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The Celtic Warrior by Russell Barnett.Dedicate to a good friend and true modern Celtic hero, Mark Tayburn

Grey rock strewn hills glower down,
As the powerful foreigner makes his way,
His battle scarred visage hard arrogant,
Confidence lighting powerful frown,
Noble warrior with royal warrant,
Fearless strides to Uig on a fated day;


His duty to draw out tribute due,
To his alien master cruel king,
Slaughterer of native nobles of old,
Bloody trickery cowardly won this land,
No deed beneath this unchecked man,
Yet his bards of bravest battle told,
Island warriors lie under evil smarting;

Hard proved war axe fills the Viking's vice like fist,
Battle scarred shield on iron arm,
Bloody daughters of slaughter both had kissed,
Running red through the charnel his fearless cry,
Exultant he in the raven's charm,
No hint in him of his day to die;

Yet by fast flowing waters anvil like stood,
Hard as the ancient rock a young warrior proud,
Heart set deep in vengeance dire,
His challenge heated by bravery loud,
Sucked in the air like Gobhan's fire,
Stunning Viking quarry, draining his mood;

His young hand holds a long sword unnamed,
Steel edges thirsting for deeds to be famed,
His targe emblem swift sea eagle claimed,
Bareheaded he of Colla's pedigree,
Celtic heart forged hard against the tyranny,
Of perjured kingship staining this land once free,
Coldly his gaze cross the river ran,
Holding hard to that of that king's own man;

Each side of the river a warrior of honour,
Each man then bearing a cause to die for,
Love of homeland or duty to king,
Soon their blood would run to weapons singing;
Stepping both into the water fast flowing,
Toward their foe advancing,
Air between them rippling,
Sparks from cold steel soon hot would be dancing;

Yet their weapons were still to be raised,
As each the opponent carefully appraised,
Halting but one arm's length apart,
To measure the courage in the other's heart;

The Viking spoke his mind,
"Boy this is no place to be,
Though you be of height and build with me,
I would rather a fair fight with liker kind;
I have struggled with beasts and slain them,
Torn the hearts from many others, maimed them,
Carnage witnessed yet holding hard and true,
It will be too easy to quarter you;
Be off to your hovel and hide your sword,
Til the day your mind can keep its word,
I give you leave, I will forget this impudence,
Come back when ye have experience. "

"Young kern though I may be,
Do not let your eyes deceive your mind,
Battle flaunts no fear at me,
For this day I have well trained,
Acquaint your soul to fight with death's totality,
When we are done to give honour to thee,
My virgin sword will bear your name.

As to why I bar your way here;
Your King too often descends with a curtain of fire,
That he raises through our hard worked isles,
Corpses of Celt and Viking litter these lands,
None are safe from his wanton raging hands,
Our houses are smoke rising mile on miles,
Corpse maker he proffering death,
Terror taker of even sweet children's breath,
Deep wader in bloody mire and hellish fire,
He steals our young blades for his battles,
In his vanguard then their throats' death rattle,
Mother and daughter he enslaves and worse,
Yet loyal songs he demands we sing,
Such is your wretched treacherous king.
A demented demon he, a devil's curse;
If you would defend that insult to your loyalty,
Then raise your rage to counter me."
Then lineage they recite too long to recall,
To confirm their nobility sound withal,
The as Uigeach reached behind his back,
Viking axe almost snuffed his life,
But stone faces then a smile did crack,
He offered up a flask and not a knife;
Uisge beatha passed each man's lips,
Tingling warmth sped to fingertips,
Manners requited they take their places,
Courage running high as a flooded river races,
A nod to the other then weapons raised,
Both broach the water in murderous rage;

Seeking flesh blades cleave air,
Steel bites steel, targe and shield,
Time sees bruising, stabbings, slices,
Testing flesh young strong bones wear,
Ferocious struggle no tricks or devices,
Bloody wounds dye water neither yield,
Hours pass but on they frenzied fight,
Deep into the island's summer bright night,
Blow on blow, thrust, swing, parry,
Slow one will then the other rally,
Muscles spasm, lungs gulp the air,
Eyes meet, a question both minds share,
Halt awhile, both wordless agreed,
To their separate banks both recede;

