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The Irish original of The Lay of Oisín in the Land of Youth as he told it to StPatrick was written by Micheál Coimín in around AD 1750This was translated & edited by Tomás Ó Flannghaile [Thomas Flannery].
An older version, dating back to the Middle Ages, presents quite the different picture: this appears in the Agallamh na senórach.
Headings are from the original.


1Patrick: O noble Oisín, son of the king,
Whose deeds men sing this day in song!
Thy grief abate and to us relate
By what strange fate thou hast lived so long!

2Oisín: O Patrick, here's the tale for thee,
Tho' sad to me its memories old -
'Twas after Gavra - I mind me well,
The field where fell my Oscar bold!


3One day the generous Finn my sire
With olden fire led forth the chase -
But our band was small when gather'd all,
For past recall were the hosts of our race.

4'Twas a summer's morn and a mist hung o'er
The winding shore of sweet Loch Lein,
Where fragrant trees perfume the breeze
And birds e'er please with a joyous strain.

5We soon awoke the woodland deer
That forced by fear fled far away -
Keenly our hounds with strenuous bounds
O'er moors and mound' pursued their prey.

6When lo! into sight came a figure bright,
In a blaze of light from the west it rushed -
A lady fair of radiance rare
Whom a white steed bare to our band, now hush'd

7Amazed we halt, though hot the chase,
To gaze on the face of the fair young queen -
A marvel to Finn and his Fenian band
Who ne'er in the land such beauty had seen I

8A golden crown on her brow she bore,
A mantle she wore of silken sheen
All studded with stars of bright red gold -
Ample each fold fell on herbage green.

9Her golden hair all fair to view
In golden curls on her shoulders fell -
Bright and pure were her eyes of blue
As drops of the dew in a blue hare-bell,

10Ruddier far her cheek than the rose
Her bosom more white than the swan's so free,
Sweeter the breath of her balmy mouth
Than spice of the south from over the sea.

11Her milk-white steed was of worth untold
Nor bridle of gold did the charger lack -
A saddle all covered with purple and gold
Lay bright to behold on the steed's proud back

12Four shoes of gold his hoofs did guard,
Of gold unmarred by mixture base,
A silver wreath on his crest was shown -
Such steed was unknown on the earth's fair face.

13To Finn's great presence drew the maid
Thus bright array'd and softly spake -
"O King of the Fenian host," she cried
"Far have I hied for sweet love's sake!"

14"Who art thou, pray, O princess rare,
Of form most fair, of face divine?
Gently thy errand to us make known -
What land's thine own, what name is thine?"

15"Niamh the Golden-haired I'm named,
- O Finn far-famed for wisdom and truth! -
My praise harps ring, and bards e'er sing,
And my sire's the King of the Land of Youth!"

16"Then tell us most lovely lady now,
Why comest thou o'er seas so far?
Has heartless husband left thee to weep
With grief most deep, thy mind to mar!"

17"No husband has left me, O lordly Finn,
- My heart within ne'er man did gain,
Till hero of Erin, thy famous son,
Its voung love won, for aye to reign!"

18On which of my gallant sons, O maid,
Is thy heart's love laid, so frankly free?
Now hide not from us, O princess dear,
The causes clear of thy visit to me!"

19His name, O Finn, then I'll declare -
'Tis thy famed son, so fair, so brave,
Oisín the warrior, Erin's bard,
My fair reward for crossing the wave!"

20"Then why hast thou hastened to give thy love
O maiden above all maids most fair -
To Oisín my own beyond all known
Of princes high both rich and rare?"

21"Good cause I ween for my course shall be seen,
O king of the Fiann when I tell thee truth,
Oisín's high deeds and noble name
Have won him fame in the Land of Youth.

22"Full many a prince of high degree
Hath offered me both heart and hand
But whoso appealed I ne'er did yield
But my heart kept sealed for my hero grand!"

23Oisín: O Patrick stern, how my soul did yearn
And with ardour burn for the peerless maid -
No shame to tell - each word was a spell,
That bound me well past mortal aid.

24I took her gentle hand in mine
And with every sign of love I said,
"Welcome a hundred thousand times,
From fairy climes, O royal maid!"

25"Of women the rarest, fairest seen,
Thou art O queen, without compeer!
My soul, my life, my chosen wife,
Star of my way of ray most clear!"


26"Request refused by no true tonight
Who knoweth aright the knightly vogue,
I make of thee now - 'tis hence to speed
With me on my steed to Tír na n-Óg!

27"Delightful land beyond all dreams!
Beyond what seems to thee most fair -
Rich fruits abound the bright year round
And flowers are found of hues most rare.

