Dagda’s Harp

Once upon a time there were to very different kinds of people in Ireland. One kind had long dark hair and dark eyes. They were called Fomorians and carried long slender spears when they fought. the other kind of people had gold hair and blue eyes. They carried short, blunt, and heavy spears of dull metal.
The golden-haired people had a great chieftain and high priest called Dagda, and Dagda had a wonderful magic harp. The harp was beautiful to look upon, crafted if rare wood, and ornamented with jewels and gold. The harp had wonderful music in its strings which only Dagda could call forth. When the men were going out to battle, Dagda would set up his magic harp and sweep his hand across the strings. Then, a war song would ring out and make every warrior buckle his armor, brace his knees, and shout, “Forth to fight!”
And when the men came back weary and wounded, Dagda would take his harp and strike a few chords. The magic music stole into the air and every warrior forgot his weariness and wounds and began to think of the honor he had won, the comrade who had died beside him, and the safety of his wife and children. Then the music would swell louder and every man would only remember the glory that had won for their king, and each man would rise at the great tables, cup in hand, and declare, “Long live the king!”
There came a time when the Fomorians and the golden-haired people were at war. In the midst of the great war, when Dagda’s hall was not as well guarded as usual, some of the Fomorian chieftains stole the great harp from the wall and fled. Their wives, children, and a few soldiers went with them. They fled as fast and far through the night until they were far away from the battlefield. There they thought they were safe and so they turned aside into a vacant castle by the road. They sat down to a banquet and hung the stolen harp on the wall.
Dagda, and two or three of his warriors, had been following them. While the Fomorians were in the midst of their banquet, the doors suddenly burst open, and Dagda stood there with his men. Some of the Fomorians jumped to their feet but befor they could grasp their weapons, Dagda shouted, “Come to me, O my harp!”
The harp recognized its master’s voice and leaped from the wall. It whirled through the hall, killing any man that got in its way, until it sprang into its master’s hand. Dagda took his harp and swept his hand across the strings in three solemn chords. The harp answered with the magic Music of Tears. As the wailing harmony smote the air, the women of the Fomorians bowed their heads and wept bitterly, the strong men turned their faces asie, and the childen sobbed.
Again Dagda played some chords, and this time the magic Music of Mirth leaped from the harp. When they heard the music, the Fomorians began to laugh. They laughed till their cups fell from their hands, while the wine flowed from broken bowls. They laughed until their limbs were helpless with glee.
Once more, Dagda touched his harp, but very, very softly. Now the music that stole forth was as soft as dreams and as sweet as joy; the magic Music of Sleep. When the heard that the Fomorian women gently, gently bowed their heads in slumber. The men nodded and young warriors drooped in their seats and closed their eyes. One after the other the Fomorians began to fall asleep.
When they were all in a deep slumber, Dagda took his magic harp, and he and his golden-haired warriors stole softly away and came to the safety of their own homes again.


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