Here we proceed to that original book of history which the learned entitle The Triumphs of Turlough, wherein are set out all notable deeds that for two hundred years and more (being almost from the time when first the English prevailed in Ireland, down to de Clare's death) were wrought in Thomond or North-Munster: written first (as at the nineteenth page of said ancient volume, still to be seen to-day, is manifest) by Shane mac Rory Magrath in the year 1459 (sic); and presently, A.D. 1721, transcribed by Andrew Mac Curtin for the use of Teigue of Ranna, mac Shane .m. Mahon .m. Donough .m. Teigue Oge .m. Donough .m. Rory .m. Mahon .m. Shane .m. Donall ballach .m. Mahon dall .m. Maccon .m. Cumea .m. Mahon .m. Lochlainn .m. Cumea More .m. Neill .m. Cumara .m. Donall-of-Echtge .m. Cumara (a quo 'Mac Conmara') .m. Donall .m. Menma .m. Hugh-of-Adhar.m. Enna .m. Aisidh .m. Sheeda .m. Buie .m. Maelcluiche .m. Cuilén (a quo'Claircullen') .m. Urthaile .m. Dongal .m. Eoghan .m. Athlann .m. Fergal .m. Carthann .m. Caisín .m. Cas (a quo dál gCais 'the portion of Cas' i.e. 'the Dalcassian race') .m. Conall eachluath .m. Lugaid meann .m. Angus tíreach .m. Mogh-Corb .m. Cormac Cas .m. Olioll Olom.
The government of Ireland being now in the year 1172 come into foreigners' hands, and regal dignity divorced from all and singular the clans of Milesius the Spaniard's blood, Donough cairbreach mac Donall More O'Brien (whose spears were tough and his battalions numerous) became chief in his father's stead and assumed the power, renowned of old, to maintain and govern Thomond's fair and pleasant countries; the entirety of which dominion was this: from Cuchullin's far-famed Leap to the Boromean Tribute's ford; from the borders of Birra to Knockany in Cliu máil, and from the Eoghanacht of Cashel to the northernmost part of Burren, land of white stones.
On the north bank of the Fergus, abreast of Inishalee (at this day called Clonroad), in the very heart of his own near dependants and of his domain, he built a circular hold and residence in which then he sat down to spend, consonantly with the rules of reason and of wisdom, his riches and great substance: dispensing righteous judgments, and serving both God and man by erection of many churches and monasteries, as well as by plentiful other benefactions covering the whole period of his vigorous rule.
He the first, when he dropped the royal style and title that before him ever had been his forefathers' use and wont, was inaugurated O'BRIEN; and so, after he had been chief for the long period of a score and eighteen years, he died in the year of Christ's Age 1242.
Donough cairbreach therefore (after victory of unction and penance) being entered into angels' bliss, all heads of kindreds, captains of peoples, and all district assemblies, gathered at Moyare about Conor O'Brien to ordain him chief in his good father's room. Sheeda Mac Conmara it was that proclaimed him to begin with, after which the other chiefs acknowledged him [and the thing was done].
Propitious indeed was this chief's fortune, great his prosperity: in his time amity and peace and quiet prevailed; throughout the divisions of his stern jurisdiction were spacious and jovial winefeasts, largesse bountiful and constant, princely merriment. While he held sway every chieftain enjoyed his rightful heritage, every hospitaller his ancestral place, so that on all sides people were filled with divine blessing and temporal felicity. Verily and indeed had all Ireland's Gael but held their patrimonies against the English as did this chief his, such ground for glorification this island of ours never had furnished to the foreign adventurers that at this time, through excess of rapacity that grew and seethed in them, sought to exercise upon the Gael injustice and tyranny and violence and oppression, taking from them (wheresoever they could compass it) their blood and their land.
[A.D 1258] The Gael then, perceiving this, desired by election of one supreme king (to whom they all should submit) to be freed from this iniquity of the English and, as was their right, to vindicate Ireland for themselves. All together therefore they took counsel, and were resolved to appoint on the banks of
p.3island-studded Erne a place of meeting to which Ireland's chiefs and nobles in general should repair.
Then, with well nigh all the gentlemen of the Southern Half and of Connacht, Conor mac Donough cairbreach O'Brien's good son Teigue (afterwards surnamed 'of Narrow-water') sets out to keep that tryst; under O'Neill, all Ulster's gentlemen come to meet them.
Now in time of old it was the custom that whoso, being ruler whether of a cantred or of a province, accepted another chief's gift or wage [for in this matter they are synonyms] did actually by such acceptance submit to the giver as to his chief paramount, and in virtue of the same take on himself to do him suit and service, to pay him rent and tribute. Therefore, and or ever they took their seats in order to this conference, northwards across the river O'Brien sent to O'Neill a hundred horses by way of stipend.
O'Neill, when he saw this, in violent anger commanded his people to send back over said river two hundred horses wearing gold-adorned white-edged bridles, which (with an eye to this congress) he had himself provided for bestowal on the men of Erin: so great he deemed both his right to have and his might to hold Ireland, before ever another of the Gael; also because that, previously to this occasion, [not his own country of Tirowen only but] the whole of Ulster already was agreed to have him.
But at sight of these horses with their bridles Teigue returned them, along with their due complement of armed men that whether by fair means or by forcible should compel acceptance of the stipend; whereat O'Neill, marking O'Brien's pride and haughty temper, in dudgeon returned homeward. From which dissension it resulted that the men of Erin broke up without concert of measures to keep Ireland against the English, saving this alone: that after a while they would a second time assemble anent the same question. The major part of them however had been of one accord: that, in virtue of the gifts and favours which with such bounty the Holy Spirit had conferred on him, the noble Teigue ought to have taken the high lordship over them; for he was endowed with a presence comely and heroic, with great strength of body, a brave and gallant spirit, and in him moreover were the knowledge and all other special lineaments of a great chief; so that in fame and name he distanced the young heirs of
p.4Ireland at large. Him therefore they hoped for and continually expected, as being the latent spark that soon should be their flame, and their shelter in whom they trusted.
A good choice too was this that they would have made, seeing that from the date when first he was of strength to handle warlike arms, he never was day nor hour but he pondered and kept unremitting watch how he might cast off oppression from the Gael; for under heaven was nor animal nor other created thing that he hated and loathed more than he did an Englishman's progeny; neither throughout length and breadth of the country of his sway did he ever suffer one of the breed to occupy so much as a nutshell of a pauper's bothie. Proof of which be furnished by his deeds at Limerick, where [in 1257] he inflicted on them sore loss of knights and captains, besides all other affairs in which he had to do with them.
[A.D. 1259] Howbeit, for the vaingloriousness of the chiefs of the Gael, their Almighty King's will it was that their fair-foliaged thicket of refuge and lovely vine must be cut down before maturity of thickly promised fruit; as may be understood from these verses of a duan which after the chief's death the Dalcassian's chief poet made, and of which here I set down so much as (indistinctness of the ancient book notwithstanding) I might contrive to read:
Teigue being gone Ireland too is departed, woful her continued lamentation's sound; had the hero lived whole to old age, Ireland had not been given up to mourning. Donough's grandson, for whom we had a right to hope, alas that all beneath fine mould he's laid; surely his death is not the perishing of one man alone, but an outcry-raising loss multiplied many times. Since Teigue's exit, not a day but has borne miraculous crop of grief and desolation; before attaining to ripeness he dropped off, and never again has [seasonable] heat touched the clustered fruits. Since through the people's misdeeds 'tis, that he of whom they cherished so great expectation now is fallen; condign punishment of their sins being exacted thus, wondrous it is that the Creator's wrath must still endure.
As for Conor mac Donough cairbreach O'Brien, mourning filled him, and despondency for death of his good son that had been to him as his sense and his memory, and was his heart's darling; insomuch that for the world he conceived a loathing and contempt, nor any more might be prevailed on to enjoy carouse or
p.5pleasure or pastime. The upshot of which was that certain of his irachts, puffed up with increase of gear and goods consequent on their not having for now a long time been harried or preyed, undertook to deal mutinously with Conor, omitting to send him in his royal rent and lawful dues. He therefore musterslancullen's host under Sheeda mac Neill Mac Conmara, and Kineldunal led by Aneslis O'Grady. With his son Brian Rua, these march eastwards and cross deep Shannon into the cantred of Hy-Blood, over which country forthwith they slip their raiders in all directions to strip it naked. Thus all that lay from Birra to Knockany, and from the Eoghanacht of Cashel to S. Flannan's cill Dalua or 'Killaloe', with all dispatch was preyed by them. Then their captives and rich takings they brought to Clonroad, where the gentle chief Conor dwelt; who also was the first that in this place constructed a permanent stronghold with earthworks.
[A,D. 1268] During this time, and before return of said forces, Conor himself with his own household arid a strong party of fighting men, the O'Deas and O'Quins under Donough O'Dea, and O'Hechir with his iracht, marched to the upper cantred [O'Lochlainn's country] to tame it. As they worked northwards towards Dughlen, they left the land behind them in a red blaze of fire and wreathed in crimson-tinted smoke. But when they turned westwards and, skirting Belaclugga, made their way along by the northern sea, Conor carrarch'Lochlainn with his partisans and their gatherings barred their way; a virulent fight was fought between the parties, and there Conor O'Brien with many of his people was slain: an event that bred to the country a multiplicity of disasters and of violent losses, as in the following tractate's course will be made apparent. The Lord's Age then was 1265  years, and by the monks Conor nobly and honourably was buried in the monastery of east Burren or 'the abbey of Corcomrua'. Over the place of his rest, there they set up his stone, when for four-and-twenty years he had been chief; according to this quatrain, in which is recorded the length of his rule over the tuatha, as well as the keenness with which his loss was felt:
Years eleven, seven years and six, made the long reign enjoyed by Conor; many a face was darkened when he was killed, what time he fell at the wood of Siudan.
Out of all quarters now to Moyare Brian Rua mac Conor O'Brien gathered the gentlemen of the irachts to inaugurate him in his worthy father's place; when they all were come together in one spot Sheeda Mac Conmara proclaimed him, and of the assembled chiefs not a man opposed.
[AD. 1277] In controlling Thomond's tribes Brian subsequently spent the better part of nine years marked by bloom and fruit; then both one and other Clancullen (headed by Sheeda mac Neill Mac Conmara above, and incited by attachment of kinship with Teigue-of-Narrow-water's son Turlough), rose against him and were joined by the O'Deas, among whom Turlough had been fostered and had imbibed his ethics. Fast and fiercely and in great numbers they marched on Clonroad, where Brian then lay; and he, descrying on two sides the impetuous advance of these heavy columns (against which he, for lack of means to defend himself, might not hope to struggle), along with his sons and their personal households incontinently took a straight line eastwards across Shannon and into the cantred of Hy-Blood. No sooner was he there than he caused gather that country's irachts; the which being assembled, among them it was decreed that at this their chief's first summons they would make them ready; O'Brien and his son Donough in the meantime to make haste away to earl de Clare's son Thomas (of the English), who at that time abode in Cork and claimed authority over so many of the new English as then were in Munster; and this he did, because the third Henry of the kings of England had licensed him to come into Ireland and to seize all that he could win from the Gael. So the chief and de Clare when they met made pact and alliance on these terms: all lands between Limerick and Athsollus to be conveyed to de Clare and his heirs, in consideration of coming to help O'Brien against his enemies.
Touching de Clare: from all parts in which they were to be found, privily and with speed he got together the English of Munster; and they agreed that at Limerick on an appointed day they with their full force massed would meet O'Brien, who should have ready with him there the men of Hy-Cuanach and the Hy-Blood. They of Owney (as not caring to take a hand in deposing Turlough) declined to attend this convention. Hither came the warlike Geraldines, the Butler's valiant men-at-arms also; and with one
p.7[p.6, l. 24]--> motion, in the same night, the whole army both Gael and Gall passed out through Limerick gates Thomondwards nor ever halted until before the morrow's bright-faced sun was risen they gained the grassy green of Clonroad, in hopes that so they should have had Turlough to maltreat him. Howbeit, God favoured the princely youth in that he caused him just then to be in Corcovaskin, where at the hands of Teigue Buie and Rory Mac Mahon, mainstays of that country, he enjoyed fealty and affection.
Brian Rua finding none to say him nay, the place also void and deserted before him, he set him down therein (yet, was full of care, harassed with perplexity), and around him from all points gather his partisans and lovers. Thus Mahon mac Brian mac Donall connachtach O'Brien came, with his sons and their great companies of kerne; Kineldunal moreover and Hy-Cormac come with their hostages [whom they deliver up] to insure their preys and other substance. Then over the face of Kinelcualachta and of Kinelfermac they discharge a torrent of powerful marauding parties, plunderers not lightly to be dispersed; and because their gentles refused to meet Brian Rua, within one month those septs thrice were plundered and well burnt out.
O'Brien for his part hesitated not, but on to Quin pushed his composite host with design to scorch and waste Hy-Cashin, unless indeed that with manifold and important hostages they came in to him; and to this effect he sent messengers to Sheeda Mac Conmara.
The convocation of Clancullen on the other hand (both gentlemen and chief hospitallers) agreed that, for their better security against this force of Brian Rua's, they and their cattle collectively must dive into Echtge's dense woods, of lofty foliage, and pleasant and fresh, but never consent to furnish the required hostages and pledges. This project soon was bruited to Brian and his stern followers; away they went in pursuit, and over the whole broad land cast one lurid sheet of flame, supposing that thus they should have hunted Clancullen clean out of the province. However, of such as the most closely pressed them in the chase, few but were sore and sorry enough by the time that they got back.
At Bunratty in the interval de Clare had built a castle of
p.8dressed stone, girt with thick outer wall, containing a roofed impregnable donjon, and having capacious limewhited appurtenances; this settlement then he, with common English so many as by bribes and purchase he was able to retain, proceeded to inhabit. Their gentlemen on the contrary were constrained to retire to their own former lands and, after expulsion of the ancient dwellers on the soil of Tradree, he assigned that region to plebeian English and to kerne of the Gael his allies, to squat there. This they soon found to be no unencumbered heritage, nor a holding saddled with any but a rackrent; for no sooner was Brian's host disbanded, than with their captains Clancullen return out of Echtge's hospitable borders; fall to exercise de Clare and his company with desultory onsets and predatory incursions that, whether by day or by night, never give them respite; and thus de Clare and his faction, to shield themselves from noble Clancullen's violence, were forced to throw up a broadbased high-crested rampart with ditch, running from the stream to the sea. Even so, many a time this work failed of its effect: the enemy used to climb over, and so their ravaging knew no surcease.
To return to Turlough mac Teigue O'Brien: on receipt of the weighty intelligence that Brian Rua and those piratical strangers were entered into his country, neither faintness of heart nor discouragement this sudden hearing begot in him; but he hardened his heart, exalted his spirit, and besought the Three Persons of the Trinity to inspire him with good counsel. Therefore he and [for the most part] the gentlemen of the west country came to a prompt resolve concerning this great strait; but whatever the other points on which Clanmahon agreed [with the majority] they nevertheless, having the fear of Brian Rua and de Clare before their eyes, abstained for the present from rising out and accompanying Turlough to battle. For all that, they told off as confidential personal attendants on the chief a pair of good striplings: Donough mac Rory and Brian mac Teigue; Cueva Mac Gorman too, and a few other choice youths of noble lineage: which same Cueva, until Turlough died, was his close door of protection while he slept and, on the battlefield, the shield that covered him. Then Turlough (accompanied by a small number of his faithful friends) headed straight northwards, and for that night rested at Tromrah in the house of Donall mac Teigue álainn
p.9O'Brien, who in his turn sent on in the chief's escort both his fine sons: Mahon and Donall Oge. The next night they visited hospitable Donall manntach 'O'Conor of Corcomrua', in whose place Turlough found welcome and leal friendliness; there also they knotted a tie of enduring fellowship and affection.