28"Unfailing there the honey and wine
And draughts divine of mead there be,
No ache nor ailing night or day -
Death or decay thou ne'er shalt see!

29"The mirthful feast and joyous play
And musíc's sway all blest, benign -
Silver untold and store of gold
Undreamt by tbe old shall all be thine!

30"A hundred swords of steel refined
A hundred cloaks of kind full rare,
A hundred steeds of proudest breed
A hundred hounds - thy meed when there!

31"A hundred coats of mail shall be thine
A hundred kine of sleekest skin,
A hundred sheep with fleece of gold
And gems none hold these shores within.

32"A hundred maidens young and fair
Of blithesome air shall tend on thee,
Of form most meet, as fairies fleet
And of song more sweet than the wild thrush free!

33"A hundred knights in fights most bold
Of skill untold in all chivalrie,
Full-armed, bedight in mail of gold
Shall in Tír na n-Óg thy comrades be.

34"A corslet charmed for thee shall be made
And a matchless blade of magic power,
Worth a hundred blades in a hero's hands,
Most blest of brands in battle's hour!

35"The royal crown of the King of Youth
Shall shine in sooth on thy brow most fair,
All brilliant with gems of lustre bright
Whose worth aright none might declare.

36"All things I've named thou shalt enjoy
And none shall cloy - to endless life -
Beauty and strength and power thou'lt see
And I'll e'er be thy own true wife!"

37"Refusal of mine thou ne'er shalt hear
O maid without peer, of the locks of gold!
My chosen wife for life I know
And gladly I'll go to Tír na n-Óg!"


38Forthwith the steed I then bestrode
Before me rode my roval queen
Who said "O Oisín with caution ride
Till side of dividing sea we've seen!"

39Then up rose that steed with a mighty bound
Gave forth three sounding startling neighs,
His raane he shook, then with fiery look
His riders he took to the sea's known ways.

40Now when from Finn and the Fenian host
The steed to the coast was coursing so,
There burst from the chief a cry of grief
A wail of grief not brief nor low.

41"Oh Oisín" cried Finn with faltering voice -
"My son most choice must I then lose,
With never a hope to see thee again?
- My heart in twain 'twill break and bruise!"

42His noble features now clouded o'er
And tears did pour in showers free
Till breast and beard in tears were drowned -
"My grief! he e'er found this maid from the Sea!"

43Oh Patrick I grieve to tell thee the tale
My words now fail to find their way -
How the father did part from the son of his heart,
My tears e'er start when I think of the day.

44I drew up the steed for a moment's rest
And tenderly pressed on my sire a kiss,
Then bade farewell to the Fenian band
Tho' the tears did stand in my eyes, I wis.

45Full many a day great Finn and I
And our host all nigh in gay array
Held glorious feasts where harps ne'er ceased
And highest and least had their choice alway.

46Full oft our race held a royal chase
While at boldest pace ran our sweet-voiced hounds -
Anon in battle our javelins rattle
And men like cattle fall in heaps and mounds!

47Patrick: O vain old Oisín, dwell no more
On thy deeds of yore in the Fenian ranks,
How didst thou go to Tír na n-Óg?
Come let me know and I'll owe much thanks.

48Oisín: We turned away as I truly said
And our horse's head we gave to the west,
When lo! the deep sea opened before
While behind us bore the billows that pressed.

49Anon we saw in our path strange sights,
Cities on heights and castles fair,
Palaces brilliant with lights and flowers -
The brightest of bowers were gleaming there.

50And then we saw a yellow young fawn
Leap over a lawn of softest green,
Chased by a graceful, snow-white hound
That with airy bound pressed on most keen.

51We next beheld - I tell thee true,
A maid in view on a bright bay steed,
An apple of gold in her hand did she hold,
O'er the waves most bold she hied with speed.

52And soon we saw another sight
A youthful knight who a white steed rode,
The rider in purple and crimson array'd
Whilst a glittering blade in his hand he showed.

53"Yon youthful pair both knight and maid -
"Pray tell" I said "who they may be -
The lady mild as a summer's morn
And knight high-born that fares so free."

54"In all thy sight may light on here
O Oisín dear, I say with truth,
There's nought of beauty, nought of strength,
Till we reach at length the Land of Youth!"


55And now as we rode we came in sight
Of a palace bright, high-placed, and strong,
Shapely its hall and lofty its wall
Far beyond all e'er famed in song.

56"What royal Dún is yon, O queen,
That stands serene on yon hill-side,
Whose towers and columns so stately spring -
What prince or king doth there abide?"

57"In yonder Dún a sad queen dwells
Whom force compels her life to mourn -
Whom Fovor fierce of the Mighty Blows
Doth there enclose from friends' arms torn.

