Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 


The Lord Nann and his bride so fair
In early youth united were,
In early youth divided were.
The lady lay-in yesternight
Of twins, their skin as snow was white,
A boy and girl, that glad his sight.
"What doth thy heart desire, loved one,
For giving me so fair a son?
Say, and at once it shall be done.
"A woodcock from the pool of the glyn,
Or roebuck from the forest green?
"The roebuck's flesh is savoury,
But for it thou to the wood should'st hie."
Lord Nann when he these words did hear,
He forthwith grasped his oaken spear,
And vaulting on his coal-black steed
Unto the green-wood hied with speed.
When he unto the wood drew nigh,
A fair white doe he there did spy,
And after her such chase he made,
The ground it shook beneath their tread.
And after her such chase made he,
From his brows the water copiously
And from his horse's sides ran down.
The evening had now come on,
And he came where a streamlet flowed
Fast by a Korrigan's abode;
And grassy turf spread all around.
To quench his thirst he sprang to ground.
The Korrig at her fount sat there
A-combing of her long fair hair.
She combed it with a comb of gold--
These ladies ne'er are poor, we 're told.
"Rash man," cried she, "how dost thou dare
To come disturb my waters fair!
"Thou shalt unto me plight thy fay,
Or seven years thou shalt waste away,
Or thou shalt die ere the third day."
"To thee my faith plight will I ne'er,
For I am married now a year.
"I shall not surely waste away,
Nor shall I die ere the third day;
"I shall not die within three days,
But when it unto God shall please."--
"Good mother, mine, if you love me,
See that my bed made ready be,
For I have ta'en a malady.
"Let not one word to my wife be told;
In three days I shall lie in the mould,
A Korrigan has thus foretold."
And when three days were past and gone,
The young wife asked this question,--
"My mother-in-law, now tell me why
The bells all ring thus constantly?
"And why the priests a low mass sing,
All clad in white, as the bells ring?"
"Last night a poor man died whom we
A lodging gave through charity."
"My mother-in-law, tell me, I pray,
My Lord Nann whither is he gone away?"
"My daughter, to the town he 'a gone,
To see thee he will come anon."
"Good mother-in-law, to church to fare,
Shall I my red or blue gown wear?"
"The custom now is, daughter dear,
At church always in black to appear."
As they crossed o'er the churchyard-wall,
On her husband's grave her eye did fall.
"Who is now dead of our family,
That thus fresh dug our ground I see?"
"Alas! my child, the truth can l
Not hide: thy husband there doth lie."
On her two knees herself she cast
And rose no more, she breathed her last.
It was a marvel to see, men say,
The night that followed the day,
The lady in earth by her lord lay,
To see two oak-trees themselves rear
From the new-made grave into the air;
And on their branches two doves white,
Who there were hopping gay and light;
Which sang when rose the morning-ray
And then toward heaven sped away.
This ballad is very remarkable. Its similarity to that of Sir Olaf, so celebrated in Scandinavia, and of which we have already given two variations out of fifteen, must strike every one; in its concluding stanzas also it resembles other Scandinavian and English ballads. On the other hand, the White Doe and the Korrigan at the fount remind us of the Lais of Marie de France. Our opinion on the whole is, that the ballad belongs to Scandinavia, whence it was brought at an early period--by the Normans, we might say only for its Christian air in both countries--and naturalised in the usual manner. It is rather strange that there is neither an English nor a Scottish version of it.
The next lay, which is entirely composed in tercets, is the story of a changeling. In order to recover her own child the mother is advised by the Virgin, to whom she has prayed, to prepare a meal for ten farm-servants in an eggshell, which will make the Korrid speak, and she is then to whip him well till he cries, and when he does so he will be taken away. The woman does as directed: the Korr asks what she is about: she tells him: "For ten, dear mother, in an eggshell! I have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have seen the acorn before I saw the tree: I have seen the acorn and I have seen the shoot: I have seen the oak in the wood of Brézal, but never saw I such a thing as this." "Thou hast seen too many things, my son," replied she, and began to whip him, when one came crying, "Don't beat him, give him back to me; I have not done yours any injury. He is king in our country." When the woman went home she found her own child sleeping sweetly in the cradle. He opened his eyes and said, "Ah! mother, I have been a long time asleep!"
Among the Welsh legends above related, that of the Fairies Banished has some resemblance to this; but M. Villemarqué says that he was told a changeling-story by the Glamorgan peasantry, precisely the same as the Breton legend. In it the changeling is heard muttering to himself in a cracked voice, "I have seen the acorn before I saw the oak: I have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have never seen the like of this." It is remarkable that these words form a rimed triad or tercet nearly the same with that in the Breton ballad, [a] whence M. Villemarqué is led to suspect that the legend is anterior to the seventh century, the epoch of the separation of the Britons of Wales and Armorica. But as changelings seem to have come from the North, we cannot consent to receive this theory. He also quotes from Geoffrey of Monmouth's Life of Merlin, "There is in this forest," said Merlin the Wild, "an oak laden with years: I saw it when it was beginning to grow... I saw the acorn whence it rose, germinate and become a twig... I have then lived a long time." This would, in our opinion, tend to show that this was an ordinary formula in the British language.
The third, and last of those ballads tells, and not without humour, how Paskou-Hir, i. e., Long-Paskou, the tailor, one Friday evening, entered the abode of the Korred, and there dug up and carried, home a concealed treasure. They pursued him, and came into the court-yard dancing with might and main, and singing,--
Dilun, dimeurs, dimerc'her
Ha diriaou, ha digwoner.
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,
And Thursday, and Friday.
Funding the door secured [b] they mount the roof and break a hole through which they get in, and resume their dance on the floor, still singing, Monday, Tuesday, etc., and calling on the tailor to come and. join them and they would teach him a dance that would crack his back-bone, and they end by telling him that the money of the Korr is good for nothing.
Another version says, that it was a baker who stole the treasure, and, more cunning than the tailor, be strewed the floor of his house with hot ashes and cinders on which the Korred burned their feet. This made them scamper off, but before they went they smashed all his crockery and earthenware. Their words were, "In Iannik-ann-Trevou's house we burnt our horny feet and made a fine mess of his crockery."
The following legend will explain the song of the Korred.

Gweliz mez ken gwelet derven,
Gweliz vi ken gwelet iar wenn,
Erioez ne williz evelhenn.
Gweliz vi ken guelot iar wenn,
Gweliz mez ken gwelet gwezen.
Gweliz mez ha gweliz gwial,
Gweliz derven e Koat Brezal,
Biskoaz na weliz kemend all.
[b] The tailor cries "Shut the door! Here are the little Duz of the night" (Setu ann Duizigou nouz), and St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, c. xxiii.) speaks of "Daemones quos Duscios Galli nuncupant." It may remind us of our own word Deuce.

Next: The Dance and Song of the Korred