Turlough the chief, in short, tarried but a little anywhere until he reached that which in all time of his sore sickness [dire extremity] was his nook of shelter and place of recuperation: the heart of freeborn populous Clancashin, where for a while he bided and with ceaseless vigilance was kept. Next, he journeyed into Connacht to seek out Teigue O'Kelly and William Burke, who used him honourably and with consideration. In the following autumn's beginning he brought back with him the noble de Burgo's route, the fighting men of the O'Kellys under Teigue O'Kelly, and the O'Maddens commanded by Melachlin O'Madden. They found Clancullen and the O'Deas ready awaiting them, and by the posse of them together Kineldunal's ample impracticable country was burnt up.
O'Brien (Brian Rua) and de Clare, being certified that this heavy mass moved to their encounter, send right and left to summon both knights and battalion-leading barons of the English, with gentlemen of the Gael as well, and in confident exultation march to fair Moygressan to meet their foe. There the numbers met and tangled, and ruthlessly a bitter battle was fought out. Either army's determination, their eagerness for the onfall, were such that neither ever halted to be set in orthodox array; but each and all, gentleman and simple soldier, strove by main strength to shoulder their way to a front place in the hacking and hewing, and thus in very little time there fell a number of their best men. In the end the day went against Brian Rua, his sons and his partners, of whose rank and file a multitude were killed; special and innumerable slaughter was made of de Clare's new English, and the pick of their champions (including Patrick Fitzmaurice, Fitzmaurice of Kerry's heir, and brother to de Clare's wife) perished in it. All that were not slain of Brian Rua's army fled in abject disorder to Bunratty.
When de Clare noticed that the country all around was well alight and become a mere thoroughfare for preyings and excursions, when moreover he had positive news of his people's great losses,
p.10frenzy intolerable and boiling rage possessed him. The woman-kind too of the castle vented protracted and lamentable shrilly cries of woe, so that the whole fortress fairly rang with their clamorous mourning for young Fitzmaurice: de Clare's wife ejaculating that through O'Brien she had lost her good brother, that never would God's blessing rest on any place where he should be, and that in following his fortunes would be neither luck nor grace. So grievously these the woman's words enhanced the maddened Englishman's disorder that (by way of satisfaction to his wife and to Fitzmaurice her father that presently was in the house) rashly and of evil motion he prescribed to execute, or gibbet, Brian Rua; which violent death thereupon precipitately and irremediably was inflicted on him. But here now: to Turlough O'Brien de Clare sends word that, would he but turn back from his career of rapine, he [de Clare] would make peace with him; and in order to clench such peace the envoys show him that the chief, his enemy, is done away with. Turlough however, coming back completely victorious, with his gathering in full numbers goes rather to Moyare and is inaugurated supreme chief; joyful the bulk of Thomond's irachts were too when they saw their true vine promoted over them, the Lord's Age then being 1276  years.
[AD. 1278] By this time de Clare within himself had mused that, Turlough being chief it would be all to no profit that from the king of England he had procured a chartered right to the lands of Thomond. The resolve at which he stood, accordingly, was to nourish this same schism between the noble scions [representatives of Teigue-of-Narrow-water and of Brian Rua his brother, viz. their respective sons Turlough and Donough] until such time as, they and their irachts being enfeebled mutually, he might step in and filch the country from both. To Donough mac Brian Rua anon he dispatches a plausibly dulcet message signifying how great was his sorrow for the death of Donough's good father; and that [Brian now being past remedy] he could not have for him an eric better or more worthy than his own induction to the chiefry of Thomond, which indeed by right was his. With his friends and near kinsmen at once Donough speeds to Bunratty, and with de Clare's consent takes command of the force.
The first step was a prodigious hosting by Donough over
p.11Shannon eastwards into Hy-Blood, from whom he exacted submission and pledges; from one border to the other he cleared the land of Owney of horse, horned beast and valuables, slew so many of their people as came in his way [offered resistance], and to de Clare brought back their herds and heavy droves.
Hard on this again it was that Brian Rua's son Donough and Mahon mac Donall connachtach O'Brien, with a swarm of followers, made a determined expedition into the high-pinnacled coasts of Burren, thence into Corcomrua; in which countries they dealt violently with the race of Fergus [O'Conors and O'Lochlainns], bringing away store of their chattels and many hostages of consequence. Due west they pass through Trughenackmy into Corcovaskin, and of Clanmahon (fine performers in war, though of speech conciliatory) obtain promise of adhesion and fidelity; but Hy-Cormac and Imirc uaine are preyed mercilessly.
When Turlough mac Teigue O'Brien saw his country wholly in process of destruction and that his enemies hemmed him in on every side, hastily he quitted Clonroad and (to escape being overwhelmed by them) proceeded to take sanctuary with Clancullen. Upon report of Turlough's evasion, Donough and his host followed him up straight; that night he camped at Quin, and sent out flying parties to desolate the land.
We would now revert to him who (as a yoke) consolidated territories; to that warrior magnifier of the erudite; to the chief that potently built up the tribes, and to that sheet anchor of the populations: I mean Sheeda Mac Conmara, excellent with the spear. At the first point of morning, with but a little company he comes to fall on that great column, in expectation that during unsteadiness begotten of their first surprise he should have driven them out, and back to their own quarters whence they came. So desperate this lordly captain grew that, without reeking of pain or peril that might await himself, he bored right in and to his enemies' thick midst. These, from all points converging, encircle him in such guise that his people, so many of them as not yet are slain, must of necessity forsake him; whereas at no previous time since Turlough and Sheeda had acquired chief's command, and many as had been their brushes with clan-Brian-Rua, had foeman ever until this instant won an opening to get a stroke home on him. Yet so far now from daunting the lion, this his solitary
p.12posture in the hostile centre but the more provoked him to mow down and cleave his invaders, till at last he and Donough mac Brian Rua met face to face. Then he thought to have avenged himself on the chief but, inasmuch as numbers overbore him, on that ground the valiant leader fell; in bewailing whose death the poet made these quatrains:
- Alas for pleasant Sheeda,
whom in battle no man e'er withstood successfully;
Munster's hosts never made head against thy spear,
bright and happy thy fortune always was
- This day has not been as that on which from thy house
thou camest to Limerick's water;
upon the smooth unbroken plain,
Brian turned back from thy fierce horsemen
- To thee was awarded the white spearshaft (noble tribute)
won by thy weapon's propitious
luck in the hour of need:
in thy rush on the O'Kennedys
- Had it but been in that day
that the greatly daring Brian Rua's death had happened,
neither thy fame nor that of Turlough the chief
would have suffered detriment whatsoever
- Stern was thy progress through the slaughter there,
as the supreme chief's representative;
when thou above all others didst capture and to thy house
didst carry off O'Hechir prisoner
- Many are they also to whom at Moygressan
nobly thou hast meted death;
upon Moygressan thy spear is red,
and after that we may not give way to anger [for thy fate]
- A triumph in this fight at Quin
we have to oppose to that of which they boast; we will not conceal it [i.e. will proclaim it openly]:
in this rally at Quin many a blade was at you,
but many were they that by thee lay stretched upon their backs
- Even [from this day] to the potent Judgment,
thy slaughters and thy jubilation I could not count up;
and as for thy coming with insufficient numbers thus to Quin,
it is not I that may refrain to cry 'Alas'!
Clancullen having thus disastrously suffered loss of their good lord and noble chief, promptly and judiciously they gather to elect a head. The blackbrowed Cumea, he whose desire was towards munificence, was brought before them; and him freely they accepted to be with due solemnity ordained his brother Sheeda's successor. Nor was this any case of a stone that replaced an egg; rather was the exchange one of silver against gold: for now the Cú's, or wolfdog's, rabies rose at them that bordered on his confines, towards his opponents he exalted his humour, and he made his martial deeds to be illustrious throughout neighbouring countries and provinces.
About de Clare again: to meet him at Bunratty he convoked knight and battle-baron, gentle earl and commons, of the English; thither repaired his adherents of the Gael also: Donough mac Brian Rua, with a crowd of his gentlemen to guard him round. In double quick time these latter [making for Bunratty] marched to Tulach, where that night they lay; and in the morning Cumea Mac Conmara joined them, under the Geraldines' safe conduct up to de Clare's place, whither now he was bound in order to hear the aliens declare their minds with respect to the irachts [i.e. Clancullen, upper and lower], and from their overt speech to gauge what might be each individual noble's hidden scheme. On arrival at Bunratty he, as fain to ease his followers of the foreigners' violence and arrogance, tendered to the Saxons certain terms of peace; but these conciliatory propositions de Clare refused to entertain.
Cumea went back to his own main camp, then on to meet Turlough his chief, and they came to this provident resolve: Turlough, and Donall his brother, with their people (Cumea alone of his tribe accompanying them), to seek the luxuriant woods of Forbar; Clancullen's irachts they had [because they could not help themselves] suffered to rest as they were, on the strength of some kind of a truce with the English, to look after their homes
p.13and herds. But this their hanging back failed not to bear those irachts a crop of bitter repentance; for Donough mac Brian Rua and the devilish de Clare used them treacherously, and in one day pitilessly spoiled them both. In this way, because at the first they had grudged to follow their chiefs so far afield into strange borders, it was in contrite mood that after their spoliation they in the end resorted to their noble heads Turlough and Donall, and to their own good Wolfdog.
From Forbar's green woods Turlough after a season emerged and, speeding through Thomond westwards, visited Clanmahon for the purpose of again calling on them to embrace his cause as that of their supreme chief. Him soon followed Teigue-of-Narrowwater's son Donall, his brother, bringing at his heels either Clancullen to convoy him; Kinelfermac also and the men of Owney, to keep him against his enemies; in which order of going they held on as far as green-oaked spreading-boughed clear-streamed Drumgrenncha, and on the verdured bank of gently-flowing Fergus rested four times twelve hours. Then they proceeded to learn how Turlough fared upon his mission; whom in the meantime the generous clan that he went to visit had not as yet either accepted or rejected.
No long time now was this company of Donall mac Teigue's upon the move when they lighted on Mahon mac Donall conachtach O'Brien, stationary with his household and having close at hand, lying within the precinct of Clare abbey, Kineldunal also and their gathering. From the instant when these together recognised the broad folds of Donall's figured standard, Clancullen's streaming cognisances, Owney's crimson phalanx and Kinelfermac's ranks, they were aware that at the hands of so great a host they could not choose but die. With one accord therefore they agreed that, in case of the enemy's too near approach, their lives would be all the more prolonged for getting out of his way; wherefore without engagement between the sides they voided the place. Hence 'the Rout of the Abbey upon Mahon O'Brien' is that defeat's notorious appellation. With all expedition the victors lump together Kineldunal's preys and, having taken so many as they got of their men, their fair-haired women, their little boys and other members of their families, of their servants, kerne, horseboys and herdsmen, they made of them one universal litter of slaughter:
p.14a deed which long will live as 'the Carnage of Clare'. The business dispatched, with intent to join Turlough those hardy spirits drove the preys into the western parts; but, as above said, the chiefs of the same had not at this time of asking embraced Turlough's part, whereby [he being already gone away] Donall for the nonce could not accomplish a meeting with the chief to confer with him.
Not long had Donall rested [during a halt that he made on the way] when he and his perceived the advent of de Clare and his cavalry, of Brian Rua's brother Murtach mac Conor O'Brien with many ensigns, horses, and mailclad men. Then, with a loud voice, peremptorily he bade bring prisoners and cattle out upon Monashade the heifers' moor' and indiscriminately massacre them, thus providing that [if so it must be] when he abandoned them the enemy on finding them in his hands should not have any great cause of selfgratulation; and this he followed up by throwing his people into a formation which enabled the rear to hold de Clare and his knights at bay, while the front dashed aside the crowding irachts of the hostile country that lay before him.
Through this tract they took a devious course, nor carried a hill without dispute, a ford without a tussle, a glen without mortal achievement, until they won to the shady and in-sweet-birds-abounding woods of Brentir, in which solitudes they paused and settled down. Thomond and the English captains, deeming this late spurt to be a trip from which Donall's force never should come back, drew around them a close cordon of hostile observation; the watchers fondly imagining this guard that they mounted to be another 'blocking of the gate of Duross', also that neither from without could relief penetrate to the leaders of those companies, nor they from within ever avail to make a fresh start in quest of their chief. Yet at this pinch God and his own stout heart helped Donall; the line that the tribesmen took in breaking out was that which lay betwixt Dysart and Rath (where were two strong camps of their noble foe), and into the woods of eastern Echtge finally they made their way sound and whole.
In this very night it was that Turlough as well arrived in the same region; and the pair of generous chiefs, triumphing at their mutual escape, expressed themselves thus:
- Weary my heart is from my visit into the west
(said Donall that ever was gentle with the bards);
we would fain that our women should have cognisance
of all the hardship which side by side we have endured
- A joy it is to us to have sent Mahon O'Brien
at a run from off the field;
as also Kineldunal,
that kept all lands in trepidation
- Massacre both of their men and of their gentle women
we executed at Clare of the hard hitting;
in quest of thee, O chief of the host,
it was that we came on to Monashade
- In our rear, as it had been a mad surge,
we saw de Clare's army rush on us;
then we slew our prisoners and our kine,
that so we might endure both armies' brunt
- We were not admitted to fight on equal terms,
by that host we were maltreated;
God and our own hearts in the wood,
it was they that saved us from being cut up by him
- Between those two commanders' camps,
out of the west we have made our way home;
had we but been a match for them in numbers,
eftsoon would they have found it out
- Right glad are we (said Turlough, the well known for a fighter)
that out of every scuffle thou art come safe;
had I and Cumea More been there,
our party we would have relieved
After discussion of Turlough's recent and as yet vain expedition, they went about to execute a project that they had formed: to move into the fresh-fruit-yielding region of Owney. In those woodlands they stayed their course, and Cumea mac Conmara journeyed to Donall More Mac Carthy, chief of Desmond, to petition for succour of armed men.
By Donall More the envoy was made very welcome; but no more than just off his journey was he when a wheedling treacherous letter, which as it were had kept him company, arrived from de Clare with hints at purchasing him of his host; and surely not for any Cú, or 'wolfdog', his contemporary (no matter how proficient) was ever offered a price greater or more startling than de Clare's bid for Cumea: the entire country of Corcaguiney. In courteous phrase however, yet with emphasis and good wit, Donall replied that the hound which was not his he might not venture to sell in absence of his own consent to the bargain; thus Cumea unhurt slipped through these machinations.
To return to both irachts of Clancullen: with their herds now they started (plundering O'Maelane as they passed him at the breaking of the day after they set out) to pasture the beasts for the present in the skirts of their own country, and chanced upon tribute-cattle of de Clare's just then a bringing in, followed by kerne that drove them in a compact mass. Clancullen killed the kerne, the cattle they took on into Echtge.
To Turlough in due course returned the eloquent Cumea, who in safety had run the gauntlet of de Clare's numerous watch-parties; and since [according to his showing] they were not getting help from any quarter [but must look to themselves alone], they laid a plan of action; in pursuit of which they directed their march on certain points in both the circumference and the interior of their own country proper, as a mean to forcibly make good their claim to it. Then, as they crossed blue-flowing Shannon's ford westwards, the poet said these words:
Now march we on, a march of might, let's win the day, and scatter foes, their lands possess, their bodies gash, their sides bore through, on on due west, than Teigue's stout son, no better man, e'er led a march.
It was God that spoke in the happy mouth of him that propounded the expedient; and so with a rush they came into the
p.16border of Echtge and in among their highspirited own people, after moreover that on this their second [or homeward] progress they had well harried Hy-Blood. To these chieftains, in lieu of their hostages delivered and of provant found by way of tribute, Turlough gave a handsome equivalent; this time the irachts all (whether of free will or by compulsion) submitted to him; and Donough O'Brien was banished to massy-towered Bunratty, there to keep de Clare close company.
