Imram Branaidh

This is from the Voyage of Bran the Chief


Ian Cowburn

This is from the Voyage of Bran the Chief, the Hetman and the Coming of the Children of Nemed of the Sacred Grove, and here is the tale of it. It is the Imram Branaidh, and the Landing of Scota in the Summer Isles of the wine-dark Southern Seas ; and the Pillars (the Moai) of the Fair Man, that is Elathan the Raider (the Tainaich) that guided them.

The woman from unknown lands sang fifty quatrains on the floor of the Royal House, full of kings (Ri ; chiefs of the land); they knew not from whence she had come, since the ramparts were closed.

And she sang : Bran went about alone, and heard music behind him, and he slept for such was its sweetness. And he woke, and saw a branch of silver with white blossom and here is the branch for Bran, a branch of the apple tree of Emne, with crystal blossoms.

There is a distant island, and four Pillars are on it ; a glorious range, a plain for games, the south plain of white silver.

Pillars of bronze, glittering through ages, throughout the world’s ages, the many blossoms drop. High Pillars, of many fights, withered into many mists and red of the blood poured around the Cromm Cruaich, that is the Bowed Ones of the Mounds, and the ranks are four times three stone Pillars to beguile the hosts and offer the firstlings, and swear by the gods of the people.

Unknown is wailing or treachery, without grief, without sorrow, without sickness, that is the sign of Emne.

The silvery land of dragon-stone and crystal, the sea washes the wave, hair of crystal is its mane. Listen to sweet music and drink the best of wine ; at sunrise comes the Fair Man of the Raid (the “Tainaich”), riding on the plain, he stirs the ocean till it is blood ; a host will come across the clear sea, they show their rowing, to the far-seen Stones, singing to them through long ages, choruses of hundreds. A pure white cliff on the range of the sea, as the host race along the plain going into Ildathach, mountain land where the white cloud lies.

Thrice fifty distant islands in the ocean, and a great birth in after ages ; son of a woman whose mate is not known, seize the rule of many thousands.

He made the heavens, he has the white heart, purifying the hosts under pure water, begin the voyage across the sea to reach the land of women.

And the branch sprang from Bran to the woman and was lost to him.

Bran went so upon the sea, the number of his men was three companies of nine ; and after the two days and the two nights a man in a sea chariot, the lord of headlands and landmarks, the silver branch his mark, sang thirty quatrains to him, and it was upon him to go over sea where speckled salmon leap from the womb of the white sea, and there are many steeds on its surface, and woods of fruit, without decay ; and the white law from over seas to the land, a Fair Man, a Raider, in white clay markings, and he will make known the secrets. He will be a dragon before hosts, a wolf in the forest, a stag of silver horns, a seal, a fair-white swan ; a hundred years in fair kingship ; a dragon stone from the sea will kill him, the white host will take him under a wheel of clouds to the gathering. And here is the making of the dragon stone of the slings ; a tathlum, made of the brains of dead foes, hardened with lime.

And the Sacred One came a rowing westward, thirty-four ships were his number and thirty in each ship, and there appeared a golden tower on the sea. And the Sacred One went for greed of the gold, and the sea filled around them. And this was Conann’s tower, of the Fomor (=Red Giants), and battle was begun ; for at the court of the Fomor, no one ever greased his knife with fat, nor made his breath to smell of ale ; no meat on the plates, no milk of the cows, no shelter for the belated, no money for minstrels ; their cheer be what they give to others !

And battle was begun, between the druids, and between  the druidesses. And this was the end of it, the Fomor were beheaded by the ones matched against them. And fire was put to every quarter and not higher was its smoke than its flames. And all its women and children and servants were burnt ; and the Children of the Sacred One stayed in the place of conflict.

And three score ships approached them, rowed by more of the Fomor, and a hot desperate battle was fought. And thirty warriors of the Sacred One escaped from that destruction, and the three chieftains that were among them divided the land between them. And by fear of the Fomor of the Southern Seas they separated one from the other. And these were the Fir Galeoin (= the Men of Valour), and the Fir Domnann (= Men of the Abyss), and the Fir Bolg (= Men of the Spears). And they considered the Men of Learning to be gods, so much was their power in art and druidry.

And the Stone of Destiny would scream under every king who took the sovereignty ; and the Spear of the Sun, no battle maintained against his hand ; and the Sword of the Forest Grove, none would escape it ; and the Cauldron of the Blessed One, none came away unsatisfied ; and His daughter is Brigit, and She gives the Poetry, of Metals, and Fire.

And the Ghost of the White Woman met them with hosts of druidry and cunning ; and she held converse with them, sweet melodious discourse, and drinking of ale ; and said “Warriors, welcome to you, it is long since your coming is prophesied, and yours will be the Islands forever, no better in the world, and none more perfect than your race”.

“Good is that” said the Galeoin, and went to the King’s Hill, and demanded judgement from there.  And judgement of poets was given, and the poets gave the judgement of the druid wind, so great was the storm ; but the Galeoin invoked the Land, fertile and fruit-strewn, deep-pooled and lofty of hill ; and the tribes of the ships sang an incantation of great cunning and they conquered there, the Lands of the Islands.

And they divided in two, and thirty ships rowed left-about and landed northwards, and the Sacred One sang the rhapsody : “I am a wind on the sea, a hawk on a cliff ; a dewdrop in the sun, a salmon in pools ; the strength of art, a shaper of fire. Who clears the stone-place of the mountain, who names the waterfalls? Who brings the cattle to the house of weaponry, who chants the rune letters, who sings praises?”

And this was Scotas’s Landing, and the forts were dug, and Scota advanced after, with numerous progeny, and they divided ships, and divided islands, in twice six and more, an inheritance of chieftains ; and the Harper went to the South Land, and the Poet to the North Land.

And the Galeoin made a great darkness around them over sea till they came to the mountain and demanded battle or kingship of the Bolg, and the battle was won at last, and eleven hundred were slain, on the strand. And the Queen of the Bolg went after fighting to the wood of Cuan, and remained there, and died there and was buried, and her mourning games are performed each year a fortnight after the Mid-summer.

There was a father’s brother of the Warrior, expert and accomplished in knowledge. And he was on Conann’s tower of a clear evening, contemplating the world and looking over the four quarters ; and he saw a shadow and a likeness of a lofty island to sea, and he went there, and was full of praise for the harvest, and fish of the island ; and the nobles there killed him, in jealousy of the testimony of praise, and he was taken by his people to the ship on the sea.

And the Galeoin thought it was fit and proper to avenge their brother, and collected their warriors from every place they were, until they were in one place in the Land of the Mountains of Fire, numerous and fully assembled. And three score and five ships was the number of the expedition, and forty chiefs the number of their leaders ; and they made a contention of the rowing to reach the island, but a druidry caused it to appear there was no island at all in their sight, until the First of May, seventeenth night of the moon, and they took to harbour.

And this is the taking of the Southern Isles of the world by the Cymry, with poetry and magic, and the bringing of the Four Chief Treasures ; and it is the Landing of Scota, who is Brigit, Bright Spear of Poetry and Fire ; and it is the Song of the Keltoi, or Warriors, and I am the Connexion Man that sings it.

The rivers run

My tale is done

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