THE KING WITH THE HORSE'S EARS...concluded

From Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts by Patrick Kennedy

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The doctor was hardly out of the house when Thigue was up, and creeping off to the wood. He was afraid to stop, for fear he'd be seen, till he got into the heart of it, where two paths crossed one another. There was a nice sally tree at the spot, and so Thigue went no farther; but cut the bark in a down gash, and stooped down, and whispered into it, "Da Chluais Chapail ar Labhradh Loingseach." And the maning of them words is, "The two ears of a horse has Lora Lonshach."

Well, the poor fellow was hardly done whispering, when he felt as if a mountain was lifted off his back. He'd be out of the wood home again in three jumps, only for the wakeness of hunger that was on him, and that he never felt while the secret was troubling him. A neighbour, that was strainin' her dinner on the flags outside of her door, just as he got into the town, seein' him go by so miserable-lookin', made him come in, and never did he enjoy such a dinner of good potatoes and milk before or since.

Well, with the joy, and the five guineas, and that, himself and his mother lived like fightin' cocks for a long time; but the day twelvemonth was drawing near, when he'd have to cut the king's long hair again, and his mornings began to grow very dismal on him. But, before the day come round, there was great coming and going; for the other four kings of Ireland were invited, along with all the lords and ladies that choose to travel so far, to listen to a great match of harp-playing between Craftine, the king's harper, and any one that had the consate to play again him.

Well and good, a week before the day appointed, the harper found some cracks or worm-holes, or some meea or other in his instrument, and so he went into the wood to look for the makings of a new one. Where should bad luck send him but to the very sally that Thigue told his secret to! He cut it down, and fashioned it into the finest harp that ever you see (an' the dickens a harp ever I saw but on a halfpenny); and when he tried it, he was enchanted himself, such beautiful music as it played!

So at last the great day came, and the streets wor filled with coaches and horses, and the big hall in the palace was crammed. The king was on his high throne, and the four other kings were before him, and behind him, and at one side of him, and at the other; and the great lords and ladies were round the open place in the centre where all the harpers were sitting; and all such people as you and me surrounded the quality, till you couldn't put the blade of a knife between the walls and themselves.

So the king gave the word of command, and up got Craftine, and the music he made was so mournful that those who couldn't cover their faces put a cross look on themselves to hide their grief. This didn't please the king; so he waved his hand, and Craftine struck up a jig, and so bothered were they all, gentle and simple, that they had no room for dancing, that they shouted out for merriment, and any one that had a hat or a cap flung it up to the rafters. By and by he got afeared that they would all rush in on himself and the other harpers for dancing room, and he changed the air to "Brian Boru's March." Well, they were not so uproarious while it was playing; but the blood was galloping through their veins like mad. Every one that had room drew his sword, and waved it over his head (and such a clatter as these swords made striking one another!), and every one cried out the war-cry of his own chief or king. This wouldn't do at all for a continuance; so he changed his hand, and made such music as angels do when they are welcoming good souls to heaven. Every one shut their eyes and leaned back, and hoped that the beautiful tune would never come to an end.

But it was forced to come to an end, and the harper let his arms fall on his knees, and every one sighed and groaned for being brought back to the world again. You may depend that Craftine was praised, and gold and silver was thrown in showers to him. Then the harpers of Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and Ulster tried their hands, and, sure enough, fine music flew out from under these hands; but all did not come within miles of Craftine's. So when they stopped, says the king to his harper, "Give us one tune more to finish decently, and put all that we invited in good humour for their dinner. I'm afraid if you go on in this way the King of Greece or the Emperor of Moroco will be sending for you one of these days." "By your hand, my king," says Craftine, "I'm afeard of the same harp. It wasn't my fingers at all that struck out that music; it was the music that stirred my fingers. There's some pishrogue on the instrument, and I'm in dread it will play us some trick." "Oh, trick be hanged!" says the king; "play away." "Well," says the other, "I must obey your majesty--why shouldn't I? Here goes!"

Well, his fingers hardly touched the strings, when they felt like sand-paper that was powdered with nettle-tops, and out they roared as if thunder was breaking over the roof, and a thousand men were smashing stones. Every one was going to stop his ears, but a loud voice began to shout out from the strings that were keeping hold of Craftine's fingers, "Da Chluais Chapail ar Labhradh Loingseach!"

Well, to be sure! how the people were frightened, and how they looked at the unfortunate sinner of a king, that didn't know whether he was standing on his feet or his head, and would give half Ireland to be ten miles under ground that moment. He put up his poor hands to his head, not knowing what he was doing, and, bedad, in his fumbling he loosed the band of his birredh, and up flew the two long hairy ears. Oh, what a roar came from the crowd! Lora wasn't able to stand it; he fell in a stugue down from his throne, and in a few minutes he had the hall to himself, barring his harper and some of his old servants.

They say that when he came to himself, he was very sorry for all the poor barbers that he put out of the way, and that he pensioned their wives and mothers; and when there was no secret made of it, Thigueen made no more work about docking him than he would about you or me. Only for all the blood he got shed he'd never be made the holy show he was in the sight of people from all parts within the four seas of Ireland.

End of this Story

But for fear of being detected, we should willingly claim this as an original Celtic legend. But alas! the learned in classic mythology would soon humble our national vanity by quoting that troublesome old Midas of Asia Minor, renowned for the fatal pair of ass's ears bestowed on him by Apollo, the secret told to the reeds, the minstrel fashioning a Pandean pipe out of these reeds, and the treacherous miniature organ squeaking out, "King Midas has the ears of an ass!"

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