FOAM OF THE PAST
O where in the north, or where in the
south, or where in the east or west
Is she who hath the flower-white hands and
the swandown breast?
O, if she be west, or east she be, or in the
north or south,
A sword will leap, a horse will prance, ere I
win to Honey-Mouth.
She has great eyes, like the doe on the hill,
and warm and sweet she is,
O, come to me, Honey-Mouth, bend to me,
Honey-Mouth, give me thy kiss !
White-Hands her name is, where she reigns
amid the princes fair:
White hands she moves like swimming swans
athrough her dusk-wave hair:
White hands she puts about my heart, white
hands fan up my breath:
White hands take out the heart of me, and
grant me life or death!
White hands make better songs than hymns,
white hands are young and sweet:
O, a sword for me, O Honey-Mouth, and a
war-horse fleet !
O wild sweet eyes! O glad wild eyes! O
mouth, how sweet it is!
O, come to me, Honey-Mouth! bend to me,
Honey-Mouth! give me thy kiss!
HEART O' BEAUTY
O where are thy white bands, Heart o' Beauty ?
They are as white foam on the swept sands,
They are as white swans i' the dusk, thy white hands,
Wild swans in flight over shadowy lands,
O lift again thy white hands, Heart o' Beauty,
Harp to the white waves on the yellow sands,
They will hearken now to these waving wands,
To the magic wands of thy white hands,
From the white dawn till the grey dusk,
I hear the unseen waves of unseen strands,
I see the sun rise and set over shadowy lands,
But never, never, never thy white hands,thy white hands,
OONA OF THE DARK EYES AND
THE CRYING OF WIND
I have fared far in the dim woods:
And I have known sorrow and grief,
And the incalculable years
That haunt the solitudes.
Where now are the multitudes
Of the Field of Spears ?
Fall upon them as rain,
Their eyes are quiet under the brown leaf.
I have seen the dead, innumerous:
I too shall lie thus,
And thou, Congal, thou too shalt lie
Still and white
Under the starry sky,
And rise no more to any Field of Spears,
But, under the brown leaf,
And the old, salt, bitter tears.
And I have heard the crying of wind.
It is the crying that is in my heart:
Oona of the Dark Eyes, Oona of the Dark Eyes,
Oona, Oona, Oona, Heart of my Heart!
But there is only crying of wind
Through the silences of the sky,
Dews that fall and rise,
The faring of long years,
And the coverlet of the brown leaf
For the old familiar grief
And the old tears.
THE LAMENT OF IAN THE PROUD
What is this crying that I hear in the wind ?
Is it the old sorrow and the old grief?
Or is it a new thing coming, a whirling leaf
About the grey hair of me who am weary and blind?
I know not what it is, but on the moor above the shore
There is a stone which the purple nets of the heather bind,
And thereon is writ: She will return no more.
O blown whirling leaf,
And the old grief,
And wind crying to me who am old and blind!
THE MONODY OF ISLA THE SINGER
"Like Bells on the wind . . ."
Is it time to let the Hour rise and go forth as a hound
loosed from the battle-cars ?
Is it time to let the Hour go forth, as the White Hound
with the eyes of flame ?
For if it be not time I would have this hour that is left
to me under the stars
Wherein I may dream my dream again, and at the last whisper one name.
It is the name of one who was more fair than youth to
the old, than life to the young:
She was more fair than the first love of Angus the
Beautiful, and though I were blind
And deaf for a hundred ages I would see her, more
fair than any poet has sung,
And hear her voice like mournful bells crying on the
THE END OF AODH-OF-THE-SONGS
The swift years slip and slide adown the steep;
The slow years pass; neither will come again,
Yon huddled years have weary eyes that weep,
These laugh, these moan, these silent frown, these plain,
These have their lips curl'd up with proud disdain.
O years with tears, and tears through weary years,
How weary I who in your arms have lain:
Now, I am tired: the sound of slipping spears
Moves soft, and tears fall in a bloody rain,
And the chill footless years go over me who am slain.