58"But captive though to that pirate proud
She yet hath vowed by geasa grave,
Never for life to be his wife
Till won in strife 'gainst champion brave!"

59"Blessing and bliss be thine" I cried
"O maid bright eyed, for thy welcome word,
Tho' grieved that woman such fate should meet
Music more sweet I ne'er have heard!

60"For now we'll go to that high-placed Dún
And help full soon that maid distressed,
A champion's steel shall Fovor feel
And 'neath my heel shall his neck be pressed!"

61To Fovor's strongbold then we rode -
Unblest abode for a captive sweet!
At once the queen with joyous mien,
Came forth on the green with welcome meet.

62In robe of rich-hued silk arrayed
Was this queenly maid with the brow of snow,
Her neck all fair could with swan's compare
Her cheeks did wear the rose's glow.

63Of golden hue was her hair, 'tis true,
Of heavenly blue her bright eyes clear,
Her lips were red as berries on bough,
Shapely each brow with rare compeer!

64To seat ourselves we then were told -
In a chair of gold each one sat down,
Most royal fare was set forth there
In royal ware of great renown.

65Now when of food we had had our fill
And of wine as will might fancy e'en,
Thus spoke the queen, her face now pale,
"Now list my tale, with ears all keen!"

66From first to last she told her tale
Her cheek all pale and wet with tears -
How kith and kin ne'er more she'd see
Whilst Fovor free provoked her fears.

67"Then weep no more, O fair young queen,
Henceforth I ween, thou needst not mourn,
Fovor shall pay with his life this day
In mortal fray for the wrongs thou'st borne!"

68"Alas! no champion can be found
On earth's great round, I fear me much,
Could hand to hand such foe withstand
Or free me from this tyrant's clutch."

69"I tell thee truly lady fair
I'll boldly dare him to the field
Resolved to save thee or in strife
Never while life doth last to yield

70Ere cease my words, in savage trim
The giant grim against us hies -
In skins of beasts uncouthly clad,
Whilst a club he had of monstrous size.

71No salutation from him came
But his eyes aflame glared all around,
Forthwith he challenged me to fight
And I with delight took up my ground.

72For full three nights and eke three days
Our deadly fray's end seemed in doubt
Till at length his head with my sword I sped
O'er the plain now red with the blood pour'd out!

73Now when the two young maids beheld
Fierce Fovor felled by my good sword,
They gave three shouts of joy and glee
Of joy for freedom now restored.

72We then returned to the giant's dún
Where faint in swoon at last I fell,
Faint from wounds and loss of blood
That still in flood gushed like a well.

73But now the maid from Fovor freed
Ran up with speed to help me fain -
My wounds she washed, and bathed with balm,
And health and calm I found again.

74The giant grim we buried him
Deep down in earth in widest grave -
We raised a stone his grave to note
And his name we wrote in Ogham-craev.

77A merry feast we then did hold
And stories told of olden days -
And when night fell we rested well
On couches such as poets praise.

78When morning fair the sun did greet
From slumbers sweet we fresh awoke -
"Dear friends from hence I now depart -"
'Twas thus the parting princess spoke.

79We soon equipped us for our way
For longer stay was needed not,
Sad, sorrowful the leave we took,
And sad the princess' look, I wot.

80The further fate of that sweet maid
O Patrick staid, I could not tell,
No word of her I've heard one say
E'er since the day we said farewell.


81We tnrned once more upon our course
And wildly sped our horse along -
No wind that sweeps the mountain drift
Was half so swift or half so strong.

82But now the sky began to lower,
The wind in power increased full fast -
Red lightning lights the mad sea-waves
And madly raves the thunder past!

83A while we cowered 'neath the storm,
- All nature's form in darkness dread -
When lo! the winds' fierce course was run,
And bright the sun appear'd o'erhead!

84And now there spread before our sight
A land most bright, most rich, and fair,
With hill and plain and shady bower
And a royal tower of splendour rare.

85And in this rovai mansion fair
All colours were that eye hath seen -
The blue most bright, the purest white
With purple and yellow and softest green.

86To left and right of this palace bright
Rose many a hall and sun-lit tower,
All built of brilliant gems and stones
By hands one owns of wondrous power.

87"What lovely land is that we see?
Pray answer me with maiden's truth -
Is't penned in page that man may read,
Or is it indeed the Land of Youth?"

88"It is indeed the Land of Youth -
And maiden's truth I've ever told -
No joy or bliss I've promised thee
But thou shalt see this land doth hold!"

89And now there rode from the king's abode
To meet us on the lawn of green
Thrice fifty champions of might
In armour bright, of noble mien.

