Here's a ballad from Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World for your Saturday...
Illustration by George Wharton Edwards
The Lord of Dunkerron
THE lord of Dunkerron—O’Sullivan More,
Why seeks he at midnight the sea-beaten shore?
His bark lies in haven, his bounds are asleep;
No foes are abroad on the land or the deep.
Yet nightly the lord of Dunkerron is known
On the wild shore to watch and to wander alone;
For a beautiful spirit of ocean, ’tis said,
The lord of Dunkerron would win to his bed.
When, by moonlight, the waters were hush’d to repose,
That beautiful spirit of ocean arose;
Her hair, full of lustre, just floated and fell
O’er her bosom, that heav’d with a billowy swell.
Long, long had he lov’d her—long vainly essay’d
To lure from her dwelling the coy ocean maid;
And long had he wander’d and watch’d by the tide,
To claim the fair spirit O’Sullivan’s bride!
The maiden she gazed on the creature of earth,
Whose voice in her breast to a feeling gave birth;
Then smiled; and, abashed as a maiden might be,
Looking down, gently sank to her home in the sea.
Though gentle that smile, as the moonlight above,
O’Sullivan felt ’twas the dawning of love,
And hope came on hope, spreading over his mind,
Like the eddy of circles her wake left behind.
The lord of Dunkerron he plunged in the waves,
And sought through the fierce rush of waters, their caves;
The gloom of whose depth studded over with spars,
Had the glitter of midnight when lit up by stars.
Who can tell or can fancy the treasures that sleep
Intombed in the wonderful womb of the deep?
The pearls and the gems, as if valueless, thrown
To lie ‘mid the sea-wrack concealed and unknown.
Down, down went the maid,—still the chieftain pursued;
Who flies must be followed ere she can be wooed.
Untempted by treasures, unawed by alarms,
The maiden at length he has clasped in his arms!
They rose from the deep by a smooth-spreading strand,
Whence beauty and verdure stretch’d over the land.
“Twas an isle of enchantment! and lightly the breeze,
With a musical murmur, just crept through the trees.
The haze-woven shroud of that newly born isle,
Softly faded away, from a magical pile,
A palace of crystal, whose bright-beaming sheen
Had the tints of the rainbow—red, yellow, and green.
And grottoes, fantastic in hue and in form,
Were there, as flung up—the wild sport of the storm;
Yet all was so cloudless, so lovely, and calm,
It seemed but a region of sunshine and balm.
“Here, here shall we dwell in a dream of delight,
Where the glories of earth and of ocean unite!
Yet, loved son of earth! I must from thee away;
There are laws which e’en spirits are bound to obey!
“Once more must I visit the chief of my race,
His sanction to gain ere I meet thy embrace.
In a moment I dive to the chambers beneath:
One cause can detain me—one only—’tis death!”
They parted in sorrow, with vows true and fond;
The language of promise had nothing beyond.
His soul all on fire, with anxiety burns:
The moment is gone—but no maiden returns.
What sounds from the deep meet his terrified ear—
What accents of rage and of grief does he hear?
What sees he? what change has come over the flood—
What tinges its green with a jetty of blood?
Can he doubt what the gush of warm blood would explain?
That she sought the consent of her monarch in vain!
For see all around him, in white foam and froth,
The waves of the ocean boil up in their wroth!
The palace of crystal has melted in air,
And the dies of the rainbow no longer are there;
The grottoes with vapour and clouds are o’ercast,
The sunshine is darkness—the vision has past!
Loud, loud was the call of his serfs for their chief;
They sought him with accents of wailing and grief:
He heard, and he struggled—a wave to the shore,
Exhausted and faint, bears O’Sullivan More!
Kenmare, 27th April, 1825.
Croker, Thomas Crofton. Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland. London: John Murray, 1828.