I hear, as in a wood, dim with old light, the rain,
Slow falling; old, old, weary, human tears:
And in the deepening dark my comfort is my Pain,
Sole comfort left of all my hopes and fears,
Pain that alone survives, gaunt hound of the shadowy years.
CHANTS AND DIRGES
THE LOVE-CHANT OF CORMAC CONLINGAS
Oimé, Oimé, woman of the white breasts,
Woman of the golden hair, and lips of the
red, red rowan!
Oimé, O-rì, Oimé!
Where is the swan that is whiter, with breast
Or the wave on the sea that moves as thou
movest, Eilidh --
Oimé, a-rò; Oimé, a-rò!
It is the marrow in my bones that is aching,
It is the blood in my body that is a bitter
wild tide, Oimé!
O-rì, Ohion, O-rì, aròne!
Is it the heart of thee calling that I am
Or the wind in the wood, or the beating of
the sea, Eilidh,
Or the beating of the sea?
Shule, shule agràh, shule agràh, shule agràh,
Heart of me, move to me! move to me, heart
of me, Eilidh, Eilidh,
Move to me!
Ah! let the wild hawk take it, the name of me,
Take it and tear at thy heart with it, heart that of
old was so hot with it,
Eilidh, Eilidh, O-rì, Eilidh,
¹Eilidh is pronounced Eily.
THE WASHER OF THE FORD
There is a lonely stream afar in a lone
It hath white dust for shore it has, white bones
bestrew the strand:
The only thing that liveth there is a naked
But I, who a seer am, have seen the whirling hand
Of the Washer of the Ford.
A shadowy shape of cloud and mist, of gloom
and dusk, she stands,
The Washer of the Ford:
This is the laughing word
Of the Washer of the Ford
Along that silent strand.
THE DEATH-DIRGE FOR CATHAL
Out of the wild hills I am hearing a
voice, O Cathal!
And I am thinking it is the voice of a
Whose is that sword? I know it well: it is
the sword of the Slayer--
Him that is called Death, and the song that
it sings I know: --
O where is Cathal mac Art, the white cup
for the thirst of my lips ?
Out of the cold greyness of the sea I am
hearing, O Cathal,
I am hearing a wave-muffled voice, as of one
who drowns in the depths:
Whose is that voice? I know it well: it is
the voice of the Shadow --
Her that is called the Grave, and the song
that she sings I know: --
O where is Cathal mac Art, that has warmth
for the chill that I have ?
Out of the hot greenness of the wood I am
hearing, O Cathal,
I am hearing a rustling step, as of one
Whose is that rustling step? I know it well:
the rustling walk of the Blind One --
She that is called Silence, and the song that
she sings I know: --
O where is Cathal mac Art, that has tears to
water my stillness ?
THE MOON-SONG OF CATHAL
O yellow lamp of Ioua that is having a
cold pale flame there,
Put thy honey-sheen upon me who am close-
caverned with Death:
Sure it is little I see now who have seen too
much and too little :
O moon, thy breast is softer and whiter than
hers who burneth the day.
Put thy white light on the grave where the
dead man my father is,
And waken him, waken him, wake!
And put thy soft shining on the breast of the
woman my mother,
So that she stir in her sleep and say to the
viking beside her,
Take up thy sword, and let it lap blood, for
it thirsts with long thirst."
And O Iona, be as the sea-calm upon the
hot heart of Ardanna, the girl:
Tell her that Cathal loves her, and that
memory is sweeter than life.
I hear her heart beating here in the dark
and the silence,
And it is not lonely I am, because of that,
O yellow flame of Ioua, be a spilling of blood
out of the heart of Ecta,
So that he fall dead, inglorious, slain from
within, as a greybeard;
And light a fire in the brain of Molios, so
that be shall go moonstruck,
And men will jeer at him, and he will die at
the last, idly laughing!
For lo, I worship thee, Ioua; and if thou
canst give my message to Neis,--
Neis the helot out of Iondu, Neis of Iona,
bondman to Colum, --
Tell him I hail thee as Bandia, as god-queen
And that he had the wisdom and I was a
fool with trickling ears of moss.