[AD. 1279] This latter in return proclaimed a great hosting to drive out Turlough; and because de Clare with his horse and Donough with his foot came to [met on] the open plain of Fertane, in close proximity to the chiefs whom they were about (as they hoped) to utterly discomfit, this is called 'the Hosting of Fertane'. But the course taken (and to their own ruin) by the mid-Munster English, was past the entering into the wood which from this very day's event has the name of coill druinge 'a wood with somebody in it'; and the reason is, that God inclined the ruffianly horde to a false move, whereby in that spot they met with disaster and disgrace: at the hands namely of Donall mac Teigue. For upon the instant when the pirates made out Donall right ahead and about to charge them out of the wood (in which he had lain), first they converted their front into a hustling pushing rear, then faced about their rear and made a front of it; and so, before ever the doomed poor devils began to run at all, they were turned end for end and the wrong way. Which evil plight of theirs when Donall marked, as a hawk he stooped into the fair middle of them and broke them up into little bits.
The end of it was that barons were cut to collops, knights mangled sore, and so on; to the effect that not a constable but had his back carved, nor son-and-heir but was stricken once and yet again, nor soldier that came short of having his ribs drilled through by Donall's men; so that the chief, when afterwards he surveyed the redfrothed glorious carnage, delivered himself thus excellently:
A winning fight ye have fought, and well dyed your steel weapons, O my good people that have not been scared by that which well might have been a terror to you ! as for a portion of false de Clare's army, 'tis just as well that they came upon this jaunt. Bestir yourselves now like men and, these nobles being prize of war, strip them; their
p.17notables' heads take; gather ye together and bring away to Turlough, swords entire and broken blades, hauberks, spurs, horses, bucklers and shields and pointed lances. Carry your burthens, which if they be weighty yet are honourable; victory be yours and benediction alway, nor from the vulgar English freebooters ever accept defeat.
As Donall said, so his people did; over Shannon back to Turlough's camp they bore their loads of such trophies: sword and shield and handsome mailshirt, to shew them, and there the multitude rejoiced to see them all. However, the bit of kindness to which Donall had treated the outland robbers was no favour for which the baron [de Clare] felt over and above grateful; for the chief neglected not to send him in a sample, made up of his noble knight's gilt spurs hacked out of all semblance, of his barons' shields split to shivers, and of his soldiers' swords all battle-bent.
The aspect of these wares revolted and perturbed de Clare's heart, his mind was numbed with anger and perplexity, and he promised that with morning's light he would set onwards to avenge this business. Donall's emissaries reported it, and his force made them ready for the fray; but of the baron's plighted word came no such thing at all: much rather at early nightfall [of the same day], and by the high road's clear wide way, he stole off and made but one stage to Bunratty. Donough mac Brian Rua, to screen his own new contingent from the enemy, took to the adjacent close and rugged country.
At news of all this hot haste, and that de Clare's camp was evacuated, with speed and fervour Turlough's army rose out to detain the others; and though they failed to come up with de Clare's horse, still a party of the foot they cut off and [for they killed them to a man] punished Donough with a right royal slaughter of his people. At this juncture de Clare made peace with Turlough, and Donough he banished away into Desmond; but his truce was not long kept before he used Turlough perfidiously and declared a raid on him. At one swoop therefore the chief wasted all Tradree [de Clare's domain] utterly: the baron's common English he hunted out of their snug borders, his knights out of his strong places and marches, his Welshmen out of their central refuges. For all which, and vast as was this preying and damage wrought him, no sooner was it accomplished than, comfortably and without all wrangling on the baron's part, terms of peace
p.18were had of him; for with that specious rascal indeed it ever was a fundamental principle to make peace when he just had been preyed, but to prey others at once upon ratification of peace made as fast as bonds could tie it up.
[AD. 1280] Now in the spring next to this last war Dcsmond's powerful chief, the wise-spoken Donall Rua, came to petition Turlough in Thomond respecting a proposal to share that country with his kinsman; and although this that he mooted was a request of such magnitude, yet he won Turlough to grant it. Thereupon, between the rival chiefs Thomond was divided fairly in two parcels: the western half, strong in defence of white strand and ever-complaining wave, falling to Donough to rule and order; the fertile populous eastern moiety to come under Turlough's lordship.
De Clare again had been but a short while quiet, with his soldiers simply warding their community, when he craved and (trusting to their partisanship) as good as proclaimed a general simultaneous hosting of the Hiberno-English, together with a number of the Gael that should bear them company; for at this time Ireland was, so to speak, bound hard and fast. The order that they took for 'shearing' Turlough's country on two sides was this: the earl of Ulster and the chief Butler, with the chiefs of Leinster, Ulster, and Connacht, to constitute themselves a fence round his northern border to keep it effectively; while Fitz Gerald and de Clare, bringing up a body of Gall and Gael belonging to either province of Munster [Thomond and Desmond], should invest his southern confines and wreck their tuatha. The various foreign captains united at one place: tiobra na huinnsean'the well of the ash tree'; and thither, in his precipitation with offers of assistance to straiten Turlough, Donough O'Brien dashed off as it had been any lowborn common man-at-arms [snatching at a chance to take service].
So soon as Turlough heard that the English thus were congregated, and that Donough also having embraced their part was present with them, he (entrusting them to the earl of Ulster's protection and to the chief Butler's honour) deputed Donall O'Brien his brother, Dermot Mac Mahon and the circumspect Cumea Mac Conmara, with offers to de Clare. He then, noting this company and who they were, discerned that present destruction of all three meant no more fighting for their respective countries; he coveted to detain
p.19them therefore, and passed the word to treat those freeborn gentlemen to the bulrush. At this expression the Earl was angered; and at bare mention of laying by the heels those for whom his honour was pawned, the chief Butler swelled with indignation. As for the south country foreigners, de Clare and the Geraldines, no whit inferior to that of the others was their manner of speech in answer; whereat there and then all men of Erin on the ground became as who should say a ravelled hasp of yarn for confusion, until that pillar of sense and noble cavalier, the earl of Ulster, stood up to compose them. Whose award was that de Clare [to secure his being left in peace] must have four hostages, and one half of the country be restored to Turlough. This settlement then effected, the English every one dispersed to the diverse places of their abode.
Not very much of the pleasant ease and peace that ensued had people had, when Turlough's brother Donall of a day came into the outskirts of Quin (close up to the town in fact) to purchase wine for the captains that at his invitation had attended for this late transaction. Then it was that to a certain Saxon of the knavish English belonging to the with-ditch-and-rampart-furnished castle of Quin, the Devil on a sudden whispered to draw very near to Donall to scan him well; and the manner of the fellow's lighting on him was just as he was in act to mount his horse. When the oversea-man perceived that here, at one and the same time, he held a security for all wrong [in which light he would consider every legitimate success of the Irish] done to the universal body of English; had opportunity for a stroke of vindictive treachery, and solitude to favour it; into the chieftain's groin he delivered a thrust that obliquely pierced him through and came out at his back. Donall feeling the calamitous pains of death to be upon him, with failing strength he planted in the Englishman a choice backhanded blow of a skene; and the varlet had bare time to rush back into the castle and among his fellows proclaim the deed, when he too fell and in like wise died. Wherefore we would ask: what profit of it all had that man, who in recompense [of his action] met even such another violent end?
At the report that Donall was murdered, headlong the English made a sortie and detained a few of his people; lastly the poet, in his lamentations for him that perished, said thus:
- The death of Teigue's son is Munster's ruin,
whose art that he practised was to slay the brave;
his wrath in maintenance of Teigue's houses,
none ever offered to encounter
- I see the country pierced,
the great plain to-day is red;
all ways are crimsoned under [contending] hosts,
whose comeliness is red-stained, and their banners
- By his murder the sun is turned to red,
and every [otherwise] profitable mountain is withered;
every moist spot, even as far as the sea,
the clear clean wind has parched
- Supply of fish and corn is ebbed away,
the water-meadow has drowned her fruitfulness;
treachery enjoys a rich booty,
and our battalions' hardihood is perished
- A torrent sweeping all before it he was,
loud be our moan for him;
a Shannon 'of the cold angers' [i.e. of cold angry storms and waves],
and his sword reached many a [supposed] place of safety
- Kind Donall O'Brien,
ever prompt to meet the spears:
in every fight that he fought northward,
he won its victory and advantage
- In all his eastern contests,
the glory of them he snatched from Hy-Blood;
in all encounters in the west,
the battlefield yielded him his heart's content
- All his campaigns to the southward,
it is proper that we mention them;
he was the wave's impact on the shore,
and a sledge-hammer of continuous stroke
- Heroic Donall of the blades,
branch 'with the quick[ly changing] colours'
[i.e. ever ready to flush with high spirit],
whom nevertheless the living God's Son no more suffers to return!
[AD. 1281] Donough mac Brian Rua when he was instructed of Donall's loss made the best of his way to de Clare, and the two agreed upon a joint hosting to extirpate Turlough out of his domain, The latter, to avoid shock of two armies at once, left the country and eastwards sought the woods of Forbar. So for a season the parties rested; but ere long he retraced the very path by which he was come, and returned to hold his patrimony against Donough and the English. With powerful marching, senses on the alert and good discernment, they invaded the territory and made good their right to their own share; consequently de Clare was fain to allow the drawing of a boundary-line to separate the litigants. Between them both in pretended friendly guise he patched up a hollow peace; and on parting from Donough and Turlough [separately], to either one he insinuated that, whichever should the first break into his fellow's country to play havoc, the same thenceforth and notoriously should be his [the baron's] very good friend. Turlough at all events suffered not the hint to be thrown away: on the instant he prosecuted it with forcible entry into the west, and there his intruders surrounded the O'Deas' and O'Quins' preys; that is to say, preys of such members of those septs as opposed their interest, for on this very enterprise certain of the O'Deas (as approved familiars) were about Turlough's person: Donough and Hugh for instance, and the noble Muredach, branches of good Kinelfermac that now made a stout bulwark in war. Lustily his people shouted round about, bringing dismay upon homesteads, harshly giving to their enemies a chilly rousing out. From the westernmost side of the country they drove its cattle to meet that of the eastern; on the flanks of the massed droves they formed a prickly palisade of spears, and to cover them in the rear had a clump of red ensigns with a troop of horsemen: their common kerne and camp-followers they assigned to drive them as hard as might be, seeing that this was no excursion of mere spite [but a stroke of solid business]. In all directions the gentlemen of the neighbouring coasts rose out to attack them; and so before long the pursuers in number became more than the pursued, for all along the line of march they started up increasingly. Then it was that Cumea Mac Conmara, as he brought up the rear of the closepacked prey, delivered himself thus boldly: that he had with him but nine riders, and nevertheless
p.21[p.19, l. 27]--> in all open ground would so fend the pursuit from off his people, as that nor servitor nor kern nor gentlemen of descent should be killed, wounded or taken, if they for their part would but see him safe over broken land and through the strait places. Their clause of the contract the others took on them to perform, and into Echtge thus they brought the multitudinous droves in safety. Then in peace of mind they broke off to their several comfortable retreats.
After but a brief silence, again Turlough sent out and convened his irachts' strength: hitherto we have merely preyed, he said to his leaders; make we this time a right hosting, to the end that on one field we and our foe may set breast to breast.. All answered: it is expedient that we fulfil the counsel; so shall the quarrel have a speedy end. With resolute purpose they set on and, zeal of faith prompting Turlough, as he 'moved his foot' [took the first step] he pronounced to them this quatrain:
Attempt ye not prediction of the lips; neither in curved [i.e. new] moon's omen nor in presage of soothsayer put your trust; but Me, the God of Heaven obey, for in the would-be prophets nought but falseness shall be found.
God also granted him to reap the fruit of this his loving faithfulness to the Trinity.
In solid form, with hardened hearts and cautiously withal, the march (as aforesaid) began and a straight course was shaped for Dughlen; upon their coming up to which, and right in their face, Donough O'Brien and his gathering rose in the wood to bar their passage and, by taking them at a disadvantage, to destroy them. On Turlough's side the companies threw themselves into three columns, as: Clanmahon's, under Dermot (lord of the clan), to lead the assault on the wood and to carry it; Clancullen's division, led by Cumea mac Conmara, in their rear and consequently between the sister columns, so as to support either and secure them against a reverse; Turlough's men again to follow these and hug the central column, while that stiffened the front: a system of consolidation which before that day they never had needed to employ on going into action. Then to it they went, and with sweep of sword and stroke of axe laid well on until, before Donough mac Brian Rua gave way and so suffered this defeat to be at his costs dubbed 'the Breach of Dughlen upon Donough
p.22mac Brian,' there lay stretched on the ground these two corresponding pairs of gentlemen Donough Mac Mahon in the front rank of his people and of the attack, with Aneslis Oge O'Grady, grave losses on Turlough's side; as an offset to them on the other: Conor carrach O'Lochlainn, with O'Hechir (chief of his name); over and above which slain, they had their defeat also to bear in excess of the eastern [Turlough's] party. In the long run therefore, the latter's triumph on this expedition embraced four overthrows given: the deadly breach of Dughlen to begin with and, on the morrow, other three smart and bloody defeats. Thus the tribesmen were exhausted with the continuous fighting that fretted and frittered them away, and these encounters (albeit they took the honours) had them so wearied that but little it wanted of their failing to keep together at all. In Turlough and his chiefs, however, the having in all such breaches aforesaid comminuted their adversaries, along with their minor successes made their spirits to run high.
At all events, the white stones of the hills were red with their dripping blood, the foam of the streams they forded was flecked with the same and, great as the carnage was in the woods, in the open the dead lay thicker yet; even as the poet and eyewitness expressed it in these words:
That was well won, ye clans of Cas: a shower hath reddened the white paths of the hills; many a burn is turned to blood as from the army it pours down its glen. In the mêlee while it lasted, many an arm and leg and head was shredded off; many are the dead that lie by the waysides, many the cataracts that redly have spouted from them. In the beginning it was on us that slaughter was inflicted thicklywho hath not heard the same? insomuch that there the tall Mac Mahon fell, that was our army's battle-yoke. There Aneslis Oge O'Grady perished: one that never flinched out of the way; by whose hand in the gap of danger there fell no man but had done a man's work. Cumara meets and fights with stern-voiced O'Lochlainn (Conor); Conor it was that died there in the north, and Cumara that took the prize of arms. Yonder fell O'Hechir, that on Cas's children had red-dyed his blade; chief of generous Hy-Flannchada he was, that never turned to retrace his footsteps. 'Wood of slaughter' henceforth is red Dughlen's name: crimson its pass is, and its thicket stained; until together suddenly both quick and dead shall rise, the name shall live and shall be heard afar. Four breaches in the northern country we have broken, have brought home honour and renown; in the west though things went far from
p.23p. 21, l.18]--> pleasantly, their course throughout the east was happy. It was Clancullen that maintained us, and Kinelfermac whom never battle bent; likewise, although their gallant chief fell in it, Clanmahon of the desperate combats; there we had with us the kerne of Owney too, whom in the hour of trial it is as well to have for allies. It is the swinging of our axes, the whirling of our swords, that have reddened our faces and blistered our palms; many a foot was 'set against a stay' when we came together in the charge.
[A.D. 1282] Nevertheless, Turlough scarce was returned from all this contention when, in order to attack Donough with a view to violently eject him out of his country, again he summoned a hosting on a great scale. On which progress he mastered the triuchas, and by the vigour of his inroad expelled Donough into Connacht, there to shelter in Hy-Fiachrach [O'Dowda's country]. This done, he set Thomond on a sound footing of peace and rest, detailing Cumea into the eastern half to ward it.
