The Ballad of The Last Eld’Hathnim
I. A little tale have I to tell Of Séretur’s son, that matchless chief, Which aye must so remembered well, Although it wrings my heart with grief.
II. Where fierce Elandra’s cataracts pour Down the dark cliff, with deafening roar, We lay, in number few; When o’er the deep afar we spy A corrac small advancing nigh; One female all her crew. Round princely Vanyo were gallant men, Reclined at ease, two score and ten; Such, lived they now, as might extend Their rule to earth’s remotest end; Alas! Alas! In death they sleep, And I alone survive to weep.
III. All, sudden to their feet upsprung, Save Séretur’s son and Z’ayl the brave, To see the corrac as she flung The spray aside, and cleft the wave; Till in the little sandy bay. Beside the cataract fall she lay. Yet e’re she touched the yellow sand, Our swifter feet had reached the strand. When up arose the maiden bright And sprang ashore with speed of light. Of Mythral was her flowing vest, A jewel glittered on her breast; Her face shone radiant as the sun, Too dazzling to he gazed upon; And such her dignity and grace As spoke a maid of princely race.
IV. When to the tent of Vanyo she came, Conducted by our band, She hailed our chief of far-spread fame With greeting sweet and bland, As bland was he in word and look, While by the hand the maid he took; And with a graceful honest pride Beheld her seated by his side, While Z’ayl and all our chiefs around No pause from admiration found; But wonder-struck they gazed. No wandering thought their bosoms crossed, Their hearts were gone, their senses lost, Enraptured and amazed. O’ercome by beauty’s potent spell That opens heaven and conquers hell
V. Then Vanyo, of aspect sweet and clear, Said — “Maiden, fondly would we hear, From what strange land you hither came — Your rank, your lineage, and your name.” “The daughter of that king am I, Whose realms beneath the ocean lie; And this my story brief, Through every land I speed my way, That sees the glorious light of day, In quest of Íverin’s chief.” “And, daughter, what the cause declare That leads a maid so young, so fair, Alone and far from friendly home, Unguarded through the world to roam?” “Great chief, all chiefs excelling far; (Thus spoke the maid of maids the star,) To thee I suppliant bend; Do thou whom none on earth exceeds In generous, high, heroic deeds, A helpless maid befriend. Thy kind protection lot me know And shield me from a potent foe.” “And who, in wrath and vengeance strong, Pursues thee and would do thee wrong ?” (The prudent chief replied.) “Dismiss thy terrors — trust my arm — No foe on earth shall do thee harm — And in my power confide. When in just cause for aid implored, The Vanyar wield no feeble sword.” “A hero bold — a man of might, Pursues me o’er both land and sea, Enflamed by love and jealous spite; — The son of Herim’s king is he, Great Ambar Nwalme, for such his name — Of weapons keen and far-spread fame. His suit I spurned, with solemn vows Ne’er to become his plighted spouse, Though great his deeds — his darings And often crowned with victory; But rather o’er wide ocean sail And refuge seek in Innisfail.” VI. Then Eruecco boldly forward sprung, He who could curb a monarch’s pride, And cried with indignation stung, “Ne’er shalt thou be his bride, No — ne’er, while Vanyo fulfils his vow, To Herim’s prince a captive bow.”
VII. Careering on a fiery steed, O’er the sea-foam with winged speed, E’en in the royal maiden’s course, And urged with more than mortal force, A hero of gigantic mould, Shoreward advancing we behold. A dark plumed helm he wore; Swung by his side a ponderous blade Made music roughly as it played; A full orbed shield he bore, And on its moonlike disk were seen Two polished javelins strong and keen. A chief thus armed and girt for fight Had ne’er before so charmed our sight.
VIII. Of noble form — of princely look — With majesty he rode — . More rapid than the torrent brook, The Dragon he bestrode. As nigh our wondering host he drew, Forth from its sheath his falchion flow, And brandished proudly o’er his head A fiery halo round him spread. On him our eager looks were bent In silent deep astonishment, As on he came in splendour bright Of sparkling burnished mail, Like the red meteor of the night That shoots across the vale. In Íverin ne’er before was seen A chief of such heroic mien; So skilled in battle’s fierce career, To govern steed and handle spear. So proud his looks — as if alone T’was his to call the world his own.
