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Ailbe
by Michael Ellis

 
Today I just slumber in the warm sun,
Wag my tail and go for a run,
And people say, "Is it a dog or a horse?"
As I stand by my master, obedient of course!
 
Oh . . . look into my eyes, can you not see,
Through the mists of time to Inisfree?
In my blood flows the strength to pull a wolf down,
Know you not of 'Ailbe', the Hound of Renown?
 
Owned by Mesroida, the King of Leinster,
And coveted by the Kings of Connacht and Ulster!
A king's ransom to buy just one of my breed,
To own the hound of such strength and speed!
 
Six thousand milch cows and a chariot of war,
And two fine horses to pull it, what's more,
The same to be given again after a year,
Never has there been a sale so dear!
 
Now Mesroida could not sell the same dog twice,
Only one would have the chance to pay the price.
Would it be the King of Ulster or that of Connacht,
Who would meet the cost of the dog he sought?
 
Mesroida told both sides they could each have the beast,
And as the rival factions came face to face at the feast,
Tempers were lost and red blood did spill,
While laughing Mesroida watched from o' top of a hill.
 
At the height of the battle, amidst the mayhem,
The hound sprang to assist the Ulstermen.
Clash of steel upon steel rang out like a bell,
The growls of the dog were like the Hound of Hell!
 
He seized the axe-arm of the Connacht Prince.
The crush of his teeth made the nobleman wince,
Clarion call of retreat sounded clear through the mist,
The Hound and the Ulstermen were too strong to resist.
 
 Horses and chariots raced away o'er the heath,
While the dog held the Prince in a grip of death!
The Prince cried for help with all of his might,
As the Connacht army withdrew in full flight.
 
A charioteer, with one sweep of his sword,
Severed the dog's head with ne'er a word,
Yet such was the power in the clamp of its teeth,
That the head gripped the arm from Ballagmoon to Westmeath!
 
Away cross the river, the spume flying fast,
With his war-blade he prised the jaws open at last.
It splashed in the water and with one accord,
It was known from then after as 'Hound's Head Ford'.
Or spoken in Gaelic as 'Ath Cind Chon'.
Ailbe the Hound of Heroes lives on!
 
My breed has spread from Athens to Rome,
From the wild Black Sea to green Erin, my home.
I've vanquished huge Mastiffs in the bloody Roman games,
Protected a child from a ferocious wolf's aims,
 
And you ask me if I am a horse or a dog,
I am neither, you fool, can you not see through the fog?
I'm the Great Hound of Ireland, most noble of breed,
Renowned for my loyalty, love, beauty and speed.
 
 
 
 
 
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