Donough however had endured but a trifling spell of exile, when privily he returned out of Connacht and penetrated to Turlough's hold; the officers of which never noted aught till they saw his figured ensigns that flaunted on the green, his standards planted there, and were aware of a strong phalanx that in dead silence came on and with combined rush even then assaulted them. So quickly it passed that Turlough and his chieftains could not get their gentlemen armoured, their weapons in hand, their people alarmed and fallen in, but from the torrent that burst on them needs must fly. Thus were slain certain of the highest standing, besides many 'young men' [privates] whom it boots not to rehearse. Thanks to his presence of mind, prowess of arm, and a heart that was in the right place, Turlough escaped whole from his swarming enemies. The gentlemen of whom in this camisado he was deprived were: Conor mac Brian O'Brien, Donough mac Murtach O'Brien, Lochlainn O'Dea, Gillapatrick O'Dea, and Hugh mac Dermot Mac Conmara; concerning which Donough's poet uttered these judicious words:
A hardy rush is this that ye have made out of fierce-warring Connacht's borders into Turlough's solid camp, even to Slieve-Elva of lofty eminences. No life for you was service in strange parts; rather shall ye be profited by hostings [at home]. O Donough, thou that art 'O'Brien,' violently and utterly thou hast confounded thy cruel enemy! By blue-surfaced Slieve-Elva Turlough's visitation this night is great, and noble are his losses: of them the warlike Conor is, and [he] Brian's son makes no small deficiency, nor Murtough's very valiant son. What killing have they [sustained] greater than [that of] the wisely prudent Lochlainn? of them [the lost] assuredly is the mirthful-sounding Gillapatrick O'Dea also. O son of Brian Rua, fierce lion, thine hath been a hardy rush!
[AD. 1284] To return to the contending chiefs' present position: Turlough, as before, possessed the deepsoiled eastern half of Thomond; Donough, the seaflanked western part that along its shore is rich with ocean's teeming wealth, On these terms they
p.24had continued for a length of time, but at variance and not as they ought to have been. At last they set a tryst, and either kept it right enough; but the fashion of Donough's coming was thus: he was sufficiently well drunken with mead to make him noisy and, when he was come down to the river's opposite bank, he thence gave Turlough to feel the rough side of his tongue, so that at his bitter and violently provocative words that chief's face glowed red again; nor had the flood of anger that rolled in on him an ebb before he had his wicked will of Donough. To further which desire, by promise of both countries of Corcamrua he won over and verily knitted to himself Donall O'Conor and Conghalach O'Lochlainn; as the poet said in evidence:
Donough's intemperate speech outraged the stately leader of many companies; anger called forth by his tongue incited Turlough to contrive an artful snare.
The rare device in question Donall O'Conor ordered as follows: all three towns in one or other of which Donough that very night of necessity must lie, to be in unison assaulted hotly; seeing that when once Donall and Conghalach, each with his iracht, had joined to 'proclaim' [outlaw, renounce] him, help for the time being he would have none but his usual domestics and immediate household. Eagerly therefore, passionately, Turlough following the seastream's current [i.e. estuary of the Fergus] hastened westwards; then merrily with sudden din they shouted aloud before Donough's holds, the three of them, in ignorance as to which might be the one where that night he abode.
For Donough now his handsome horse was saddled, lightly he vaulted on him, and a few of his attached people closed in about him. But, as he would have eluded them that sought him, the chief was known; and so tightly Turlough's men (spurred by exceeding enmity) thronged in on him, that on every side around him his own were broken and in panic fled. Kennedy mac Brian of the golden hilt came at him; admirably Donough turned his comely face to him, and either upon other delivered a swinging swordcut: Donough was sore hurt; Kennedy, killed outright.
Hard upon this, Mahon O'Lochlainn and Donough met and exchanged wounds; but the chief and his horse parted company. For himself, he made shift to reach the placid waters of Fergus' western brink, and in that stream betook himself to swim; the
p.25enemy from all vantage points aiming to destroy him, and vexing him with plunging discharge of missiles; in effort to annihilate him, the aforesaid Mahon also vieing with the rest. Then it was that Donough, fervently adoring the true God, in hurried act of penance lifted up his hands, and so, with good courage, with uttering of befitting words and in all composure, under the river's surface sank away from all those weapons; in doing which also he divorced the four [corporeal] elements and his impetuous soul, thenceforth and till Doom no more to be recompounded together. This was in the year of Christ's Age 1283 , when for seven years he had reigned jointly with Turlough; and the poet, making good and confirming the fact, said these words:
- All poets' loss this death of Donough is:
of him that to their companies gave rest from battle, and was their protector;
alas for the tall rash hero's fall,
whom the many so vehemently hurt
- Grief for Donough is the upshot of the fight:
here the chief of Fál is perished;
the constant greenness of their fields in every weather
is that which deprived them of brotherly love and of affection [i.e. their common country was so fair that they could not but fight for it]
- In the west the curly-heeded champion fell:
Donough, that with his vigour always wounded [many in] the battle;
Brian Rua's son, that was not feeble in the quarrel,
sweet was his victorious career both in the south and on this hither side [i.e. north] of Shannon
- Now he lies with the cold clay about him,
and woe to us that he is in his [narrow] house;
Shannon's head he was, that troves for the whole ocean,
and a graceful hospitable dispenser of the feast.
Without question of partition and boundary now to molest him, again Turlough assumed the rule.
For Turlough the sun put on a brighter and a newly burnished face; the firmament for him unveiled a visage freshly beautified. At news that Turlough was made lord of all, the wild rude wind of hoarse and inarticulate utterance hied him back swiftly to his sleeping-house; the sea left her loud booming, stilled her raving noise, out of her skirts extruding on the shores that held her the fish in shoals, until all strands were filled with this her produce so cast up. In Turlough's favour the kindly fruitful woods, conceiving and bringing forth abundantly, grew variegated; and the men of this our Ireland in general participated in the copious blessings which, at his accession, by operation of the elements and of benignant planets were showered upon Turlough. In a word, but that the oversea-folk were in the way to hinder him of becoming monarch, the Irish were well inclined to have had him for their noble head to wield their irachts.
But to proceed: Donough being (as we have seen) slain by Turlough, the latter and his party debated to enter into Irrus and, in despite of its martial chief Turlough Oge mac Brian Rua, to ravage it unabashed and either expel or kill him. Accordingly, with their right hand to the green-clad shore and their left to the mighty-flowing brine [Shannon], towards those irachts they set their faces. Out of their homes anon, to their own great gain of booty, they drove them scattered singly; in the close defiles of
p.26Glennandoon they, neither forgetting nor overlooking anything, plundered all. Turlough Oge, perceiving himself powerless to make a fight for the country, post-haste forsook it; the other Turlough came to Clonroad to occupy the camp, and he it was that built a castle there. [By him also was constructed the first stonework at múr innse, to the west of Clonroad, as the poet affirms in this quatrain:
Turlough of the crowded camps was he that in my very centre the first laid a stone; and into múr na hinnse west of me not one, under ambition's impulse, by escalade has penetrated yet.]
[AD. 1285] Turlough of the eternal expeditions now having established his governance, in the spring following on these late events Thomond's powerful irachts repaired to him where he lay, and pressed their complaint [stated certain grievances] against the stuttering English, who in the lawful owners' face detained their lands. Also they pleaded that their tuatha were apportioned among the English leaders, and that throughout all their hospitallers' borders sundry of the obnoxious rabble infiltrated continually. These grave denunciations Turlough entertained attentively, with the result that on the instant Thomond was gathered in to him and a rough wakening, a sinister call to shake off pleasant dreams, administered to the Welshmen. A royal raid in earnest was the far-reaching destruction which now they wrought; for the extent of the enemy's country was from the pasture-girt ashtree-well [tiobra na huinnsean] right up to Bunratty, and the magnitude of the noble preys then taken may be thus stated expressly: from the [Shannon's] shore to the river [Latoon] they swept up Tradree's entire substance, and of the strangers so the chief indubitably had his travail's worth.
So soon as de Clare heard that in all directions the country was scorched and peeled, his fury rose against the dwellers on his borders [his invaders]; whereas Turlough, now that in Thomond proper no longer he perceived matter on which further to visit black de Clare's violence and acts of war, turned his thoughts to the working out of another and a better aim.
[A.D. 1304] With an eye to such, out of the country's every airt and to an appointed spot the irachts in their numbers came:
p.27orderly marshalled in companies, riding good horses, carrying good arms; the foot in ranks, with broad swords, strong spearshafts, shields decorated variously and of proof; wearing white helmets, advancing under ensigns and banners of device; men they were that might not readily be stayed. The path by their captains chosen for this attempt on Munster would take them into the thick of the English settlers, whom they designed to harry in customary fashion. Forthwith they left the ground and, going steadfastly but as it were with muffled steps, crossed Shannon eastwards and bent towards Cuanach's borders. As Turlough passed, he had the Gael's submission in all these regions: either Ely, Ormond, Owney, unanimously; aes Gréine also, Hy-Cuanach, and the lesser Eoghanacht with its borders. When then their pledges were come in to Turlough [and he so far was assured of their good behaviour], the chief instructed his leaders what must be the order of their march in Munster's level open plain [into which now they were come], and what the disposition of their sundry corps: standards in front, banners in the centre; on the flanks, spears and shields; horsemen to bring up the rear; in which array they faced for the rampart-guarded stone-solid Caherconlish, kept by warders well posted high for seeing far and wide.
When the pirates saw this force advance to the very bridge-gate of their stone keep, the stout foreigners made no delay, but very eagerly sallied out to meet them and defend themselves. Their effort however, albeit that in its prosecution much hardship was endured, much painful labour spent, was profitless: firstly, they but procured themselves to be soundly gashed about in the fray; then for their hurts presently after had the actual cautery, a severe remedy which nevertheless yielded scant relief seeing that it was furnished by a raging fire which greeted them at their return, and from bawn to bridge very soon wrapped the entire 'caher.' Turlough's people left the fortress resplendent, without shadow of darkness; and a grand exploit it was for them that, out of the gloomy pile in which for scores of years before the tongue-tied strangers had unmolested dwelt, they now had fashioned [as it were] ladies' lightsome bowers radiant with brave ornament of red.
Of Turlough's excursions on this progress moreover was one
p.28into the parts of Grian, land of blue streams, of silvery salmon and commodious roads, to destroy it. There, ever as he moved, its dwellers might discern the flame leap up upon his track.
Another of O'Brien's operations that we have to record is his assault of Inchauliffe's noble town and residence. Thereby the town itself indeed was left easy enough; not so the English, who on the contrary were mightily exercised at having to desert it thus emptied of stock and people, its gaudy habitations quite dismantled.
Yet again: one of his circuits was that in which he embraced the in-herd-and-horse-abundant fiadh Mogháin, throughout the cosy dwellings of which his raiders struck a merry light, killed off its families, minished its denizens, but spared the kine.
Furthermore: amongst his rapid courses he pounced on Moyaliffe, that open broad domain, with clustered tenements. The town they turned into a sea of fire, consuming therein men and dwellings and cattle; gold, silver, raiment; the drinking-horn, the cup, the chair. Horses only this time they exempted.
One of O'Brien's triumphs it was when he swept over bealach eachaillle and left its castle-walls standing bald and black, its English charred within them.
A visit that Turlough paid was to Latterach-Oran of the golden bells, the precious relics and the pleasant ways. Out of hand the Englishtown was burnt; the religious buildings were let off; the heads and battle-spoils were brought to be exposed upon the green, where Turlough was.
At the same operation, ruthlessly he conflagrated Ara's great church and much-frequented seminary, a smooth-walled deepfoundationed edifice.
Finally: had it not been the earl of Ulster's earnest and speciously voiced monitions (prompted as they were by inherent leaning to the English) that from such enterprise dissuaded Turlough, now for a surety he had been all Ireland's king.
These deeds done, as they returning into the west coasted loch Derg, deep fringed with bush and bough and shot with wayward gleams, they were aware of a lone woman that approached them: fair of face she was and of modest mien, rare altogether. For the strangeness of her aspect, for the glory of her form, all as one man took heed to her: a maid with rosy lip, with soft and taper hand;
p.29pliant and wavy her flowing hair was, and her breasts were very white. The whole host hailed her with salutation of respect; diffidently but to the purpose she made answer to the chiefs; the warriors were stricken with the lightning of her love, and at first sight of her all hearts were fired. She spoke (as we have said), and thus: such foolish imaginings put away from you, and suffer me for a while to have speech of Turlough. Him then she addressed, and went on: Ireland's Sovereignty' is my name, great chief; and but that the strangers now [through their mouthpiece] have procured thee to turn back, the sovereign rule of Ireland in its completeness had indeed been thine. Such delight they had in listening to her that they of the army pressed close around; but in the semblance of a lustrous cloud she ascended from them upwards and, as she went, pronounced these words:
Turlough, that is Teigue's son and 'O'Brien' most honourable, he is Tara's choice: chief of red-sworded Cashel, darling of Taillte with the green slopes, own stripling of Usnach of the golden goblets, fosterling of Ellach marked by terrible deeds, the mark of noble Emania's glances. For him, Conn's Cruachan contends with all the other brilliant-blushing queens; Naas, that herself is worthy of all homage, affirms that not the bridal dowry of any other woman whom he might seek to have, would exceed the round gorgeous throne [she offers]. Have ye heard how that to her own blooming face Aine maintains Turlough to have conceded the marriage knot? In their green havens the [Three] Waves have thundered for their royal chief: thickflanked heavy wave of Ballintoy; Cleena's spray-showering wave; wave of the inver's [Lochrory's] fish-full tide-race. Woe to him that has procured the sweetheart of all these, before he works out Ireland's salvation, to turn back: `Sovereignty' with the twining twisted locks am I: woe to him that has robbed me of my gentle lover, of Turlough, man of deadly prowess! Until that high commander brought Turlough (never deemed to be of feeble counsel, and even though he be the best that ever ye will have) to face about, our hope lay in the onset of his host. To Ireland a sore calamity it is that, by making any choice [but the one], her round-blue-eyed and blithe falcon thus has abandoned her.
Turlough and his, having heard Sovereignty's boding utterance, grievously repented them of the too hasty retreat which they [cajoled by the earl of English blood] had caused their force to make, instead of persevering until Ireland in her unbroken circumference should have been theirs. Yet even so, and after all toil expended in bringing to comfortable rule and order the countries with which thus he rested content, these well might serve to mitigate his vexation; they were, in fact, the following: Thomond, Ormond, Ely, Owney, úi Luighdeach, aes Gréine, Hy-Cuanach, the Eoghanacht and aes trí maighe, each and all unclipped, undiminished, with a fair slice of the lands of Connacht. In these regions (though to say truth the chief rather had had Ireland in her integrity) his success exceeded that of all other provinces; his fame he raised above that of all other descents, his name and glory overtopped those of all great chiefs; and like a good man he prepared for himself six white castles of stone in which to dwell and to spend his affluence, thence also to discipline his borderers and to ward the marches of his dominion.
To sum up: for four [nine]-and-twenty bright years this solid sway of Turlough's endured in happiness and plenty. During that time, from knave to noble none was docked of any tittle appertaining to his condition: poets were not straitened for land; with chieftains
p.30never wine ran low; the captains' herds were not thinned; neither for fat hogs nor for other provision did the hospitallers want; penury and poverty (or even lack of right good means) were not, but every man was able to attend to and to perform the office of his station.
And now were it not well to commemorate here, at the end of this caithrém or 'triumph-roll,' the death of Donough O'Dea that was a daring chief and a wise, wealthy, possessed of a numerous following? To Turlough also he was a devoted fosterer; therefore he went, exceeding rashly, to 'take a pledge of' [distrain upon] his own kinsmen. When they saw him within their reach, these his brethren, carried away by their own furious promptings, by pride of disposition and the view of him there alone, fell on him with this result of their violence: that Donough was no more, for on the spot he was killed by Lochlainn Riach O'Dea and Magrath O'Dea. True, Donough was but a very little while a-killing; but long lasted the mourning for him that afterwards oppressed the irachts. Speedily these ill tidings travelled to Turlough in his quarters; no welcome tale indeed, but a heart's pang it was to him to hear how that man fell in such a brawl, and he expressed this rosc:
Mournful this loss that in the west is come to pass: savage death hath lifted a bold chief; grievous bereavement to me is ruddy Donough snatched my reason and my sense, blood of my body, was he whose loss is mournful.
