Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish

Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish

4.3 13
by Morgan Llywelyn

View All Available Formats & Editions

Morgan Llywelyn's Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish is the tale of the coming of the Irish to Ireland, and of the men and women who made that emerald isle their own.

Amergin, chief bard and druid of the tribe of Milesios, lives in a world without poetry. In bleak Iberia, his people would rather do battle than make great art, and Amergin can only dream of

…  See more details below


Morgan Llywelyn's Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish is the tale of the coming of the Irish to Ireland, and of the men and women who made that emerald isle their own.

Amergin, chief bard and druid of the tribe of Milesios, lives in a world without poetry. In bleak Iberia, his people would rather do battle than make great art, and Amergin can only dream of a home free from bloodshed. All this changes when Amergin's new servant, a shipwright named Sakkar, tells him of Ierne, a green and fertile land to the north.

Joined by his warlike brothers and tribe, Amergin leads his people across the seas to their new home. But when they arrive on Ierne, they are confronted by a mysterious people who will one day fuel legend and myths: the Tuatha Dé Danann, people of the Goddess Danu. Amergin and his tribe decide to fight for their adopted country, touching off a conflict that will change the face of Ireland forever.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Magic and words and war. It makes for a wonderful book.”
The Washington Post

“By deftly reworking Ireland's ancient myths and legends, Morgan Llywelyn has made Bard ring with Celtic spirit.”
Los Angeles Times

“She brings the legends of Ireland to life and presents us with characters who are living, breathing individuals, with all the strengths and weaknesses of the humans who walk the earth today.”
Irish Echo 

“A stunning novel that brilliantly evokes the times and the people... a full-bodied historical novel sure to be savored by many.”

“The most intriguing of [Lywelyn's] warrior/mystic/romance concoctions.”
Kirkus Reviews

The Washington Post

Magic and words and war. It makes for a wonderful book.
Los Angeles Times

By deftly reworking Ireland's ancient myths and legends, Morgan Llywelyn has made Bard ring with Celtic spirit.
Irish Echo

She brings the legends of Ireland to life and presents us with characters who are living, breathing individuals, with all the strengths and weaknesses of the humans who walk the earth today.

A stunning novel that brilliantly evokes the times and the people... a full-bodied historical novel sure to be savored by many.

Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Celtic World of Morgan Llywelyn Series, #2
Edition description:
Second Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.10(w) x 6.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish

By Llywelyn, Morgan

Tor Books

Copyright © 1987 Llywelyn, Morgan
All right reserved.

