Monday, July 30, 2012

A Poem—Irish Folklore with Greek Myth

When I traveled to Ireland in 2005, I attended an NEH seminar about W. B. Yeats and went all over the area on the west of Ireland, specifically the Aran Islands. While on the island of Inis Mór (Inishmore), I visited the stone fort, Dún Ducathair, and became inspired to write about ancient Greek figures meshed with ancient Celtic. "The Children of Lir" is a beautiful, haunting story of four children, an evil spell, and the passage of time, and these four children resonate with the four children of Zeus and Leda. Here is my tribute to them.

Leda and the Children of Lir

Serpentine mists over an inland sea,
Swirling and curling, like vapour aware,
Veil of white, embodiments of the Sidhe,
Heralds ethereal.

Majesty divine, argent wingèd forms,
In harmony, slip over silver;
Four swans approach,
The children of Lir,
Dispersing shadows of gossamer.

Fair Fionnula leads her brethren,
Raven-minded Fiachra,
Fiery-bodied Aodh,
And wolf-spirited Conn,
Towards the silken strand.

Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,
An alabaster maiden sleeps,
A bruise on her nape;
Encircled by her arms are,
Two eggs—one, of vermillion hue,
Speckled with silver, a dewy incandescence;
The other, cerulean, adorned with gilded swirls,
Testament to a god’s progeny.

Fiachra summons up a primordial tale,
Told at his father’s knee,
Of Olympæan Zeus, sovereign of sky,
In kindred form, casting feathered glory
Over Tyndareus’ bride, staggering Leda.

The outcome of purloined chastity,
Birthed alone, two jewelled encasements,
Heirs to grandeur and destruction,
A sky god’s legacy
And Fate’s playthings.

An Aeolian whisper through brazen branches,
A cascade of acorns falls—oaken percussion,
Fracturing satin shells.
But wait,
Through cracks of ovate perfection,
Subtle fingers of newborn hands,
Kissed by Helios for the first time.

Cherubic faces yawn, an awakening,
Both of life and prophecy;
Infant voices gurgle, breaking
Leda’s reverie;
She smiles.

A synchronicity—
Leda, aware of swans,
Clutches newborn life,
Fearing Zeus’ greed;
The children of Lir,
In exquisite awe stand,
Expecting cygnets divine,
But see human form.

Fair Fionnula, with reverent care,
Assures Leda of peace.

Once-silent Aodh, speaks of Eire,
Of Lough Derravaragh,
Of accursed Aoife,
A journey over time and time
And time again,
Of Sea of Moyle,
Of Inis Glora,
And a bell, harbinger of a new era—
Freedom, at last.

Soothed of strife, the new mother
Sheds compassionate tears,
Looking down upon her brood,
Upon Polydeuces and Helen,
Now of amaranthine innocence,
Upon Clytemnestra and Castor,
Now of mortal virtue.
New threads for a tapestry of tumult
Woven by the spindle of Fate.

An ephemeral vision,
Of a city destroyed,
Of brotherly love,
Divided by immortality.
A sacrifice, a redemption,
The fall of grandeur.

Four swans, born from a woman’s envy,
Four children, born from a god’s power,
Kindred pawns of destiny.

Sheltered by an oak tree’s form,
An alabaster maiden sleeps,
Encircled in her arms are,
Love and War—children of Zeus;
Nearby, along the strand,
Four feathered forms slumber,
Children of Lir,
Awaiting the daybreak of freedom.

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