A Legend Of Knockfierna - 18th Feb. 1950


A Legend Of Knockfierna: Text Version

18th February 1950


Feile Dramuiochta na Scol - the Limerick Schools Drama Festival -– is just over and the accounts I have heard of it from some who were privileged to be present were flattering, indeed. With this annual Feile, and with the more frequent presentations by An Comhar Dramuiochta, Limerick is certainly doing well in the matter of Gaelic drama. It is a pity, however, that more public support is not forthcoming for the praiseworthy ventures. Surely, it is a shame to see a talented group like An Comhar Dramuiochta -– winners in a recent keenly-contested All-Ireland competition -– playing all too often to practically empty houses.


Plays are always in the news at this season. I see that Clare's forth annual Drama Festival will be held in Scariff from March 26th to April 3rd. There are six sections, four for plays in English, two for plays in Irish; and valuable prizes, including cups and medals, are offered for all competitions. Refreshments will be served to teams at the conclusion of their performances. H. L. Morrow will adjudicate the plays in English and Dalach O'Ciardha those in Irish. Any group intending to compete can have all necessary information by applying to the Secretary of the Clare Drama Festival at Scariff.


Chuireas ana spies san meid aduírt an t-Athair O'Ceallaigh, sa Chaislean Nua, tamaill o shoin, I dtaobh an Choisc, no an 'Ban' ata I bhfeidhm ag Cumann Luith Chleas Gael. Aontuim le gach a duirt se, go h-airithe I dtaobh na damhsai Gallda. Dream a ligeann da mbaill rial da gcuid fein do sharu, agus rinnce Gallda do chur ar bun, is amaideach doibh bheith ag cosaint an 'Ban' ar chluichi Gallda. Is beag an difriocht ata idir Rogar agus Peil Ghaelach, taobh amuigh de rialacha nua-dheanta; ach is mor an difriocht ata idir ceol, rinnce, amhrain agus teanga na hEireann, agus an rud a chloisfea is a chifea in aon halla go mbionn, Grand G.A.A. Dance ar siul ann.


I have before me a list that bears the following names: An tollamh Liam O'Briain, Niall O'Domhnaill, Liam O'Reagain, An tAthair F.O. Briain O.F.M., Sean Busteed Ollamh, Mairtin O Cadhain, Myles na gCopaleen, Peadar O'Domhnaill, P.S. O' hEigeartaigh, Liam Gogan, Micheal Mac Liammoir, Seamus O'Neill, Donn Piatt, An Seabhac, Torna, Sinead Bean de Valera, Donncadh O'Laoghaire. A representative list you will admit, of people distinguished in the national and ural life of the country. They are the Board of Directors and Council of An Club Leabhar – the Gaelic Book Club I have mentioned so frequently in these notes.


Once again I appeal for members for the Club. A subscription of 1 pound entitles you to newly-published Irish books to the value of 25/-. They will be sent to you, post-free, during the year. Forward your subscription to me, or directly to: An Runai, An Club Leabhar, 29 Sr. O'Conaill, Iocht Bla Cliath. Up to this my appeals have never been made in vain, fifteen readers having already become members. The importance of the Club to the language cause cannot be over-stated. But it is on each Gaeilgeoir will depend whether it succeeds or dies. What about you? Do you believe it is all worth twenty shillings?


Michael Scanlan, the Poet Laureate of Fenianism, has been in the news of late. Here is the last poem he ever wrote – a legend of Knockfierna. It was published posthumously, some months after Scanlan's , in the 'Gaelic American'.


A legend of Ancient Eire – a song of Conor and Mona,

Who lived near the Halls of Fiarna, and loved in the days of old –

Long ere a Saxon shallop fretted our tranquil rivers –

Mona, the fairest of maidens,

Conor, the young and bold.

Mona, gift of Baalthina, cradled in fairy croonings,

Nursed in the lap of legend, met the advancing years

Haunted by dark forebodings, which, while lauds of her beauty,

Shaded her brightest fancies with indefinable fears.

Rocked by the winds and the billows, lulled by the tempest and thunder,

Schooled on the hills, in the forests, Conor subdues the years,

Till down the blue-veined valleys he followed his father's banner,

And entered the lists of glory,

At the head of his Galla spears.

When war grew weary of ,

And peace had wreathed his lances,

Cooled his hot lips with her kisses, healed his deep wounds with her tears,

To seal the red front of carnage,

Bridge the black chasm with roses,

Mona was plighted in marriage to Conor of the spears.

Out from the feud camp of hatred, in a blest lull of contention,

Voicing love's olden evangel,

Filled with his courage and faith,

Stept forth young Conor and Mona,

And, so with love's divination,

Met at the red grave of Discord

And laid the insatiate wraith.

'Mona, my life, on the morrow

our souls will meet like two rivers,

Thereafter to flow forever as one through the coming years,

You droop like a sunless lily!

Lies love like a cloud on thy spirit?

True love has no room for sorrow,' said Conor of the spears.

'My heart knows its only master,

and sends up its eager homage,

To give thee love's crimson greeting and banish the ghostly fears

That croak in my ears like ravens, spreading their sable pinions,

Clouding life's sunshine, said Mona to Conor of the spears.

'I dreamt we were withered and olden! Life going out like the autumn!

