« السابقةمتابعة »
house, and often took them to his own, where he would gladly keep them, but that their father could not bear to have them out of his sight. It was the custom of the Tuatha Danaans to entertain each other in succession. When they assembled at the house of Lir, the four children were the whole subject of discourse, and the chief ornament of the day, they were so fair and so winning both in their appearances and their dispositions; and even as they dispersed to their several homes, the guests were heard to speak of nothing else. Lir himself would rise every morning at daybreak, and going to the apartment in which his children lay, would lie down among them for a while. The black poison of jealousy began at length to insinuate itself into the mind of Aoife. As if the love of Lir were not wide enough to comprehend them and herself, she conceived a mortal hatred against her sister's children. She feigned illness, and remained nearly a year in that condition, totally occupied in devising in her mind some means of ruining the children.
One morning she ordered her chariot, to the great surprise of Lir, who, however, was well pleased at this sign of returning health. Aoife next desired that the four children of Lir should be placed in the chariot with her, and drove away in the direction of Bogh Dearg's house. It was much against her will that Fingula, the daughter, went into the carriage, for she had long observed the increasing coolness in the mind of her stepmother, and guessed that she had no kindly purpose in her thoughts at present. She could not, however, avoid the destiny that was prepared for her, nor escape the suffering which she was doomed to undergo.
Aoife continued her journey until she arrived at Fiondach, where dwelt some of her father's people whom she knew to be deeply skilled in the art of the Druids. Having arrived at their residence, she went into the place where they were, and endeavored to prevail on them to kill the children, telling them that their father through his affection for them had slighted her, and promising to bestow on them all the riches which they could require.
"Ah," replied the Druids, “we would not kill the children of Lir for the whole world. You took an evil thought into your mind, and left your shame behind you, when you came with such a request to us."
“Then if you will not,” cried Aoife, seizing a sword which lay near, “I will avenge myself, for I am resolved they shall not live.”
Saying these words, she rushed out with the drawn sword, but through her womanhood she lost her courage when she was about to strike at the children. She then returned the sword to the Druids, and said she could not kill them.
Aoife resumed her journey, and they all drove on untii they reached the shores of Lough Dairvreac, on the Lake of the Speckled Oak. Here she unharnessed the horses, and desired the children to descend and bathe in the lake. They did as she bade, but when all were in the water, she took a magic wand and struck them with it one after another. One after another the forms of the beautiful children disappeared, and four white swans were seen upon the water in their stead, when she addressed them in the following words:
AOIFE. Away, you children of the king! I have separated your lives
from joy. Your people will grieve to hear these tidings, but you shall con
tinue birds. . What I have done, I have done through hatred of you, and
malice to your father.
THE CHILDREN. We, left here on the waters, must be tossed from wave to wave.
In the mean time Lir, returning to his palace, missed his children, and finding Aoife not yet come home, immediately guessed that she had destroyed them, for he likewise had observed her jealousy. In the morning he ordered his chariot to be prepared, and, following the track of his wife, travelled along until he came to the Lake of the Speckled Oak, when the children saw the chariot approaching, and Fingula spoke as follows:
By yon old Oak, whose branches hoar
'Tis royal Lir himself who leads the shining band. Lir came to the brink of the water, and when he heard the birds conversing, as they drew nigh, in human language, I asked them how they became endowed with that surprising gift.
“Know, Lir," replied Fingula, “that we are your four children, who, through the frantic jealousy of our
step-mother, and our own mother's sister, have been reduced to this unhappy condition."
“Are there any means," asked the wretched father, “ by which you can ever be restored to your own forms again ? "
“None,” replied Fingula; “ there is no man in existence able to effect that change, nor can it ever take place until a woman from the south, named Deocha, daughter of Ingri, the son of Black Hugh, and a man from the north, named Larigneau, the son of Colman, shall occasion our deliverance in the time of The TailGEAN,* when the Christian faith and charity shall come into Ireland.”
When Lir and his attendants heard these words, they uttered three doleful cries.
“ Are you satisfied,” said Lir, “since you retain your speech and reason, to come and remain with us?”
“It is not in our power to do so,” replied Fingula, “nor are we at liberty to commit ourselves to the hands of man, until what I have told you shall have come to pass. But in the mean time we possess our speech and our mental faculties as fully as ever, and are moreover endowed with one additional quality, which is that we can sing the most melodious airs that the world has ever heard, and there is no mortal that would not feel a pleasure in listening to our voices. Remain with us for this night, and you shall hear our music."
When Lir had heard these words, he ordered his
* Tailgean, or the Holy Offspring, a name supposed to have been applied by the Druids to St. Patrick, previous to his arrival in Ireland. -- O'Brien's Irish Dictionary.
followers to unharness their steeds, and they remained during the whole night on the strand, listening to the music of the birds, until all were lulled to sleep by the enchanting melody, excepting Lir alone. In the morning Lir arose from the bank on which he lay, and addressed his children in the following words :
In vain I stretch my aching limbs
And close my weeping eyes,
For me alone arise.
My children, we must part;
Falls on your father's heart.
O had I seen this fatal hour,
When Lir's malignant queen
This hour had never been !
The widening waters grow,
The sense of cureless woe. Lir departed from the lake, and, still following the track of Aoife, came to the palace of the Ard-Righ, or Chief King, as Bogh Dearg was entitled. The monarch welcomed him, but complained of his not having brought his children as usual.
“ Alas, poor that I am!” said Lir, “it is not I who would keep my children from your sight, but Aoife yonder, once your darling, and the sister of their mother,