Constituting one of the Hàhans’ Holy Books, this work is now considered to be the world’s earliest example of verse, written between 5500 and 5000 BC. This extract is taken from the middle of the epic poem.
Having watched the effects of death take over their new home in the Second Land, Foen, King of the Birds, has returned to the First Land to seek help from God, Aodhàn. With one of his companions already dead, Foen and a second companion, Thés, have reached the Second Land, but fall from exhaustion into a deep lake.
Yet from those selfsame, smothering deeps
A sparkling spirit of light now leaps,
And a second, and third come rising hence,
And bear the Birds t’ward sunlit shallows,
And further, higher, and even thence
Out to the air, as skybound arrows,
And there on the shore they lay them to rest,
Two Birds still in the midst of their quest;
These spirits of light in wonder and prayer
Behold Foen and Thés, waiting for eyes
To flicker and flare, but seeing them stare
As if no flame within can rise.
Yet lo! at last there waketh Foen,
Who in confusion cries, Nay! Begone!
I know ye not, nor wish to learn;
My doom enacted, I’ll wait alone!
But amongst them there blazes bright a chord
Of music and mirth, of standard and sword,
And the mightiest spirit steps forth from the crowd,
And bellows to Foen: In the wind-
Restless voyager, do I endlessly dwell,
For my name is Peldrah, lord of the sprites
Who live in wood and dale and dell,
Inhabit the vales and wind-
Streams quick with stones, cliff-
And deep lakes bejewelled with shimmering shades.
We, the Dineliaou, are the Lord’s Second Race,
Nursing the nature of this once-
So tell me, brave Bird, why art thou here,
Two creatures of Earth, fallen in this mere,
Found by my people, then raised to the air,
Weary and fearful, filled with despair?
© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017
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