The Celtic Literature Collective

A Song of Winter

Mac Lesc, son of Ladan, a fat loon who was of Finn's household, 'tis he that sang thse quatrains below. It happened one night that he and Finn were separated from the war-band at Colt's standing-stone on Slieve Guillion when Finn sent him to seek water for them 'Tis then he said, so that he might not have to goforth to seek the water:

Cold, cold!
Cold to-night is broad Moylurg,
Higher the snow than the mountain-range,
The deer cannot get at their food.

Cold till Doom!
The storm has spread over all,
A river is each furrow upon the slope,
Each ford a full pool.

A great tidal sea is each loch,
A full loch is each pool:
Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross,
No more can two feet get there.

The fish of Ireland are a-roaming,
There is no strand which the wave does not pound,
Not a town there is in the land,
Nor a bell is heard, no crane talks.

The wolves of Cuan-wood get
Neither rest nor sleep in their lair,
The little wren cannot find
Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.

Keen wind and cold ice
Have burst upon the little company of birds,
The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking,
Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood.

Cosy our pot on its hook,
Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon:
The snow has crushed the wood here,
Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo.

Glenn Rye's ancient bird
From the bitter wind gets grief;
Great her misery and her pain,
The ice will get into her mouth.

From flock and from down to rise -
Take it to heart! - were folly for thee:
Ice in heaps on every ford -
That is why I say 'cold'.

Manuscript: Unidentified
Translation: Meyer, Kuno. Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter. London, 1903. reprinted from Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry. London, 1911.