90And then there came in hues arrayed
A hundred maids in maiden vogue -
In silken garments bright and brave
Who welcome gave to Tír na n-Óg.

91And next marcbed forth a chosen band
Of the troops of that land, a lovely sight -
A king at their head of kingly tread
Of mighty name and fame in fight.

92A yellow shirt of silken weft,
A cloak most deftly broidered o'er
On the king in folds hung freely down
Whilst a glittering crown on his head he wore.

93And close behind him there was seen
His youthful queen - a consort meet -
With fifty maidens in her train
Who sang a strain divinely sweet.

94Then spoke the king in kindly voice,
"O friends rejoice, for here you see
Oisín the famous son of Finn,
Who spouse of winsome Niamh shall be!"

95He takes me warmly by the hand
Then as we stand he speaks anew -
"Welcome" he cries "I give thee now,
A hundred thousand welcomes true!

96This kingdom which o'er seas and lands
Thou'st sought, now stands reveal'd to thee
Long shalt thou live our race among
And ever young as thou shalt see.

97"No pleasure e'er that entered mind
But here thou'lt find without alloy,
This is the land thy bards e'er sing
And I am the King of this Land of Joy.

98"Here is our gentle, fair young queen,
Mother of Niamh the Golden-haired
Who crossed for thee the stormy sea
And thine to be all dangers dared!"

99I thanked the king with grateful heart
To the queen apart I bowed me low -
We tarried no longer without the walls
But entered the halls of Rí na n-Óg.

100There came the nobles of all that land
The great and grand to sing our praise -
And feast was held with all delights
For ten long nights and ten long days.

101I then was wedded to Gold-haired Niamh -
And there to leave the tale were well -
Thus did I go to Tír na n-Óg
Though grief and woe 'tis now to tell.

102Patrick: Come finish the charming tale thou'st told,
O Oisín of gold, of the weapons of war -
Why from such land didst thou e'er return?
I fain would learn what the causes are.

103And say whilst there thou didst abide
If thee thy bride any children bore,
Or wast thou for long in the Land of Youth?
- I long in truth to list such lore!

104Oisín: I had by Niamh of the Golden Hair
Three children fair as ever smiled
Whose sweetness gave us daily joys -
Two gallant boys and a maiden mild.

105Patrick: O sweet-voiced Oisín, do not grieve, -
Where didst thou leave those children sweet?
Tell me the names of thy offspring fair,
And tell me where they mirthful meet.

106Oisín: Those children three rich heirs would be
To kingdoms free and fair and great,
To roval sceptre, crown of gold
And wealth untold, no tongue could state.

107My gentle Niamh on her boys bestowed
The names I owed most houour to -
Finn the bright of the hosts of might,
And Oscar who'd fight for the right and true

108And I my daughter fair did call
By a name which all fair names o'ershades -
In beauty's virtue and sweetness, power
By rightful dower - the Flower-of-Maids!


109Long lived I there as now appears
Tho' short the years seemed e'er to me,
Till a strong desire of my heart took hold
Finn and my friends of old to see.

110One day of the king I asked for leave
And of loving Niamh who grieved the while,
To visit dear Erin once again
My native plain, my native isle.

111"I will not hinder thee," she cried,
"From crossing the tide for duty dear,
Tho' it bodes me ill and my heart doth fill
With doubts that chill and deadly fear!"

112"Why shouldst thou fear, O queen my own,
When the way shall be shown by the magic steed
The steed that bore us o'er the sea -
And home to thee I'll safely speed?"

113"Remember then what now I say -
If thou shouldst lay a foot to ground
There's no return for thee e'ermore
To this fair shore where home thou'st found!

114"I tell thee truly vain's thy might
Shouldst thou alight from thy white steed,
For never again shouldst thou in truth
See Land of Youth or hither speed.

115"A third time now I thee implore
And beg thee sore thy seat to hold,
Or else at once thy strength shall go,
And thou shalt grow both blind and old!"

116"'Tis woe to me, Oisín, to see
How thou canst be so anxious-soul'd
About green Erin, changed for aye -
For past's the day of the Fenians bold.

117"In Erin green there's now nought seen
But priests full lean and troops of saints -
Then Oisín, here's my kiss to thee,
Our last, may be - my heart - now faints!"

118I gazed into her soft sad eyes
Whilst the tears did rise and well in my own -
O saint severe, thou'dst weep a tear
To hear that dear wife's hopeless moan!

119By solemn vow I then was bound,
To Erin's ground ne'er to descend,
And if to keep this vow I failed
No power availed or could befriend.

