Then was Lir melancholy and sad at heart, hearing these things, for he knew that Oifa had done wrong upon his children, and he set out towards the Lake of the Red Eye. And when the children of Lir saw him coming Fingula sang the lay:“Welcome the cavalcade of steeds
Approaching the Lake of the Red Eye,
A company dread and magical
Surely seek after us.
“Let us move to the shore, O Aod,
Fiachra and comely Conn,
No host under heaven can those horsemen be
But King Lir with his mighty household.”
Now as she said this King Lir had come to the shores of the lake and heard the swans speaking with human voices. And he spake to the swans and asked them who they were. Fingula answered and said: “We are thy own children, ruined by thy wife, sister of our own mother, through her ill mind and her jealousy.” “For how long is the spell to be upon you?” said Lir. “None can relieve us till the woman from the south and the man from the north come together, till Lairgnen of Connaught wed Deoch of Munster.”
Then Lir and his people raised their shouts of grief, crying, and lamentation, and they stayed by the shore of the lake listening to the wild music of the swans until the swans flew away, and King Lir went on to the Hall of Dearg the king. He told Dearg the king what Oifa had done to his children. And Dearg put his power upon Oifa and bade her say what shape on earth she would think the worst of all. She said it would be in the form of an air-demon. “It is into that form I shall put you,” said Dearg the king, and he struck her with a Druid’s wand of spells and wizardry and put her into the form of an air-demon. And she flew away at once, and she is still an air-demon, and shall be so for ever.
But the children of Lir continued to delight the Milesian clans with the very sweet fairy music of their songs, so that no delight was ever heard in Erin to compare with their music until the time came appointed for the leaving the Lake of the Red Eye.
Then Fingula sang this parting lay:
“Farewell to thee, Dearg the king,
Master of all Druid’s lore!
Farewell to thee, our father dear,
Lir of the Hill of the White Field!
“We go to pass the appointed time
Away and apart from the haunts of men
In the current of the Moyle,
Our garb shall be bitter and briny,
“Until Deoch come to Lairgnen.
So come, ye brothers of once ruddy cheeks;
Let us depart from this Lake of the Red Eye,
Let us separate in sorrow from the tribe that has loved us.”
And after they took to flight, flying highly, lightly, aerially till they reached the Moyle, between Erin and Albain.
The men of Erin were grieved at their leaving, and it was proclaimed throughout Erin that henceforth no swan should be killed. Then they stayed all solitary, all alone, filled with cold and grief and regret, until a thick tempest came upon them and Fingula said: “Brothers, let us appoint a place to meet again if the power of the winds separate us.” And they said: “Let us appoint to meet, O sister, at the Rock of the Seals.” Then the waves rose up and the thunder roared, the lightnings flashed, the sweeping tempest passed over the sea, so that the children of Lir were scattered from each other over the great sea. There came, however, a placid calm after the great tempest and Fingula found herself alone, and she said this lay:“Woe upon me that I am alive!
My wings are frozen to my sides.
O beloved three, O beloved three,
Who hid under the shelter of my feathers,
Until the dead come back to the living
I and the three shall never meet again!”
And she flew to the Lake of the Seals and soon saw Conn coming towards her with heavy step and drenched feathers, and Fiachra also, cold and wet and faint, and no word could they tell, so cold and faint were they: but she nestled them under her wings and said: “If Aod could come to us now our happiness would be complete.” But soon they saw Aod coming towards them with dry head and preened feathers: Fingula put him under the feathers of her breast, and Fiachra under her right wing, and Conn under her left: and they made this lay:“Bad was our stepmother with us,
She played her magic on us,
Sending us north on the sea
In the shapes of magical swans.
“Our bath upon the shore’s ridge
Is the foam of the brine-crested tide,
Our share of the ale feast
Is the brine of the blue-crested sea.”
One day they saw a splendid cavalcade of pure white steeds coming towards them, and when they came near they were the two sons of Dearg the king who had been seeking for them to give them news of Dearg the king and Lir their father. “They are well,” they said, “and live together happy in all except that ye are not with them, and for not knowing where ye have gone since the day ye left the Lake of the Red Eye.” “Happy are not we,” said Fingula, and she sang this song:“Happy this night the household of Lir,
Abundant their meat and their wine.
But the children of Lir—what is their lot?
For bed-clothes we have our feathers,
And as for our food and our wine—
The white sand and the bitter brine,
Fiachra’s bed and Conn’s place
Under the cover of my wings on the Moyle,
Aod has the shelter of my breast,
And so side by side we rest.”
So the sons of Dearg the king came to the Hall of Lir and told the king the condition of his children.
Then the time came for the children of Lir to fulfil their lot, and they flew in the current of the Moyle to the Bay of Erris, and remained there till the time of their fate, and then they flew to the Hill of the White Field and found all desolate and empty, with nothing but unroofed green raths and forests of nettles—no house, no fire, no dwelling-place. The four came close together, and they raised three shouts of lamentation aloud, and Fingula sang this lay:“Uchone! it is bitterness to my heart
To see my father’s place forlorn—
No hounds, no packs of dogs,
No women, and no valiant kings.
“No drinking-horns, no cups of wood,
No drinking in its lightsome halls.
Uchone! I see the state of this house
That its lord our father lives no more.
“Much have we suffered in our wandering years,
By winds buffeted, by cold frozen;
Now has come the greatest of our pain—
There lives no man who knoweth us in the house
where we were born.”
So the children of Lir flew away to the Glory Isle of Brandan the saint, and they settled upon the Lake of the Birds until the holy Patrick came to Erin and the holy Mac Howg came to Glory Isle.
-Celtic Fairy Tales-
Illustration: John D. Batten