Deirdre's Lament For The Sons Of Usnach

A poem by Isabella Augusta

As for Deirdre, she cried pitifully, wearily, and tore her fair hair, and she was talking of the sons of Usnach, and of Alban, and it is what she said:

A blessing eastward to Alban from me; good is the sight of her bays and valleys, pleasant was it to sit on the slopes of her hills, where the sons of Usnach used to be hunting.

One day, when the nobles of Alban were drinking with the sons of Usnach, Naoise gave a kiss secretly to the daughter of the lord of Duntreon. He sent her a frightened deer, wild, and a fawn at its foot; and he went to visit her coming home from the troops of Inverness.

When myself heard that, my head filled full of jealousy; I put my boat on the waves, it was the same to me to live or to die. They followed me swimming, Ainnle and Ardan, that never said a lie; they turned me back again, two that would give battle to a hundred. Naoise gave me his true word, he swore three times with his arms as witness, he would never put vexation on me again, until he would go from me to the armies of the dead.

Och! if she knew to-night, Naoise to be under a covering of clay, it is she would cry her fill, and it is I would cry along with her!

After that Deirdre lay down by the grave, and they were digging earth from it, and she made this lament after the sons of Usnach:

Long is the day without the sons of Usnach; it was never wearisome to be in their company; sons of a king that entertained exiles; three lions of the Hill of the Cave.

Three darlings of the women of Britain; three hawks of Slieve Cuilenn; sons of a king served by valour, to whom warriors did obedience.

Three heroes not good at homage; their fall is a cause of sorrow; three sons of the sister of a king; three props of the army of Cuailgne.

The High King of Ulster, my first betrothed, I forsook for love of Naoise; short my life will be after him; I will make keening at their burial.

That I would live after Naoise let no one think on the earth; I will not go on living after Ainnle and after Ardan.

After them I myself will not live; three that would leap through the midst of battle; since my beloved is gone from me I will cry my fill over his grave.

O, young man, digging the new grave, do not make the grave narrow; I will be along with them in the grave, making lamentations and ochones!

Many the hardship I met with along with the three heroes; I suffered want of home, want of fire, it is myself that used not to be troubled.

Their three shields and their spears made a bed for me often. O, young man, put their three swords close over their grave!

Their three hounds, their three hawks, will be from this time without huntsmen; three aids of every battle; three pupils of Conall Cearnach.

The three leashes of those three hounds have brought a sigh from my heart: it is I had the care of them, the sight of them is a cause of grief.

I was never one day alone to the day of the making of this grave, though it is often that myself and yourselves were in loneliness.

My sight is gone from me with looking at the grave of Naoise; it is short till my life will leave me, and those who would have keened me do not live.

Since it is through me they were betrayed I will be tired out with sorrow; it is a pity I was not in the earth before the sons of Usnach were killed.

Sorrowful was my journey with Fergus, betraying me to the Red Branch; we were deceived all together with his sweet, flowery words. I left the delights of Ulster for the three heroes that were bravest; my life will not be long, I myself am alone after them.

I am Deirdre without gladness, and I at the end of my life; since it is grief to be without them, I myself will not be long after them!

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