THE BURIAL OF KING CORMAC
From cruach and his sub-god twelve',
Said cormac,' are but carven treene;
The axe that made them, haft or helve,
Had worthier of our worship been.
'But He who made the tree to grow,
And hid in earth the iron-stone,
And made the man with mind to know
The axe's use, is God alone.'
Anon to prirsts of Crom was brought--
Where, girded in their service dread,
The minister'd on red Moy Slaught--
Word of the words King Cormac said.
They loosed their curse against the king;
They cursed him in his fleash and bones;
And daily in their mystic ring
They turn'd the maladictive stones,
Till , where at meat the monarch sate,
Amid the revel and the wine,
He choked upon the food he ate,
At Sletty, southward of the Boyne.
High vaulted than the preistly throng,
And far and wide they noised abroad
with trump and loud liturgic song
The praise of their avenging God.
But ere the voice was wholy spent
That priest and prince should still obey.
To awed attendants o'er him bent
Great Cormac gather'd breath to say--
'Spread not the beds of Brugh for me
When restless death-bed's use is done:
But bury me at Rossnaree
And face me to the rising sun.
'For all the kings who lie in Brugh
Put trust in gods of wood and stone;
And twas at Ross that first I knew
One, Unseen , who is God alone.
'His glory lightens from the east;
His message soon shall reach our shore;
And idol-god,and cursing priest
Shall plague us from Moy Slaght no more.'
Dead Cormac on his beir they laid;-
'He reign'd a king for 40 years,
And shame it were, ' his captains said,
'He lay not with his royal peers.
His grandsire Hundred-Battle ,sleeps
Serene in Brugh: and all around,
Dead kings in stone sepulchral keeps
Protect the sacred burial ground.
'What though a dying man should rave
Of changes o'er the eastern sea?
In Brugh of Boyne shall be his grave,
And not in noteless Rossnaree.'
Than northward forth they bore the beir,
And down from Sletty side they drew,
With horsemen and with charioteer,
To cross the fords of Boyne to Brugh.
There came a breath of finer air
That touch'd the Boyne with ruffling wings,
It stirr,d him in his sedgy lair
And in his mossy moorland springs.
And as the burial train came down
With dirge and savage dolorous shows,
Across their pathway, broad and brown
The deep, full hearted river rose;
From bank to bank through all his fords,
'Neith blackened squalls he swell'd and boil'd;
And thrice the wondering gentile lords
Eassy'd to cross,and thice recoil'd.
Then forth stepp'd gray-hair'd warriors four:
They said 'Through angrier floods than these,
On link'd shields once our king we bore
From Dread Spear and his hosts of Deece.
'And long as loyal will hold good,
And limbs respond with helpful threws,
Nor flood, nor fiend within the flood,
shall bar him of his burial dues.'
With slanted necks they stoop'd to lift;
They heaved him up to neck and chin;
And,pair and pair, with footsteps swift,
Lock'd arm to shoulder, bore him in.
'Twas brave to see them leave the shore;
To mark the deep'ning surges rise,
And fall subdued in foam before
the tension of the striding thighs.
'Twas brave , when now a spear-cast out,
Breast high and battling surges ran;
For weight was great,and limbs were stout,
And loyal man put trust in man.
But ere they reach'd the middle deep,
Nor steadying weight of clay they bore,
Nor strain of sinewy limbs could keep
Their feet beneith the swerving four.
And now they slide, and now they swim,
And now, amid the blackening squall,
Grey locks afloat, with cluching grim,
They plunge around the floating pall.
While as a youth with practiced spear
Through justling crowds bears off the ring,
Boyne from their shoulders caught the bear
and proudly boer away the king.
At morning , on the grassy marge
Of Rossnaree, the corpse was found,
And shepards at their early charge
Entomb'd it in the peaceful ground.
The tranquil spot: a hopefu sound
Comes from the ever youthful stream,
And still on daisied mead and mound
The dawn delays with tenderer beam.
Round Cormac Spring renews her buds:
In march perpetual by his side,
Down comes the earth-fresh April floods,
And up the sea-fresh salmon glide;
And life and time rejoicing run
From age to age their wonted way;
But still he waits the risen Sun,
For still 'tis only dawning Day.
Cormac son of Art, son of Concead-cath enjoyed the sovereingty of Ireland through the prolonged period of forty years, commencing from 213 AD.
During the later part of his reign, he resided at Sletty on the Boyne, being it is said disqualified from the occupation of Tara by the personal blemish he had sustained in the loss of an eye, by the hand of Angus 'Dread Spear', chief of the Desi, a tribe whose original seats were in the barony of Deece, in the county of Meath.
It was in the time of Cormac and his son Cairbre, if we are to credit the Irish Annals, that Finn the son of Comhall and the Fenian heroes celebrated by Ossian, flouished.
Cormac has obtained the reputation of wisdom and learning,and appears justly entitled to the honour of having provoked the enmity of the pagan priesthood, by declaring his faith in a God not made by hands of men.
The principal cemetary of the pagan irish kings was at Brugh, which seems to have been situated on the northern bank of the Boyne.
A series of tumuli and sepulchral cairns extends from the neighborhood of Slane toward Drogeda, beginning according to the ancient tract preserved in the Book of Ballymote [Petrie R.T., vol xx pg 102] with the [imdae in Dagda] or 'bed of the Dagda,'
a king of the Tuath de Danann, supposed with apparently good reason to be the well known tumulus now called New Grange.
This and the neighboring cairn of Dowth appears to be the only megalitihc sepulchres in the west of Europe distinctly referable to persons whose names are historically preserved.*
The carvings which cover the stones of their chambers and gallaries correspond very closely with those of the Gavrinis tomb near Locmariaker, In Brittany.
The tumuli in Carrowkeel [Ceatcaoil] cemetary in Sligo where the mythological Ceasair is buried and also refelcts the summer solsice has yet to be explored for a megalithic date.
copyright Jan 19 2011
from LAYS OF THE WESTERN GAEL,Samuel Ferguson, 1865, Woodstock Books, Washington DC, 2001