The Harvard Classics, Volume 49, Epic and Saga eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 228 pages of information about The Harvard Classics, Volume 49, Epic and Saga.

The following translation is, with slight modification, that of Dr. Whitley Stokes, from a text constructed by him on the basis of eight manuscripts, the oldest going back to about 1100 A.D.  The story itself is, without doubt, several centuries earlier, and belongs to the oldest group of extant Irish sagas._


There was a famous and noble king over Erin, named Eochaid Feidlech.  Once upon a time he came over the fairgreen of Bri Leith, and he saw at the edge of a well a woman with a bright comb of silver adorned with gold, washing in a silver basin wherein were four golden birds and little, bright gems of purple carbuncle in the rims of the basin.  A mantle she had, curly and purple, a beautiful cloak, and in the mantle silvery fringes arranged, and a brooch of fairest gold.  A kirtle she wore, long, hooded, hard-smooth, of green silk, with red embroidery of gold.  Marvellous clasps of gold and silver in the kirtle on her breasts and her shoulders and spaulds on every side.  The sun kept shining upon her, so that the glistening of the gold against the sun from the green silk was manifest to men.  On her head were two golden-yellow tresses, in each of which was a plait of four locks, with a bead at the point of each lock.  The hue of that hair seemed to them like the flower of the iris in summer, or like red gold after the burnishing thereof.

There she was, undoing her hair to wash it, with her arms out through the sleeve-holes of her smock.  White as the snow of one night were the two hands, soft and even, and red as foxglove were the two clear-beautiful cheeks.  Dark as the back of a stag-beetle the two eyebrows.  Like a shower of pearls were the teeth in her head.  Blue as a hyacinth were the eyes.  Red as rowan-berries the lips.  Very high, smooth and soft-white the shoulders.  Clear-white and lengthy the fingers.  Long were the hands.  White as the foam of a wave was the flank, slender, long, tender, smooth, soft as wool.  Polished and warm, sleek and white were the two thighs.  Round and small, hard and white the two knees.  Short and white and rulestraight the two shins.  Justly straight and beautiful the two heels.  If a measure were put on the feet it would hardly have found them unequal, unless the flesh of the coverings should grow upon them.  The bright radiance of the moon was in her noble face:  the loftiness of pride in her smooth eyebrows:  the light of wooing in each of her regal eyes.  A dimple of delight in each of her cheeks, with a dappling (?) in them at one time, of purple spots with redness of a calf’s blood, and at another with the bright lustre of snow.  Soft womanly dignity in her voice; a step steady and slow she had:  a queenly gait was hers.  Verily, of the world’s women ’twas she was the dearest and loveliest and justest that the eyes of men had ever beheld.  It seemed to King Eochaid and his followers that she was from the elfmounds.  Of her was said:  “Shapely are all till compared with Etain,” “Dear are all till compared with Etain.”

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The Harvard Classics, Volume 49, Epic and Saga from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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