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A Book of Myths

Page: 144

Sad for them and for Lîr, and for all the people of the Dedannans, was the day when the years at Darvra were ended and the four swans said farewell to their father and to all who were so dear to them, [Pg 298] spread their snowy pinions, and took flight for the stormy sea. They sang a song of parting that made grief sit heavy on the hearts of all those who listened, and the men of Erin, in memory of the children of Lîr and of the good things they had wrought by the magic of their music, made a law, and proclaimed it throughout all the land, that from that time forth no man of their land should harm a swan.

Weary were the great white wings of the children of Lîr when they reached the jagged rocks by the side of the fierce grey sea of Moyle, whose turbulent waves fought angrily together. And the days that came to them there were days of weariness, of loneliness, and of hardship. Very cold were they often, very hungry, and yet the sweetness of their song pierced through the vicious shriek of the tempest and the sullen boom and crash of the great billows that flung themselves against the cliffs or thundered in devouring majesty over the wrack-strewn shore, like a thread of silver that runs through a pall. One night a tempest drove across and down the Sea of Moyle from the north-east, and lashed it into fury. And the mirk darkness and the sleet that drove in the teeth of the gale like bullets of ice, and the huge, irresistible breakers that threshed the shore, filled the hearts of the children of Lîr with dread. For always they had desired love and beauty, and the ugliness of unrestrained cruelty and fury made them sick at soul.

To her brothers Finola said: “Beloved ones, of a surety the storm must drive us apart. Let us, then, [Pg 299] appoint a place of meeting, lest we never look upon each other again.”

And, knowing that she spoke wisely and well, the three brothers appointed as their meeting-place the rock of Carricknarone.

Never did a fiercer storm rage on the sea between Alba and Erin than the storm that raged that night. Thunderous, murky clouds blotted out stars and moon, nor was there any dividing line between sky and sea, but both churned themselves up together in a passion of destruction. When the lightning flashed, it showed only the fury of the cruel seas, the shattered victims of the destroying storm. Very soon the swans were driven one from another and scattered over the face of the angry deep. Scarcely could their souls cling to their bodies while they struggled with the winds and waves. When the long, long night came to an end, in the grey and cheerless dawn Finola swam to the rock of Carricknarone. But no swans were there, only the greedy gulls that sought after wreckage, and the terns that cried very dolorously.


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