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The Enchantment Of Cuchullain
by [?]

–By AE and Aretas (G.W. Russell and James M. Pryse)

While our vision, backward cast,
Ranged the everliving past,
Through a haze of misty things–
Luminous with quiverings
Musical as starry chimes–
Rose a hero of old times,
In whose breast the magic powers
Slumbering from primeval hours,
Woke at the enchantment wild
Of Aed Abrait’s lovely child;
Still for all her Druid learning
With the wild-bird heart, whose yearning
Blinded at his strength and beauty,
Clung to love and laughed at duty.
Warrior chief, and mystic maid,
Through your stumbling footsteps strayed,
This at least in part atones–
Jewels were your stumbling-stones!

I. The Birds of Angus

The birds were a winging rapture in the twilight. White wings, grey wings, brown wings, fluttered around and over the pine trees that crowned the grassy dun. The highest wings flashed with a golden light. At the sound of voices they vanished.

“How then shall we go to the plains of Murthemney? We ought not to be known. Shall we go invisibly, or in other forms? We must also fly as swiftly as the birds go.”

“Fly! yes, yes, we shall–fly as the birds. But we shall choose fairer forms than these. I know where the Birds of Angus flock. Come, Liban, come!”

The crypt beneath the dun was flooded with light, silvery and golden, a light which came not from the sun nor from the moon; a light not born from any parent luminary, and which knew nothing opaque. More free than the birds of the air were the shadowy forms of the two daughters of Aed Abrait, as they gazed out from that rock-built dun upon a place their mortal feet had never trod. Yet timidly Liban looked at her more adventurous sister. Fand floated to the centre of the cavern, erect and radiant. Her eyes followed the wavy tremulous motion of the light as it rolled by. They seemed to pierce through earth and rock, and search out the secret hollows of the star, to know the vastness, and to dominate and compel the motion of the light. Her sister watched her half curiously and half in admiration and wonder. As the floating form grew more intense the arms swayed about and the lips murmured. A sheen as of many jewels played beneath the pearly mist which enrobed her; over her head rose the crest of the Dragon; she seemed to become one with the shining, to draw it backwards into herself. Then from far away came a wondrous melody, a sound as of the ancient chiming of the stars. The sidereal rivers flowed by with more dazzling light, and the Birds of Angus were about them.

“Look, Liban, look!” cried the Enchantress. “These of old were the chariots of the children of men. On these the baby offspring of the Gods raced through the nights of diamond and sapphire. We are not less than they though a hundred ages set us apart. We will go forth royally as they did. Let us choose forms from among these. If the Hound should see us he will know we have power.”

With arms around each other they watched the starry flocks hurtling about them. The birds wheeled around, fled away, and again returned. There were winged serpents; might which would put to flight the degenerate eagle; plumage before which the birds of paradise would show dull as clay. These wings dipt in the dawn flashed ceaselessly. Ah, what plumage of white fire rayed out with pinions of opalescent glory! What feathered sprays of burning amethyst! What crests of scarlet and gold, of citron and wavy green! They floated by in countless multitudes; they swayed in starry clusters dripping with light, singing a melody caught from the spheres of the Gods, the song which of old called forth the earth from its slumber. The sound was entrancing. Oh, fiery birds who float in the purple rivers of the Twilight, ye who rest in the great caverns of the world, whoever listens to your song shall grow faint with longing, for he shall hear the great, deep call in his heart and his spirit shall yearn to go afar; whatever eyes see you shall grow suddenly blinded with tears for a glory that has passed away from the world, for an empire we no longer range.