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The Harp of the Dagda

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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De Gabāil in t-Sīda in-so Sīs

Here follows the Seizure of the Fairy Hill

There was a famous king over the Túatha Dé in Ireland. His name (was) Dagán. Great, then, was his power, even though it belonged to the Mac Míled after the conquest of the country, for the Túatha Dé destroyed the corn and the milk round about the Mac Míled until they made the friendship of the Dagda. Afterwards, he saved their corn and milk.

Now when he was king at first, his might was vast, and it was he who apportioned out the fairy mounds to the men of the Túatha Dé, namely Lug Mac Ethnend in Síd Rodrubán, (and) Ogma in Síd Aircelltraí, but for the Dagda himself Síd Leithet Lachtmaige, Oí Asíd, Cnocc Báine, (and) Brú Ruair. As, however, they say, he had Síd In Broga from the beginning.

Then Mac Oac came to the Dagda in order to petition for land after it had been distributed to each one. He was, moreover, a fosterling to Midir of Brí Léith and to Nindid, the seer.

“I have none for thee,” said the Dagda. “I have completed the division.”

“Therefore let be granted to me,” said the Mac Ooc, “even a day and a night in thy own dwelling.”

That then was given to him.

“Go now to thy following.” said the Dagda, “since thou hast consumed thy (allotted) time.”

“It is clear,” said he, “that night and day are (the length of) the whole world, and it is that which has been given to me.”

Thereupon the Dagda went out, and the Mac Ooc remained in his Síd.

Wonderful, moreover, (is) that land. Three trees with fruit are there always, and a pig eternally alive, and a roasted swine, and a vessel with marvellous liquor, and never do they all decrease.

De Gabāil in t-Sīda in-so Sīs 

Boí rí amra for Tūathaib Dea i n-Hēre. Dagān a ainm. Ba mór, di·diu, a chumachta, ced la Maccu Mīled iar n-gabāil in tíre, ar collset Tūatha Dea ith 7 blicht im Maccu Mīled con·digensat) chairddes in Dagdai. Do·essart saide, īarum, ith 7 blicht dóib.

Ba mór, di·diu, a chumachtasom in tan ba rí i tossucch 7 ba hé fodail inna side do feraib Dea .i. Lug Mac Ethnend i Ssíd Rodrubán; Ogma i Ssíd Airceltrai. Don Dagdu fessin, immurgu, Síth Leithet Lachtmaige, Oí Asíd, Cnocc Báine, Brú Ruair. Síd in Broga, da·no, ba laiss i tossuch, amal as·berat.

Do·lluid, di·diu, in Mac Oac cosin Dagda do chungid feraind o fo·rodail do chách. Ba dalta saide, di·diu, do Midir Breg Léith 7 do Nindid fáith.

“Ní-mthá duit,” ol in Dagda, “Tarnaic fodail lemm.”

“Etar dam, di·diu,” ol in Mac Ooc, “cid laa co n-aidchi it trib féin.” Do·breth do-som ōn, īarum.

“Collá dot dāim, trā,” ol in Dagda, “ūaire do·romailt do ré.”

“Is menand,” olse, “is laa 7 adaig in bith uile, 7 iss ed ōn do·ratad dam-sa.” Luid, do·no, Dagān ass, īarum, 7 anaid in Mac Óoc ina Síd.

Amra, da·no, a tír hī-sin. A·taat tri chrand co torud and do grés, 7 mucc bithbēo for chossaib, 7 mucc fonaithe, 7 lestar co llind sainemail, 7 ni·erchran and sin uile do grés.”

From: Vernam Hull, De Gabāil in t-Sīda,’ in Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie Volume 19,1933, pp53-58. See also: Paddy Brown’s translation.

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Posted by on January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized


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