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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 now still in the midst of their quest;

 Those spirits of light in wonder and prayer

 Behold Foen and Thés, only one barely breathing,

 Awaiting bright eyes to flicker and flare,

 And seeing but limbs with life thence seething.

 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 blazeth 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-worried cloud,

 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-bitten heights

 Streams quick with stones, cliff-bound cascades

 And deep lakes bejewelled with shimmering shades.

 We, the Dineliaou, are the Lord’s Second Race,

 Nursing the nature of this once-ravaged place;

 So tell me, brave Bird, pray, why art thou here,

 Two creatures of Earth, falling into this mere,

 Found by my people, raised thence to the air,

 Weary with travail, twain erring in fear?

© Copyright Paul David Holland 2017