[AD. 1305] Later on, between the chiefs and the oversea-men a quarrel was bred on this wise: it was when certain of the tuatha upon an occasion were come to a very nursery of the gentiles' malefactions, to the round-towered stone-substantial town of Quin, that a few of their gentlemen and the aliens had a chance debate; the upshot being that O'Liddy of the broad shield and his brother were slain. Which impudent liberty that the English had taken with his people coming to Cumea More Mac Conmara's ears, immediately he attacked Quin castle: its ditch was crossed, earthworks carried, great gate battered in and hewn down; its strong walls were breached, its English stammerers captured; the place was cleaned out of horses and warlike stores, and in the actual great castle a huge pile of stuff was given to the flames that ran riot till the whole became a black-vaulted hideous cavern.
When after a brief interval Turlough came to knowledge of the deed, he roused the country: then with alacrity they drew out to lay bare Tradree in the first instance, looking so to attack and to break into Bunratty itself. Tradree at anyrate got all disaster that fate had decreed for its natty dwellings, and the host advancing steadily pushed on to the castle. At every nook and corner of the adjacent outer premises they began the attack; the effect of these bold operations being that soon the goodly town all over mantled (as though stung with shame) in ruddy lustre and far-darting incandescent coruscation, while by and by again these ignominious blushes of the noble residence died away and left but gloom behind. For the foreigners, to attempt efficient repairs in the chief's despite was a task altogether profitless; without exception therefore they retired into their fortress, in close proximity to which presently the assailants cleared a position and established a standing camp. Without delay they stationed men to keep up continual discharge of missiles, and so tame the castle; others to keep it straitly; some to provoke its lisping English garrison, and honourable men of high degree to observe them [and generally to direct the siege].
Now it was that Turlough contrived and executed a piece of work such as in all Ireland never before had been set a-going: a plank-bridge, with edges fitted accurately, which [from the Bunratty side and below the fortress] spanned its sea-channel to the opposite shore [and cut off water-borne supplies]. By these measures the castle was tired out; and its fall impended when yet again the earl of Ulster's instructions overtake Turlough who, from the hour in which the Earl undertook to counsel him, let the castle be.
Here for a little we revert to the already cited Turlough Oge mac Brian Rua. In expectation of some chance or other to be artfully gotten against his enemies, he entered into the coasts of Corcovaskin; nor did he penetrate far before he found himself in close touch with some of them: Rory Buie Mac Mahon and Teigue Mac Mahon to wit, in dísert murthaile of the even shore. His people circumvented and shut in the lightsome fort; in the assault that followed Rory and Teigue were killed, and the poet in his report of the proceedings said thus:
These deaths alas are a tremendous loss, scant food for mirth these [mortal] wounds afford: [we have lost] Rory Mac Mahon, the ever ready chief, possessing valour and propitious fortune both, of pure and fragrant hand; Teigue of stately presence, of deep utterance, freeborn and graceful, in whom high spirit was tempered with sound sense; as for Rory, the yellow-haired, his great town is reduced to raving madness. In this sad pass, upon the 0'Kennedys Turlough has inflicted slaughter of a fair share of their own. This means sword-desolation of the aboriginal stocks, an apparition of fell disease, a plague of Thomond. This fair land will be girt with a 'battle-hedge' [render perhaps: will be full of such], will become coarse and opprobrious, and resound with loud 'ochone'-ing.
[But we approach the end of Turlough More mac Teigue's career]:
The chief's special, well-fenced, all-abundant, serene and goodly structures that he raised for himself were three. First comes the pleasant regal edifice of his honour and hospitality, which survives him to be celebrated by the professors of this Ireland's isle of ours. Second is the monastery of Ennis, diversely beautiful, delectable: washed by a fish-giving stream; having lofty arches, walls limewhited; with its order of chastity and their golden books, its sweet religious bells; its well-kept graves, homes of the noble dead; with furniture of both crucifix and illuminated tomes, both friar's cowl and broidered vestment; with windows glazed, with chalice of rare workmanship; a blessed and enduring monument which for all time shall stand a legacy and memorial of the prince that raised it. Brian-descended Turlough's third edifice was Heaven's own refulgent holy mansion that he won: in which he, secure at rest, continues until Doom; and until, upon the Lord's day last preceding the terrible Judgment, for a while he revisits Earth to fetch his body to the heavenly City, there to be purified and made glorious.
[A.D. 1306] When now he had accomplished and made an end of all this his building, without repining Turlough submitted himself to renounce the world, to migrate to the abode of the Triune and to inhabit realms of joy. Against Death that took him the chiefs felt a bitter grudge; and had they all, he being gone, ordered their countries after his example, from that time forth no more had Ireland's irachts kept her in discord; even as in these words the poet gives us to understand:
- A dark fatality is this that has quenched the sun,
and that at a stroke has merged Ireland in gloom;
with Death it is a point of honour not to let her be
what is it then that has blackened the sun's face?
- Out of the place in which he stayed at rest,
what is it that has roused the chilly wind?
what, O my friends, is the undue revolution
that all at once has lifted the ocean [into waves]?
- What is that which has withered all woods to which it has had access?
what brings the javelins into busy play?
how this is necessitated, is an evil that is dumb [and does not declare itself];
but again: why are all former weapons in request?
- Why call the young men each one for his spear?
why have your huntings been neglected?
a time of dire solicitude for you all is at hand,
0 good host of Munster's surface!
- The wind says, and the sun,
and the sea joining in chorus:
"this is no hour in which their women may be merry,
for Tál's descendant, Turlough, is departed"
- "Turlough, descendant of Tál, is departed,"
Ireland repeats in unison;
she being without one of Conn's progeny to succour her,
Conn's spouse well nigh is reft of reason
- The being bedded with men from over-sea,
that it is which upturns Ireland;
had but Turlough sat there in the east,
with joyous hum of numbers Tara had been loud
- Cruachan is all melancholy,
Emania utters her complaint;
her voice was not wont to be muffled,
but the cause of this eclipse [that prevails] is too excessive!
Turlough then being set out on his smooth journey to the heavenly palace, incontinently and without dissension his son and heir was inaugurated to replace him. His chiefs coming to Moyare assembled round him for the function; and proud Cumea Mac Conmara, as he did his duty, enunciated words having the force of these subjoined:
God's grace upon thee, Donough; may it guard thee and prolong! may thy flame outlive the tempest's blast; God's grace be upon thee and us! not attuned to partiality for thee is this our rhyme; may thy vigour, O proud chief, never have an ebb! See to it, chieftains, that his land and his race ye safeguard in common. Thou, our bounden comrade, scion of ourselves, never tarnish thy good grace.
To resume our narrative: in placid peace and high prosperity, in following of all good ways, in exercise of every kingly gift with
p.33which he was endowed, Donough reigned for four years, a quarter and one month: a period during which benignant moisture caused all fruits to come, the winds were dumb and ceased from cruel mischief, all things went by rule, petty indigence there was none. No monarch [of bygone ages] might have boasted a nature so chivalrous as Donough's, nor provincial governor have compared his own with Donough's host; no man sought with sidelong hints to fleck his honour; no residence, how grand soever, could afford a similitude for his stone hold; neither in earl's entertainment, nor yet in king's, was there profuseness like to his; nor among Ireland's chiefs one to be accounted a worthy second to his capacity. Thus the great chief's royal fortune waited on all things that he took in hand, until at last there fell on him a visitation of long-enduring consequence, by which the country was ruined in its tuatha; a pernicious stroke that broke up all his well-matured designs; an originating cause of all disunion. Which is to say that the lord by whom the citadel of state was held in situ; the thread by which each iracht's edges were in concord pieced with their adjacent neighbours' borders; the one that each to other fashioned the tuatha and their captains; he that availed to convert foemen to one mind: I mean Cumea More Mac Conmara, took a sickness which attacked him suddenly. In the mild month of August's former half it was, and when progress thus far had been made into the year one thousand three hundred and ten [six] since the Virgin gloriously, though in great humility, bore her Only Son to purchase back to Paradise all that were guilty; for not to help the innocent came He that was foretold, nor to succour any but all such as through Eve lay degradedfrom advent of the Trinity for our salvation, I say, than these same thirteen hundred years and ten [six] no more were past down to the politic Cumea's death on the same day (but not at the same epoch) with Mary Virgin [in her Assumption]. On the one day of the year it was that to join her Son sweet Mary went up to His City, and that Cumea likewise (his time now being run out), after purgation and (as was fitting) use of pious words, beyond all doubt attained to Heaven.
Now then, and while we are about it, how should it not be right for an accomplished ollave to descant on at anyrate some fair share of this chief's perfections? For all goodness, were it
p.34even a mighty reign [than which no thing is better], not being written down in seemly words, is merely goodness strayed and lost. But though the holy Augustine's skill in authorship for this time opportunely came to [were vouchsafed] us to serve our turn, yet never could we rehearse all Cumea's noble traits. Thomond's territories he kept intact, and from their borders kept aloof all harm; from overweening chiefs' extortion he defended freeborn clans; disobedience to his own over-chief he suffered not to pass, whether with native noble or with them from over sea; enemies' inclinations he, careless of their consent, compelled to harmony [with the prince's will]; marauders he would not have at large; justice he gave to the poor, however feeble; with indulgent liberality loaded his hospitallers; yielded to his gentlemen that consideration due to them; rescued the weak, guarded the lowly; churchmen he exalted, and the holy fanes kept repaired and decorated; his feasts he so multiplied that, from his inauguration's time until his death at the date aforesaid, it was a continuous festival that knew not interruption; and so the poet, testifying to sweetspoken Cumea's fortune in war and opulent success, declaimed these words:
- The kingly Upright of Tál's House is fallen:
to raise it up, alas, none shall attain;
a heart's wound that has hurt me sorely,
is that the Upright of Tál's House is down
- Through collapse of our mighty dwelling
the uprights of all other houses are prostrated;
no small obscuration of the fair-complexioned race,
the downfall of their mansion's rooftree is
- Where may there be found in woods,
sufficingly for that lofty habitation's need,
an upright [which while yet it grows] is rustling, gently swaying,
'thickly eyebrowed' [heavy in foliage], [and shall work out] white and clean and forked?
- An upright that had borne an hundred battles' weight,
and with rich good hap, was Cumea;
from the ground upwards he maintained all houses,
to all other beams he contributed by his energy
- The mansions northward he maintained:
both Cruachan and the Redbranched [i.e. in both Connacht and Ulster];
from Cleena's Wave to Cashel
he 'knocked the strength out of all enemies
- It was Cumea's war that spoilt the land of Munster;
Cumea's peace, on the other hand,
gave to all [according to their due]
tribute and kine and affluence
- From the day in which Cumea took power,
in Thomond here we had corn and milk;
it was he who [by his just rule] brought the fruits to us,
and he that [by his death] hath also taken them away
- He exalted veneration for the churches,
and his protection of them was rigid altogether;
to all in general he imparted the methods of his wisdom:
conciliation, good sense and [as their result] prosperity
- But bold Cumea now being dead,
the signs of the times are altered;
a truthful and a pregnant utterance is this:
that a change of weather has overtaken the community
- An habitual thing it is that, when the sun is darkened,
foul weather and hard time set in;
his mere fame [which is all that now we have of him] means (as we see) an outpour of [wet] weather,
but Cumea [in person] was as the sun for mild beneficence
- Cumea was the custodian of our churches,
and a star which bad weather ne'er obscured;
his rule was well ordered and pure,
until [he], Integrity's moon, 'was dipped' [sank below the horizon]
- All things created are o'ershadowed by his exit;
as for all dedicated precincts, they will be in danger;
Munster's destruction is that no more he lives [or: that he has not endured],
at whose signal all became amenable
- By loss of Adhar's leopard
all woods are become churlish of their fruit-store;
by reason of the spacious Eochaill's chief [departed],
the rivers' pools [resort of their best fish] are miserly affected
- By no means will I take in hand
to confine in a single lay the whole of his renown in war;
the martial record of the company that [under him] filled the pleasant houses of carousal,
never would fit completely within the limit of one lay
- But in my verse shall fit the day of Maethal,
which the fiery-preying Wolfdog fought;
as also [his work at] Quin, for ever brilliant:
the night of Quin that followed hard on Maethal's day
- He in this victory at Quin having from all others borne the palm,
Cumea forthwith is inaugurated chief:
a very champion, to whom the bushes were a house;
one blessed with luck, whether in creach or in a foughten field
- Upon the manly hosting of Fertane,
hardy his triumph won against the spears;
his rabies 'is not without a name' [is worthily recorded],
in that he drove Donough into headlong flight
- On the morning of the foray of Kenslieve,
from his own inherent noble quality he deviated not;
by the rush of their [i.e. Clancullen's] swords,
men (as I opine) were swept from those wide braes
- By him upon another day Tradree's extent,
from side to side, was wasted to the sea;
although from every airt the witch kept wounding him,
in ruinous style he made havoc of the Britons
- When he had got rid of civil strife
and had stitched up all Thomond's rents,
Turlough (a steadfast chief of prudent courage)
went eastwards on a hosting
- To Cashel's ground they came:
impetuous clan of Tál-descended Cas;
all that Cumea's head effected there,
the evidence thereof lies in his unadulterated fame
- As representative of chieftain-ruling Turlough,
Cumea of the ornamented shields arose;
Caherconlish he set on fire,
so that on this occasion of his visit it broke out in flames
- Upon another day he kindled Grian, that region of blue pools,was not a pleasant lesson for Moyaliff
and made her shingled [slated?] houses flare;
the fashion in which (until he had submission) he scorched even to her very weeds,
- Cumea's incursion too it was that boasted of
Inchauliffe's sack and conflagration;
in my rhyme ye must find the trace of
his marauders through all Mongane's lands
- Forcibly the clan's Wolfdog
made fuel of noble belach Achailde;
along with which he took a profitable prey,
for Latterach-Oran likewise was despoiled
- Ara's great church, so eminent,
he as the chief's lieutenant harried;
a triumphant progress was his from his house,
and that day also he burnt
- Even Quin's castle Cumea of the torrid fights assaulted:
so well that from the garrison he restrained not a man of his own
[that he should spare them; rather he let the work go on]
until by their cremation [strange to say] he had extinguished its grand English
- Cumea, whose horsemen were rough,
was he that a second time laid Tradree bare;
de Clare 'offered' [was on the point] to renounce it,
and oar-plying Bunratty itself Cumea invaded
- Yea, at this bout the open-spaced Bunratty,
when it was gutted, fed the flame;
and by the Wolfdog's pertinacity,
not once but twice were many of the limewhite towers burnt
- Cumea, firm tree of the true forest:
one of his earliest triumphs was when vigorously
and at once he northwards marched
to minister to them that were in straits
- Few are the countries in which a man would not desire
that enumeration of his destructive deeds should [from their number] cost an effort [but yet be accomplished];
here however we have a thing which to all clans is an opprobrium
Cumea's deeds of the kind I cannot count at all [which leaves room to say there are not any]
- As against this, we have summed up the [blessings of that]
peacefulness [which beamed] from his brown-browed eye;
war and right peace-
how few are they with whom these have succeeded
- With Maccon's son [Cumea]
they prospered and, as by a standard, both were made illustrious;
until his death, the hard-striking chief had undisputed
mastery of the one as of the other art
- Sickness of heart it is,
and [result of] a wide-embracing loss, to look upon his swords, his helmets [all unused];
his spear always was 'very close upon the prey' [when you saw his spear you might look for an early creach],
and to contemplate it [standing idle] is a tedium
Cumea More Mac Conmara being thus dead, and at his chief's side buried in Clonroad, the irachts assembled to give their adhesion to Donough his good son: a course to which already they were resolved before Cumea's last breath was drawn. Nor was it strange that to Donough their gentlemen and the rest were so minded: for they were well affected to his flawless integrity, which with watchful readiness would maintain any man [whose cause was good]; because also no hardihood could shew performance such as his valour had accomplished; no beauty equalled his grace and symmetry; no honour came up to his perfect chivalry; no sound was sweet as his clear words. And again: because for deference to his arch-chief, for openhandedness to his own subordinate captains, no man was Donough's peer. In generous donation to the hospitallers, in honourable consideration of the poets, he was preeminent; and who but he was gentle and winning with women, sweet-natured to young lads, cheery with them of his great household, a handsome purveyor of the winefeast? What wonder then, I say, though in that judicious
p.35conclave a member of such noble parts were chosen by acclaim? And the author, celebrating his election, said:
Our consenting to Donough, may it be no adhesion to a man of strife; from yourselves without question his nobility and his honour emanate. Such his eloquence and comeliness, his just and sagacious words, [that] from his wisdom [we may expect] reunion of the clans and blossom of the fragrant trees. To his enemies let him be a teacher of death; to gentle maidens, a persuasive charmer; let us accept all judgments that emanate from him: 'his seasons' [those in his time] have not been perverted [from their course]. To the wretched let him chew mercy; the violent let him abate from their violence; be treasonable utterance by stratagem detected and done away with; let all holy orders have safeguard. With respect to foe, let him shew restlessness [ceaseless vigilance]; as regards sacred precinct, modesty; all that is of good report let him praise, and may our powerful chief be without blemish. Son of valiant Cumea, refined and noble is his brilliant presence; the man's very semblance, that alone (as richly it ought to be) is pledge sufficient for him
Nevertheless, when Donough came to show that he too had the qualities of his race, when his character and conduct shone out and his good report was published far and near, then in his chieftains jealousy-begotten malice rebelled against such virtues; to all minds the noble course he ran grew hateful; every warrior nursed a spite at him; whereby actual repugnance to him kindled in the breast of neighbours that at present (but not so to continue) lay at rest. It was as, sometimes, beneath rank overgrowth of greenstuff that would seem to prison it, the spring-fed pool sleeps still; but the weeds have small cohesion, and but little can coerce it when (in obedience to internal workings) the swollen volume of the mere bursts bounds and, welling forth, floods all the land. With these their evil dispositions Donough, however, for a while endured.
