The Fairies’ Isle

An Hiberian Legend

by Sir Pertinax Townly, Baronet

Prize Essay

On the shores of Green Erin the wanderer had strayed,
 Till the Sun was declining, the heavens were all red,
 No hamlet was near to afford him a bed,
So down a hillock to slumber he laid.
Oh! fair was the evening; each Zephyr was balm
  The billows were calm
And perched on the oak which o’ershadow’d his head
 Sweet Philomel warbled to Luna her strain
Till she sunk in the waves, and the darkness was fled
 And the Lark’s lyric carols awaked him again.

The skies are all dappled with purple and gold
 Each flower raised its head that at eve was reclined
 But the freshness of morning still breathed in the wind
And a thick fleecy mist o’er the ocean was rolled.
But as Phoebus ascended, it melted away
  Like the frost in his ray,
And the coast was discover’d all rocky around;
 From the darkness that veil’d it, each object is free
From the Isle of old Rathlin, for mutton renowned
 To the loose-hanging bridge of high Carric-a-Rede

“But what is that island so fresh and so fair!
 Oh! see like an emerald, all sparkling and bright
 It floats in an ocean of violet light
And fragrance unwonted is borne on the air!
How green are its fields! How umbrageous its bowers!
  What curtains of flowers
Are drawn round each cottage so airy and white!
 How dark are yon woods! How majestic their shade!
Yon rocks how romantic! How towering their height!
 In verdure now soft is that valley array’d!

“When the sun sunk in ocean, that isle was not there!
 What wondrous enchantment has wafted it here?
 And oh! by yon river so sparkling and clear
Oh! who are yon damsels so sportive and fair?”
He sprung to his boat that was moor’d on the shore,
  While the dash of his oar
Reverberates low from the rock all around,  And near and more near as he rows to the bay
A joy more complete in his bosom he found,
 The island grew lovelier, the morning more gay.

And see on the shore the sweet maidens who stand!
 Their vesture is gay as the arch of the sky
 And Heaven’s deepest azure is bright in their eye.
A branch of green myrtle is borne in each hand
and the sound of their song, the young hunter to hail
  Is borne on the gale.
“Oh! who is the mortal, who thus can presume
 To view the green vales of the Fairies’ loved isle?
Yet come to our dwellings, brave wanderer come!
 And fear not, our bosoms are strangers to guile.

“We have spells that would tarnish the light of the sun
 And spread a white mist o’er the ocean again.
 We can dye the pale moon with a crimson stain
And bid the full rivers more tardily run
We urge the fleet tempest more loud and more fast
  We stay the rude blast
And loose on the deck flaps the swelling sail
 When the ocean roars loudest we bid it be still
At our mandate it rises unswept by a gale,
 For the sea and the air are the slaves of our will.

“On the flashes of lightning we ride thro’ the sky
 We gleam faint on the helm in the steersman’s view
 And of shipwreck and death tell the shuddering crew
And we guide the red meteors that gambol on high.
Or deep in the bog, on a starless night
  Lead the toil weary wight
Yet let not thy bosom be saddened by fear
 Nor turn thy light skiff form the Fairies’ bay
For none but the good can find anchorage here
 Whom we hail as a friend we will cherish for aye.

Where the ears are more rich, and the zephyrs more bland
 Where the udders are fullest, the pastures more green
 Where the weeds shun the soil, and the skies are serene
’Tis a friend of the Fairies who tenants the land.
As it flies o’er his dwelling, the tempest is calm
  E’en the blight scatters balm.
No shower shall be sparing to swell the young shoot,
 No sun shall be wanting to ripen the grain
No mildew shall blast it, no worm eat the root,
 No tempest shall deluge the harvest with rain.

“While seven times the sun shall the seasons renew
 Concealed in the ocean this island must lie
 Reveal’d but a day to the light of the sky
To the breeze of the morning, the evening’s chill dew.
Yet mild are the winters, and gay are the flowers
  In our submarine bowers,
For our necks we have coral, and pearls for our hair,
 We have insects that shine in our grottoes by night
The moon thro’ the wave seems more placid and fair
 And soft is the hue of our emerald light.

And blest is the eye that beholds us arise
 And blest is the foot that shall tread on our strand
 Oh blest is he yield to remain on our land
Or if to the dwellings of mortals he hies.
Then mount this rich chariot,’tis sent by our Queen
  With emeralds so green
The wheels are all studded, with rubies the rein,
 The whip is of diamond, of silk is its thong
From the eider duck’s bosom your cushion was ta’en
 And four steeds, snowy white, drag the burthen along.

