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Main > Scotland folktales > Fairy tale "Elphin Irving"

Elphin Irving

“As the traveller continued to gaze, the figure suddenly rose, and, wringing the rain from her long locks, paced round and round the tree, chanting in a wild and melancholy manner an equally wild and delirious song.


The small bird’s head is under its wing,

The deer sleeps on the grass;

The moon comes out, and the stars shine down,

The dew gleams like the glass:

There is no sound in the world so wide,

Save the sound of the smitten brass,

With the merry cittern and the pipe

Of the fairies as they pass.

But oh! the fire maun burn and burn,

And the hour is gone, and will never return.

The green hill cleaves, and forth, with a bound,

Comes elf and elfin steed;

The moon dives down in a golden cloud,

The stars grow dim with dread;

But a light is running along the earth,

So of heaven’s they have no need:

O’er moor and moss with a shout they pass,

And the word is spur and speed—

But the fire maun burn, and I maun quake,

And the hour is gone that will never come back.

And when they came to Craigyburnwood,

The Queen of the Fairies spoke:

“Come, bind your steeds to the rushes so green,

And dance by the haunted oak:

I found the acorn on Heshbon Hill,

In the nook of a palmer’s poke,

A thousand years since; here it grows!”

And they danced till the greenwood shook:

But oh! the fire, the burning fire,

The longer it burns, it but blazes the higher.

“I have won me a youth,” the Elf Queen said,

“The fairest that earth may see;

This night I have won young Elph Irving

My cupbearer to be.

His service lasts but seven sweet years,

And his wage is a kiss of me.”

And merrily, merrily, laughed the wild elves

Round Corris’s greenwood tree.

But oh! the fire it glows in my brain,

And the hour is gone, and comes not again.

The Queen she has whispered a secret word,

“Come hither my Elphin sweet,

And bring that cup of the charméd wine,

Thy lips and mine to weet.

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