Fiction > Harvard Classics > The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
  The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
The Room of Conaire Himself
  “There I beheld a room, more beautifully decorated than the other rooms of the house. A silvery curtain around it, and there were ornaments in the room. I beheld a trio in it. The outer two of them were, both of them, fair, with their hair and eyelashes; and they are as bright as snow. A very lovely blush on the cheek of each of the twain. A tender lad in the midst between them. The ardour and energy of a king has he and the counsel of a sage. The mantle I saw around him is even as the mist of Mayday. Diverse are the hue and semblance each moment shewn upon it. Lovelier is each hue than the other. In front of him in the mantle I beheld a wheel of gold which reached from his chin to his navel. The colour of his hair was like the sheen of smelted gold. Of all the world’s forms that I beheld, this is the most beautiful. I saw his golden-hilted glaive down beside him. A forearm’s length of the sword was outside the scabbard. That forearm, a man down in the front of the house could see a fleshworm by the shadow of the sword! Sweeter is the melodious sounding of the sword than the melodious sound of the golden pipes that accompany music in the palace.”  1
  “Then,” quoth Ingcél, “I said, gazing at him:  2
  I see a high, stately prince, etc.  3
  I see a famous king, etc.  4
  I see his white prince’s diadem, etc.  5
  I see his two blue-bright cheeks, etc.  6
  I see his high wheel … round his head … which is over his yellow-curly hair.  7
  I see his mantle red, many-coloured, etc.  8
  I see therein a huge brooch of gold, etc.  9
  I see his beautiful linen frock … from ankle to kneecaps.  10
  I see his sword golden-hilted, inlaid, in its scabbard of white silver, etc.  11
  I see his shield bright, chalky, etc.  12
  A tower of inlaid gold,” etc.  13
  Now the tender warrior was asleep, with his feet in the lap of one of the two men and his head in the lap of the other. Then he awoke out of his sleep, and arose, and chanted this lay:  14
  “The howl of Ossar (Conaire’s dog) … cry of warriors on the summit of Tol Géisse; a cold wind over edges perilous: a night to destroy a king is this night.”  15
  He slept again, and awoke thereout, and sang this rhetoric:  16
  “The howl of Ossar … a battle he announced: enslavement of a people: sack of the Hostel: mournful are the champions: men wounded: wind of terror: hurling of javelins: trouble of unfair fight: wreck of houses: Tara waste: a foreign heritage: like is lamenting Conaire: destruction of corn: feast of arms: cry of screams: destruction of Erin’s king: chariots a-tottering: oppression of the king of Tara: lamentations will overcome laughter: Ossar’s howl.”  17
  He said the third time:  18
  “Trouble hath been shewn to me: a multitude of elves: a host supine; foes’ prostration: a conflict of men on the Dodder 1: oppression of Tara’s king: in youth he was destroyed: lamentations will overcome laughter: Ossar’s howl.”  19
  “Liken thou, O Fer rogain, him who has sung that lay.”  20
  “Easy for me to liken him,” says Fer rogain. No “conflict without a king” this. He is the most splendid and noble and beautiful and mighty king that has come into the whole world. He is the mildest and gentlest and most perfect king that has come to it, even Conaire son of Eterscél. ’Tis he that is overking of all Erin. There is no defect in that man, whether in form or shape or vesture: whether in size or fitness or proportion, whether in eye or hair or brightness, whether in wisdom or skill or eloquence, whether in weapon or dress or appearance, whether in splendour or abundance or dignity, whether in knowledge or valour or kindred.  21
  “Great is the tenderness of the sleepy simple man till he has chanced on a deed of valour. But if his fury and his courage be awakened when the champions of Erin and Alba are at him in the house, the Destruction will not be wrought so long as he is therein. Six hundred will fall by Conaire before he shall attain his arms, and seven hundred will fall by him in his first conflict after attaining his arms. I swear to God what my tribe swears, unless drink be taken from him, though there be no one else in the house, but he alone, he would hold the Hostel until help would reach it which the man would prepare for him from the Wave of Clidna 2 and the Wave of Assaroe 3 while ye are at the Hostel.  22
  “Nine doors there are to the house, and at each door a hundred warriors will fall by his hand. And when every one in the house has ceased to ply his weapon, ’tis then he will resort to a deed of arms. And if he chance to come upon you out of the house, as numerous as hailstones and grass on a green will be your halves of heads and your cloven skulls and your bones under the edge of his sword.  23
  “’Tis my opinion that he will not chance to get out of the house. Dear to him are the two that are with him in the room, his two fosterers, Dris and Snithe. Thrice fifty warriors will fall before each of them in front of the Hostel, and not farther than a foot from him, on this side and that, will they too fall.”  24
  “Woe to him who shall wreak the Destruction, were it only because of that pair and the prince that is between them, the over-king of Erin, Conaire son of Eterscél! Sad were the quenching of that reign!” says Lomna Drúth, son of Donn Désa.  25
  “Ye cannot,” says Ingcél. “Clouds of weakness are coming to you,” etc.  26
  “Good cause hast thou, O Ingcél,” says Lomna son of Donn Désa.  27
  “Not unto thee is the loss caused by the Destruction: for thou wilt carry off the head of the king of another country, and thyself will escape. Howbeit ’tis hard for me, for I shall be the first to be slain at the Hostel.”  28
  “Alas for me!” says Ingcél, “peradventure I shall be the frailest corpse,” etc.  29
  “And whom sawest thou afterwards?”  30
Note 1. A small river near Dublin, which is said to have passed through the Bruden.—W. S. [back]
Note 2. In the bay of Glandore, co. Cork.—W. S. [back]
Note 3. At Ballyshannon, co. Donegal.—W. S. [back]


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