A Year and a Day
Many times the saint talked with him and tried to make him a Christian, but Oisin could think of nothing but the grand days of the Fenians. When St. Patrick talked with him he would begin to tell of these, and he would make the poems about them that have been kept till now and give us what we know of Finn McCool and his heroes. And these poems Patrick would have written down. And always Oisin was mourning for the brave old days of Finn McCool or for the days of Tir-na-n-Oge, which seemed to him now still farther off.
"Old as he was now, with the heavy weight of more than three hundred years upon him, blind and weak, there was one thing in which Oisin felt himself a better man that St. Patrick or any of his band. St. Patrick and all those who were with him fasted much, and when they ate it was frugally, of bread and the herbs of the field, and but little meat. But this was not enough for Oisin. He remembered how he and his fellow-huntsmen used to follow the deer and kill it, and dress it, and cook it on the moor in the fresh, cool evening, and feast till it was time to sleep, and then wake and follow the deer again. And so the food which was given to him in St. Patrick's house seemed poor and scanty to him.
"He said this to the cook and others in the house, and they made sport of him, because so old a man as he should wish to eat so much. Then he told them tales of the days of his father, how great and strong the men of Erin were then, how much more fertile the land was, and of the great beasts and the great trees and plants and vines that it brought forth. In those days, he said, the leg of a lark was as large as a leg of mutton now, a berry of the wild ash was as large as a sheep, and an ivy leaf as broad as a shield.
"They all laughed at him the more when he said these things, and they did not believe a word of it all. 'Alas!' he said, 'how can I show you that what I say is true? The dear heroes whom I knew are all gone. I am left alone to mourn for them, among men who do not even believe how great they were.