Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, January 07, 2005

The Island of The Women

Here they found the rampart of a mighty dùn, enclosing a mansion. They landed to look on it, and sat on a hillock near by. Within the dùn they saw seventeen maidens busy at preparing a great bath. In a little while a rider, richly clad, came up swiftly on a racehorse, and lighted down and went inside, one of the girls taking the horse. The rider then went into the bath, when they saw that it was a woman. Shortly after that one of the maidens came out and invited them to enter, saying: "The Queen invites you".

They went into the fort and bathed, and then sat down to meat, each man with a maiden over against him, and Maeldun opposite to the queen. And Maeldun was wedded to the queen, and each of the maidens to one of his men, and at nightfall canopied chambers were allotted to each of them. On the morrow morn they made ready to depart, but the queen would not have them go, and said: "Stay here, and old age will never fall on you, but ye shall remain as ye are now for ever and ever, and what ye had last night ye shall have always. And be no longer a-wandering from island to island on the ocean".

She then told Maeldun that she was the mother of the seventeen girls they had seen, and her husband had been king of the island. He was now dead, and she reigned in his place. Each day she went into the great plain in the interior of the island to judge the folk, and returned to the dùn at night.

So they remained there for three months of winter; but at the end of that time it seemed they had been there three years, and the men wearied of it, and longed to set forth for their own country.

"What shall we find there", said Maeldun, "that is better than this?"

But still the people murmured and complained, and at last they said: "Great is the love which Maeldun has for this woman. Let him stay with her alone if he will, but we will go to our own country". But Maeldun would not be left after them, and at last one day, when the queen was away judging the folk, they went on board their bark and put out to sea. Before they had gone far, however, the queen came riding up with a clew of twine in her hand and flung it after them. Maeldun caught it in his hand, and it clung to his hand so that he could not free himself, and the queen, holding the other end, drew them back to land. And they stayed on the island another three months.

Twice again the same thing happened, and at last the people averred that Maeldun held the clew on purpose, so great was his love for the woman. So the next time another man caught the clew, but it clung to his hand as before; so Diuran smote off his hand and it fell with the clew into the sea. "When she saw that she at once began to wail and shriek, so that all the land was one cry, wailing and shrieking." And thus they escaped from the Island of the Women.

-- "The Voyage of Maeldun," found in the manuscript entitled the "Book of the Dun Cow" (about 1100) and other early sources, and edited, with a translation by Dr Whitley Stokes in the "Revue Celtique" for 1888 and 1889.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Hit Counter
Internet Service Provider