from Love songs from a dead tongue


 
 

4

Breaks the heart keening
as the edge keen the king,
keen Niall Blackknee
gracious as great.

[This is doubtful]

Ask what breaks my heart:
keening Niall the bright laughing;
till doomsday the heart hurt
atrociously wasting.

First I came into Munster:
high-king's consort queen
to arch-bishop Cormac
the perfectly-bright.

Then next into Leinster
in which rich realm
though some muttered
I did not starve.

[This transition is difficult]

. . . came Tara's heir,
that true prince,
successor to arch-kings.

 Together we shared
childhood in Tara,
concentric city
of the true promised land.

That destroyer of pastures,
that master of plunder,
that fiercest of men,
deepest red amongst Irish.

The place where he fell
broke my heart
[this line is lost]
nor does Donal survive him.

Niall, king, son of kings,
Donal, soft face unfurrowed,
dead detach me from kin,
reduce heart to sheer blood.

I am Gormlaith, the keening:
first husband-king Cormac,
son Donal, fierce Niall,
these three broke my heart.

O King of the stars,
grant mercy to Niall,
O Mary, great queen,
shield this cold keening
                        breaks.