Text: Saor do leannan, a Leamhain

This song was composed c. 1200 by the Irish poet Muireadhach Ó Dálaigh for the Earl of Lennox (called “Alún” in Gaelic). The Lennox is a region in Scotland named for the river Leven, which flows from the southern edge of Loch Lomond into the river Clyde. It is likely that Muireadhach composed this while visiting Scotland on a poetic circuit. He later seems to have sought refuge in Scotland and become the official poet of the Earl after he fled for his life from Ireland.

This text was adapted by Michael Newton from the translation in Newton, Bho Chluaidh, 43-5.

§ 1. Your lover is noble, o Leven; (he is) Alún, the young son of Muireadhach: his wavy hair is bright; the descendant of Lughaidh from Liathmhuine.

§ 2. You have been fortunate with fair young men since you were married to the first: the son of the King of Balloch who was destined to have Leven as his lover.

§ 3. In the era of the ancient kings your name was “Short River,” until Corc of Munster came across the water with rippling tresses of hair over his eyes.

§ 4. And then Fearadhach the White came, the son of the King of Scotland of the golden coverlets; he made a marriage alliance with Corc after he came to be ruler.

§ 5. I think it was good that Fearadhach gave his daughter to fair-haired Corc; she was the talk of Tara of Meath; “Leven” was the name of the girl.

§ 6. Leven conceived a royal child, Maine the son of long-haired Corc; she nursed the fledgling at her breast for Corc of Cashel of the hounds.

§ 7. One day Leven, the mother of Maine of the long fingers, and a group of women of the fairest feet were swimming at the mouth of the river.

§ 8. Leven, the daughter of Fearadhach, was drowned on the edge of the beach; you, o river, were named Leven after that happened; it does not hurt to recount the tale.

§ 9. Few were the steps of the foreign troops along your green banks, o river; frequently did you experience, the son of the hind [i.e., the stag] around your estuaries, o Leven.

§ 10. Young Alún, the son of Muireadhach of the smooth roads, grew up around you; the hue of his young hands was handsome; that first Alún was the son of your waters.

§ 11. Young Alún the descendant of Oilill never drank alone; the offshoot of the dynasty of Alún and a hundred others drink from the same vessel.

§ 12. The Earl of the Lennox of the smooth cheeks, the excellent son of the daughter of Ailín, has fair hand, body, foot: noble is your lover, o Leven.

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