The Bride's Death Song, a Tale from Co. MAyo

This tale was collected by Jane Wilde, Lady Speranza, William's wife and mother of the famous Irish writer Oscar Wilde. It was published first in her work: "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms and Superstitions of Ireland", London, Ward & Downey, 1887.

The Tale

An old man and his daughter, Eileen, lived on a little island off the West Coast; he had power over the water spirits and he taught the young girl how to control them.

One day he discovered a boat on the sea-shore and in it he found a young man cold and wet. He brought him home and his daughter looked after him lovingly. Eileen and the young man, whose name was Dermot, soon fell in love. Dermot asked her to marry him and told her that he had a beautiful house, silks to wear and gold to spend. So the wedding day was fixed, but he wanted to come back to the mainland in order to bring back his relatives and friends, as many as the boat would hold, for that day.

Eileen wept and prayed him not to leave the little island for she knew a danger was coming and to bring her on the boat; she couldn't tell him her power on the waves and waters. He laughed about that and set off from the shore. He landed on the mainland safely and filled the boat with friends and relatives. During the crossing coming back all went well until they sighted the little island. Suddenly a fierce gust of wind dashed the boat against the rocks, it crashed and all people died.

Standing on the beach Eileen heard the cry of the drowning people, but she couldn't help them. She was so deeply sad for her lover that she sang a funeral wail for him in Irish, which is still preserved by the natives, and then she died while her father disappeared.

It is said that the mournful music of her wail is still heard by night when the winds blow in gusts and the waves beat upon the rocks where the drowned people lay dead.

Eileen's Death-Song
I am a virgin and a widow mourn for my lover.
Never more will he kiss me on the lips;
The cold wave is his bridal bed,
The cold wave is his wedding shroud.
O love, my love, had you brought me in the boat
My spirit and my spells would have saved from harm.
For my power was strong over waves and wind,
And the spirits of evil would have feared me.
O love, my love, I go to meet you in Heaven.
I will ask God to let me see your face.
If the fair angels give me back my lover,
I will not envy the Almighty on His throne.