(Adapted by John Halstead from “Lament of the Old Woman of Beare”, 10th c. CE, Ireland)
Ebb tide has come to me as the sea.
The sea crawls from the shore, leaving weeds like a corpse’s hair.
The sea slouches away from me, leaving me with salt on my lips.
Time was the sea brought kings as slaves to me.
Now the sea brings only images of the drifting dead.
Women love only riches now.
But when we lived, we loved men,
young men whose horses galloped in the open plain,
beating lighting from the ground.
I loved such men.
I feasted by the light of many bright candles.
Now I pray in the darkness of the oratory.
I drank my fill of wine and mead with kings,
their eyes lingering on my hair.
Now I drink the bitter dregs with shriveled hags and my hair is gray.
My skin, where glorious kings once pressed their lips, is now tight and thin.
My arms that once practiced the pleasant craft,
caressing the bodies of comely youths, are now bony and thin.
Then I wore garments of every hue and a cloak of green.
Now the veil that covers my hair is black and mean.
The wine thrilled me to my fingertips.
And I stretched at the side of him who would take me briefly for his bride.
The storms have long since reached the stone chair of the kings.
Their tombs are old and crumbling.
The maidens rejoice when May Day comes to them.
But I have spent the summer of my youth.
I hold no sweet converse.
No gelded rams are killed for my wedding feast.
What the flood-tide brings, the ebb-tide takes away.
I have known the flood and I have known the ebb.
The sun does not touch me.
In me I feel the cold.
But still a seed burns there.
The time is at hand that shall renew me.