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THE SONGS OF DEARDRA.
The following beautiful specimens of ancient poetry are selected from a manuscript, entitled
IMTHEACHT dheairdre, agus oidhe CHLAINNE UISNICH.
THE ADVENTURES OF DEARDRA, AND THE DEATH OF THE SONS OF USNA.
Historians place these events about the first century of the Christian æra. Concovar was at that time monarch of Ulla (now Ulster, or the northern parts of Ireland.) At the birth of Deardra it was predicted that she should be the cause of great calamities; but the king unterrified by the prediction, took her from the care of her father, Macdoil, the chief historian of Ulla, and had her carefully reared under persons of his own appointment; intending when she should have attained to mature years, to take her as his consort.
Unfortunately for his plans, however, the beautiful Deardra fell in love with Næsa, one of the sons of Usna; and, with the assistance of his brothers, Ainli and Ardan, eloped with him to Alban (Scotland), in the western parts and isles of which Næsa had considerable property. Here they lived happily, until a messenger arrived from Concovar, inviting them to return, under the appearance of friendship, but really with a view to their destruction. Deardra dissuaded the youthful heroes from flying to their own ruin; but their generous hearts suspected no treachery, and they complied with the invitation.
With great reluctance Deardra left the shores of Alban; and during the voyage, sung the following plaintive stanzas, in which the pleasures that were gone, as she too well foreboded, never to return, and the delightful scenes that witnessed the bliss of mutual love, are called to recollection :—
Jonṁrn liom an tír ud soir,
Jonṁun dún-fioda, is dún-fioñ,
Coill cuan, añ ccoill cuan,
Gleañ Laoiže, an-gleañ laoije,
Gleañ Meassain, gleañ Messain,
Gleañ Eiċċe, on glañ 4 Eiċċe,
Glean Arcaoin, gleañ Arċaoin,
Gleañ dá Ruad, gleañ dá Ruad,
Joniun traižin, is tréan-traiź,
Dear to me that eastern shore. Dear is Alban, land of delights. Never would I have forsaken it, had I not come with Næsa.
Dear is Dunfay and Dunfin, and the lofty hill that towers above them. Dear is Inis-drayon, and Dunsaivni.
Coilcuan, oh Coilcuan! where Ainli, and where Ardan came. Happily my days passed with Næsa, in the western parts of Alban.
Glenlee, oh Glenlee! amidst thy shady thickets I slept, or feasted with my love in Glenlee.
Glenmessan, oh Glenmessan! rich were thy herbs, and bright thy greens. Lulled by the falling stream we reposed, on Inver's banks in Glenmessan.
Gleneich, oh Gleneich! there my dwelling first was fixed. The woods smile when the rising sun casts his rays on Gleneich.
Glenarchon, oh Glenarchou! fair is the vale below Dromchon. Sportive as childhood were my hours with Næsa, in the blooming vales of Glenarchon.
Glendarua, oh Glendarua! thy inhabitants to me were dear. The birds sung sweetly on the bending boughs, that shaded over Glendarua.
Dear to me is that spreading shore. Dear those sandy_margined streams. Never would I have forsaken you, had I not come with my love.
She ceased to sing. The vessel approached the shore, and the fugitives returned once more to Erin.
Still the heart of Deardra foreboded treachery. She advised her friends to go to Dundalgan, the residence of the renowned Cuchullin, and place themselves under his protection. Their ill-founded confidence, however, in the honour of Concovar prevailed upon them to proceed to Emana, his royal seat. Various were the warnings which Deardra gave them of their approaching destiny: sometimes in affectionate converse, and frequently in plaintive songs. Nothing, however, could avert the impending blow, and the sons of Usna arrived, with their fair companion, at Emana; whilst Concovar sat at the feast with his chieftains.
They were received with much appearance of kindness; and under pretence of distinction, placed in the castle of the Red Branch, with guards to wait upon them. At length the gathering storm burst over their heads; a body of foreign troops was sent to rescue Deardra from the sons of Usna, and then to burn the castle which contained them. The native troops of Ulla, though bound to obey the authority of Concovar, would not imbrue their hands in the blood of the heroes.
After ineffectual attempts on the part of the assailants, and prodigies of valour performed by the sons of Usna, they at length effected their escape with Deardra. But being still pursued, at length they fell, overpowered by the number of their enemies.