Maeve lightly tripped across the moor
as lark song filled the air,
a liquid spill of sunlit notes
to match her golden hair.
She skirted bogs of asphodel
to keep her lover's tryst,
where grasses wave their purple heads,
as soft as Achill mist.
Brown waters of a mountain stream
swirled past her, over scree,
so lithe, alive with dragonflies
and elfin mystery.
Its laughter matched the love that surged
in her expectant breast,
as up the mountainside she climbed
the path to Croaghaun's crest,
for there before the day was done,
'mongst lilac bells of ling,
she'd pledge her life to her true love,
and with the selkies sing.
But, as she gazed upon the moor,
a swirling wisp of cloud
began to cloak familiar rocks
beneath its cotton shroud.
Expecting her true love to come
to wrap her in his arms,
she kept her watch on Croaghaun's crag
suppressing growing qualms.
At length she left the meeting place
to search for her leannán.
As daylight faded into gloom,
her hopes sank with the sun.
Then Sith, the grey-winged faerie child
with eyes of em'rald green,
began a song whose words beguiled
young Maeve, the sweet colleen.
With spells she wove a silken thread
of lies to lead astray,
and feigned the curlew's plaintive cry
to lure Maeve from the way.
In frantic search she tripped and fell
into a stagnant pool,
and sank beneath the drowned moonlight;
a ghoulish death and cruel.
At dawn upon the keening wind,
A white-tailed eagle flew
And spied a glint of gold upon
The silver veil of dew.
He swooped and took her in his claws,
in lands of youth to dwell,
where she became the mavis bird
a song thrush, philomel.
Now, in the Spring, the mavis bird
nests in a rowan tree
with feathered leaves and berries red;
the bane of false faerie.
Although Croaghaun is a mountain on the coast of the Isle of Achill in Ireland, this legend is purely an invention of the author, composed in the form of a ballad. It draws on some elements of Irish mythology to lend an air of verisimilitude, but there is no such legend to be found in Irish folklore.
Achill (Eagle Island) is largely covered in peat bog. Common flowers and grasses include ling (heather), purple marsh grass, and bog asphodel. It is renowned for sudden weather changes with mists obscuring the landscape.
A selkie is a mythical creature resembling a seal that takes human form on land
'leannan' is a Gaelic word for sweetheart.
'colleen' is an Irish word meaning 'country girl'.
Sith is derived from the Gaelic word for 'faerie'.
Both Maeve and Mavis are Irish names derived from the Gaelic for a song thrush (T. Philomelos).
The Land of Youth is an Irish expression that roughly equates to heaven.
The curlew, a bird common to marshy habitats, is considered in folklore to be a harbinger of death.
In European folklore the rowan tree is considered to be a protection against faerie sprites. Also, in Greek mythology there is a connection between the rowan tree and the eagle. [Hebe, the goddess of youth, supplied ambrosia to the gods from a magical chalice. When she lost this cup to demons, the gods sent an eagle to recover it. The feathers and drops of blood which the eagle shed in the ensuing fight with the demons fell to earth, where each of them turned into a rowan tree. Hence the rowan derived the shape of its leaves from the eagle's feathers and the appearance of its berries from the droplets of blood.]
Image by Taco Meeuwsen from Hellevoetsluis, The Netherlands (THRUSH TUNE) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.