Wounds are bound or simply sewn,
Weapons re-edged on passable stone,
Food devoured, a draft from the flask,
No words spoken, no questions to ask,
The minutes of silence stretch an age,
Then back to the struggle with renewed rage;

Showering sparks,
Glancing weapons meet,
Swords seeks flesh,
Axe sword to defeat,
Targe punch draws blood,
Shield edge slams thigh,
Blades flash in the sun,
Newly rising in the sky,
Terror-some axe passes high,
Skilled swordplay meets shaft,
Hardwood shatters asunder,
Fear like thunder rocks Viking heart,
Useless empty shaft thrown,
He seeks his own sword,
Desperate move never made,
New sword sweep arm from body part;
As the Celtic warrior victory views,
Despair in the Viking courage renews,
Raising shield high he charges,
With a roar that fills the new day's air,
Surprise gained he hits the swordsman square,
Into the bloodied river they fall,
But with his last play the Norseman gave all,
His battle rage has finally bled away;

Royally bred opponent honours this soul,
Who for ill-met king faced painful strife,
Knowing he is a threat no more,
He gently bears his foe to shore,
Only minutes remain to his life,
Beckoned, he lends his ear,
To whatever a dying man might share;

"Young Celt you bleed as I do,
See the gaping wounds I gave you,
Manfully with skill you fought on,
When others would have succumbed,
Your gods of battle surely attend thee;
A shining wall of steel you raised,
Dazzling my senses draining my will,
As our crimson sap stained water red,
Doubt fury abated, ruled in it's stead,
The specter of death rising fast to claim me,
Worthy foe dictating his finality,
Undeserved, yet I beg one last charity;
In Valhalla's hall my ancient gods dwell,
My last wish is to join them there,
But their Valkiries cannot ascend my soul,
Without a sword in hand,
I have no strength to draw it,
Nor intent to use it,
Please place it in my palm,
Give me in death that final balm."

"Norseman your master took the cross,
Promised the saints his host would too,
I am at a loss. What should a Christian do?
That question remains for your dying heart,
It not being one my own would hear,
My father grants each man his own faith,
The Valkiries shall find their hero in death;
But when your body has drawn last breath,
I shall need your head for Mannanan mac Lir."

Grey rock strewn hills glowered down,
On the altar shaped boulder on river's bank,
Black blood encrusted, stinking, dank,
It's cargo a message clear and striking,
Seen by usurper king and his men of rank,
Headless, wound rivened corpse, a Viking,
Dreary rain washed blood to the river still,
Rubied water, rended flesh, drained viewers' will,
Yet the corpse's hand clung fast to a sword,
Our heroic Celt had kept his word.

The angry sovereign broke the silence;
"Bravest, best made, best warrior at arms,
He fought and won many battles for me,
His quick wit and hand filled my halls with laughter,
Beautiful women won easy by his charms,
His wisdom in council was key,
Yet hereafter;
I strike his name and deeds from memory,
No song shall praise his past victories,
Our kith and kin shall recall him as craven,
Neither fiery ship nor vengeance shall we seek,
Leave his flesh to feed the crow and raven,
Example to all who would be so weak."

Words thus spoken by faithless, baseless, king,
Sewed weed seeds to strangle his fruitless reign,
True native noble blood would rule in his stead,
One in whose hall hung an honoured head,
A man from whose seed great clans would spring,
True Lord of the Isles, bold Somerled.

Those great grey rocks still glower down,
On that river, that ancient battleground,
Where bleeding wounded warriors staggered,
Thus was she named, Abhainn Dearg.

M L J Whyte Feehan
12 October 2011

Graphics by Russell Barnett -  Wonderful!


Contact Details

Abhainn Dearg Distillery
Isle of Lewis
Outer Hebrides

V.A.T Reg: 658380016

Telephone: 01851 672429


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