James Macpherson Poems >>
Fragment IX

Thou askest, fair daughter of the
isles! whose memory is preserved
in these tombs? The memory of Ronnan
the bold, and Connan the chief of
men; and of her, the fairest of maids,
Rivine the lovely and the good. The
wing of time is laden with care. Every
moment hath woes of its own. Why
seek we our grief from afar? or give our
tears to those of other times? But thou
commanded, and I obey, O fair daughter
of the isles!

Conar was mighty in war. Caul
was the friend of strangers. His gates
were open to all; midnight darkened
not on his barred door. Both lived upon
the sons of the mountains. Their bow
was the support of the poor.

Connan was the image of Conar's
soul. Caul was renewed in Ronnan his
son. Rivine the daughter of Conar was
the love of Ronnan; her brother Connan
was his friend. She was fair as the
harvest-moon setting in the seas of
Molochasquir. Her soul was settled on
Ronnan; the youth was the dream of her
nights.

Rivine, my love! says Ronnan, I go
to my king in Norway. A year and
a day shall bring me back. Wilt thou
be true to Ronnan?

Ronnan! a year and a day I will
spend in sorrow. Ronnan, behave like
a man, and my soul shall exult in thy
valour. Connan my friend, says Ronnan,
wilt thou preserve Rivine thy sister?
Durstan is in love with the maid;
and soon shall the sea bring the stranger
to our coast.

Ronnan, I will defend: Do thou
securely go.--He went. He returned
on his day. But Durstan returned
before him.

Give me thy daughter, Conar, says
Durstan; or fear and feel my power.

He who dares attempt my sister, says
Connan, must meet this edge of steel.
Unerring in battle is my arm: my
sword, as the lightning of heaven.

Ronnan the warriour came; and
much he threatened Durstan.

But, saith Euran the servant of
gold, Ronnan! by the gate of the north
shall Durstan this night carry thy fair-one
away. Accursed, answers Ronnan, be this arm if death meet him not
there.

Connan! saith Euran, this night
shall the stranger carry thy sister away.
My sword shall meet him, replies Connan,
and he shall lie low on earth.

The friends met by night, and they
fought. Blood and sweat ran down
their limbs as water on the mossy rock.
Connan falls; and cries, O Durstan,
be favourable to Rivine!--And is it my
friend, cries Ronnan, I have slain? O
Connan! I knew thee not.

He went, and he fought with Durstan.
Day began to rise on the combat,
when fainting they fell, and expired.
Rivine came out with the morn;
and--O what detains my Ronnan!
--She saw him lying pale in his blood;
and her brother lying pale by his side.

What could she say: what could she
do? her complaints were many and vain.
She opened this grave for the warriours;
and fell into it herself, before it
was closed; like the sun snatched away
in a storm.

Thou hast heard this tale of grief,
O fair daughter of the isles! Rivine was
fair as thyself: shed on her grave a
tear.