This section is from the book "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland", by Jane Francesca Wilde. Also available from Amazon: Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, And Superstitions Of Ireland.
o Hoy ne, once famed for battles, sports, and conflicts,
And great heroes of the race of Conn,
Art thou grey after all thy blooms?
O agèd old woman of grey-green pools,
O wretched Boyne of many tears.
Where is the glory of thy sires ? The glory of Art with the swift arrow ; Of Meiltan, with the swift-darting spears ; Of the lordly race of the O'Neil? To thee belonged red victory, When the Fenian wrath was kindled, And the heroes in thousands rode to war, And the bridles clanked on the steeds.
0 river of kings and the sons of kings, Of the swift bark and the silver fish,
1 lay my blessing on thee with my tears, For thou art the watcher by a grave- My treasures lie in the earth at thy side- O Boyne of many tears.
My sons lie there in their strength, My little daughter in her beauty- Rory, and Brian, and Rose- - These have I given against my will. My blood, my heart, my bone and kin, My love and my life, to the grave.
The blessing of men was on them,
The blessing of thousands that loved them,
From Kells of the Crosses to Drogheda-
Eight thousand blessings to Dowth of the Trees.
Peace be on the earth where they lie !
By the royal stream of the kings,
In the land of the great O'Neil.
The Bardic song amongst all nations was the first expression of the human soul, with all its strong, passionate emotions and heroic impulses. It is remarkable that, although several invasions of Ireland are on record, yet but one language seems to have existed there from the earliest times down to the coming of the Anglo-Normans in the twelfth century. The Bards held it as their peculiar duty to raise this language to its highest perfection, and the laws of Celtic poetry, especially, were most elaborate and the structure of the verse exceedingly difficult. Ten years of study were allowed the students at the Druids' College to gain perfection in the art, and also to practise the memory ; for at the royal festivals the Ard-Filé was expected to recite fully and perfectly whatever heroic tale might be called for by the king at the banquet. On great occasions also, when the meeting was held in the open air, the chiefs sat round in a circle on mounds of turf, while the bards, standing in the centre, recited the heroic narrative to the accompaniment of the harp, the chorus joining in the lyrical portions at intervals, and a circle of harpists at the outermost ring of the assemblage introduced occasional symphonies of pure instrumental music to give the bards time for rest between the parts of the recitation. '
There were three chief measures in music in use amongst the poets-"the Sorrowful," or the chant for the dead; " the Delightful," reserved for dances and festivities ; and " the Reposing," devoted entirely to love sonnets and the plaintive softness of lyrical expression. But the Ross-Catha, or battle-hymn, was the great war-song to which the warriors marched to battle, and which inspired them with the heroic madness that braved death for victory.
Everything connected with the bards is interesting. They were so gifted, so learned, and so beautiful. For even genius was not considered enough, without beauty, to warrant a young man being enrolled in the ranks of the poets. A noble, stately presence was indispensable, and the poet was required not only to be gifted, but to be handsome. Then he was promoted through all the grades until he reached the last and highest, called " The Wisdom of the Gods," but the knowledge then acquired by the initiated was kept sacred from the crowd, and the adept swore by the sun, the stars, and the hosts of heaven never to reveal the mysteries acquired by his initiation, to the profane.
The high-born maidens amongst the noble families were also trained by the Druids in poetry and music, and in the exercise of the chase, such as archery and throwing the lance, to give their bodies health, vigour, and beauty, while those endowed with peculiar intellect were admitted into the bardic orders, and became the priestess, prophetess, or poetess of the tribe ; who inspired men by her eloquence and had power by her incantations over the deep mysteries of life. Such was Eodain, the chief poetess of Erin, the guide and inspirer of Eugene, the king of the South, the prophetess of her nation, who saved him and his kingdom from ruin by her wisdom, and redeemed him by her counsels from his dissolute and evil life.