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- Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 2 - 4/27 -
The joints with sword he split; On bones it fell unerring, No dainty part he hit!
Though long with sword he hewed, and long Was meat by men supplied, His hand struck true; for never wrong Would Lothar meat divide.
Three days at the chess had they played; three nights, as they sat at the game, had gone: And they knew not the night for the sparkling light from the jewels of Fraech that shone; But to Maev turned Fraech, and he joyously cried, "I have conquered thee well at the chess! Yet I claim not the stake at the chess-board's side, lest thy palace's wealth be less."
"For no lengthier day have I sat in such play," said Maev, "since I here first came." "And well may the day have seemed long," said Fraech, "for three days and three nights was the game!" Then up started Maev, and in shame she blushed that the chiefs she had failed to feed; To her husband, King Ailill, in wrath she rushed: "We have both done a goodly deed! For none from our stores hath a banquet brought for the youths who are strangers here!" And said Ailill, "In truth for the play was thy thought, and to thee was the chess more dear." "We knew not that darkness had come," said Maev, "'tis not chess thou should'st thus condemn; Though the day had gone, yet the daylight shone from the heart of each sparkling gem; Though the game we played, all could meal have made, had men brought of the night advice, But the hours sped away, and the night and the day have approached and have fled from us thrice!" "Give command," said the king, "that those wailing chants, till we give them their food, be stilled." And food to the hands of each they gave, and all with the meat were filled; And all things merrily went, for long the men with a feast were fed, For, as feasting they sat, thrice rose the day, thrice night above earth was spread.
They brought Fraech, when that banquet was ended, To the House of Debate, which was near, And they asked of his errand: "In friendship, For a visit," said Fraech, "am I here!" "And 'twas joy that we felt, when receiving This your host," said the king, "ye have brought Much of pleasure to all, and with grieving, When ye go, shall your presence be sought!"
"Then," said Fraech, "for a week we abide here." For two weeks in that dun they abode: And the Connaught men pressed round to view them, As each eve home from hunting they rode.
Yet Fraech was sad, with Findabar A word he sought in vain; Though he in truth from home so far Had come that word to gain.
Fraech, as night was ending, Sprang from out his bed; Sought the brook, intending There to lave his head.
There King Ailill's daughter Stood, and there her maid: They that hour from water Sought the cleansing aid.
"Stay," he cried, and speaking Caught the maiden's hand; "Thee alone as seeking, I have reached this land:
Here am I who sought thee, Stay, and hear me woo!" "Ah! thy speech hath brought me Joy," she said, "most true;
Yet, thy side if nearing, What for thee can I?" "Maid!" he cried, "art fearing Hence with me to fly?"
"Flight I hold disloyal," Answered she in scorn; "I from mother royal, I to king was born;
What should stay our wedding? None so mean or poor Thou hast seemed, nor dreading Kin of mine; be sure:
I will go! 'tis spoken, Thou beloved shalt be! Take this ring as token, Lent by Maev to me!
'Twas my mother who bid me to save it, For the ring she in secret would hide; 'Tis as pledge of our love that I gave it, As its pledge it with thee should abide.
Till that ring we can freely be showing I will tell them I put it astray!" And, the love of each other thus knowing, Fraech and Finnabar went on their way.
"I have fear," said the king, "that with Fraech yon maid to his home as his wife would fly; Yet her hand he may win, if he rides on the Raid with his kine when the time draws nigh." Then Fraech to the Hall of Debate returned, and he cried: "Through Some secret chink Hath a whisper passed?" and the king replied, "Thou would'st fit in that space, I think!"
"Will ye give me your daughter?" said Fraech: said the king, "In sight of our hosts she goes; If, as gift to suffice for her marriage price, thy hand what I ask bestows." "I will give thee what price thou dost name," said Fraech, "and now let its sum be told!"' "Then a sixty steeds do I claim," said the king, "dark-grey, and with bits of gold; And twelve milch-cows, from their udders shall come the milk in a copious stream, And by each of the cows a white calf shall run; bright red on its ears shall gleam; And thou, with thy harpers and men, shalt ride by my side on the Cualgne[FN#10] Raid, And when all thy kine driven here shall stand, shall the price of her hand be paid!"
[FN#10] Pronounced Kell-ny.
Now I swear by the edge of my sword," said Fraech, "I swear by my arms and shield, I would give no such pledge, even Maev to take, were it her thou wert fain to yield!" And he went from the House of Debate, but Maev with Ailill bent low in plot: All around us our foes," said the king, "shall close, if Finnabar stays here not; Many kings of Erin, who seek that maid, shall hear of her borne away, And in wrath they will rush on our land; 'twere best that Fraech we devise to slay; Ere that ruin he bring, let us make our spring, and the ill yet unwrought arrest." "It were pity such deed should be done," said Maev, "and to slay in our house our guest! 'Twill bring shame on us ever." "No shame to our house," said King Ailill, "that death shall breed!" (And he spake the words twice)--"but now hear my advice, how I plan we should do this deed."
All the plot had been planned; to their house at last King Ailill and Maev through the doorway passed; And the voice of the king uprose: "'Tis now that the hounds should their prey pursue, Come away to the hunt who the hounds would view; For noon shall that hunting close." So forth went they all, on the chase intent, And they followed till strength of the hounds was spent, And the hunters were warm; and to bathe they went Where the river of Croghan flows.
And, "'Tis told me," said Ailill, "that Fraech hath won A great fame for the feats he in floods hath done: Wilt thou enter these streams by our side that run? We are longing to see thee swim!" And said Fraech: "Is it good then indeed thy stream? And said Ailill: "Of danger no need to dream, For many a youth from the Connaught Court In its current hath bathed, and hath swum it in sport, Nor of any who tried have we heard report That ill hath been found by him!"
Then Fraech from his body his garments stripped, And he sprang down the bank, and he swiftly slipped In the stream: and the king's glance fell On a belt, left by Fraech on the bank; the king Bent low; in the purse saw his daughter's ring, And the shape of the ring could tell. "Come hither, O Maev," Ailill softly cried; And Queen Maev came up close to her husband's side "Dost thou know of that ring?" in the purse she spied The ring, and she knew it well. Then Ailill the ring from the purse withdrew, And away from the bank the fair gem he threw; And the ring, flashing bright, through the air far flew,
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