See a tall man pacing alone on the twilight beach, caught between the dying day and the incoming tide. Smell the moist air, heavy with salt. Hear the lapping of waves slapping the shore, the hiss of their withdrawal, their rushing return. Tide flirting with sand, seducing, inviting, whispering tales from beyond the dark sea.
Dark sea, fading light, and an old familiar restlessness combined to haunt Amergin the bard. All his life he had suffered an itch in his soul, a formless yearning that blew toward him on the north wind. The green wind, he named it to himself, for to Amergin it seemed laden with verdant aromas from some fair otherworld existing only in his imagination. Yet the north wind persisted in torturing him with hints of that achingly beautiful and unreal land, his heart's home.
Amergin had never felt truly at home anywhere, even inside his own skin. Tonight the mood was particularly strong, driving him to stalk the beach and endure his melancholy with gritted teeth.
For once Clarsah did not ride his shoulder. Evening wind off the sea could damage the voice of a harp. But in a way Clarsah was always with him, for she was an intimate part of the man, her music constantly in his thoughts. In the gradually deepening twilight he began trying to capture the essence of the songs he heard on the wind and shape them to fit the harp's capabilities.
But tonight the oceanseemed to be a sentient presence, willfully intruding on his efforts at composition. He found himself gazing toward the horizon again and again, as if he expected to see...what? Some goddess shaped from waves and foam to dispel his loneliness?
Lust flickered through Amergin, random as heat lightning.
He shook his head, wryly amused at himself. Even a druid's vision could not see a goddess where none existed, or summon the spirit of the ocean herself and clothe her in flesh for his pleasure. Druid vision, like druid talent, was a sometime thing, not under a man's control. Its occurrence and usage were chosen by the spirits for their own communication. Amergin, bard and druid, understood this all too well.
Yet Amergin the man still longed to grasp his elusive gift firmly and use it, somehow, to shape something better...
He paused and bent to strip off his sandals, knotting their thongs together so he could sling them over his shoulder. He had an urge to walk barefoot and let the damp, sunwarmed sand ooze between his toes.
He watched a lace of foam run up the beach and skitter back, glowing with hoarded luminosity. What was the source of such light and how was it held? he wondered. The tide painted serpentines on the sand and he bent to study them, curious to know what artisan had designed such graceful patterns and taught the sea to reproduce them. Amergin felt the glamour of a mystery beyond even druid knowledge and wished there were someone to whom he could express his thoughts. But he was singularly alone.
When he was a small child, enthusiasm had bubbled up in him like a wellspring and he reached out to everyone, trying to touch, eager to share. Each new discovery of beauty or wonder delighted the young Amergin almost beyond bearing. But when he tugged at the nearest arm--"Look, oh, look!"--his clanspeople pulled away impatiently, or offered him the polite patronization adults substitute for interest. The assumed the little boy's excitement would fade when the spirit newly housed in his body grew accustomed to the world around it.
But for Amergin that never happened. The rebuff of busy adults drove him back behind a shield of shyness, hiding his vulnerability. He learned the lesson early: if you cared too much, if you opened yourself too far, you got hurt.
Among the garrulous Gaelicians he became notable for his quietness. His brothers teased him unmercifully for a time, accusing him of having been born with his jaws locked together. When he endured their taunts with unfailing good humor they at last quit teasing the little boy and went in search of more responsive targets.
Many seasons would pass before the great spirit demanded that Amergin fight free of self-consciousness and speak up boldly, risking rejection and misunderstanding. Life forces weakness to give way to strength; it is the Law.
Now, as a trained bard, he still recalled the intensity of those early emotions and longed to communicate them to others, to bring to life with his poetry radiant realms transcending mere survival. His soul was nourished by beauty; his spirit was drawn to mystery. A bard's art must somehow harness both.
The task was not easy. There were dark days when he sweated and struggled and swore over one slippery phrase that would not come right; sleepless nights when he feared his skill would never equal his desire. Last night had been sleepless and today had seemed dark, though the summer sun shone. Still Amergin sensed the brooding weight of a storm beyond the rim of the world, heightening his restlessness, driving him to prowl the beach and...
"What?" he cried aloud, startled. He froze in midstride, staring northward beyond the sea, beyond the rim of the world. An urgent summons came winging to him on the green wind, shocking him like a lightning bolt. A powerful presence...not imagined but unbearably real!...was calling to him, reaching out to him from beyond the farthest horizon.
He could not move except to lift his arms in reply, stretching them wordlessly as he stared transfixed beyond limits of human vision. No seafoam goddess, this, created from restlessness and the body's fever-dreams; whatever called Amergin was irresistibly alive and as compelling as the tide.
His soul rose into his throat, acing to answer.
The bard was so intent on whatever beckoned from beyond the ninth wave that he was blind to the sea before him. Yet at last his brain forced him to recognize objects his eyes had been ignoring. Ships.
A fleet!
Their intruding reality shattered the spell and he found himself staring in disbelief at a line of merchant galleys, battered and beaten, limping toward the harbor beyond the headland.
Amergin could hardly believe he was seeing traders arriving again after so many seasons. He rubbed his eyes but when he looked again the ships were still there, struggling closer. The oars swam through air and water in a ragged rhythm betraying the weariness of the oarsmen. The vessels seemed close to foundering in increasingly heavy surf.
The bard gasped and began to run. He must reach a point where he could wade into the sea and pull out survivors if the galleys went onto the rocks; failing that, he would have to get to his clan's stronghold on the headland as quickly as possible and summon help. There was suddenly so much to do and so little time!
Yet even as he ran, anger ran with him. The traders were coming at the most inopportune time for him. Their arrival had broken a vital connection between Amergin and whatever it was that called him on the green wind, and it hurt.
It hurt terribly.
* * *
The source of the green wind was far to the north. The current of living air lay like a broad band across the sea, stretching from Amergin's coast all the way to a large island of mountains and meadows and sweetwatered rivers.
Water, water, running water. Shinann was always drawn to the sound of running water, water going somewhere. Somewhere in the past or the future, perhaps, and time a stream you could wade into and then step out of on any curve of the bank you chose.
So the teachers had taught.
The sun had dropped below the rim of the world but the sky was still as filled with light as a plum with juice. The woman loitered along the riverbank, lifting her skirts to her things and wading into the shallows, kicking the water playfully to make it pronounce her name, "Shi-nahn, Shi-nahn," for the golden gorse on the opposite bank.
The small woman paused and cocked her head, listening. She thought she heard an echo of something other than the voice of the river, a sound like that of a stringed instrument. The wind harping through the trees, perhaps. Yet the music it made was like none she knew, with a compelling quality that drew her to seek its source, calling out to the unseen musician. Looking southward, she waded deeper into the water, stepping confidently, very much in her element. Water water, running water.
And sudden sharp pain! Something hidden in the riverbottom ooze slashed her bare foot and Shinann jerked back, shocked that a river would attach her without provocation.
She clambered onto the nearest bank, dragging her skirts through a mass of reeds. Settling down crosslegged, she examined her injury in the fading light. Along her instep was a raggedly deep cut, welling blood.
Shinann frowned in concentration. The bleeding stopped.
She was a small woman, slender, with pale coppery hair streaming over her shoulders. Her eyes were the color of clear water. She was dressed in a soft robe caught around the waist with a twisted rope that glittered. Perhaps the rope was woven gold. Perhaps not.
A little woman with a curiosity out of all proportion to her size, Shinann had a questing nature that sent her back into the water in search of her attacker. She crouched down until only her head was above the surface, hair floating around her face like the petals of some fantastic flower. Then she took a deep breath and ducked to grope in the mud.
Her fingers closed on a shape alien to the natural debris of a watercourse. She worried the thing free and carried it to the riverbank. The last daylight revealed a bronze dagger nearly long enough to be called a shortsword, nicked and pitted but still radiating a palpable viciousness. The blade had been rippled in the forging to make an ugly would going in, and an uglier would coming out.
Shinann flung the thing aside while she wrung the water out of her gown. Then she picked it up again and examined it with interest, turning it over and over in her hands. Looking around, she caught sight of a lichen-covered boulder and struck the dagger a sharp blow against the stone, deftly calculating the exact point at which the blade could be snapped from the hilt.
The weapon broke apart with a loud crack and Shinann grinned like a mischievous child.
Holding the rippled blade balanced between her thumb and forefinger, she tipped her head back and sighted along an invisible are, then hurled the weapon with all her strength. She watched it tumble through the air, silhouetted against the evening sky for a long distance until at last it fell and was lost in a tangle of briars.
Shinann then turned her attention to the dagger hilt. The bronze had been shaped to fit a man's grasp and decorated with an elaborate inlay of wide brass wire. Using her fingernails, she worked the wire free. The metal curled itself into a gleaming tendril in the palm of her hand. Shinann patiently through her bodice. Beauty made her smile.
The wind was blowing harder now. She stood on the riverbank, listening again, but heard no trace of the mysterious music. Its absence filled her with longing. She held out both her arms, reaching across empty space. Then she shrugged, feeling a little foolish.
Tossing her hair out of her eyes, Shinann headed away from the river, toward the Gathering Place.
Copyright 1984 Morgan Llywelyn


