The Hills of Ruel

by Fiona MacLeod

“Over the hills and far away” —
That is the tune I heard one day
When heather-drowsy I lay and listened
And watched where the stealthy sea-tide glistened.

Beside me there on the Hills of Ruel
An old man stooped and gathered fuel —
And I asked him this: if his son were dead,
As the folk in Glendaruel all said,
How could he still believe that never
Duncan had crossed the shadowy river.

Forth from his breast the old man drew
A lute that once on a rowan-tree grew:
And, speaking no words, began to play
“Over the hills and far away.”
“But how do you know,” I said, thereafter,
“That Duncan has heard the fairy laughter?
How do you know he has followed the cruel
Honey-sweet folk of the Hills of Ruel?”
“How do I know?” the old man said,
“Sure I know well my boy’s not dead:
For late on the morrow they hid him, there
Where the black earth moistens his yellow hair,
I saw him alow on the moor close by,
I watched him low on the hillside lie,
An’ I heard him laughin’ wild up there,
An’ talk, talk, talkin’ beneath his hair —
For down o’er his face his long hair lay
But I saw it was cold and ashy grey.
Ay, laughin’ and talkin’ wild he was,
An’ that to a Shadow out on the grass,
A Shadow that made my blood go chill,
For never its like have I seen on the hill.
An’ the moon came up, and the stars grew white,
An’ the hills grew black in the bloom o’ the night,
An’ I watched till the death-star sank in the moon
And the moonmaid fled with her flittermice shoon,
Then the Shadow that lay on the moorside there
Rose up and shook its wildmoss hair,
And Duncan he laughed no more, but grey
As the rainy dust of a rainy day,
Went over the hills and far away.”

“Over the hills and far away” —
That is the tune I heard one day.
O that I too might hear the cruel
Honey-sweet folk of the Hills of Ruel.