[A.D. 1307] By and by it came to pass that, Sheeda mac Cumea Mac Conmara's people visiting Kilsarnat's pleasant borough-town, betwixt them and the sour constable of the place there was a falling out. Unhesitatingly either party faced the other, and the constable very expeditiously was slain. In across the marches Sheeda's men brought back a forcible prey of the stout earl's beeves; but for fear of him, and due regard had to his great consequence, on O'Brien (Donough) and on their own chief Donough Mac Conmara (Sheeda's brother), they durst not presume so far as openly to frequent the tuatha through whom on their homeward way they would have to pass. Therefore, together with some households that they picked up as they came along, they proceeded to Moynoe of pious fame, intending there to refuge; and some of Sheeda's people went so far as to stay in the great church itself. These considering that their wants were not met with becoming zeal, and in requital dispensing some rough usage, their highhanded dealing made the cry to be raised. Maelruana O'Cormacan's Sons responded to the alarm and in their rush slew a dear fosterer to Sheeda, whose designation was O'Kinnergan.
When Sheeda was apprised that one so dear to him thus was lost, his wrath fairly boiled over; Maccon his brother, he himself, with Hugh, son of Donough their chief and brother, followed up
p.36the outrage by charging right in on Moynoe's termonland, and its tuatha with their domiciles they enveloped in universal arson. The venerable church only was excepted, nor, but for Maccon, had that same been spared; the termon's broad expanse they cleared of flocks and herds, and then withdrew into their own borders.
[AD. 1308] Rapidly the tidings overspread Thomond. Among Hy-Blood now passion ran high and stormy for their brethren despoiled, their patrimonial termon burnt; and the confederated gentlemen that conspired to utterly harry Clancullen, to defeat them and to run them out of their own country, were these: Turlough O'Brien's mailclad sons and Dermot Finn O'Brien's, with their followers, who by descent formed a branch of clan-Brian-Rua; the O'Kennedys, O'Gunnings, O'Shanachans, O'Hogans, O'Ahiarns, O'Muldoons and O'Duracks. From outside of the country's limits they mustered to their coalition: Ormond, marshalled by gentlemen of the O'Kennedys; the vigorous men of Forgavale; Brian's brave sons and, in shield-wearing companies, the O'Lonargans. All were to penetrate to the heart of Clancullen's country to possess it, in order to recoup their people, of their enemies to take vengeance for their losses, and to banish away Clancullen altogether.
Here is the order which beforehand they took for their enterprise: no quarter to be given to either gentleman or common fighting-man; to hospitaller, to poor, to rich; to chiefs, women, poets; to the feeble, to little lads, horseboys, eldest sons; but general slaughter to be made of all gentiles. The owners being expulsed, Hy-Blood would sit down in their habitations; of churches and important edifices would completely strip all termon-precincts in their land; the whole of this in retaliation for the wanton incursion which in the first instance Clancullen had made on Hy-Blood's own termon. In regard to which matters the poet of the seed of Blod composed:
- League yourselves now, children of Blod,
and fight a fight that shall be a credit to you;
never let it be heard said that Clancashin
turned you back from the battle
- So many as we have of Clanbrian,
they meet the encounter: who knows not the report?
the 'face of whose weapons if Clancullen endure,'
merciless death shall be their portion
- Let brave Clandonnchuan stand up,
and the O'Conaings, smouldering with war;
Clankennedy east and west,
shoulder to shoulder let them come into the fray
- Let Clanhechir-finn arise,
and the O'Hogans, that never revoked their character;
since the seed of Maeldun will be with us,
we may not entertain any question of them
- Thither will come swift Clanlonargan,
whose coming will [to the enemy] have been one long woe;
come too the O'Keatys of the harbour will,
with a gathering made out of all their quarters
- Clanflaherty will come with us,
and the O'Shanachans whom never sword made to swerve;
the O'Ahiarns will come into the battle:
should we [and Clancullen] meet, a grim destruction it will be
- Let the whole wound-inflicting seed of Cormac answer
[to the call and take] their spell yonder;
the O'Coneelys of the hardy creachs,
that on every path have striven for the victory
- Spare not the seed of Brenann Bane,
that will encounter you in the west;
as for the O'Molonys (whom indeed ye hate not),
out of the west come ye back with the fight won of them
- Do and fight your best for your country,
hand to hand back your fortune;
keep intact your nobility and your honour,
bring off the prize; come, league yourselves!
When Clancullen learned that this great and determined coalition was like to invade them, their gentlemen came together and brought their chief to assuage and reassure the clan, disclosing to him the nature of their trouble: that Hy-Blood in vengeful mood stood arrayed, and with truculent utterance cried out to be
p.37led against them. Then Donough seeking to ease their care addressed his people: whether in this our sudden necessity God will not help us, who shall say? and it well may happen that this undertaking which they have announced shall be to their own damage. A mere overcasting of the sky implies not of necessity that rain will fall in torrents. Therefore will I have recourse to the supreme chief to tell him all those nobles' pride, to offer to their tribesmen equitable indemnity, and endeavour to mitigate the heinous ambitions which their goodly termon's fate has bred in them; in such sort that the calm-counselling wisely decisive amiably disposed O'Brien may arrest Hy-Blood that they come not on this expedition. Note that he by no means desired their enmity.
Donough, on this well-intentioned errand bound, resorted to O'Brien's camp and in presence of the whole assemblage disclosed his articles of reparation. Comprehensively also and with accurate memory, Donough Mac Conmara set forth his consanguinity with each and every sept of his hearers; thus they were without pretext to bear a discontented mind towards the prince [by reason of his palliative action in Clancullen's favour].
But O'Brien required hostages for the performance by Donough and his irachts of the conditions stipulated; and dutifully the latter said that, to secure peace for his tribesmen, he would yield such pledges as the chief might exact. The number chosen by O'Brien was fourteen of Clancullen's best gentlemen; which terms Donough allowed and promptly executed, for he handed him over his own son, the remainder as well being of his immediate family.
[AD. 1309] The peace thus well ratified and their hostages delivered, Clancullen were not long at rest before an emissary at breakneck speed came in from O'Brien to intimate that he no longer could withhold Hy-Blood from attacking them to extirpation. When Donough heard the news and realised the pass to which he was brought: his force (in reliance that there was peace) dismissed, his pledges all put in and he therefore deprived of their help in war, yet that not even so was peace had of the eastern septs; his brow lowered and his face flamed with anger. At once he gathered his households and sped messengers after his scattered warriors to recall them. The irachts on their side were sore puzzled by these fickle counsels (as they took them to be); for they considered
p.38how many were the precious securities they had given, and how brief the respite by those gentiles granted in return. And here now was the last of the tribesmen's amity among themselves; a beginning of Munster's confusion; an end of the kingdom built up by Turlough and by Cornea the peacemaker.
The irachts hastened in however; proudly they answered the hurried hosting-call, all craved to be led against the enemy, and as fast as they could march they advanced to the dewy-grassclad hill of Ballycullen. In which goodly muster were neither the chiefs of their forthuatha or ' super-tribes,' nor the outskirts of their irachts, nor the kindreds of Kineldunal; nor any but only Clancullen bodily and a small contingent of the O'Dorcons. Donough looked on his host and said ye are well, my brave people, whose high qualities abound if your numbers are few to count; your assembly, if thin, is loyal each to each; the bond that unites you is a chain of love, and your charge is that of the squealing litter of one sow. Woe to them at whom ye shall let yourselves go, to the battle on which ye shall be hurled! alas for the body upon which ye shall fall, for the land over which ye shall pour out your wrath! The more incumbent on you also it is to stand stiffly to it, that ye have over you one lord to handle you; not like to these that come at you, of whose kindreds no one man has faith in his fellow. Then Donough, having his face still turned to his faithful people, spoke these becoming words:
- Your proper selves are there, O seed of Aedh!
on whom, though ye be few, yet may none dare presume;
Aedh's pure seed [always] has been found to hand,
who if but small in number are no unlovely sight
- Numerous as they of the east
come with impetuous rush to have at you,
[as] all other stubborn hosts ye have drained out [so also will ye these],
for love and brotherly affection must prevail
- A man like Cumea's son Donall,
where or in what spot have they him?
ye owe it to him to proclaim it here:
that he is the very noblest man we have
- Lochlainn, Maccon, graceful Sheeda,
Rory and both Hughs, let us count:
a troop not weak in horses for the stress,
all sons of triumphing Cumea
- Teigue's sons: Rory of the quiet sayings,
Mahon, active Teigue;
many a time their forayings have helped you,
and woeto all that find themselves against them
- Gillamochanna's sons from afar,
and Gillamochanna [himself] that is their head;
the whetting of their blades has helped you often,
and so have pleasant Sheeda's sons
- clan-Donough that often broke and scattered foes,
as well as able clan-Melachlainn;
a clan of definite pronouncement, strong in families:
- Clan-Clarach, well inured to arms,
Clanlorcan gallant in advance;
clan-Gillamael resounding in their onset,
and Menma Mac Conmara's stately soils
- The O'Molonys, that make the battle red;
the O'Hallorans, whose good luck runs ever high:
men that on reputation's quest
are neither soft nor timorous in the rivalry of general strife
- O'Slatras in their eager numbers,
the bellicose O'Hessias
(whose share, 'tis a true saying, is not small),
and with them Clanartagan
- Clanhaly, let them rise for the battle,
and bard-loving Clankinergan;
the Kyle's host in a phalanx:
O'Malleys told O'Miachans
- I am grateful, my fine people
that on all battle-days come to me! powerful,
not scanty, your horsetroops are,
O numerous Clanliddy
- Arise, close in around me,
strip your shields with the decorated convex;
'tis not my law [cause] that shall be weak in the land,
children of Cas, children of Casheen!
- Now step out to Kilgorey,
to their green-branched very mearing;
your number suffices not for aggressive action,
wait then until they charge
- Then, freeborn clans,
split shields, bend blades, shiver spears;
slay and despoil their chiefs, [and you, our captains,]
keep your companies in hand
- Spill blood, proclaim defeat,
make your own of victory's fruits, and a lasting name;
their herds are a certainty to you,
while you retain the prize of skill at arms
- If for your country, O Clancashin,
ye but fight this first fight well;
then are ye competent for all great deeds,
and they shall be blazoned by your bards!
Donough's harangue to his followers being ended, on the same spot he set about harnessing of himself. The first piece brought to him was a trusty well-made acton, dense, close-ridged; easily he assumed it, and the extent to which it protected him was from his lower throat to the point of his round knotted knees. Over which integument again he was invested with a loose mailshirt of hard and glittering rings that made a rough surface; close of texture it was, with gilded border ornamented variously. A fighting belt he took now, that was moderately thick and fitted with a chased buckle; it was saffron-coloured and smooth-selvaged. Over his mail he drew tight this same round-star-studded belt, in which was hitched a long blue-gleaming dirk hanging ready to hand; it was strong in the point, wide in the fiat, smooth-channelled
p.39thick-backed, thin-edged, and had a decorated wooden halt. Over the mail's upper part went a fine-textured white tippet of proof. He set on him a strong-plated conical helmet; took to him a broad sword, deeply fluted, having golden cross-hilt and tracery-embellished scabbard, which he girded to his side. In his right he took the handy dart, to hurl among the enemy; in his left he grasped the thickshafted solid-riveted great spear that abode with him, to bore with and to push.
At the same time great was the stout tribesmen's commotion as they required their crimson-broidered actons, bright mail, flashing blades and far-reaching spears; as they handed over to their horseboys their horses to lead them to the rear, pursuant to their resolve that never would they desert their chief; and as they chose out their other arms too: the young men, taken with the beauty of there, holding to the gilded and otherwise embellished weapons; veterans picking rather the old, with which many and many a time before they had triumphed in the fight; while soldiers sewed colours to their staves, and standards' edges were fastened to their spears.
Then with loud clear voice of command Donough said: let your soldiers give ear! govern your anger; moderate your clamour; instruct your raw lads; exalt your spirits; your standards rear aloft so that under them the colours shall show plain, and of your battles be there three columns made. At the chief's behest the movement was executed orderly, and three columns were formed: one was Donall mac Maccon's and Lochlainn Mac Conmara's with their rising out; another, Maccon's and Sheeda's; the third, Donough's own, together with his chieftains, hospitallers and household.
To speak with his lawful chief and noble lord [Donough his brother] Maccon came then, and the stripling addressing him said: Sheeda and I in very deed are the authors of this dissension; wherefore, seeing that by our rash and ill-considered act we now have started the war, be it this day granted us that we two give the first onset. For we being they whom those fierce battalions will the most ravenously seek to come at, and the fair mark of their leaders' displeasure, our army would but suffer loss all the greater for their being found in immediate proximity to us. In answer to which, Donough returned: hearken to that
p.40which I shall say, my men, and as regards leading off in this battle your three divisions shall be favoured equally. The centre I myself will take, in order that on me the main fight's brunt shall fall; let you, the other two columns, as wings support me one on either side, to pierce the enemy's flanks in case that ye and they now do indeed meet on the field.
Donough's brief and pregnant monition ended, presently they made out a glare of fire that revealed the presence of hostile scouts. Nor was this a bidding that failed of hearty response; for at once Clancullen pushed on to the green-fenced marches of Kilgorey, whence they saw three strong corps (made up of many kindreds), gay and gallant, foes worthy of gentlemen, that with sword and spear in haste progressed towards them. Yet again Donough spoke to his people: until they shall have crossed the mearing, rise not! Short then was the pause before Hy-Blood crossed it, and desperately charged Clancullen's station.
These with alacrity rising stood fast and firm to meet them, both sides set breast to breast upon the place, and the ABC of the business was begun. On either hand continually they poured their darts into each other, sent the eager deadly javelins whistling on their way through shield and mail, and from their stone-propellers mutually a quivering cloud issued to fall in rain upon their heads and helmets, on their crests and weapons.
Upon finding the ground to be thus stiffly disputed with them, Clancullen after a time (as was but prudent) sullenly and in good order retreated from their position; but when Hy-Blood saw the move, with one accord the whole body of them, from high to low, used such profitless tactics, luckless, and big with future penitence, as by some famous and all-triumphant enemy they might have been induced to adopt: in other words, they renounced all pursuit and decreed to turn back again, thus throwing away their half-won victory.
