| Our Little Celtic Cousin of Long Ago|
|by Evaleen Stein|
|The story of Ferdiad, a boy of Ireland, in the time of High King Brian Boru, when the Danes were pillaging the Irish countryside. How his foster-father Angus becomes poet to the High King and how Ferdiad himself recovers a lost treasure. Gives a glimpse into the customs and social life of the Celts, with special emphasis on their artistic achievements, including the Book of Kells and the stories of Cuculain. Ages 8-10 |
THE BATTLE OF CLONTARF
 SURE enough, at daybreak the next morning there rose
the sound of wild war cries as the Celts rushed out
from their camp toward the Ford of Hurdles. The full
tide was roaring and bellowing across the Lawn of the
Bulls, but its noise was quite drowned as with fierce
cries of their own the Danes sprang to meet them.
"Hark! Hark!" exclaimed Ferdiad as he and Conn jumped
from the ox-cart where they had slept, "the fight has
begun!" As none of the boys were allowed in the way of
the battle but had been ordered to stay behind the
lines, "Let's run up the side of the Hill of Howth," he
said, "we can at least see it from
 there. My, how I wish we could be in it!"
"Don't you, though!" cried Conn longingly as they
scrambled up the steep grassy slopes.
There were others also watching from the Hill; the
doctors who must be ready to help the wounded, the
priests to comfort the dying, and the historians to
write down just what went on. For the Celts liked to
keep an account of all their doings.
The boys stood near these, and as the fight became
fiercer and fiercer of course they grew more and more
"I wonder where the high king is?" said Conn.
"I don't know," answered Ferdiad,—then, "Look!" he
cried, "I believe he is over yonder sitting on a rock!
Can you see?"
"Yes," replied Conn, "and there's a ring of men with
locked shields standing all around him!"
It was indeed the aged high king. His face
 was white and set as if carved from marble, yet his
piercing eyes were brave and fearless as he sat
watching the battle which he was certain would in some
way bring death to him. For the Dane prophecy had sunk
deep into his mind, and nothing could shake his belief
that it would be fulfilled.
Wilder and wilder grew the struggle. Banners fluttered
and fell, and the loud battle cries from thousands of
throats, the clanking of Danish armor and rattling of
spears and shields all mingled in one hoarse roar as
the chariots of the celtic kings rushed hither and
thither and the poets goaded their horses to the front
ranks bravely chanting their songs and inspiring the
courage of the soldiers.
The sun rose higher and higher and the ebbing tide
flowed far out to sea, and still the conflict raged and
none could forsee who would be the victors. Now one
side and now the other seemed gaining the advantage.
to-  ward noon the watchers on the Hill began to despair, for
they could see the yellow tunics of the Celtic soldiers
rolling back in a tawny flood as the gleaming mail of
the Danes swept over them.
Ferdiad and Conn scarcely spoke as breathlessly they
looked, each wondering whether his father or
foster-father still lived or had gone down before the
Danish hosts as had already the son and grandson of the
But Brian Boru was too proud and skillful a warrior to
allow his armies to meet defeat at the hands of pirates
and sea-rovers no matter how many or how powerful.
Still standing white and motionless, watching the plain
through the ring of shields, nevertheless he was all
the while sending swift messengers back and forth
ordering the battle, till at length, as the sunset tide
again surged in, bellowing, over the waterworn
bowlders, the tide of war turned also for the Celts.
 Louder and louder rang the songs of the poets, the
voice of Angus leading them all, as the Celtic kings
and captains rallying their soldiers for a last mighty
effort, rushed resistlessly forward, hurling their
spears, thrusting with their swords and dealing deadly
blows with their battle axes, till suddenly their
Danish foes gave way and fled wildly before them.
At this the boys could hold back no longer, but flying
down the hillside ran toward the seashore where the
victorious Celts were pursuing the Danes, who were
trying to reach the long dragon ships in which they had
come to Ireland and which were moored at the mouth of
the river Liffey. When the tide was low they could
easily wade out to these, but now plunging into the
great green breakers hundreds and hundreds met their
death. Some tried to reach the bridge over the Liffey
which led to their fortress only to find escape cut off
by the brave Celts who had captured and held it.
 When dusk fell, the great army of the Danes was crushed
and defeated. Of those who had not fallen in battle or
been drowned in the roaring tide a few had managed to
escape, but most were prisoners in the hands of the
Celtic soldiers. The Battle of Clontarf was over and
the high king, Brian Boru, had forever broken the power
of the Danes in Ireland.
But what of the high king himself? Had he escaped the
death for which he had waited through all the long day?
No, he had not escaped. Faithfully from early dawn to
sunset the shield men had guarded him in unbroken ring,
and not till the tide of battle turned and the Celts
were pursuing the flying Danes did they relax their
watch. For how could they know that at the very moment
their tired arms dropped to their sides a fugitive
Dane, who had managed to escape the Celtic spears and
crept through the forest and behind the rocks at the
foot of the Hill, would spring
 upon the aged monarch and deal him death with a single
thrust of his sword?
But thus it was the soothsayer's prophecy was
THUS IT WAS THE SOOTHSAYER'S PROPHECY WAS FULFILLED.
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