He delays not, but swift to the chariot he sprung,
 And light o’er the hill and the valley they bound,
 While on earth or in air as they gambol around
The damsels more sweet than the nightingale sung.
O’er a lawn smoothly shaven the chariot has roll’d
  The wheels of pure gold
Now stop at the Palace — what wonders are there!
 How surpassing the works raised by man’s feeble hand
Can aught upon Earth with this dwelling compare?
 So strangely constructed, so artfully plann’d.

Of flowers the rich pavement’s mosaic was laid,
 Of flowers was the cornice, of flowers was the roof
 Of flowers were the columns that bore it aloof
And of flowers the rich seats and the cushions were spread
How lively their colours, how fresh is their bloom
  How rich their perfume
They breathe a soft charm thro’ the ravished soul
 Pain, sorrow, nor sickness can trouble it here
Oh! the warrior might yield to their magic control
 And cover with roses his sword and his spear.

But how gazed the youth as he entered the hall
 Oh what ravishing music from minstrels unseen
 And see that bright circle surrounding their Queen
Their locks were all golden, their stature was small
The lily’s soft satin, or velvet of rose
  Their vesture compose
A rich emerald wand was upreared in each hand
 And swift thro’ the dance’s light mazes they move
Now archness lurk’d sly, in each fire-darting eye
 Now their languishing looks breathed the softness of love.

The Queen has received him with kindness and grace
 She has thrown o’er his shoulders of manly mould
 A mantle embroidered of purple and gold
And honour’d the youth with a courteous embrace
While a thousand soft voices are warbling around
  His welcome to sound
For him she selects her most delicate fare
 She calls him to sit on her emerald car
And she bids her most beautiful damsels prepare
 To follow their Queen to the sylvan war.

With arrows and lances they rush to the chase
 Green housings of satin o’erspread the white hind,
 And her neck a rich collar of jewels confined
And she bounded and stretched her fleet limbs to the race
They pursue over mountain, o’er river and vale
  More swift then the gale
But just as the dogs should have drunk her red blood
 From their grasp and their sight she has vanish’d away
The hounds and the hunters no longer pursu’d
 But return to the court at the call of the fay.

And now to the palace the hunters return
 At the feast by the Sovereign the stranger reclines
 And nectar more rich than the Earth’s choicest wines
Is pour’d by her slaves from a diamond urn.
The banquet is over, she turn’d to her guest,
  “The sun in the west,
Is already declining, brave wanderer stay
 Or wilt thou return to the land of thy birth.

“I proffer thee all I can give with my hand
 Oh wilt thou be render’d immortal by me!
 To roam by my side o’er the caves of the sea
To recline on my breast, and my subjects command.
Consent and this hall with the plaudits shall ring
  That salute the King — 
Yet speak! not a word, not a glance shall reprove
 If thou shun’st my attractions, and fliest from my power
No vengeance shall follow the slight of my love
 And the grief of a fairy endures but an hour.”

“Oh Lady! if beauty my bosom could sway
 Oh where is there mortal so lovely as thou!
 If wealth or ambition had power on me now
If my heart were unshackled, how blest could I stay!
But oh! there is one, ’tis a delicate flower
  Who droops in her bower.
The maid who in grief look’d for comfort from me
 Can I crush her fond hopes, can I bid her despair!
Then say not, dear Lady, ’tis flying from thee
 If I will not be false to a maiden less fair!”

He beheld a soft tear in the Fairy’s blue eye
 And he saw the deep sorrow that rose in her breast
 But her pride and her promise her feelings repressed
And a smile of beneficence followed her sigh.
“May the Heaven’s richest dews on thy orchards descend
  May their full branches bend
With the weight of their wealth; and the maid of thy love
 Be true as the needle that points to the pole!
No sorrow, no sickness, thy bosom shall prove
 And the years of thy rapture as moments shall roll.

“But yet ’tis not thus I must lose thee!” she said,
 “With me the gay dance thou wilt hardly decline
 Yon pale sickly moon let our tapers outshine.”
While her accents yet vibrate, her voice was obeyed,
And a thousand bright lamps in the high chamber shone
  The tables were gone
And the fairies like garlands of blossoms advance
 To the minstrel’s soft harp and the maiden’s gay song
Still farther and farther they urge the blithe dance
 And still would their Queen the dear moments prolong.

The first flush of morning was seen in the sky
 When e’en with the fullness of pleasure oppressed
 On a couch of fresh roses the youth sunk to rest.
He woke, and the Sun was already on high
Yet still a white mist o’er the ocean was spread
  And as slowly it fled
Old Donegal’s rocks all around were confessed
 The Island was gone, not a token remained
Save a rose that the Lady had placed in his breast
 Save the fragrance that still his rich mantle retained.

- Finis -