But grant me this, O goddess, a bitter moon-
drinking for Colum!
May he have the moonsong in his brain, and
in his heart the moonfire:
Flame take him to heart of flame, and may
he wane as wax at the furnace,
And his soul drown in tears, and his body be
a nothingness upon the sands!
THE SUN-CHANT OF CATHAL
O hot yellow fire that streams out of the
sky, sword-white and golden,
Be a flame upon the monks that are praying
in their cells in Iona!
Be a fire in the veins of Colum, and the hell
that he preacheth be his,
And be a torch to the men of Lochlin that
they discover the isle and consume it!
For I see this thing, that the old gods are
the gods that die not:
All else is a seeming, a dream, a madness,
tide ever ebbing.
Glory to thee, O Grian, lord of life, first of
the gods, Allfather,
Swords and spears are thy beams, thy breath
a fire that consumeth!
And upon this Isle of A-rinn send sorrow
and death and disaster,
Upon one and all save Ardanna, who gave
me her bosom,
Upon one and all send death, the curse of a
death slow and swordless,
From Molios of the Cave to Mûrta and
Diarmid my doomsmen!
THE SONG OF FIONULA
(From "The Swan-Children of Lir.")
Happy our father Lir afar,
Wih mead, and songs of love and war:
The salt brine, and the white foam,
With these his children have their home.
In the sweet days of long ago
Soft-clad we wandered to and fro:
But now cold winds of dawn and night
Pierce deep our feathers thin and light.
The hazel mead in cups of gold
We feasted from in days of old:
The sea-weed now our food, our wine
The salt, keen, bitter, barren brine.
On soft warm couches once we pressed:
White harpers lulled us to our rest:
Our beds are now where the sea raves,
Our lullaby the clash of waves.
Alas! the fair sweet days are gone
When love was ours from dawn to dawn:
Our sole companion now is pain,
Through frost and snow, through storm and rain.
Beneath my wings my brothers lie
When the fierce ice-winds hurtle by:
On either side and 'neath my breast
Lir's sons have known no other rest.
Ah, kisses we shall no more know,
Ah, love so dear exchanged for woe,
All that is sweet for us is o'er,
Homeless we are from shore to shore.
THE CHANT OF ARDAN THE PICT
O Colum and monks of Christ,
It is peace we are having this night:
Sure, peace is a good thing,
And I am glad with the gladness.
We worship one God,
Though ye call him Dia --
And I say not, O Dhê!
But cry Bea'uil!
For it is one faith for man,
And one for the living world,
And no man is wiser than another
And none knoweth much.
None knoweth a better thing than this:
The Sword, Love, Song, Honour, Sleep.
None knoweth a surer thing than this:
Birth, Sorrow, Pain, Weariness, Death.
Sure, peace is a good thing;
Let us be glad of peace:
We are not men of the Sword,
But of the Rune and the Wisdom.
I have learned a truth of Colum,
He hath learned of me:
All ye on the morrow shall see
A wonder of the wonders.
The thought is on you, that the Cross
Is known only of you:
Lo, I tell you the birds know it
That are marked with the Sorrow.
Listen to the Birds of Sorrow,
They shall tell you a great Joy:
It is Peace you will be having,
With the Birds.
THE SONG OF DEIDRÊ
Ionmbuin tir, an tir ud shoir---
Alba go na h'iongantaibh;
Nocba ttiocfainn aiste ale,
Muna ttiagainn le Naoise.
O woods of Oona, I can hear the singing
Of the west wind among the branches green
And the leaping and laughing of cool waters springing,
And my heart aches for all that has been,
For all that has been, my Home, all that has been!
Glenmassan! O Glenmassan!
High the sorrel there, and the sweet fragrant grasses:
It would be well if I were listening now to where
In Glenmassan the sun shines and the cool west wind
Glenmassan of the grasses!