When Hy-Blood thus had voided the field, Clancullen as claiming the advantage sent up a mighty shout; Donough the chief made up his mind to stand, and from that instant again and again his battalions launched themselves on the enemy: clan-Teigue overlapped them, clan-Sheeda stuck to them, clan-Donough laid into them, clan-Melachlin slaughtered their gentlemen, deftly clan-Lorcan maimed them, clan-Anerhiny slew them in becoming
p.41style, clan-Clarach broke their flanks, c]an-Gillamoyle fell on them, clan-Menma shattered them, the O'Molonys pressing on them drove them close packed and the residue of the irachts (according to the list of their various designations prefixed to our account of this fine battle) contributed to kill them off.
Howbeit, along that line of country was great store of helmets in process of receiving cruciform incision, of standards being rent, jacks slashed athwart, mail thrown off in haste; many a weasand was a-slitting, arm lopped off, side well laid open. Blood was everywhere in the open ground on which their captains had been routed, and along the roads the bodies lay in even swaths. The gentlemen forming a part of these losses, and in this chronicle to be recited, were these: Turlough mac Turlough mac Dermot Finn O'Brien, Mahon mac Dermot mac Dermot Finn O'Brien, O'Ahiarn (William) chief of his name, Rory O'Shanachan, and Eslis O'Hogan that was 'O'Hogan of Forgavale' (not to reckon other fifteen gentles of his sept); on the field were spared eleven gentlemen of the O'Kennedys; Melaehlin mac Murrough O'Shanaehan and his elder brother, O'Shanachan (Hugh), captain of Hy-Rongaly, were taken back prisoners. They that fell in the actual battle (forby such as were lost in the retreat) were three-score-and-ten chiefs and gentlemen from among the mainstays and captains of the gentiles; while of their further losses no count ever has been promulgated. And so Clancullen's skilled bard, commemorating the event, said:
With this one brisk set to, Kilgorey's mearing lies all red around; many a ruddy pool we have made to gather on her lands. Along her borders, on her level ground, thick lie the spoils and heads and bodies; never disavow the cause of it all, for this battle will endure for ever. In the spirited contest fell Turlough mac Turlough mac Dermot Finn, a hand that held long iron. There lie fifteen men of the O'Hogans (ennmerate them all we cannot); a hardy company of the O'Kennedys, to have turned them shows that the victors' armour betrayed them not. By our weapons Melachlin O'Shanachan fell in the fight; and in our western home that goodly and loud-sounding scion of the same race, generous Hugh mac Murrough, captive sits. More than ten score men is the estimated tale of their losses which (as the fruits of our handiwork that day) are prostrate in the battle's litter. Dauntlessly ye have borne yourselves in the fray, a work of mighty triumph it has been; now boldly yonder [in their country] essay aggression, and still, Clancullen, show your valour. Nobles ye
p.42shall cover with their own blood, and on yourselves must many deaths inflicted be; people will proclaim the fury of your wrath, and many precincts ye shall make to lie red around!
Then, after this most notable feat of war which Clancullen had made their weapons' points to execute, and so soon as O'Brien learned that not they were guilty of the late commotion, he granted their precious pledges to return to them.
Now as touching the cantred of Hy-Blood: their gathering being riddled through and through, their leaders fallen, their hospitallers thinned off and themselves [the survivors] thus violently scattered; their strong places perished and the fair open regions of their country made desolate; compassion for the grievous disaster that in such brief space had overtaken those gentlemen touched Thomond's irachts at large. Whereupon, both east and west, and universally, these became twined in a fast tie of kindness for the seed of Blod. But all such as nourished a spite at Mac Conmara and were his illwishers, when they heard of this encounter felt their spirit to increase; and they who with desire to straiten Clancullen now bestirred themselves, were these: the nobly led generous Kinelfermac, Kineldunal of the red standards and good swords, and Donall mac Maccon with his rising out: he being angered that not to him the irachts uncurtailed had yielded their allegiance.
Here are the terms which, with a view to utterly reduce him, these sent in to Mac Conmara: Lochlainn O'Dea to have [independent chiefry of] úi Flaithrí; Mac Conmara for ever to renounce Kineldunal, and in equal moieties to share the right of his own country with Donall mac Maccon his brother; while to Hy-Blood must be paid eric for the ruinous damage done them. These stipulations neither Donough relished, nor Clancullen endured that he should adopt; and because therefore he refused to execute them, at once and all together the numbers aforesaid were set to burning and pillaging of Hy-Cashin.
When Donough saw this his enemies' worthily carried out incursion, he caused bring in and collect his people; the which being gathered in one place, sword in hand and with precipitate step they sought their foe. Between them a stern battle was fought out, a woeful conflict of swift attack. In the event Donough was beaten, and of his irachts and noble leaders the
p.43greater portion slain, as: Cumea's son Hugh aradhach, O'Molony, Teigue's sons Conn and Mahon, Melachlin mac Sheeda, O'Halloran, and Conor mac Conduff O'Haly. But as the gallant Donough, with only a few about him to keep him, retreated after that engagement, some of his people took counsel to fall on him; in pursuit of which evil resolve he was killed by them, as the poet in commemoration of their deed and of that incestuous murder saith:
- (Would we had perished before Donough's destruction,
by which [a pall of] heavy gloom is come upon us;
since now indeed our sheltering paragon is fallen,
[the consequences of] his loss will endure until the famous Judgment
- Until you come to Donough, no man is of account;
as compared with his proud rabies, all valour is but little;
an axiom which we may not shake off is this:
that a brugh resembles not a simple `bally' [as neither was Donough like to other lesser men]
- Houses are not as is a single house;
a chief is not likened to a chieftain;
even as in mid-ocean thou canst not find
the counterpart of that plain which embraces Cashel [so were it vain to seek for Donough's equal]
- Clearness [of intonation] is not the same as mere noisy babble,
nor in the symposium is every man just like his fellows
would that the end of all things were come about ere the dear hero was betrayed!
in exercise of accomplishments all men are not equal
- Hidden in mould
and a loss he is-lies Hugh-of-Ara;
that Hugh-of-Ara, stripling of the burnished spear,
was wounded unto death is a bereavement
- O'Molony is entered into [turned to] clay,
a loss it is that no more he returns;
the land is resonant with [lamentation for the victims of] their worthy deeds:
[but] mettled Conn and Mahon are no more
- Though all our host besides had come back safe with us,
and that he also, the man that delivered him to death,
had perished there in the west:
Lucas to us had been a (more than countervailing] loss
- Melachlainn son of Sheeda finn,
Murrough son of the wise and eloquent Macraith:
their doing of them to death is not a glory with which we may surround ourselves;
another loss too is O'Halloran
- Chivalrous Conor mac Conduff,
a duty it is to mention him, 'O'Haly';
whose deeds of prowess are devoid of all ill will [ought not to rouse petty jealousies],
as is the fair fame of O'Donnchada
- But let us in our own despite put from us
grief for blue-eyed Donough;
leave then that chief quite on one sick [for the present],
and let us [with a benison] at any cost be done with him
- Donough's rescue from torments
in variety [that is] from Hell-[rescue of] Leany's chief,
now in his decent grave-this thing achieve,
O Mary Mother!
[A.D. 1310] Howbeit, when O'Brien's army and Mac William-Burke's force together perceived the slaughter wrought on Clancullen, to wit: Mac Conmara murdered, divers also of his people's notables killed as well, over the [confederates'] borders they poured a searching torrent of invasion to harry all their land, until they found themselves faced by the following: Dermot mac Donough mac Brian Rua accompanied by Hy-Blood, and the late battle's remnant of Clancullen. Promptly O'Brien and Mac William closed in to surround them; whom when the others saw, they made no stand; the aggressors drove them back routed utterly, and in the beginning of this great defeat was slain Donall O'Grady, a man of comely presence and of good repute, gift-giving chief of Kineldunal.
These frays thus ended and his skirmishing parties all come in, in triumph Mac William for the nonce went home into Connacht; O'Brien continuing where he was, to vigorously guard the country until Mac William should return to him.
Touching Clancullen: Donough their good lord now being gone, with all despatch they chose another, and of the whole 'choir' [conclave] not one opposed him, Lochlainn namely. Whom the tuatha elected for his personal endowments; his own kin, for his brotherly affection; his warriors, for his exploits in war; his hospitallers, for his good-natured deference; his poets, for his qualifications of liberality; his mercenaries, for his martial enterprise; his young men, for his worshipfulness; the clergy, for his strict rule of life, and his women for the mellifluous nature of his speech. Brief: in the matter of government, as also in maintaining of a great chief's state, none such exceeded Lochlainn's fame.
On the Monday next after this latter broil, de Clare with his battalions, Dermot O'Brien and his kinsmen, with either Clancullen
p.44and their gentiles, proceeded to burn and strip Kinelfermac; Kineldunal too they preyed and forcibly consumed, and so with whole skins back to their own countries again. Maccon and Sheeda however parted from them and, in order to profit by its rugged nature, resorted to the northern parts of Echtge.
[AD. 1311] As for Mac William-Burke and his destructive horde: on the Wednesday after the killing of Mac Conmara, he taking the same former clear and open way with all speed came again to O'Brien. The pair being thus reunited and on one ground, that night they tarried so; diligently from all airts they summoned to them the people of the country, with first light of the morrow's silent morn they rose (the day precisely being Ascension Thursday), and made a resolute push for Bunratty [where they occupied the adjacent hill].
As for de Clare with his troops of horse and companies of foot, both Gael and Gall: as a great cloud big with fire, edged with scintillation, through the massive fortress-gates they issue and, with intent to engage O'Brien [already posted there], march to crown the above-named eminence. The parties now being well up each to other and on the scene of action, the English nobles' courage was exalted; like embers all faces of the Irish chiefs flushed red; no veteran but his hair bristled on end, while striplings at this their first essay felt their hearts to turn and be perturbed in them. The lines charged after a fashion such that we needs must liken them [i.e. their contact] to some particular horror of the universal Doom. Now was many a golden diadem made to fly, many a comely visage to darken, many a shield was held up for shelter; swords were busy shearing, spears transpiercing; at last victory declared for O'Brien and his Burkes as against de Clare with his friends and partisans, until Mac William-Burke was shrewdly hit and, being taken at disadvantage with but a few attendants, captured. On hearing that their leader and noble lord was actually led into de Clare's castle to be fettered, with single impulse Mac William's men all set their faces to their own land, and far and fast ran a well-contested race [home into Connacht].
Mac William being thus unluckily prisoner, and Donough the supreme chief consequently reduced to give up the fight and in disorder fly, de Clare exulted hugely; notwithstanding that (if we
p.45leave out Mac William) the losses sustained were more than those inflicted by his side. At Donall Mac Conmara's earnest exhortation to offence, Brian Bane mac Brian Rua came in; over the whole region of S. Cronan's coarb he sent out flying parties to maraud, and back to Bunratty they brought the noble preys thus taken.
Again: once upon another time it was that Dermot mac Donough mac Brian Rua [nephew of Brian Bane above], with his brethren and entire strength of followers compact in close-formed companies, burst in on the very floor of Clonroad; which residence, with open smooth-grassed lawn, wide roadways, regal treasures and great opulence, they delivered to the flames. Alas for him whose natural own the good town was, yet must he bear to have such wrack made of its excellent dwellings! For that indeed was a tutelary refuge of the Irish, eminent and preeminent above citadels of all the provinces. From this mischievous expedition Dermot came back in high glee, and for a length of time so the factions rested, but on either side in wretched plight: their chiefs without either pleasure or profit of their landed rights; their captains still constrained to vigilance and warlike preparation; their hospitallers wanting means to sustain their character, so that weeds overspread their courtyards.
De Clare next proclaiming a general hosting of both Gael and Gall, all answered the call and presently marched into Corcamrua; there they pitched a great camp, built up their watch- and other fires, and that night lay: Dermot with his good Gael that cheerfully had answered him, in Crichmaill ['Grughwill']; de Clare in his rear, at the great hill of Dloghan.
Come we now to Donough mac Turlough More: a warrior he was that for mettle might have been king of Munster, and for a space had in fact been munificent lord of Thomond; for rude prowess and Brianlike generosity he, could the Gael have compassed it, had been Ireland's monarch. That same night the supreme chief lay quiet on Slievecarn; where in their high-pitched camp unwonted presages oppressed the gentlemen, while to the rank and file (such were the phantasms of their delusive dreams) it was not given to have sleep at all. At [sound of mysterious] clear utterances [that provoked them], lights of all fairy forts revealing themselves flashed plain to see; the Four Waves rose
p.46together and in unison aloud expressed their groans, making the deep reverberation of their plaint to fill fair Ireland's woods and roll adown her stony rivers. That night moreover was none but most indubitably saw three shades, and heard three feeble long-drawn wails, lamentable, low and sadly sweet.
Amid these terrors, until smiling morning rose the gentles kept their ground; and at the very point of day the supreme chief, resolved to see it out, betook him to the coming battle's field. In which conjuncture, the very people that never had betrayed him were at the moment they that also the farthest were removed from him; while the two companies immediately escorting him were precisely those which [as will appear] wrought on him a deed of woeful treachery: being indeed Mahon mac Donall connachtach O'Brien and Murrough his son and their followers, Kineldunal also in their serried ranks. In which their design of base and fatal violence all these were associated: woe to the mind that first conceived the matter of it, to the man that first contrived the plot! With this wickedness in their hearts therefore, westwards by the narrow ways that led from it they drew off from Slievecarn; then so soon as Murrough O'Brien deemed the time was come to strike the stroke that should fell the chief, his foot he set to a solid bearing and unfalteringly delivered the axe full upon his head. Which horrid deed he accomplished all the more easily for that which justly should have made it but the more repugnant to him: the fact, I mean, that he himself it was had schemed to have the chief placed among them [the Donall-connachtach-faction], and the other set [Kineldunal] at his own back to screen him. Foul fall him that at the Devil's bidding dealt that murderous blow!
After this his violent death, all left the chief to lie there; but his poets and his clergy of the higher orders came to seek him, even as his poet tells us when he, standing over Donough and setting forth Ireland's grief, did enunciate this lay:
- 'Weary' [sorrowful] this night is Ireland:
her grieving is very cruel;
a spouse to whom showers [of tears] are due,
is he for whom she makes this moan
- Tara of the kings-I say it straight-
her plaint is very lamentable;
Usnach's groan, called forth by her displeasure,
is easily perceptible to hearing
- In lamentation for the supreme chief,
Emania also heaves the sigh;
no conquest that ever he prevailed to make,
was a prouder than this sob that Cruachan sends us
- Because suddenly he is snatched from her,
Cashel of the ecclesiastics, minstrels and poets, sounds her woe;
seeing that [he], her love and her renown, lies mangled,
Aine's audible tribulation is not strange
- In mourning for [him that was] head of Maenmaa ['O'Kelly's country']
many another groan is uttered:
[not alone] by every one of the bardic corporations,
[but even] by women and by little lads
- After slaughter of Turlough's son,
never in Tara shall king have his familiar haunt;
Corc's Munster all is darkened by it:
by grief for Donough of gort Gaille
- Murrough's stroke, dealt through malevolence
towards Saby's son, of freeborn Lore his seed:
that terrible stroke was a lamentable sad deed,
that in one act killed more than an hundred
- Many a chieftain is without horse,
many a tuath without a captain;
our enemies having wasted away our young men,
many a 'queen' [lady of high degree] is left without a kingly son
- That stroke it is that has withered chivalry,
and many redlipped woman-bevies has dispersed;
has started crowds upon an eastern course,
and driven many to serve in strangers' parts
- Many a fair church will be desolate,
and learned men in prey to terror will abound;
by reason of a [murdered] chief,
many and distressing are their griefs and many a [monastic] order is unhonoured
- No less numerous than the entire population will the preyings be;
inequitable judgments shall be many;
'every fore-ordinance' [fore-ordained evil] now is upon you,
and all destruction ready to cove into early play
- Murrough has ruined Munster:
to enter into her is a journey not to be taken;
north and south he has stricken her dumb,
and [so far as sound goes] her wail is even less than her [poor] felicity
- Ireland's true felicity is gone,
the outlawing of Clemency is accomplished;
many a man is horseless and humiliated,
many a woman pitiable and weary'
Donough mac Turlough More being thus, as we narrate, by Murrough mac Mahon mac Donall connachtach not accursedly only but inexpediently done to death, de Clare brought all the gentiles to unite together for concord, and they assented to have
p.47one chief over them to rule them, who should be Dermot mac Donough mac Brian Rua. To invest him with the chiefry his captains flocked to him at Moyare; by acclamation he was inaugurated accordingly: Lochlainn mac Cumea Mac Conmara proclaimed him, and the irachts approved (so they promised) immutably, as in these fair words Dermot's bard expounds:
The regal style bestow we now-a pronouncement it will be that shall bear honourable fruit-it is the [whole] country that has chosen him, as the hero himself might have expected [lit. quippe cui proximurn esset hoc]: Dermot of the dunes, son of Donough, generous posterity of [no less] generous Blod, a man unshaken of design. To the Church let him be as he should be, but rule over all others; be the heart of our countries, and their lordly tree, blossom-laden. Dermot of Dunmore, affable, lively, [and pro re nata] stern: his wisdom and his sword [combined] have won him this submission. His amiability, his [legitimate] pride, have travelled and spread favourably; away from his own domain he is heard of far and wide. Munster, home of poets, is his natal soil; in the east, he rules his household on a footing of merriment and comfort.
