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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "The Big Poor People"

The Big Poor People

But there is a hope for them. Many, many hundred years will pass away—so many that even the Druid's eye can scarcely see what is at the end of them. But at last there shall come strange men across the sea to Erin—men with shaven heads. They shall build houses and shall set up tables in the east ends of their houses, and they shall ring bells. And when the swans that were the children of Lir shall hear the first sound of these bells, they shall have their human shape again, and then they shall be happy forever. But she—the gray vulture—she shall fly in the sky, where it is stormy and cold. Where there are thick clouds and where the rain is made, there shall be her home. She shall not fly where the heaven is blue and where the sun shines warm. The bells of the good men from over the sea shall bring her no peace. Her way shall be with the wind and the hail. If she has any rest it shall be on the peak of some wet crag, where the snow whirls around her, or the fog drives past her, or the sleet cuts against her, or the cold spray of the sea dashes over her. And it shall be so with her till the Day of Doom.'

"When the King had finished speaking the gray vulture flew away, and she was never seen again. But the King and all the court rode in chariots to the lake where the white swans were, and Lir and all his people came there, too, when they heard what had been done. And there they all stood and listened to the singing of the four swans. So beautiful was the song that those who listened could think of nothing else while they heard it. They left their horses and their chariots and stood on the shore of the lake and listened to the enchanting music, and never thought of food, or of drink, or of sleep. Even the horses listened to the song as the people did. Day and night they stood there, and many days and nights, and no hunger came upon them, and they felt no cold and no heat, and no wind and no wet.

"But the time came when the enchantment that was upon them compelled the four white swans to leave the place.

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