120I pledged to keep my solemn vow
And do all now enjoined had been,
I mounted then my steed of spell
And said farewell to king and queen.

121I kissed once more my Gold-haired Niamh,
- My heart doth grieve as I tell the tale -
I kissed my sons and daughter young
Whose hearts were wrung and cheeks were pal.

122I turned my steed at last to the strand
And passed from the Land of Lasting Youth -
Boldly my horse pursued his course
And the billows' force was nought in sooth.

123O Patrick of the orders pure
No lie, full sure, I've told but truth,
Thus have I tried my tale to weave
And thus did I leave the Land of Youth

124If of good bread I could get my fill
As Finn at will gave to each guest
Each day I'd pray to the King of Grace
That Heaven might be thy place of rest.

125Patrick: Thou shalt of bread have quite thy fill
And drink at will, O ancient bard!
Dear to me thy pleasant tale!
It ne'er can fail to win regard.


126Oisín: I need not tell each thing befell
Me and my spell-borne steed each day,
But at length green Erin's isle we reach,
And up the beach we bend our way.

127When once I found my steed trod ground,
I looked around on every side,
Anxious for tidings small or great
Of Finn and his state, once Erin's pride.

128Not long in doubt had I thus stayed
When a cavalcade came up the way -
Strange crowd, I thought, of women and men
And past my ken their strange array.

129Right gently they saluted me
But marvell'd much to see my size,
They marvell'd at my wondrous steed
For on such breed they'd ne'er set eyes.

130I asked - with fear my heart within -
If the noble Finn were yet alive,
Or if his hosts that kept the coasts
Of Erin safe, did yet survive.

131"Of Finn," they said, "we oft have heard -
His name and fame are now world-wide,
But full three hundred years have passed
Since Finn and the last of the Fenians died.

132"Many a book and many a tale
Have bards of the Gael that treat of Finn -
Of his strength and valour and wisdom bright
Of his race of might and mighty kin.

133"We've also heard of Finn's great son -
A youth of wondrous mien and mould,
That a lady came hither from over the sea
And with her went he to Tír na n-Óg!"

134Now when those words fell on mine ear -
That Finn and his heroes were no more -
My heart was chilled - my soul was filled
With woe unwilled ne'er felt before.

135I stopped no longer upon my course
But swift my horse urged onward flew -
Till Alvin's hill o'er Leinster's plain
Rose once again before my view.

136What shock I felt none could report,
To see the court of Finn of the steeds
A ruin lone, all overgrown
With nettles and thorns and rankest weeds!

137I found alas, 'twas a vain pursuít,
A bootless, fruitless, visit mine!
Great Finn was dead and the hosts he led -
For this I'd sped thro' ocean's brine!

138But let me tell my story all -
Tho' Alvin's roofless hall I'd seen,
I still would see spots dear to me
Where Fenians free and Finn had been.

139In passing through the Thrushes' Glen
A crowd of men in straits I see,
Full thrice five score and haply more
At toil full sore awaited me.

140Then forth there spoke a man of that herd
With suppliant word to me address'd -
"Come to our help, O champion brave,
Come quick to save us thus distress'd!"

141I rode up briskly to the crowd
And found them bow'd beneath a weight -
A flag of marble great and long
Bore down the throng who moaned their fate.

142Now all who tried to lift that stone
Did pant and groan most piteously -
Till some its crushing weight drove mad
And some fell dead, most sad to see!

143Then cried a steward of that crowd
And said aloud, "O haste and hie,
O gallant knight to our relief
Or else 'tis brief ere all shall die!"

144A shameful thing it is to say
- For such array of men these days -
They're powerless of blood and bone
Full easily that stone to raise!

145"If Oscar, Oisín's valiant son
Laid hold upon that marble stone
With right hand bare he'd hurl't in air
Flinging it fair, with ne'er a groan!

146Asked thus for help I did not lag
But 'neath the flag I placed one hand -
Full perches seven that stone I hurl
And scare each churl in all that band!

147But scarce alas! that stone had passed
With that fair cast when ah! the strain -
The strain it broke the white steed's girth,
I fell to earth, doomed now to pain!

148No sooner had I touched the ground
Than with abound my steed took fright -
Away, away, to the west he rushed!
Whilst all stood hush'd at such strange sight!

149At once I lose the sight of my eyes,
My youth's bloom dies, lean age began,
And I was left of strength bereft
A helpless, hopeless, blind old man!

150O Patrick, now the tale thou hast,
As each thing passed, indeed, in truth,
My going away, my lengthened stay,
And return for aye from the Land of Youth!

Thus far the Lay of Oisín in the Land of Youth.

Sir Graham