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Bard of Eire: The Lord of Alba’s Reply

Thomas Buttesthorn

Bard of Eire, the hall is still that once with joy and song rang.
O Harper of gold, whose fingers beguiled,
The heather to bloom in white winter's cold;
Whose harp could cause the mighty to tremble,
Or the moon to weep for the love that is lost.
O paragon of harpers, my walls were faceted jewels,
And my tapestries were woven of spun gold;
The silver hart, through its far forests did bound
And grazed at the foot of a high mountain peak.

But the twisting rubied spires of the mighty mead hall,
And its gold vaulted roof, encrusted with stars,
Til thy coming were all drab as brown river mud,
And lifeless hanging as a dull shrouded sky:
All music was as the rustling of dry leaves.

Thy songs and tales thy golden harp did unfold;
Of the days of heroes, and the gods under hill;
Cuchulainn and Finn and Cormac the Wise;
Of feasts beyond measure, generosity without stint.
The triumph of good and of evil is defeat.
The swirling of wonder, or a slow crystal stream.
The longing of love; the swiftness of time.
By thy soft fingers diamond notes were bestrewn;
In thy voice as a necklace, the diamonds were set.

Til my mead hall was a meadow where the gods found
A home; where the maiden found her lover; where the
Hand of time was stayed, where the bright and emerald
Forest rejoiced and rainbow-nurtured, bore crystal fruit.
The world gave pause, and listening in wonder,
All as one did bow, and give homage to thee O bard.

Thy fingers were ripples on a quiet highland loch
And thy eyes that burned as sapphires with the fire
Of thy song were the richest jewels that e’er
Did lie within my humble walls.

O woe the day that I did bring thee hither,
For in thy going, my lands have lost their grace.
The wee birds have flown to some far summer clime.
Gone the gentle airs that did the beckon heed.
In crags and in mountains where the eagle made lair,
And in deep grassy glens where purple thistle grew thick,
Their flowers have died and the petals are scattered,
Only dust now swirls when the chill wind blows sharp.
The spare barren gorse now stands darkly bleak,
Its cold fingers are claws to scratch the skin away.
And once fair Alba that as a beacon for thee did shine
Waits deep and forlorn, as a widow mourns for one drowned.

The piobh mor whose voice was with lilting harp intertwined,
As a strong, yet gentle lover who takes a maiden's
Fragrant hand, laments alas, alone, across a salt-misty strand,
And echoes high to the far frosted stars: It weeps in vain
For once-found beauty lost, and the shadowed hand of fate
That made thee turn away. (O cruel was the time that turned all gold to grey!)

But came the time for leaving as was thy bardic right,
The call of the Tuatha, or lands beyond the sea.
Thy sandals sought the path road and going, took with thee
The light.

I would that I could pierce the dark and guide the sun home again.
I would that I could with wings soar the sky
To find again thy crystal song.
I would that I could rewind the time and
Spin its wild skein again.
But my hall is still, O golden Bard of Eire, no laughter
No songs abide there,
Silence lies like dust on an old drinking horn.
And I must now set forth to find thee once again,
To hear the sounds of thy fair bardic harp,
And to entice thee return to give life to my land,
Or failing, to see my beautiful Alba no more.





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