Heroic Ossianic Chant (Aillte)


Aillte is a warrior who, while traveling as a mercenary, falls in love with the wife of the powerful King of Lochlin. They run away together, taking refuge with the Fayne, Aillte’s clan in the Hebrides.

Furious, the King of Lochlin descends with his army and the hosts of nine other clans upon the Fayne. Unlike so many of these tales, this story has a positive outcome: the fierce Gaels, though outnumbered 10 to 1, drive away the Lochlinners in a decisive victory.

Thug Banrigh Lochlainn nan sgiath donn
Trom-ghaol trom, an gaol nach lasaich,
Do Aillte greadhanach nan arm geur
Gu’n d’fhalbh i ann an ceilg leis.

Chruinnich Righ Lochlainn gu grad a shluagh,
Cabhlach cruaidh gu’n tug e leis,
‘Se sin a bha aig anns an uair,
Naoi righrean ‘s an sluagh leo

Mur robh fear a chaidh o fheum
Nno chaidh do’n Gréig a null,
Cha deachaidh fear d’a thir fein
De na thug Righ Lochlainn nall.

The queen of Lochlin of the brown shields
Deep love gave, that all endureth,
To Aillte young, of the keen-edged blades,
And secretly with him fled she.

The King of Lochlin, his hardy hosts
In this hour of need gathered,
And with them came the mighty stalwarts
Of nine kings from the northern shores.

There were that wounded fell,
Or died on the field of battle,
But never one was home returning,
Of all the mighty Lochlin men.

(Trans. Kennedy-Fraser)

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