The Harp of the Dagda

12 Feb

The Fomorians, after their defeat, were gathered together in their banqueting hall, and had hung up on the wall a harp which they had captured, when in rushed the Dagda, Lug; and Ogma. Before the warriors had time to get to their feet, the Dagda called out to his harp to come to him. The harp knew its master’s voice, and leaped straightway from the wall, killing nine men on its way, till it placed itself in the god’s hands, who made wonderful music on it. He played for them the three strains of Lamentation, Laughter and Sleep; and while the Fomorians were under the spell of the last, Dagda and his companions returned
unhurt to their own people. — O’Curry’s “Manners and Customs.”


“SPEAK, Sword of Tethra, thou canst tell
Where hangs my stolen harp to-night?
Thrice o’er thy blade hath passed my spell —
Thrice ever-Sharp! thrice ever-Bright!
A swordless arm on plain of War,
A harpless hand in Pleasure’s hall —
These be the saddest things by far
That mind of mourner may recall!”

The Sword of Tethra—

“Thy harp, this star-lorn night, hangs high,
O Dagda, ‘neath the Fomor’s ceil.
Where torches mock with gay reply
The grief and anger they reveal!
A bard would wake the Joy of Hearts
For them, whose pride had been dethroned;
Alas! despite his minstrel’s arts.
The harp for thee, her master, moaned!”


“Moaned for her master? I am he
Who nursed the Daughter of the Wood,
Who waked her soul to melody
More sweet than wind or falling flood!
Lug — Ogma — Dagda, fighters famed,
With glory’s sun full on our brows,
Victorious, must we slink ashamed,
When no harp chaunts where we carouse!”

The Quest

Forth went the three whose eyes were stars.
Till reached the Fomor’s banquet hall.
Where men drank, brooding o’er their scars.
And women whispered by the wall ;
And never hawk had sight more sharp,
Nor chieftain through the battle’s flame.
Than he, whose fond eyes found his harp.
Hung ‘neath the ceiling’s wattled frame!

“Come forth,” he cried, “thy master calls!
Come forth, loved Daughter of the Wood,
And sing a song in thy own halls,
More sweet than wind or falling flood!
A swordless chief on plain of War,
A harpless bard in Pleasure’s hall —
These be the saddest things by far
That mind of mourner may recall!”

The sentient harp turned with delight,
And leaping forth, the chamber spanned;
And whoso sought to stay her flight
Fell hurt beyond a healer’s hand.
Into her master’s arms she sprang —
Was it Rock Spirit of the Glen,
Whose voice with god-like Dagda’s rang
For ears of women and of men?

The Song of Sorrow! when the heart
Of warrior heard that cry it quailed;
And woman’s, sundered at the smart,
Her sorest grief of life bewailed!
The Song of Laughter! men and maids
Grew blithe as fawns on mountain crest!
The Song of Slumber! under shades
They sank in life-oblivious rest!

“Peace unto Peace!” (thus Dagda cried),
“These two we hold whatever befall —
This blade, to wreathe the battle side,
This harp, to crown the festive hall!
For thou, true friend, on plain of War,
And thou, fond love, in Pleasure’s choir.
Ye be the rarest things by far
That heart of mortal may desire!”

P. J. McCall, Pulse of the Bards (Cuisle na h-Éisge), 1904, p11-13.

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized


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