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- Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 2 - 5/27 -

To be lost in the flood's swift swell.

And Fraech saw the gem as it brightly flashed, And a salmon rose high, at the light it dashed, And, as back in the stream with the ring he splashed, At the fish went Fraech with a spring: By its jole was the salmon secured, and thrown To a nook in the bank, that by few was known; And unnoticed he threw it, to none was it shown As it fell to the earth, with the ring.

And now Fraech from the stream would be going: But, "Come not," said the king, "to us yet: Bring a branch from yon rowan-tree, showing Its fair berries, with water-drops wet."

Then Fraech, swimming away through the water, Brake a branch from the dread rowan-tree, And a sigh came from Ailill's fair daughter; "Ah! how lovely he seemeth," said she.

Fair she found him, swimming Through that pool so black Brightly gleamed the berries, Bound athwart his back.

White and smooth his body, Bright his glorious hair; Eyes of perfect greyness, Face of men most fair:

Soft his skin, no blemish, Fault, nor spot it flawed; Small his chin, and steady, Brave his brow, and broad.

Straight he seemed, and stainless; Twixt his throat and chin Straying scarlet berries Touched with red his skin.

Oft, that sight recalling, Findabar would cry: "Ne'er was half such beauty, Naught its third came nigh!"

To the bank he swam, and to Ailill was thrown, with its berries, the tree's torn limb: "Ah! how heavy and fair have those clusters grown; bring us more," and he turned to swim; The mid-current was reached, but the dragon was roused that was guard to that rowan-tree; And it rose from the river, on Fraech it rushed: "Throw a sword from the bank!" cried he. And no man on the bank gave the sword: they were kept by their fear of the queen and the king; But her clothes from her Finnabar stripped, and she leapt in the river his sword to bring. And the king from above hurled his five-barbed spear; the full length of a shot it sped: At his daughter it flew, and its edge shore through two tresses that crowned her head: And Fraech in his hand caught the spear as it fell, and backward its point he turned. And again to the land was the spear launched well: 'twas a feat from the champions learned. Though the beast bit his side as that spear was cast, yet fiercely the dart was flung, Through the purple robe of the king it passed, through the tunic that next him clung!

Then up sprang the youths of the court, their lord in danger they well might deem, But the strong hand of Fraech had closed firm on the sword, and Finnabar rose from the stream. Now with sword in his hand, at the monster's head hewed Fraech, on its side it sank, And he came from the river with blade stained red, and the monster he dragged to the bank. Twas then Bree's Dub-lind in the Connaught land the Dark Water of Fraech was named, From that fight was it called, but the queen and the king went back to their dun, ashamed!

"It is noble, this deed we have done!" said Maev: "'Tis pitiful," Ailill cried: "For the hurt of the man I repent, but to her, our daughter, shall woe betide! On the morrow her lips shall be pale, and none shall be found to aver that her guilt, When the sword for his succour to Fraech she gave, was the cause why her life was spilt! Now see that a bath of fresh bacon broth be prepared that shall heal this prince, And bid them with adze and with axe the flesh of a heifer full small to mince: Let the meat be all thrown in the bath, and there for healing let Fraech be laid!" And all that he ordered was done with care; the queen his command obeyed.

Then arose from Fraech's trumpets complaining, As his men travelled back to the dun; Their soft notes lamentation sustaining, And a many their deaths from them won;

And he well knew its meaning; And, "Lift me, my folk," He cried, "surely that keening From Boand's women broke: My mother, the Fairy, is nigh."

Then they raised him, and bore him Where wild rose the sound; To his kin they restored him; His women pressed round:

And he passed from their sight out of Croghan; For that night from earth was he freed, And he dwelt with his kin, the Sid-Dwellers In the caverns of Croghan's deep Sid.[FN#11]

[FN#11] Pronounced Sheed; Sid is the fairy mound.

All at nine, next morrow, Gazed, for back he came, Round their darling pressing Many a fairy dame:

Brave he seemed, for healing All his wounds had got; None could find a blemish, None a sear or spot.

Fifty fairies round him, Like in age and grace; Like each form and bearing; Like each lovely face.

All in fairy garments, All alike were dressed; None was found unequal; None surpassed the rest.

And the men who stood round, as they neared them, Were struck with a marvellous awe; They were moved at the sight, and they feared them, And hardly their breath they could draw.

At the Liss all the fairies departed, But on Fraech, as they vanished, they cried: And the sound floated in of their wailing, And it thrilled through the men, and they sighed.

Then first that mournful measure, "The Ban-Shee[FN#12] Wail," was heard; All hearts with grief and pleasure That air, when harped, hath stirred.

[FN#12] Spelt "Ban Side," the fairy women.

To the dun came Fraech, and the hosts arose, and welcome by all was shown: For it seemed as if then was his birth among men, from a world to the earth unknown! Up rose for him Maev and King Ailill, their fault they confessed, and for grace they prayed, And a penance they did, and for all that assault they were pardoned, and peace was made. And now free from all dread, they the banquet spread, the banqueting straight began: But a thought came to Fraech, and from out of his folk he called to his side a man.

"Now hie thee," he said, "to the river bank, a salmon thou there shalt find; For nigh to the spot where in stream I sank, it was hurled, and 'twas left behind; To Finnabar take it, and bid her from me that the salmon with skill she broil: In the midst of the fish is the ring: and none but herself at the task must toil; And to-night, as I think, for her ring they call ": then he turned to the feast again, And the wine was drunk, and the revellers sunk, for the fumes of it seized their brain, And music and much of delights they had; but the king had his plans laid deep, "Bring ye all of my jewels," he cried-on the board they were poured in a dazzling heap. "They are wonderful, wonderful!" cried they all: "Call Finnabar!" said the king; And his daughter obeyed, and her fifty maids stood round in a lovely ring. My daughter," said Ailill, "a ring last year I gave thee, is't here with thee yet?

Heroic Romances of Ireland Volume 2 - 5/27

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