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[FN#43] A literal rendering of this poem will be found in the notes,

  1. 187.


Though well your horns may music blow, Though sweet each month your pipes may sound, I fearless say, that well I know
A sweeter strain I oft have found.

Though horns and pipes be sounding clear, Though Conor's mind in these rejoice, More magic strain, more sweet, more dear Was Usna's Children's noble voice.

Like sound of wave, rolled Naisi's bass; We'd hear him long, so sweet he sang: And Ardan's voice took middle place; And clearly Aindle's tenor rang.

Now Naisi lies within his tomb:
A sorry guard his friends supplied; His kindred poured his cup of doom, That poisoned cup, by which he died.

Ah! Berthan dear! thy lands are fair; Thy men are proud, though hills be stern: Alas! to-day I rise not there
To wait for Usna's sons' return.

That firm, just mind, so loved, alas! The dear shy youth, with touch of scorn, I loved with him through woods to pass, And girding in the early morn.

When bent on foes, they boded ill,
Those dear grey eyes, that maids adored; When, spent with toil, his troops lay still, Through Irish woods his tenor soared.

For this it is, no more I sleep;
No more my nails with pink I stain: No joy can break the watch I keep;
For Usna's sons come not again.

For half the night no sleep I find; No couch can me to rest beguile:
'Mid crowds of thoughts still strays my mind; I find no time to eat or smile.

In eastern Emain's proud array
No time to joy is left for me;
For gorgeous house, and garments gay, Nor peace, nor joy, nor rest can be.


And when Conor sought to soothe her; thus Deirdre would answer him:


Ah Conor! what of thee! I naught can do! Lament and sorrow on my life have passed: The ill you fashioned lives my whole life through; A little time your love for me would last.

The man to me most fair beneath the sky, The man I loved, in death away you tore: The crime you did was great; for, till I die, That face I loved I never shall see more.

That he is gone is all my sorrow still; Before me looms the shape of Usna's son; Though o'er his body white is yon dark hill, There's much I'd lavish, if but him I won.

I see his cheeks, with meadow's blush they glow; Black as a beetle, runs his eyebrows' line; His lips are red; and, white as noble snow I see his teeth, like pearls they seem to shine.

Well have I known the splendid garb he bears, Oft among Alba's warriors seen of old: A crimson mantle, such as courtier wears, And edged with border wrought of ruddy gold.

Of silk his tunic; great its costly price; For full one hundred pearls thereon are sewn; Stitched with findruine,[FN#44] bright with strange device, Full fifty ounces weighed those threads alone.

Gold-hilted in his hand I see his sword; Two spears he holds, with spear-heads grim and green; Around his shield the yellow gold is poured, And in its midst a silver boss is seen.

Fair Fergus ruin on us all hath brought! We crossed the ocean, and to him gave heed: His honour by a cup of ale was bought; From him hath passed the fame of each high deed.

If Ulster on this plain were gathered here Before king Conor; and those troops he'd give, I'd lose them all, nor think the bargain dear, If I with Naisi, Usna's son, could live.

Break not, O king, my heart to-day in me; For soon, though young, I come my grave unto: My grief is stronger than the strength of sea; Thou, Conor, knowest well my word is true.


"Whom dost thou hate the most," said Conor, "of these whom thou now seest?"

"Thee thyself," she answered, "and with thee Eogan the son of Durthacht."


[FN#44] Pronounced find-roony; usually translated "white bronze."


"Then," said Conor, "thou shalt dwell with Eogan for a year;" and he gave Deirdre over into Eogan's hand.

Now upon the morrow they went away over the festal plain of Macha, and Deirdre sat behind Eogan in the chariot; and the two who were with her were the two men whom she would never willingly have seen together upon the earth, and as she looked upon them, "Ha, Deirdre," said Conor, "it is the same glance that a ewe gives when between two rams that thou sharest now between me and Eogan!" Now there was a great rock of stone in front of them, and Deirdre struck her head upon that stone, and she shattered her head, and so she died.

This then is the tale of the exile of the sons of Usnach, and of the Exile of Fergus, and of the death of Deirdre.




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