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The Celts

Long, long ago, beyond the misty space
Of twice a thousand years,
In Erin old there dwelt a mighty race,
Taller than Roman spears;
Like oaks and towers they had a giant grace,
Were fleet as deers,
With wind and waves they made their 'biding place,
These western shepherd seers.

Their Ocean-God was Manannan mac Lir,
Whose angry lips,
In their white foam, full often would inter
Whole fleets of ships;
Cromah their Day-God and their Thunderer
Made morning and eclipse;
Bride was their Queen of Song, and unto her
They prayed with fire-touched lips.

Great were their deeds, their passions and their sports;
With clay and stone
They piled on strath and shore those mystic forts,
Not yet o'erthrown;
On cairn-crowned hills they held their council-courts;
While youths alone,
With giant dogs, explored the elk resorts,
And brought them down.

Of these was Finn, the father of the Bard
Whose ancient song
Over the clamour of all change is heard,
Sweet-voiced and strong.
Finn once o'ertook Grania, the golden haired,
The fleet and young;
From her the lovely, and from him the feared,
The primal poet sprung.

Oissian! two thousand years of mist and change
Surround thy name --
Thy Fenian heroes now no longer range
The hills of fame.
The very names of Finn and Gaul sound strange --
Yet thine the same --
By miscalled lake and desecrated grange --
Remains and shall remain!

The Druid's alter and the Druid's creed
We scarce can trace,
There is not left an undisputed deed
Of all your race,
Save your majestic song, which hath their speed,
And strength and grace;
In that sole song, they live and love, and bleed --
It bears them on through space.

O, inspired giant! shall we e're behold,
In our own time,
One fit to speak you spirit on the wold,
Or seize your rhyme?
One pupil of the past, as mighty-souled as in the prime,
Were the fond, fair, and beautiful, and bold --
They of your song sublime!

- Thomas D'Arcy McGee -