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Bardic Arts

The Ballad of Idath's Ride

Siobhán ní hEodhusa
January, 1984 (A.S. XXVIII)

Fifty-score fine warriors
     were feasting in the hall,
And there was aye the Lord Idath,
     the chiefest of them all;
Fifty score fine warriors
     as brave as e'er were born,
And there was aye the Lord Idath,
     the wearer of the Horn.

As as they feasted at the board,
     a wind blew wide the door:
The brightness of that fair great hall
     was suddenly no more.
And up there rose a howling then,
     like baying of a hound,
And all that fearless fifty score
     were frozen at the sound.

'The Hunt! The Hunt!' the peple cried,
     Oh, hide yourselves away,
For none who go abroad this night
     shall live to see the day.
The sleepless dead go abroad this night,
     the red-eared hounds awake.
No light nor darkness do they serve,
     they kill for killing's sake.

Look up, look up, ye Lord Idath:
     the fires are on the hill.
The night is falling ne'er to rise;
     the raven eats its fill.
Look down, look down, ye Lord Idath:
     the ground gives forth its dead;
The ancient foemen take up arms,
     the Huntsman at their head.

Go forth, go forth, ye Lord Idath:
     the lightning rends the sky.
For those who've lain their trust in you,
     you must now ride, or die!
And up then rose the Lord Idath,
     his bright blade at his side,
With bold black horse and banded black horn,
     all with the Hunt to ride.

The darkness swirled in waves around
     the foaming horses' feet;
They rose up in a roaring tide,
     all faceless, fell and fleet.
They rode through all that darksome night,
     with Lord Idath behind,
Like scudding clouds, like driving snow,
     like sparks upon the wind.

"Faster fly, my stallion,
     although your heart must break!"
And up they rose like twisting leaves,
     destruction in their wake.
At last their pace enflamed his head;
     their wildness hit his eye.
He spurred his steed, and at his lips
     his banded horn made cry.

The antlered Hunter turned his head,
     and stopped their wild career;
Behind his feathered mask, he said,
     "Now what is this I hear?
"A stranger's horn has sounded here,"
     the fearsome Hunt Lord cried,
"And somewhere now within the ranks,
     A mortal man does ride!"

So forth then went the Lord Idath,
     his challenge called out loud,
And bared his blade and shouted bold,
     despite that mocking crowd
"Stand forth, stand forth, ye Horned One,
     and fight with me alone,
"For I, too, am my people's Lord,
     with horns unto my crown."

"First tell me what shall be the terms,"
     the Hunter said to him.
"That you and your Wild Hunt shall spare
     my people if I win."
"The voice behind the mask replied,
     "And if that you should die,
"Then you must ride behind the Hunt
     for all eternity!"

They fought with sword, and hand, and horn,
     while darkness ebbed and swelled,
And ever blow was matched upon
     the one that it had dealt.
But with the rising of the dawn,
     the Hunter was struck down
And Idath took off the mask to see
     that the face there was his own.

They never raised a mound for him,
     for the body never found,
But when the shadow of the horns
     is before you on the ground,
And when the wind cries high and wild,
     and darkness hides your path,
In salute then draw ye out your sword,
     and greet the Lord Idath.

See sheet music and original text

© January, 1984 -- Leigh Ann Hussey

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