Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Friday, February 04, 2005

"Elegy: The God in the Sea Greets Bran In the Land of the Waves" (Seamus Heaney)

(from the Eighth-Century Irish "Voyage of Bran")

When Bran and his companions had been at sea for two days and two nights, they saw a man in a chariot coming toward them over the sea. The man sang to them and made himself known, saying he was Manannan. These are some of the verses he sang:

Bran is astonished at the beauty of the waters;
his coracle lifts on the clear wave.
I ride where he rows; my chariot plunges, I
surge through a blossoming plain.

Bran rolls with his boat, the sea lifts and
lays him, he leans to the prow.
My chariot axle threshes a surf of wildflowers,
my wheels are spattered with flower juice.

Bran sees the backs of the waves like the quick
backs of dolphins; the sea surface glitters.
I see greensward, wild roses and clover,
the pelt of the grazing.

You look and next thing salmon leap out
of the foam; mother-wet silver.
They are my calves, my calves' licks, my
lambs, my bleating cavorters.

One chariot, one charioteer-me at full tilt-
that's all you can see.
You are blind to what's here. The land is a drumming
of hoofbeats, a mane-flow, a host at full gallop.

The land is immense, we swarm in its
bounty, it flourishes for us.
You are welcome; from the prow, gather up
the fruit of the branches.

Men and women, lovely, at ease among
windfalls. No sin and no forcing.
They rise off the forest floor, they pour
out the wine.

We are from the beginning, won't grow
old or go under the earth.
We cannot imagine debility; we
are unmarked by guilt.


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