IX. “Is that the mighty prince, declare, Who hence would force thee, maiden fair?” (Said Vanyo, our warriors’ pride) “He who from far o’er sea and land, Pursues thee, and with ruthless hand Would seize thee for his bride ?” MAID. — “Alas! ‘tis he— too well I know — He brings you Hathnimar death and woe; And, maugre all your firm array, Will bear me hence his prize away.”
X. Stept Eruecco forth, and Z’ayl renowned, The foremost still in conflict found, To cross the warrior in his path, And guard the maiden from his wrath: But like the whirlwind’s speed, Or lightning shaft of fire, Upon his magic steed He pass’d them in his ire, To seize the maid, in furious mood, E’en as by noble Vanyo she stood.
XI. Hurled with the force that heroes wield, Forth Z’ayl his javelin sent; It struck the warrior’s bossy shield, And into fragments rent. With equal force by wrath impelled, Its course brave Eruecco’s javelin held; T’was from his left hand sped, And hardened by the strength of flame Pierced through the gallant war-steed’s frame And stretched him with the dead. A high achievement great and bold As e’er adorned the times of old!
XII. Though in his path adventurous cross’d, With shattered shield and war-steed lost, With madly-brave, unconquered soul, That never knew or brooked control, He challenged of our gallant men The bravest, best, two score and ten, To meet him band to hand. Two score and ten, his might to try, While I with Vanyo stood watchful by, Against him took their stand; All clothed in brightly burnished mail; All fierce the victor to assail.
XIII. Now loud the din of combat rose, As nobly stood against such foes The prince of high renown. With strength and skill, on right and left, Their corslets, helms, and shields he cleft, And struck th’ assailants down. Nine chiefs laid prostrate on the ground Victorious he in fetters bound, Though hard the task, and proud the boast, To bind the weakest of our host. But oh! it grieves my soul to tell, That Erwa the son of Antaino fell. Not one, who in that conflict burned, Ungashed, unwounded, back returned; Nor had a man been left to bring The dismal tidings to our king, But all had sunk in night; Unless they in collected power, Upon him rained an iron shower, And waged a distant fight. For none that met him hand to hand, His power terrific could withstand, So quick, so strong, with stroke on stroke, Their arms he into shivers broke.
XIV. Then Z’ayl, great hero of the field, Who ne’er was known to blench or yield, Though oft in conflict tried; Still prizing glory more than life, In single fight, to end the strife The haughty foe defied — They met, as meet two torrent floods, Or whirlwinds echoing through the woods And glancing like the lightning’s flash, Their swords reverberate clash for clash, And whirled in many a sparkling gyre, Their temper tell in streams of fire.
XV. Whoe’er that contest fierce had seen, Would say ‘twas terrible and keen, So fierce, so strong, each tempered hlade, The game of death and glory played, Till blood began to flow; Their shining mail of Mythral blue, Was mantled with a crimson hue, And crushed by many a blow, Till pierced by one relentless thrust, The prince of Herim sunk in dust — . Oh! Mournful is the tale. Unhappy land! Oh shame and grief! To see the fall of such a chief! Alas! That Innisfail Was e’er seduced by woman’s charms, To mingle in the strife of arms.
XVI. In earth, beside the loud cascade, The son of Herim’s king we laid; And on each finger placed a ring Of gold, by mandate of our king; Such honours to the brave we give, The last Hathnim to ever live.
XVII. The daughter of the king who reigned In realms beneath the main, In Almhuin’s friendly court remained With Vanyo and his princely train, Nor sought her home until the sun, Through heaven, his annual course had run.
XVIII. Six months did Z’ayl our chief renowned, In feats of arms still victor found, Repose beneath the leeche’s art, And all the skill the stars impart, ‘Till health his wonted strength restored, And healed the gashes of the sword.
XIX. But what to me can youth restore, Or heal the wounds that I deplore? Alas! That maiden’s blooming face To whole or wounded yields no grace. No healing balm bright eyes bestow, No solace to an old man’s woe. But now since Mem’ry’s powers decay, And strength and spirit fail, Time warns to cease my vocal lay, And end my little tale.
Adapted from Ancient Irish Minstrelsy**