Joys blown as leaves through the forest! Love but dust on our biers!

Night looming up like a spectre!

We fading into the shadows –

Two shadows drawn into the shadow! Oh, Conor of the Spears!

'O, Conor, that life were eternal;

that youth were a fadeless glory;

That love could live on forever,

Nor run into earth in tears;

I love thee with love supernal

But Time will lap up the fountain;

Death will seal up the fountain,

Oh! Conor of the Spear!

'Eva, my nurse, has told me that

Nooma, the daughter of Fiarna,

Wears on her regal finger a ring that defies the years,

And they who with it are wedded

Dower me with youth eternal;

Love that will live forever;

Bring me the ring of Nooma,

Brave Conor of the Spears!'

He that grew bold in battle,

Rode on its red crest of carnage,

Felt his heart quail at this questing, in awe, for he sees and he hears

The angry front of old legends, dark, indefinable phantoms,

Rise up with purport forbiddings

Shouting dissent in his ears!

'I've flouted the fates in the battle, breasted the waves of their anger,

To live in the songs of the minstrels; to shine o'er my youth's compeers,

But thou art still dearer than glory pluckt from the brow of destruction-

I go to the Halls of Fiarna! Said Conor of the Spears.

He prest his lips on her forehead

In long, still, passionate kisses,

That seemed like farewells forever,

When hearts are prophetic as seers:

'Mona, should love prove but mortal – a dream pursued by a phantom-

I go to make thee immortal!'

Said Conor of the Spears.

There was feasting that night in Fiarna! The chieftains of ancient Eire

Toasted in amber medher, and welcomed, with ringing cheers,

The bridegroom hitherward coming: they rose to their feet as he entered,

And cried, 'Cead Mile Failte to Conor of the Spears.'

'O son of Miledh the Mighty,

and shades of the ancient hunters,

I come not to drink brown medher with you in your fairy spheres;

I come for the ring of Nooma, to wed with the weeping Mona,

Who waits in her father's palace

For Conor of the Spears!'

'Then drink to the Lady Mona,

for Nooma's ring, that sparkles

On the fairest of fairy fingers,

Will drip up her falling tears!

I drink to the mighty chieftains

Whose swords, like a shield

Of lightening,

Girdled the hills of Eire!' cried

Conor of the Spears.

He drinks of the thrilling medher,

And forth steps the queenly Nooma –

Doubt slips away at her coming!

Hope, which has fled, reappears –

'Bear this to the weeping Mona!

And she slips the ring on his finger!

'Ha, ha! You are wed to Nooma

brave Conor of the Spears!'

Then Mona dropt from his being –

Never for him had existence;

The praises of the bards and the ministrels,

The glory that crowned his years,

Were less than a heated vision

Unremembered at waking,

For Nooma reigned in the spirit

Of Conor of the Spears.

The cold grey eye of the morning

Saw Mona watching and weeping,

Her gaze ever turned to Fiarna

-alas! Through belated tears –

And calling – 'O Nooma! Nooma!

Pity your mortal sister!

Send back, whole-hearted and ringless, my Conor of the Spears!

Oft, like a bride long waiting the hour of the bridegroom's coming,

When life ran loud and the palace echoed with militant cheers,

She stole from the bridal chamber, when moons were high over Fiarna,

To call on the fairy Nooma for Conor of the Spears.

What time the feast of Baalthina lights up the sombre mountains,

Flashing like skies with their star lights, the fairy host appears;

Mona, withered and olden, watches the happy hunters

Till forth, by the side of Nooma,

Rides Conor of the Spears.

She stretches her shriveled fingers up to his golden bridle,

Calls to her love in anguish, faint, as a sigh, he hears,

Sees her white locks, like moonlight; stabs her with looks of pity-

Unredeemed by remembrance!

Oh, Conor of the Spears!

Her life went out like the gloaming that mourns autumnal sunsets

And dies on the russet meadows,

A farewell sigh on the meres;

Tears on he grave grew and flourisht, birds sang and built in their branches,

Till her love was a fireside story

For Conor of the Spears.

When the lakes are fairy mirrors in the ing Irish moonlight,

That flings its veil of silver o'er the consecrated hills,

And the fertile plain of Limerick,

A picture lies before you,

In its frame of circling mountains, while your soul with rapture fills-

Hark unto the hunters' chorus

And the horses' golden clatter,

See who ride adown the valley:

Ladies fair and cavaliers,

From the palace gates of Fiarna

(soul possessors still of Eire!)

And by the side of Nooma rides

Conor of the Spears

In their Tir na nOg they feel not time nor time's mutations;

There they love and live forever-

Love and live and know no tears;

Harping, singing, feasting, hunting, their enjoyment never palling –

So live the fadeless Nooma and Conor of the Spears.


So did Michael Scanlan, of Castlemahon, author of the 'Jackets Green', 'The Bold Fenian Men', 'Limerick is beautiful' and a host of other songs turn, at the last, for a theme to his native county. Seventy years of exile and two thousand thousand miles of ocean did not lessen the love he bore Ireland and those places his boyhood's eyes had feasted on. Father Murray in an article in 'An Raitheachan', has described 'Conor and Mona' as 'a splendid legendary poem in stately flowing verse'.

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