Reullura

    Star of the morn and eve,
        Reullura shone like thee,
    And well for her might Aodh grieve,
        The dark-attired Culdee.
    Peace to their shades! the pure Culdees
        Were Albyn's earliest priests of God,
    Ere yet an island of her seas
        By foot of Saxon monk was trod,
    Long ere her churchmen by bigotry
    Were barr'd from wedlock's holy tie.
    'Twas then that Aodh, famed afar,
        In Iona preach'd the word with power,
    And Reullura, beauty's star,
        Was the partner of his bower.

    But, Aodh, the roof lies low,
        And the thistle-down waves bleaching,
    And the bat flits to and fro
        Where the Gaël once heard thy preaching;
    And fall'n is each column'd aisle
        Where the chiefs and the people knelt.
    'Twas near that temple's goodly pile
        That honoured of men they dwelt.
    For Aodh was wise in the sacred law,
    And bright Reullura's eyes oft saw
        The veil of fate uplifted.
    Alas, with what visions of awe
        Her soul in that hour was gifted —
    When pale in the temple and faint,
        With Aodh she stood alone
    By the statue of an aged Saint!
        Fair sculptured was the stone,
    It bore a crucifix;
        Fame said it once had graced
    A Christian temple, which the Picts
        In the Britons' land laid waste:
    The Pictish men, by St. Columb taught,
    Had hither the holy relic brought.
    Reullura eyed the statue's face,
        And cried, "It is, he shall come,
    Even he, in this very place,
        To avenge my martyrdom.

    "For, woe to the Gaël people!
        Ulvfagre is on the main,
    And Iona shall look from tower and steeple
        On the coming ships of the Dane;
    And, dames and daughters, shall all your locks
        With the spoiler's grasp entwine?
    No! some shall have shelter in caves and rocks,
        And the deep sea shall be mine.
    Baffled by me shall the Dane return,
    And here shall his torch in the temple burn,
    Until that holy man shall plough
        The waves from Innisfail.
    His sail is on the deep e'en now,
        And swells to the southern gale."

    "Ah! knowest thou not, my bride,"
        The holy Aodh said,
    "That the Saint whose form we stand beside
    Has for ages slept with the dead?"

    "He liveth, he liveth," she said again,
        "For the span of his life tenfold extends
    Beyond the wonted years of men.
        He sits by the graves of well-loved friends
    That died ere they grandsire's grandsire's birth;
    The oak is decayed with age on the earth,
Whose acorn-seed has been planted by him;
        And his parents remember the day of dread
    When the sun on the cross look'd dim,
        And the graves gave up their dead.
    Yet preaching from clime to clime,
        He hath roam'd the earth for ages,
    In time a remnant from the sword —
        Ah! but a remnant to deliver;
    Yet, blest be the name of the Lord!
        His martyrs shall go into bliss for ever.
    Lochlin, appall'd, shall put up her steel,
    And thou shalt embark on the bounding keel;
    Safe shalt thou pass through her hundred ships,
        With the saint and a remnant of the Gaël,
    And the Lord will instruct thy lips
        To preach in Innisfail."

    The sun, now about to set,
        Was burning o'er Tiree,
    And no gathering cry rose yet
        O'er the isles of Albyn's sea,
    Whilst Reullura saw far rowers dip
        Their oars beneath the sun,
    And the phantom of many a Danish ship,
        Where ship there yet was none.
    And the shield of alarm was dumb,
    Nor did their warning till midnight come,
    When watch-fires burst from across the main,
        From Rona, and Uist, and Skye,
    To tell that the ships of the Dane
        And the red-hair'd slayers were nigh.

    Our islemen arose from slumbers,
        And buckled on their arms;
    But few, alas! were their numbers
        To Lochlin's mailed swarms.
    And the blade of the bloody Norse
        Has filled the shores of the Gaël
    With many a floating corse,
        And with many a woman's wail.
    They have lighted the islands with ruin's torch,
    And the holy men of Iona's church
    In the temple of God lay slain,
        All but Aodh, the last Culdee;
    But bound with many an iron chain,
        Bound in that church was he.
    And where is Aodh's bride?
        Rocks of the ocean flood!
    Plunged she not from your heights in pride,
        And mock'd the men of blood?
    Then Ulvfagre and his bands
        In the temple lighted their banquet up,
    And the print of their blood-red hands
        Was left on the altar cup.
    'Twas then that the Norseman to Aodh said,
    "Tell where thy church's treasure's laid,
    Or I'll hew thee limb from limb."
        As he spoke the bell struck three,
    And every torch grew dim
        That lighted their revelry.
    But the torches again burnt bright,
        And brighter than before,
    When an aged man of majestic height
        Enter'd the temple door.
    Hush'd weas the revellers' sound,
        They were struck as mute as the dead,
    And their hearts were appall'd by the very sound
        Of his footsteps' measured tread.
    Nor word was spoken by one beholder,
    Whilst he flung his white robe back on his shoulder,
    And stretching his arms — as eath
        Unriveted Aodh's bands,
    As if the gyves had been a wreath
        Of willows in his hands.

    All saw the stranger's similitude
        To the ancient statue's form;
    The saint before his own image stood,
        And grasp'd Ulvfagre's arm.
    Then uprose the Danes at last to deliver
        Their chief, and shouting with one accord,
    They drew the shaft from its rattling quiver,
        They lifted the spear and sword,
    And levell'd their spears in rows.
    But down went axes and spears and bows,
    When the Saint with his crosier sign'd;
        The archer's hand on the string was stopt,
    And down, like reeds laid flat by the wind,
        Their lifted weapons dropt.
    The Saint then gave a signal mute,
        And though Ulvfagre willed it not,
    He came and stood at the statue's foot,
        Spell-riveted to the spot, —
    Till hands invisible shook the wall,
        And the tottering image wa dash'd
    Down from its lofty pedestal.
        On Ulvfagre's helm it crash'd —
    Helmet, and skull, and flesh, and brain,
    It crushed as millstone crushes the grain.
    Then spoke the Saint, whilst all and each
        Of the Heathen trembled round,
    And the pauses amidst his speech
        Were as awful as the sound:

    "Go back, ye wolves! To your dens," he cried,
        "And tell the nations abroad,
    How the fiercest of your herd has died
        That slaughter'd the flock of God.
    Gather him bone by bone,
        And take with you o'er the flod
    The fragments of that avenging stone
        That drank his heathen blood.
    These are the soils from Iona's sack,
    The only spoils ye shall carry back;
    For the hand that uplifteth spear or sword
        Shall be wither'd by palsy's shock,
    And I come in the name of the Lord
        To deliver a remnant of his flock."

    A remnant was call'd together,
        A doleful remnant of the Gaël,
    And the Saint in the ship that had brought him hither
        Took the mourners to Innisfail.
    Unscathed they left Iona's strand,
        When the opal morn first flush'd the sky,
    For the Norse dropt spear, and bow, and brand,
        And look'd on them silently;
    Safe from their hiding-places came
    Orphans and mothers, child and dame:
    But, alas! when the search for Reullura spread,
        No answering voice was given,
    For the sea had gone o'er her lovely head,
        And her spirit was in Heaven.

1824

This work was published before January 1, 1925, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.