September 7: The Irish, masters of romance


Today we dip into the Irish legends -- "The Destruction of Da Derga's Hostel" -- and, I don't know if you know any Irish guys, but apparently they're leg men to a very fine level of detail:

There she was, undoing her hair to wash it, with her arms out through the sleeve-holes of her smock....White as the foam of a wave was the flank, slender, long, tender, smooth, soft as wool. Polished and warm, sleek and white were the two thighs. Round and small, hard and white the two knees. Short and white and rulestraight the two shins. Justly straight and beautiful the two heels. If a measure were put on the feet it would hardly have found them unequal, unless the flesh of the coverings should grow upon them.
When I lived in New York I knew I guy who wanted to have a public access show in which he would play soul music and show pictures of women's feet, but even he, I think, was not a heel man, particularly. As for the knees, I guess they were more important in ancient Ireland -- all the floors to scrub, etc.

This woman, named Etáin, is the grandmother of our hero Conaire -- the man with a name like a 50s car mode, who is to be destroyed at the hostel. Conaire's story has its points of interest, but the courtship of Etáin and Eochaid is enjoyable to the fan of romance. It's quick, but with knees like she's got, who wouldn't fall hard?
The king asked tidings of her and said, while announcing himself: “Shall I have an hour of dalliance with thee?”

“’Tis for that we have come hither under thy safeguard,” quoth she.

“Query, whence art thou and whence hast thou come?” says Eochaid.

“Easy to say,” quoth she. “Etáin am I, daughter of Etar, king of the cavalcade from the elfmounds. I have been here for twenty years since I was born in an elfmound. The men of the elfmound, both kings and nobles, have been wooing me: but nought was gotten from me, because ever since I was able to speak, I have loved thee and given thee a child’s love for the high tales about thee and thy splendour....

...
“Thou shalt have welcome, and for thee every other woman shall be left by me, and with thee alone will I live so long as thou hast honour.”

“My proper bride-price to me!” she says, “and afterwards my desire.”

“Thou shalt have both,” says Eochaid.
Done! She got some cows -- that was the bride-price. Note that Etáin has been longing for this man all her life and still she insists on the cows before she's ready to seal the deal. That girl has her head screwed on right.

My favorite thing here, needless to say, is when the guy says "Query." Starting off with "Query" never worked for me when I used it back in the day, but looking at it I see that I never followed it up with the all-important "whence." Also: "elfmounds." If that doesn't get the D&D players going, I don't know what will.

Fans of doom foretold will want to read on and find out about Conaire -- giving you true 9 m.p.g. luxury for 1957! -- and the destruction, etc. I will only say that Conaire gets the kingdom under the following impossible conditions:
“Thou shalt not go righthandwise round Tara and lefthandwise round Bregia."

“The evil-beasts of Cerna must not be hunted by thee.

“And thou shalt not go out every ninth night beyond Tara.

“And three Reds shall not go before thee to Red’s house.

“And no rapine shall be wrought in thy reign."
No rapine? Sheesh. I wouldn't be king at all, under those conditions.

0 comments: