Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 125

“Delightful is the land beyond all dreams,
Fairer than aught thine eyes have ever seen.
There all the year the fruit is on the tree,
And all the year the bloom is on the flower.
“There with wild honey drip the forest trees;
The stores of wine and mead shall never fail.
Nor pain nor sickness knows the dweller there,
Death and decay come near him never more.
“The feast shall cloy not, nor the chase shall tire,
Nor music cease for ever through the hall;
The gold and jewels of the Land of Youth
Outshine all splendours ever dreamed by man.
“Thou shalt have horses of the fairy breed,
Thou shalt have hounds that can outrun the wind;
A hundred chiefs shall follow thee in war,
A hundred maidens sing thee to thy sleep.
“A crown of sovranty thy brow shall wear,
And by thy side a magic blade shall hang,
And thou shalt be lord of all the Land of Youth,
And lord of Niam of the Head of Gold.”

As the magic song ended the Fians beheld Oisīn mount the fairy steed and hold the maiden in his arms, and ere they could stir or speak she turned her horse's head and shook the ringing bridle, and down the forest glade they fled, as a beam of light flies over [pg 272] the land when clouds drive across the sun; and never did the Fianna behold Oisīn son of Finn on earth again.

Yet what befell him afterwards is known. As his birth was strange, so was his end, for he saw the wonders of the Land of Youth with mortal eyes and lived to tell them with mortal lips.

The Journey to Fairyland

When the white horse with its riders reached the sea it ran lightly over the waves, and soon the green woods and headlands of Erin faded out of sight. And now the sun shone fiercely down, and the riders passed into a golden haze in which Oisīn lost all knowledge of where he was or if sea or dry land were beneath his horse's hoofs. But strange sights sometimes appeared to them in the mist, for towers and palace gateways loomed up and disappeared, and once a hornless doe bounded by them chased by a white hound with one red ear; and again they saw a young maid ride by on a brown steed, bearing a golden apple in her hand, and close behind her followed a young horseman on a white steed, a purple cloak floating at his back and a gold-hilted sword in his hand. And Oisīn would have asked the princess who and what these apparitions were, but Niam bade him ask nothing nor seem to notice any phantom they might see until they were come to the Land of Youth.

Oisīn's Return

The story goes on to tell how Oisīn met with various adventures in the Land of Youth, including the rescue of an imprisoned princess from a Fomorian giant. But at last, after what seemed to him a sojourn of three weeks in the Land of Youth, he was satiated with delights of [pg 273] every kind, and longed to visit his native land again and to see his old comrades. He promised to return when he had done so, and Niam gave him the white fairy steed that had borne him across the sea to Fairyland, but charged him that when he had reached the Land of Erin again he must never alight from its back nor touch the soil of the earthly world with his foot, or the way of return to the Land of Youth would be barred to him for ever. Oisīn then set forth, and once more crossed the mystic ocean, finding himself at last on the western shores of Ireland. Here he made at once for the Hill of Allen, where the dūn of Finn was wont to be, but marvelled, as he traversed the woods, that he met no sign of the Fian hunters and at the small size of the folk whom he saw tilling the ground.