Saturday, 17 September 2016

Song of the Forest Trees - Standish Hayes O'Grady

O man that for Fergus of the feasts dost kindle fire,
Whether afloat or ashore burn not the king of woods.

Monarch of Innisfail's forests the woodbine is, whom none may hold captive;
No feeble sovereign's effort is it to hug all tough trees in his embrace.

The pliant woodbine if thou burn, wailings for misfortune will abound,
Dire extremity at weapons' points or drowning in great waves will follow.

Burn not the precious apple-tree of spreading and low-sweeping bough;
Tree ever decked in bloom of white, against whose fair head all men put forth the hand.

The surly blackthorn is a wanderer, a wood that the artificer burns not;
Throughout his body, though it be scanty, birds in their flocks warble.

The noble willow burn not, a tree sacred to poems;
Within his bloom bees are a-sucking, all love the little cage.

The graceful tree with the berries, the wizard's tree, the rowan, burn;
But spare the limber tree; burn not the slender hazel.

Dark is the colour of the ash; timber that makes the wheels to go;
Rods he furnishes for horsemen's hands, his form turns battle into flight.

Tenterhook among woods the spiteful briar is, burn him that is so keen and green;
He cuts, he flays the foot, him that would advance he forcibly drags backward.

Fiercest heat-giver of all timber is green oak, from him none may escape unhurt;
By partiality for him the head is set on aching, and by his acrid embers the eye is made sore.

Alder, very battle-witch of all woods, tree that is hottest in the fight—
Undoubtedly burn at thy discretion both the alder and whitethorn.

Holly, burn it green; holly, burn it dry;
Of all trees whatsoever the critically best is holly.

Elder that hath tough bark, tree that in truth hurts sore;
Him that furnishes horses to the armies from the sídh burn so that he be charred.

The birch as well, if he be laid low, promises abiding fortune;
Burn up most sure and certainly the stalks that bear the constant pods.

Suffer, if it so please thee, the russet aspen to come headlong down;
Burn, be it late or early, the tree with the palsied branch.

Patriarch of long-lasting woods is the yew, sacred to feasts, as is well-known;
Of him now build ye dark-red vats of goodly size.

Ferdedh, thou faithful one, wouldst thou but do my behest:
To thy soul as to thy body, O man, 'twould work advantage.

Standish Hayes O'Grady (1832 - 1915) Ireland
  • Innisfail: Ireland
  • sidh: a hill or mound under which fairies live
  • Ferdedh: Son of Fergus mac Roth. He trained with Cuchulainn under Skatha and became his friend. He later fought for Maev in the Cattle Raid of Cooley and, against his inclinations, was forced by Maev to fight Cuchulainn in single combat. They fought for four days until finally Cuchulainn killed his old friend with the Gae Bolg as they fought in the river where the waters were held back on each side. In other versions, Cuchulainn ran Ferdedh through with his sword. 

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