Epic Poems from Ireland

I'm a little more than half way through "How the Irish Saved Civilization" by Thomas Cahill. It's a very interesting book covering history, literature, mythology, religion, anthropology, etc. etc. Included in one chapter are excerpts from the Irish epic poem Táin Bó Cúailnge and another poem "The Lament for Art O'Leary" (Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire), which, as Cahill says, is "one of the last great poems to be written in the Irish language" from 1773 by Dark Eileen O'Connell.

part of Derdriu's lament for Noisiu from the Tain

Sweet in your sight the fiery stride
of raiding men returned to Emain.
More nobly strode the three proud
sons of Uisliu toward their home:

Noisiu bearing the best mead
--I would wash him by the fire--
Ardan, with a stag or boar,
Anle, shouldering his load.

The son of Nes, battle-proud,
drinks,  you say, the choicest mead.
Choicer still--a brimming sea--
I have taken frequently.

Modest Noisu woud prepare
a cokking-pit in the forest floor.
Sweeter then than any meat
the son of Uisliu's, honey sweet.

Though for you the times are sweet
with pipers and with trumpeters,
I swear today I can't forget
that I have known far sweeter airs.

. . .

Noisiu: his grave-mound is made
and mournfully accompanied.
The highest hero--and I poured
the deadly drink when he died.

His cropped gold fleece I loved,
and fine form--a tall tree.
Alas, I needn't watch today,
nor wait for the son of Uisliu.

I loved the modest, mighty warrior,
loved his fitting firm desire,
loved him at daybreak as he dressed
by the margin of the forest.

Those blue eyes that melted women,
and menaced enemies, I loved:
then, with our forest journey done,
his chanting through the dark woods.

I don't sleep now,
nor redden my fingernails.
What have I to do with welcomes?
The son of Indel will not come.


excerpts from "The Lament of Art O'Leary"

My love and my delight,
the day I saw you first
Beside the markethouse
I had eyes for nothing else
And love for none but you.

. . .

You gave me everything.
There were larlours whitened for me
Bedroom painted for me
Ovens reddened for me,
Loaves baked for me,
Joints spitted for me,
Beds made for me
To take my ease in flock
Until the milking time
And later if I pleased.

. . .

My love and my fortune
'Tis an evil portion
To lay for a giant--
A shroud and a coffin--
For a big-hearted hero
Who fished in the hill-streams
And deink in bright halls
With white breasted women.

. . .

My rider of the bright eyes,
What happened you yesterday?
I thought you in my heart,
When I bought you your fine clothes,
A man the world could not slay.

'Tis known to Jesus Christ
Nor cap upon my head,
Nor shift upon my back,
Nor shoe

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