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- Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 1 - 4/44 -

The ancient tomes by few were read; E'en those who still its knowledge kept Have thought the living music dead.

And some, to save the lore from death, With modern arts each tale would deck, Inflate its rhymes with magic breath, As if to buoy a sinking wreck.

They graft new morbid magic dreams On tales where beating life is felt: In each romance find mystic gleams, And traces of the "moody Celt."

Yet, though with awe the grassy mound That fairies haunt, is marked to-day; And though in ancient tales are found Dim forms of gods, long passed away;

Though later men to magic turned, Inserting many a Druid spell; And ill the masters' craft had learned Who told the tales, and told them well;

No tale should need a magic dress Or modern art, its life to give: Each for itself, or great, or less, Should speak, if it deserves to live.

Think not a dull, a scribal pen Dead legends wrote, half-known, and feared: In lettered lands to poet men Romance, who lives to-day, appeared.

For when, in fear of warrior bands, Had Learning fled the western world, And, raised once more by Irish hands, Her banner stood again unfurled;

'Twas there, where men her laws revered, That Learning aided Art's advance; And Ireland bore, and Ireland reared These Eldest Children of Romance.

Her poets knew the Druid creeds; Yet not on these their thoughts would rest: They sang of love, of heroes' deeds, Of kingly pomp, of cheerful jest.

Not as in Greece aspired their thought, They joyed in battles wild and stern; Yet pity once to men they taught From whom a fiercer age could learn.

Their frequent theme was war: they sang The praise of chiefs of courage high; Yet, from their harps the accents rang That taught to knighthood chivalry.

Their heroes praise a conquered foe, Oppose their friends for honour's sake, To weaker chieftains mercy show, And strength of cruel tyrants break.

Their nobles, loving fame, rejoice In glory, got from bards, to shine; Yet thus ascends Cuchulain's voice: "No skill indeed to boast is mine!"

They sang, to please a warlike age, Of wars, and women's wild lament, Yet oft, restraining warriors' rage, Their harps to other themes were bent.

They loved on peaceful pomp to dwell, Rejoiced in music's magic strains,. All Nature's smiling face loved well, And "glowing hues of flowery plains."

Though oft of Fairy Land they spoke, No eerie beings dwelled therein, 'Twas filled throughout with joyous folk Like men, though freed from death and sin.

And sure those bards were truest knights Whose thoughts of women high were set, Nor deemed them prizes, won in fights, But minds like men's, and women yet.

With skilful touch they paint us each, Etain, whose beauty's type for all; Scathach, whose warriors skill could teach Emer, whose words in wisdom fall;

Deirdre the seer, by love made keen; Flidais, whose bounty armies feeds The prudent Mugain, Conor's queen; Crund's wife, more swift than Conor's steeds;

Finnabar, death for love who dared; Revengeful Ferb, who died of grief Fand, who a vanquished rival spared; Queen Maev, who Connaught led, its chief.

Not for the creeds their lines preserve Should Ireland's hero tales be known Their pictured pages praise deserve From all, not learned men alone.

Their works are here; though flawed by time, To all the living verses speak Of men who taught to Europe rhyme, Who knew no masters, save the Greek.

In forms like those men loved of old, Naught added, nothing torn away, The ancient tales again are told, Can none their own true magic sway?


The following list of suggested pronunciations does not claim to be complete or to be necessarily correct in all cases. Some words like Ferdia and Conchobar (Conor) have an established English pronunciation that is strictly speaking wrong; some, like Murthemne are doubtful; the suggestions given here are those adopted by the editor for such information as is at his disposal. It seems to be unnecessary to give all the names, as the list would be too long; this list contains those names in the first volume as are of frequent occurrence; names that occur less commonly, and some of those in the following list, have a pronunciation indicated in foot-notes. The most important names are in small capitals.


Aife (Ee-fa), pp. 117, 129, 1342 141, 148, an instructress of Cuchulain, Ferdia, and others in the art of war.

Cathbad (Cah-ba), pp. 91, 92, 93, 95, a Druid.

Cualgne (Kell-ny), mentioned in the Preface, Introductions, the "Combat" and elsewhere; a district corresponding to County Louth.

Cuchulain (Cu-hoo-lin), the hero of the "Sick-bed" and the "Combat," and of the Ulster Heroic cycle in general.

Deirdre (Dire-dree), the heroine of the "Exile of the Sons of Usnach."

Dubhtach (Doov-ta), pp. 48, 97, 98, 107, an Ulster hero.

Eochaid Airem (Yeo-hay Arrem), the king in the "Courtship of Etain."

Eochaid Juil (Yeo-hay Yool), pp. 63, 70, 76, 79, a fairy king killed by Cuchulain.

Eogan mac Durthacht (Yeogan mac Door-ha), pp. 43, 48, 93, 97, 101, 107; an Ulster hero, the slayer of the sons of Usnach.

Etain (Et-oyn), the heroine of the "Courtship of Etain."

Ferdia (Fer-dee-a), Cuchulain's opponent in the "Combat at the Ford." The true pronunciation is probably Fer-deed.

Fuamnach (Foom-na), pp. 79 9, 10, 19, 26, a sorceress.

Laeg (Layg), son of Riangabra (Reen-gabra), the charioteer and friend of Cuchulain, frequently mentioned in the "Sick-bed" and the "Combat at the Ford."

Laegaire (Leary), pp. 42, 46, 67, an Ulster hero.

Leabhar na h-Uidhri (Lyow-er na hoorie), frequently mentioned, the oldest Irish manuscript of romance. It means the "Book of the Dun Cow," sometimes referred to as L.U.

Mac Datho (Mac Da-ho), king of Leinster in the "Boar of Mac Datho," the word means "son of two mutes."

Murthemne (Moor-temmy), pp. 57, 59, 61, 73, 77, 78, a district in Ulster, with which Cuchulain is connected in the "Sick-bed" (in the "Combat" he is "Cuchulain of Cualgne").

Naisi (Nay-see), the hero of the "Exile of the Sons of Usnach."

Scathach (Ska-ha), pp. 117, 129) 131, 134, 141, 149, 151 a sorceress in the Isle of Skye, instructress of Cuchulain in war.

Uathach (Oo-ha), pp. 117, 129, 134; 141) 149, daughter of Scathach.

Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 1 - 4/44

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