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The Aran Islands by J. M. Synge

The biggest rogues in the land

'Well,' he said when he was quiet again, 'isn't it a great wonder to think that those rich men are as big rogues as ourselves.'

The old story-teller has given me a long rhyme about a man who fought with an eagle. It is rather irregular and has some obscure passages, but I have translated it with the scholar.


On my getting up in the morning And I bothered, on a Sunday, I put my brogues on me, And I going to Tierny In the Glen of the Dead People. It is there the big eagle fell in with me, He like a black stack of turf sitting up stately.

I called him a lout and a fool, The son of a female and a fool, Of the race of the Clan Cleopas, the biggest rogues in the land. That and my seven curses And never a good day to be on you, Who stole my little cock from me that could crow the sweetest.

'Keep your wits right in you And don't curse me too greatly, By my strength and my oath I never took rent of you, I didn't grudge what you would have to spare In the house of the burnt pigeons, It is always useful you were to men of business.

'But get off home And ask Nora What name was on the young woman that scalded his head. The feathers there were on his ribs Are burnt on the hearth, And they eat him and they taking and it wasn't much were thankful.'

'You are a liar, you stealer, They did not eat him, and they're taking Nor a taste of the sort without being thankful, You took him yesterday As Nora told me, And the harvest quarter will not be spent till I take a tax of you.'

'Before I lost the Fianna It was a fine boy I was, It was not about thieving was my knowledge, But always putting spells, Playing games and matches with the strength of Gol MacMorna, And you are making me a rogue At the end of my life.'

'There is a part of my father's books with me, Keeping in the bottom of a box, And when I read them the tears fall down from me. But I found out in history That you are a son of the Dearg Mor, If it is fighting you want and you won't be thankful.'

The Eagle dressed his bravery With his share of arms and his clothes, He had the sword that was the sharpest Could be got anywhere. I and my scythe with me, And nothing on but my shirt, We went at each other early in the day.

We were as two giants Ploughing in a valley in a glen of the mountains. We did not know for the while which was the better man. You could hear the shakes that were on our arms under each other, From that till the sunset, Till it was forced on him to give up.

I wrote a 'challenge boxail' to him On the morning of the next day, To come till we would fight without doubt at the dawn of the day. The second fist I drew on him I struck him on the hone of his jaw, He fell, and it is no lie there was a cloud in his head.

The Eagle stood up, He took the end of my hand:-- 'You are the finest man I ever saw in my life, Go off home, my blessing will be on you for ever, You have saved the fame of Eire for yourself till the Day of the Judgment.'

Ah! neighbors, did you hear The goodness and power of Felim? The biggest wild beast you could get, The second fist he drew on it He struck it on the jaw, It fell, and it did not rise Till the end of two days.

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