Ethna Carbery

The King of Ireland's Cairn

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Blow softly down the valley,
O wind, and stir the fern
That waves its green fronds over
The King of Ireland's Cairn.

Here in his last wild foray
He fell, and here he lies–
His armour makes no rattle,
The clay is in his eyes.

His spear, that once was lightning
Hurled with unerring hand,
Rusts by his fleshless fingers
Beside his battle brand.

His shield that made a pillow
Beneath his noble head,
Hath mouldered, quite forgotten,
With the half-forgotten dead.

Say, doth his ghost remember
Old fights–old revellings,
When the victor-chant re-echoed
In Tara of the Kings?

Say; down those Halls of Quiet
Doth he cry upon his Queen?
Or doth he sleep contented
To dream of what has been?

Nay; nay, he still is kingly–
He wanders in a glen
Where Fionn goes by a-hunting
With misty Fenian men.

He sees the hounds of Wonder
Bring down their fleeting prey
He sees the swift blood flowing
At dawning of the day.

At night he holds his revels
Just as a king might do–
But the ghostly mirth is silent,
The harp-song silent too!

And he who crowns the feasting,
His shadowy Queen beside,
Is pale as when they stretched him
That bitter eve he died.

: : : : :

'Tis well he seeks no tidings–
His heart would ache to know
That all is changed in Ireland,
And Tara lieth low.

That we go wailing, wailing,
Around a foreign horde–
Nor raise the call to conflict,
Nor ever draw the sword.

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Ethna Carbery