Loch Etive, O fair Loch Etive, that was my first home,
I think of thee now when on the grey-green sea --
And beneath the mist in my eyes and the flying foam
I look back wearily,
I look back wearily to thee!
Glen Orchy, O Glen Orchy, fair sweet glen,
Was ever I more happy than in thy shade ?
Was not Nathos there the happiest of men
O may thy beauty never fade,
Most fair and sweet and beautiful glade.
Glen of the Roes, Glen of the Roes,
In thee I have dreamed to the full my happy dream:
O that where the shallow bickering Ruel flows,
I might hear again, o'er its flashing gleam,
The cuckoos calling by the murmuring stream.
THE DEATH SHADOW
Oh, death of Fergus, that is lying in the
Betwixt the man of the red hair and him
of the black beard,
Rise now, and out of thy cold white eyes
take out the fear,
And let Fergus mac Art mhic Fheargus
see his weird!
Sure, now, it's a blind man I am, but I'm
thinking I see
The shadow of you crawling across the
Soon you will twine your arm around his
And be whispering your silence into his
THE MEDITATION OF COLUM
Before the Miracle of the Fishes and the Flies
Praise be to God, and a blessing too at
that, and a blessing!
For Colum the White, Colum the Dove,
Yea he hath worshipped and made of a
desert a garden,
And out of the dung of men's souls hath
made a sweet savour of burning.
A savour of burning, most sweet, a fire for
This he hath made in the desert; the hell.
saved all gladden.
Sure he hath put his benison, too, on milch-
cow and bullock,
On the fowls of the air, and the man-eyed
seals, and the otter.
But where in His Dûn in the great blue
mainland of Heaven
God the Allfather brooeth, where the
harpers are harping His glory;
There where He sitteth, where a river of ale
His great sword broken, His spear in the
dust, He broodeth.
And this is the thought that moves in His
brain, as a cloud filled with thunder
Moves through the vast hollow sky filled
with the dust of the stars :
What boots it the glory of Colum, since he
maketh a Sabbath to bless me
And hath no thought of my sons in the deeps
of the air and the sea ?
THE LAMENTATION OF BALVA
Balava the old monk I am called: when
I was young, Balva Honeymouth.
That was before Colum the White came to
Iona in the West.
She whom I loved was a woman whom I
won out of the South,
And I had a good heaven with my lips on
hers and with breast to breast.
Balva the old monk I am called: were it
not for the fear
That the Soul of Colum the White would
meet my soul in the Narrows
That sever the living and dead, I would rise
up from here
And go back to where men pray with spears
Balva the old monk I am called: ugh! ugh!
the cold bell of the matins --'tis dawn!
Sure it's a dream I have had that I was in a
warm wood with the sun ashine,
And that against me in the pleasant green-
ness was a soft fawn,
And a voice that whispered "Balva Honey-
mouth, drink, I am thy wine!
THE LAST NIGHT OF ARTÂN THE
It is but a little thing to sit here in the
silence and the dark:
For I remember the blazing noon when I
saw Oona the White:
I remember the day when we sailed the
Moyle in our skin-built barque;
And I remember when Oona's lips were on
mine in the heart of the night.
So it is a little thing to sit here, hearing
nought, seeing nought--
When the dawn breaks they will hurry me
hence to the new-dug grave:
It will be quiet there, if it be true what the
good Colum has taught,
And I shall hear Oona's voice as a sleeping seal
hears the moving wave.
THE DEATH DANCE
O arone a-ree, eily arone, arone!
'Tis a good thing to be sailing across the seas!
How the women smile and the children are laughing glad
When the galleys go out into the blue sea -- arone!
O eily arone, arone!
But the children may laugh less when the wolves come,
And the women may smile less in the winter-cold--
For the Summer-sailors will not come again, arone!
O arone a-ree, eily arone, arone!
I am thinking they will not sail back again, O no!
The yellow-haired men that came sailing across the sea:
For 'tis wild apples they would be, and swing on green
And sway in the wind for the corbies to preen their eyne,