Excerpted from Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish by Llywelyn, Morgan Copyright © 1987 by Llywelyn, Morgan. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Henry_McLaughlin More than 1 year ago
I have long been a fan of Morgan Llywelyn and this book doesn’t disappoint. Originally written in 1984, it has been reissued by TOR (Tom Doherty Associates). This novel is an epic description of how the Gaels came to Ireland, led by a druid bard, Amergin. A vision of a land across the unknown sea calls Amergin. When his native land on the Iberian Peninsula is weakened by drought and overcrowding, the clans adopt his vision and set sail for the land of his dream.  They find it after an arduous journey and they find a people, the Tuatha De Danann, a people unlike any they’ve ever encountered before. An epic battle for the island takes place and the Tuatha disappear into a place the Gaels cannot go.   The pages keep turning. Not just from the pace of the story but also from the flow of the beautifully crafted words as Ms. Llywelyn leads the reader deeper into these people and deeper into the heart of the land that calls them. Llywelyn’s research is, as always, excellent. Her ability to take dull, dry facts and weave them into sweeping stories of love and sacrifice, heroism and villainy is unmatched. Closest to her is Ken Follett. Her minor characters are as fully developed as the major ones. Every character knows his or her place on the stage of the story and contributes to the journey the reader takes. This novel is at once mystical, mythical, and magical. Truly, this is a book to be savored.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book ten years ago. It is a book that is a must for any musicians especially guitarists. Those new to learning music (and experienced musicians of all ages and styles) can get an insight into their instrument..that also has a soul.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Morgan knows her stories better than anyone, she travels to the places and stays there to get a true sense of the 'residual aspects' of the History, This is a 'MUST READ' for anyone of Celtic Irish ancestry, and those who appreciate the Heroic Tradition.
Guest More than 1 year ago
--So a critic described it, and it's true. It's not only a great resource on Celtic culture and history, it's the first one I've read that really shows you what a bard is. Not William Shakespeare; a druid vision-poet with a gift from the spirits. The author shows you just how powerful words can be, in a cynical age in which they've come to be too cheap. This is a must-read for anyone who is or wants to be a poet, as well as for anyone who wants to understand one. Bravo! The author is also a master at reading and describing character and human motives. She gets inside their heads, esp. the bard Amergin. I found it remarkable that a woman would understand a man so well, much less a male poet. And I loved the magic of the book, so carefully balancing its realism. It shows how dream is yet the backdrop of, and may be more powerful, than what we call reality. A message we need to hear in our time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is another very well researched novel. The characters are vivid and colorful. It's almost impossible not to be drawn into this ancient world. This book explains every detail of the celts traveling to Ireland.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was the fist I ever read of Morgan Llywelyn. Until I was captured by her amazingly descriptive work, I had never been a fan of books. Now I can't wait to devour another of Morgan's great works!