his nails are red with blood.
Alain the fox is yelping war: yelp, yelping in the wood.

The Bretons making sharp their arms of terror I did see,
It was on cuirasses of Gaul, not stones of Brittany.

The Bretons reaping did I see, upon the fields of war;
It was not notched reaping-hooks, but swords of steel they bore.

They reapt no wheat of our own land, they reaped not our rye;
But the beardless ears, the beardless ears of Gaul and Saxony.

I saw upon the threshing-floor the Bretons threshing corn:
I saw the beaten chaff fly out from beardless ears off-torn.

It was not with their wooden flails the Bretons thresht the wheat;
But with their iron boar-spears and with their horses' feet.

I heard the cry when threshing's done, the joy-cry onward borne
Far, far from Mont-Saint-Michel to the valleys of Elorn:

From the abbey of Saint Gildas far on to the Land's-End rocks.
In Brittany's four corners give a glory to the Fox!

From age to age give glory to the Fox a thousand times!
But weep ye for the rhymer, though he recollect his rhymes!

For he that sang this song the first since then hath never sung :
Ah me, alas! Unhappy man! The Gauls cut out his tongue.

But though no more he hath a tongue, a heart is always his:
He has both hand and heart to shoot his arrowy melodies.

Bran. (60)
(The Crow.)

    Wounded full sore is Bran the knight ;
For he was at Kerloan fight;
    At Kerloan fight, by wild seashore
Was Bran-Vor's grandson wounded sore;
    And, though we gained the victory,
Was captive borne beyond the sea.
    He when he came beyond the sea,
In the close keep wept bitterly.
    "They leap at home with joyous cry
While, woe is me, in bed I lie.
    Could I but find a messenger,
Who to my mother news would bear!"
    They quickly found a messenger
His best thus gave the warrior:
    "Heed thou to dress in other guise,
My messenger, dress beggar-wise!
    Take thou my ring, my ring of gold,
That she thy news as truth may hold!
    Unto my country straightway go,
It to my lady mother show!
    Should she come free her son from hold,
A flag of white do thou unfold!I
    But if with thee she come not back,
Unfurl, ah me, a pennon black!

    So, when to Leon-land he came,
At supper table sat the dame,
    At table with her family,
The harpers playing as should be.
    "Dame of the castle, hail! I bring
From Bran your son this golden ring,
    His golden ring and letter too;
Read it, oh read it, straightway through!
    "Ye harpers, cease ye, play no more,
For with great grief my heart is sore!
    My son (cease harpers, play no more!)
In prison, and I did not know!
    Prepare to-night a ship for me!
To-morrow I go across the sea."

    The morning of the next, next day
The Lord Bran questioned, as he lay:
    "Sentinel, sentinel, soothly say!
Seest thou no vessel on its way?"
    "My lord the knight, I nought espy
Except the great sea and the sky."
    The Lord Bran askt him yet once more,
Whenas the day's course half was o'er;
    "Sentinel, sentinel, soothly say!
Seest thou no vessel on its way?"
    "I can see nothing, my lord the knight,
Except the sea-birds i' their flight."
    The Lord Bran askt him yet again,
Whenas the day was on the wane;
    "Sentinel, sentinel, soothly say!
Seest thou no vessel on its way?"
    Then that false sentinel, the while
Smiling a mischief-working smile;
    "I see afar a misty form--
A ship sore beaten by the storm."
    "The flag? Quick give the answer back!
The banner? Is it white or black?"
    "Far as I see, 'tis black, Sir knight,
I swear it by the coal's red light."
    When this the sorrowing knight had heard
Again he never spoke a word;
    But turn'd aside his visage wan;
And then the fever fit began.

    Now of the townsmen askt the dame,
When at the last to shore she came,
    "What is the news here, townsmen, tell!
That thus I hear them toll the bell?"
    An aged man the lady heard,
And thus he answer'd to her word:
    "We in the prison held a knight;
And he hath died here in the night."
    Scarcely to end his words were brought,
When the high tower that lady sought;
    Shedding salt tears and running fast,
Her white hair scatter'd in the blast,
    So that the townsmen wonderingly
Full sorely marvell'd her to see;
    Whenas they saw a lady strange,
Through their streets so sadly range
    Each one in thought did musing stand;
"Who is the lady, from what land?"
    Soon as the donjon's foot she reacht,
The porter that poor dame beseecht;
    "Ope, quickly ope, the gate for me!
My son! My son! Him would I see!"
    Slowly the great gate open drew;
Herself upon her son she threw,
    Close in her arms his corpse to strain,
The lady never rose again.

    There is a tree, that doth look o'er
From Kerloan's battle-field to th' shore;
    An oak. Before great Evan's face
The Saxons fled in that same place.
    Upon that oak in clear moonlight,
Together come the birds at night;
    Black birds and white, but sea birds all;
On each one's brow a blood-stain small,
    With them a raven gray and old;
With her a crow comes young and bold.
    Both with soil'd wings, both wearied are;
They come beyond the seas from far:
    And the birds sing so lovelily
That silence comes on the great sea.
    All sing in concert sweet and low
Except the raven and the crow.
    Once was the crow heard murmuring:
"Sing, little birds, ye well may sing!
    Sing, for this is your own countrie!
Ye died not far from Brittany!"

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