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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Deirdrê’s Lament for the Sons of Usnach

By Ossian and Ossianic Poetry

THE LIONS of the hill are gone,

And I am left alone—alone:

Dig the grave both wide and deep,

For I am sick, and fain would sleep!

The falcons of the wood are flown,

And I am left alone—alone:

Dig the grave both deep and wide,

And let us slumber side by side.

The dragons of the rock are sleeping,

Sleep that wakes not for our weeping:

Dig the grave, and make it ready,

Lay me on my true-love’s body.

Lay their spears and bucklers bright

By the warriors’ sides aright:

Many a day the three before me

On their linkèd bucklers bore me.

Lay upon the low grave floor,

’Neath each head, the blue claymore:

Many a time the noble three

Reddened their blue blades for me.

Lay the collars, as is meet,

Of the greyhounds at their feet:

Many a time for me have they

Brought the tall red deer to bay.

In the falcon’s jesses throw,

Hook and arrow, line and bow:

Never again, by stream or plain,

Shall the gentle woodsmen go.

Sweet companions were ye ever,—

Harsh to me, your sister, never;

Woods and wilds, and misty valleys,

Were with you as good’s a palace.

Oh to hear my true-love singing!

Sweet as sounds of trumpets ringing;

Like the sway of ocean swelling

Rolled his deep voice round our dwelling.

Oh! to hear the echoes pealing

Round our green and fairy shealing,

When the three, with soaring chorus,

Passed the silent skylark o’er us.

Echo, now sleep, morn and even:

Lark, alone enchant the heaven!

Ardan’s lips are scant of breath,

Neesa’s tongue is cold in death.

Stag, exult on glen and mountain—

Salmon, leap from loch to fountain—

Heron, in the free air warm ye—

Usnach’s sons no more will harm ye!

Erin’s stay no more you are,

Rulers of the ridge of war;

Never more ’twill be your fate

To keep the beam of battle straight!

Woe is me! by fraud and wrong,

Traitors false and tyrants strong,

Fell Clan Usnach, bought and sold,

For Barach’s feast and Conor’s gold!

Woe to Eman, roof and wall!

Woe to Red Branch, hearth and hall!

Tenfold woe and black dishonor

To the foul and false Clan Conor!

Dig the grave both wide and deep:

Sick I am, and fain would sleep!

Dig the grave and make it ready;

Lay me on my true-love’s body.

Here now are two of the Ossianic ballads as Macpherson has rendered them, trying in his rhythmic prose to capture the spirit and charm and glamour of the original. The theme of the first, of a woman disguising herself as a man so as to be near or perhaps to reach her lover, is common to many lands.