from Love songs from a dead tongue



Say, three times thirty,
nine times nine, I've loved,
yet if I now loved twenty more
still it wouldn't satisfy.

For Niall I left
all other loves,
desiring his desire;
who might detain me then?

Among assembled warriors
all trophies fell to him;
yet, encountering such straits,
better I'd loved some serf.

Elaborate cloaks, golden rings,
and strings of thoroughbreds;
broad flood run down to drought,
his goods all gone.

Between heaven and earth,
a white dress and a black cloak
now my sole provisioning;
in Kells of the hundred kings, I starve.

North of the church on Sabbath day
instructed by the gentle touch
of the left hand of my king
I, to the abbot's wife, gave goods.

An orb with golden ornament,
fat cows, two score,
a blue Norse hood, a case of horn,
and thirty ounce of gold.

And she, who has them yet,
repaid me them tonight:
two measures of hard oats,
two eggs from her vast clutch.

By him who lit the sun's fire,
if my Niall of the Black Knee lived,
then, you, you minor abbot's twist,
I'd need no eggs from you!

A roan horse,
a cup, and other articles of gold,
I gave her once, and was returned
a cap, a comb, some sundry pretty cloth.

Wretched be the falsely proud,
wretched they who hoard;
before misfortune struck
remember, poets took my gold.

Who would trade horses
for good verse, may God reward;
if I speak well of Niall, think
what could a poet say, for pay!
                        what say?