Search A Light In The Darkness

Saturday, 25 May 2019

The Book of Wonder Voyages/The Voyage of Maelduin

[Wikisource]: THIS is the story of the wanderings of Maelduin, and how for three years and seven months he was driven in his barque to and fro over the boundless, fathomless ocean, and of the many strange islands and mighty wonders he encountered.

Maelduin was the son of a goodly fighter, a hero lord over his clan, Ailill Edgebattle by name. But, whilst he was yet a babe, plunderers from over sea fell upon his home, burned the church of Dubhcluain, and slew his father therein. So his mother fled in haste and came to the King of Arran, and gave her babe in fostering to her bosom friend, the Queen. In one cradle, on one breast, and in one lap with the King's three sons was Maelduin reared, and as he grew up he thought himself their own brother. Yet many knew his father was slain and his mother a wanderer. The youth grew up tall, well-knit, and fair, so that of all flesh within the four brown quarters of this world none might match him in grace and beauty. Hardy he was, fresh and joyous of mood, well skilled in the use of weapons, and in every manly game and art. None were like him for running or putting the stone; he and his horse outraced all his comrades.

On a day of days the youths of the court were making merry, contending in feats of strength and skill. Still Maelduin bore off the palm, so that at last an envious comrade burst out angrily: "To think that thou, whose clan and kindred, whose father and mother no man knows, should beat us at every sport, be it on land or water, or in moving the ivory men on the playing board!"

Maelduin stood silent a while, for never until then had he thought himself other than the son of the King and Queen of the land. So he came to his foster-mother and said, "I will neither eat nor drink till thou tellest me the name of my father and my mother."

"Why dost thou ask that?" said she. "Heed not the jealous mutterings of thy companions. Am I not a mother to thee? Is there among the people of this land a mother whose love for her son is greater than the love I bear to thee?"

"That is so," said he; "but nevertheless I pray thee to make known to me the names of my parents."

So his foster-mother told him concerning his mother and delivered him into her hands. And he entreated her to tell him who his father was. But she rebuked him, saying, "My son, it will make thee no happier to know who he was, nor will it in any way profit thee. He has been dead for many and many a year."

"Be that as it may," replied he, "it were better for me to know."

She told him then that he was son to Ailill Edgebattle, of the kin of the Owenaght, lord of the territory of Ninus.

So Maelduin went to his father's land, to enter into possession of the domain that was his by right. And with him went his three foster-brothers, whom he loved dearly. A right welcome was made him by his kinsfolk, and they bade him be of good cheer, now he was on his own land and among his own people.

On a day of days Maelduin and certain of his warriors were putting the stone in the graveyard of the church of Dubhcluain. Placing his foot on the scorched ruin wall of the church, Maelduin hurled the stone clear over it. Then Bricone, the poison-tongued, laughed and said, aloud:

"Better it were to avenge the man slain here than to cast stones over his bare burnt bones."

"Of whom speakest thou?" asked Maelduin.

"Of Ailill, thy father."

"Who slew him?"

"Plunderers from over sea, men of Leix, here on this spot."

Great was the sorrow of Maelduin. Putting down the stone he held ready for the cast, he girded on his armor, flung his mantle around him, and eagerly inquired by what way he might reach Leix. "By sea alone," said the guide.

So he was minded to go first into the country of Corcomroe, the land of Nuca the wizard, and to beg of him a charm and a blessing for the boat he should afterwards build. Charms and blessings the wizard gave him, and instructed him when he should begin to build, and when to put out to sea and how many men he should take with him. And he charged him straitly that there should be seventeen, neither more nor less, and he laid a curse upon him if his charge were disobeyed.

The boat that was built was of wicker work, of eight thwarts, covered with three-fold ox-hide of hard bark-soaked red leather. Then Maelduin gathered together his men, and among them were German and Diuran the rhymer.

On the day appointed by the wizard they hoisted the flapping, many-colored sail to the tall, tough mast, and they put forth to sea. But when they had gone a little way they were roused by the cries of Maelduin's three foster-brothers, who stood upon the beach and called them back.

"Go home," said Maelduin, "I may not carry a larger number than are now in the boat."

"If thou wilt not come back for us, we will follow thee into the sea, though we drown."

Saying which they cast themselves into the water, and struck out boldly from the shore. When Maelduin saw that, he bade turn the boat's head, and put back, taking them into the boat for fear they be drowned. But his heart was heavy, for he thought of the wizard's curse...read more>>>...

No comments: