Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 1/The Lord of Nann and the fairy

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Translated from a ballad published by Hersart de la Villemarqué in Barzaz Breiz.

2687136Once a Week, Series 1, Volume I — The Lord of Nann and the fairy
1859Tom Taylor


[The “Korrigan” of Breton superstition is found both in Scotland and in Ireland. “Korr” means dwarf, and “gan” or “gwen” is interpreted by M. de Villemarque “genius” or “spirit.” The “Korrigan” is nearly identical with the “elI” of Scandinavian mythology, and Danish ballads may be found in which the “elf” plays exactly the same part to a belated hunter as the Korrigan to the Lord of Nann in the following ballad. As in other cases, I have been careful to follow the metre and divisions into stanzas of the original. The latter is important, as the triplet always indicates considerable antiquity in Cambrian and Armorican rhymed compositions. The old Celtic bardism especially affected “triads,” or division into threes.]

The Lord of Nann and his fair bride,
Were young when wedlock’s knot was tied—
Were young when death did them divide.

But yesterday that lady fair
Two babes as white as snow did bear;
A man~child and a girl they were.

Now, say what is thy heart’s desire,
For making me a man-child’s sire?
Tis thine, whnte’er thou may’st requirc.——

What food soe’er thee lists to take,
Meat of the woodcock from the lake,
Meat of the wild deer from the brake.”

Oh, the meat of the deer is dainty food !
To eat thereof would do me good,
But I grudge to send thee to the wood.”

The Lord of Nann, when this he heard,
Hath gripp’d his oak spear with never a word ;
His bonny black horse he hath leap’d upon,
And forth to the greenwood he hath gone.

By the skirts of the wood as he did go,
He was ’ware of a hind as white as snow ;

Oh, fast she ran, and fast he rode,
That the earth it shook where his horse-hoofs trode.

Oh, fast he rode, and fast she ran,
That the sweat to drop from his brow began—

That the sweat on his horse’s flanks stood white ;
So he rode and rode till the fall o’ the night.

When he came to a stream that fed a lawn,
Hard by the grot of a Corrigaun.

The grass grew thick by the streamlet’s brink,
And he lighted down off his horse to drink.

The Corrigaun sat by the fountain fair,
A combing her long and yellow hair.

A combing her hair with a comb of gold,
(Not poor, I trow, are those maidens cold).

Now who’s the bold wight that dares come here
To trouble my fairy fountain clear?

Either thou straight shalt wed with me,
Or pine for four long years and three ;
Or dead in three days’ space shalt be.”

I will not wed with thee, I ween,
For wedded man a year I’ve been ;

Nor yet for seven years will I pine,
Nor die in three days for spell of thine ;

For spell of thine I will not die,
But when it pleaseth God on high.

But here, and now, I’d leave my life,
Ere take a Corrigaun to wife.”

Oh mother, mother! for love of me,
Now make my bed, and speedily,
For I am sick as a man may be.

Oh, never the tale to my ladye tell;
Three days and ye’ll hear my passing-bell;
The Corrigaun hath cast her spell.”

Three days they pass’d, three days were sped,
To her mother-in-law the ladye said:

Now tell me, madam, now tell me, pray,
Wherefore the death-bells toll to-day?

Why chaunt the priests in the street below,
All clad in their vestments white as snow?”

A strange poor man, who harbour’d here,
He died last night, my daughter dear.”

But tell me, madam, my lord, your son—
My husband—whither is he gone?”

But to the town, my child, he’s gone;
And at your side he’ll be back anon.”

What gown for my churching wer’t best to wear,—
My gown of grain, or of watchet fair?”

The fashion of late, my child, hath grown,
That women for churching black should don.”

As through the churchyard porch she stept,
She saw the grave where her husband slept.

Who of our blood is lately dead,
That our ground is new raked and spread?”

The truth I may no more forbear,
My son—your own poor lord—lies there!”

She threw herself on her knees amain,
And from her knees ne’er rose again.

That night they laid her, dead and cold,
Beside her lord, beneath the mould;
When, lo!—a marvel to behold!—

Next morn from the grave two oak-trees fair,
Shot lusty boughs high up in air;

And in their boughs—oh, wondrous sight!—
Two happy doves, all snowy white—

That sang, as ever the morn did rise,
And then flew up—into the skies!

Tom Taylor.