William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

Oisin - Poem by William Bell Scott

Oisin, son of great Fingal,
Of Fenian race the last of all,
Longed to see his native land
With longing nothing could withstand.

An hundred years ago and more,
He had left old Erin's shore,
On the winged white horse astride,
Left in the mists that all things hide,
With the strange princess in his arms,
Left for the realm beyond all harms,
Beyond the moon, beyond the sea,
Unknown to bards of best degree,
Where the sword was never tried,
Where they were neither born nor died;
The realm of Youth, youth ever more.
With years the longing grew apace,

The nameless princess by his side,
Loving and lovely, limb and face,
Tall and bright as is the flame,
That lights the witches' deeds of shame,
Beautiful and filled with pride,
Such as no bard can express
Who knows not the wild leopardess;
But he left and hither came.
‘Dismount not from thy winged white horse,
See old Erin and come back,
Dismount not or it will be worse
Than I can tell thee, worse, alack!’
She signed him on his eye and ear
With water from the Wells of Fear,
And the wingéd courser bore
Oisin to old Erin's shore.

Erin, land of my desire,
Land of my childhood and my sire!
He cried as on the horse he sat,
Agadsa, ataim agat!
His eyes at first so filled with tears,
Scarce saw he, but soon wept aloud,
It went beyond his fears;
There was no Tara left at all,
There was no bard, no harp, no hall,
But tonsured pigmies in a crowd,
Were building bell-towers everywhere.
Erin, land beyond all peers,
Erin, land of my desire,
Woe's me, thou hast not passed the fire
As I have done, the fire of years:
Oisin's tears were salt indeed
Sitting upon the winged white steed.
Alas, the pigmies by his side,
Struggling to raise a lintel-stone,
Began to tremble, and to moan,
Down he leapt with kindly speed,
At once, his strength was gone, his hair
Was snow-white, he bent trembling there,
He touched old Erin's ground and died.


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010



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