This brilliant dignity Donough for a season wore, amid frequent attacks [made and sustained], much clamour, peril and commotion; and in the first autumn of his lordship over the irachts, the earl of Ulster and Mac William-Burke (considerations of friendship and hereditary alliance moving them) with all the Burkes together rose to vindicate Thomond for her [rightful] chief: Murtough mac Turlough More. The reason being that, to the [de Burgo faction of the] English, Turlough ever had been a loyal friend; wherefore it was an issue of that great chief's that they were minded to inaugurate, and to forward his interest that now their combined strength under Mac William espoused his cause.
The way which with an eye to the impending fight this army took, was that which led to the [wood of] Fidhail; for this they had selected as the ground on which the battalions should engage and with hard blows decide their claim to the country. Dermot mac Donough mac Brian Rua also [as well they knew], hoping to take his assailants on either flank and so disorder them, right in the very entering in of the Fidhail lay and awaited them; he having with him all the gentlemen of his party, if we except Clancullen only, who a while before had turned against him and taken the earl's side. Which they did when they perceived their own true vine draw near to succour them; the plant grown in their own orchard; their noble ladies' petted fawn; the stream that encircled all their tuatha's borders round; safeguard and back of every man of Clancnllen: brave openhanded Murtough.
Both sides [now in presence] took prompt steps to meet: Mac William's by advancing, Dermot O'Brien's by standing steady. At last, Murtough mac Turlough More and Donough [his late brother's] good sons, with Lochlainn Riach O'Dea and Kinelfermac's iracht, as hard as they could go charged for the wood's nearest point to carry it, the Gael of Connacht at their heels to
p.48cover them. But no more than a show of hand-to-hand work had they made, when Dermot's people broke; whereat the victors spread over the country and (Clancullen having proprio motu preceded all the rest in adhering to their fosterer) possessed the tuatha. Dermot O'Brien hereby was banished to smooth-floored Bunratty, there to keep de Clare close company, while eagerly Thomond's Gael made their way to Moyare to invest their natural chief, Murtough, at sight of whom all leaders felt their souls elated; Lochlainn mac Cumea Mac Conmara hastened to perform his ceremony, and on the occasion spoke these eloquent words:
Munster's king now Murtough is, that under that great title will not 'wither' [be a failure]; the champion of this ground and soil soon will attenuate that host [of clan-Brian-Rua's]. King of Thomond, attended by many chiefs, he will pull down all serious enemies; unblemished chief of Gaela, whose establishments are stronghanded. Turlough;s weighty blessing in a bright cataract descend on him: chief, blushing head, gentle exile, king of our freeborn Gael. He, working in hereditary fashion, has taken security for Delvin, that wears the colour of brown Mogh's descendant [Delbaeth, a quo the Delbna or various districts called 'Delvin,' was fifth in descent from Mogha corb]; of generosity and of action in his own old style, has taken a pledge that they shall cooperate together [lit. 'help each other out']; another, of good fortune and of kingly rule [that they shall serve him]. He is head of the honour of the Corcachs [men of Corca-morua and of Corca-vaskin]; and a pledge of greatness is Murtough himself: blue-eyed Saby's son, tall, grand, yet lovable; a noble soldier taking but scanty sleep, gifted with prudence in the general meeting. Hector is the similitude of him [that ought to] reign over Laegaire's regions [all Ireland]. He will tread the paths of the Boromean tribute's days in Ireland: an admirable Brian will our shepherd make
Now after elevation of Murtough mac Turlough More, and the captains of the land having submitted to his lordship, on this wise for a long time both chiefs continued. By and by however, together with Dermot and his brethren, de Clare made a hosting and in a weighty phalanx assaulted Murtough's camp. Because of the enemy's numbers, the occupants were none too well able to defend themselves; consequently the place was evacuated and its head men got clear away out of the mêlée; but the earl's route, as not knowing the ground and so at a loss how to escape, [of necessity] remained behind to fight on. They [were worsted and] after giving their parole had quarter granted them by the baron and Dermot mac Donough who, in their ranks as they were, marched them to Bunratty.
When either Clancullen heard of de Clare's expedition to their royal lord's camp, at once they went to work and, in hope to have stayed de Clare, right up to Bunratty followed hard upon his track. On the way finally, and close to themselves, they saw fires blaze; and imagined that, for certain, these that they perceived must be de Clare and Dermot O'Brien. Gaily they made for the spot, but in the camp found before them none save the earl's route which in the first crash de Clare had admitted to protection. A bitter mortification indeed it was to Clancullen that not the Galls and [their partners from among] the Gael they had lighted on; then home into Connacht they dismissed the route.
In which order of things the irachts dragged out autumn's length, never a gentleman coming back the while to head them against Dermot and the black de Clare, until proclamation of a
p.49meeting appointed between Mahon mac Donall connachtach and Lochlainn Riach O'Dea. They set the tryst for pleasant Kilnasulach; and [when they were met], with offers of great subsidy ex parte de Clare and Dermot, Donall connachtach's son would have wheedled Lochlainn. His offers however were fruitless altogether, seeing that not for Thomond's wealth within her uttermost circumference would Lochlainn have fallen away from Murtough; therefore in uncomplying humour he quitted the place of conference.
When Mahon regarded the disarray of Lochlainn's people in all directions now breaking up towards their homes; and discerned the red standards of Dermot with his Hy-Blood, who (according to a stratagem between them previously debated) closed up with him from the rear; suddenly and boldly he and his threw themselves across the river westwards to follow Lochlainn. The entire gathering of the O'Deas [now out of reach] eluded them; but (strange to say) not a [leading] man [of the pursuit] escaped when Lochlainn's valiant heart impelled him to turn in death's face and give battle to the nobles that came up with him there. O'Dea, because he deemed it insufficient merely to stem the masses, recklessly launched himself into their thick centre; amongst his foemen his own few attendants left him to himself; and then and there occurred a fight so singular so strange that, since Scæva [the centurion] made head against Pompey's army, none had been seen more astounding than [this of] one man that with hundreds grappled so.
With cut and thrust, with shearing slicing stabbing, Lochlainn slew and maltreated them; until, the whole of them at once assailing him, they volleyed on him swarms of javelins, storms of darts, showery clouds of stones, so that by all these his strength was minished and (his enemies themselves thereto inviting him) he yielded himself to be taken. Because they saw their tower of maintenance at Dermot mac Donough's discretion, Kinelfermac adhered to this latter; and with all Hy-Blood they, led by Dermot, then set their faces to Clancullen, whom ruthlessly they wasted: the country was bared of flocks and herds, their armour and plenishing taken from them, their dwellings emptied; hardly their gentlemen got away and joined Lochlainn [mac Cumea Mac Conmara their chief].
As for Dermot O'Brien: he took pledges and hostages of the irachts, Mac Conmara only excepted; and this chief licensed Teigue mac Rory to put himself at upper Clancullen's head and, in lieu of their tilth and habitations ruined, to attack them by whom a while before so royally they had been raided. But Clancullen taking counsel came to a resolve, and it was, this: Donall mac Maccon, accompanied by the substantial hospitallers of the country, to abide in the same for its salvation; he for the present giving to Dermot pledges to secure his lands and the dwellers therein, while Lochlainn and his brethren (sons of Cumea) with their households, horsemen and great bands of kerne, should retire out of the country and into the damp verdant Maenmagh ['O'Kelly's country'], there to unite with the genuine arch-chief: Murtough mac Turlough More. In those quarters however Clancullen rested not long before [the brothers] Sheeda and Maccon Mac Conmara went on circuit into their foemen's borders where, in Hy-Rongaly, with burning, preying and far-reaching slaughter, they punished O'Shanachan and into Connacht victoriously brought away the stealths.
Concerning Thomond: for the purpose of knowing what order to take with Lochlainn O'Dea [whom above we saw captured] they assembled; and their finding was that, for fear of his ultimate escape out of their toils [when he would pervert his clan], forthwith he must be put to death. Of his own kinsmen certain that were to be his executioners sought him out quickly and carried out that ill behest, calamitous insane and violent: the slaughter of O'Dea. To clan-Turlough-More the killing of that chief was a heart's pang; for they felt that by his cutting off they were severed from their country, as in his notice of the warrior's burial the poet hath expressed it:
- Defective the Dalcassians' chessboard is:
a man of the blue-weaponed set is wanting;
it [his removal] is a deed by which some will not have earned good fame-
the chessboard, I say, is defective
- The wolfdog's gambit [i.e. that of violence] is not a wise one:
a game it is that many a time spoils all;
the polished board it leaves untenanted,
it is a brutality and a horror
- To have I 'hit' [taken] a man of the comely set,
and then to have him dwell in the churchyard-
to hit him and 'set' him in the burial-ground
is a move that is not on the board
- The good man hit [of whom I speak] is Lochlainn:
his loss is not a festive matter;
a chief he was whose head [mind] ne'er vacillated,
who [in his death] hath made all lands [feel] empty
- Clan-Turlough-More he never did desert,
till darkness fell upon his visage;
yonside [i.e. in time to come] in tinted books of colours [in illuminated tomes]
it shall be [found] that clan-Turlough-More he never would abandon
- Neither let the man's soul forsake
clan-Turlough-More of Cashel's land [i.e. as here he fought for them, so there let him intercede];
I would elect Tál of the battles his descendant,
for to them it was that Lochlainn was loyal always
- Cato of the moral colloquies
prescribes that a lord be not deserted;
and says that they who enter the heavenly mansion
are all such as never have given up their chief
- If that maim be true,
Lochlainn of Lisbran ['the raven's liss'] will have God's House-
Thy precious Palace, O God, is lovely:
to fail of which, that is [the veritable] detriment
After Lochlainn O'Dea sacrificed, clan-Turlough-More, I repeat, were whelmed in gloom and perplexity.
To return to Sheeda Mac Conmara: he entered into the land of Burren and there took preys that might be counted by the hundred head, which he drove into the plain country of Connacht. But the end of this campaign of Sheeda's [which dated from his seeking asylum with the O'Kellys] was, that after the raid aforesaid
p.51a miserable sickness took him and, his enemies having tidings that he lay in this distemper, they would have pressed in over the marches in his wake.
Maccon his brother being apprised of these expeditionary partiesand Gillamochanna's sons, who also were on their keeping and in his companionship, urging him to some stout effort towards their restraint from such [threatened] noxious operations, their chief inciter to which was Teigue More O'Brienhe became altogether furious at thoughts of their approach. Out of the east he [forestalling them] burst over their own borders to have at them; 'passed his hand' athwart their capacious boolies, took the house over Teigue More's head and early roused him from his downy couch. By stalwart Maccon of the blue spear Teigue main-forcibly was taken; 'the arm was stretched' over the hastily collected preys, and eastwards again they were swept within the outskirts of Maenmagh; Teigue More himself all the time being in the raiders' grip, and willy-nilly a witness of his own ruin, as far as loch Riach. In the earl's castle there the one noble brother was held a prisoner and, with the selfsame Maccon, thither soon the other brother followed him; Mahon donn was his name, and in the same castle this made a brace of friends.
As for Sheeda, his disorder grew heavy on him and excessive, and he understood that of his doings in this life there was an end. Therefore he adored the King of Kings, with fervour and all zeal contemned and renounced the world; his body he willed to S. Brendan, his soul to Heaven's high King and Earth's, and in this frame of mind expired; whereas never had it been surmised that this leader of hosts could perish otherwise than in some battle. In S. Brendan's churchyard in Birra that goodly body was composed to rest and honourably laid; smooth flagstones dressed with rule and square were brought to the gallant gentleman and set to adorn the tomb. His households mourning for him raised three loud cries of sorrow; but these manifestations their counsellors and superiors cut short, with a lofty spirit saying that such were not becoming to perform in exile, as the poet celebrating this untimely demise puts it:
Around Sheeda on whom smooth flags are laid, these companies all grief-stricken stand; no niggard source of woe it is that causes this; to our captains 'tis an hour for lamentation. Far from his own irachts
p.52he was, alas that ever he went abroad! when to their own home Tál's seed shall return, 'twill be a loss that in their land they have him not. On Borama's white paths all shall weep Mogh-Corb's descendent; when they are reinstated in their country, their reverence for him will abide for ever. On Moyare women shall weep all evil fortune that ye have had; but in exile never shew sorrow that other irachts will refuse to share. My counsel (for I must give it, hard for you though it be to take it) is that ye refrain from uttering the exploits (eloquent theme) of Bran's descendent, that as an arch stood in his father's very semblance.
Grievously it fretted Murtough mac Turlough More that no longer Sheeda was at his side to keep him; Cumea's [surviving] sons however, for all they had sustained so grave a loss, still nourished and sustained the war resolutely.
With respect to Dermot's O'Deas [i.e. those of Dermot O'Brien's part]: the sons of Donough and of Flahertach donn, fair and friendly they assembled in order to the allotment among themselves of O'Brien's service, viz, the officering of his kerne. But the grand partition which in the teeth of their own word Flahertach donn's sons, surrounded by their own evil followers, made of that honourable service, was to wreak on Lochlainn's good sons a desperate felony whereby to those two noble scions they meted out an unripe death; anent which the poet has these words:
A great loss is this killing, side by side, of a pair of chieftains of Cliu's branch: that Lochlainn Rua and ready Rory, generous to the soldier, are shut up in earth! [These] two trees planted [buried], [these] two nut-laden boughs [torn down], are facts that will not make for the keeping of blood from view [i.e. they will cause it to flow and to be seen abundantly]. Fine form and sword [valour], wisdom and sense, treason has gotten [captured] them and every [other] precious gift: strength and striking, toughness, fighting, victory and 'savour' [pleasing qualities], both north and south [i.e. in the highest degree to be found anywhere]
Even to clan-Turlough-More these murders, although it was on their enemies' side they happened, seemed terrible.
O'Brien's folk now fell to hardy prosecution of the war, general devastation of territories, multiplying of slaughters, and to ubiquitous preyings; so that for their manifold excursions, stealths, onfalls and affrays, from Killaloe to Cuchullin's Leap they made of all the land one shaking surface.
[AD. 1312] During which time, by Donall Mac Conmara [whom when Clancullen retired into Connacht we saw left in charge] his country had been kept on a footing of peace and quiet. On Patrick's festival of that bloody spring, however, incipient illness fell on him; of this grievous thing he died, and by the irachts his noble body worshipfully was borne to sepulture, as in his narrative of that sad death the poet says:
God's peace to thee, Donall, thou honourable and truthful; may'st thou have it, O brave scion, so great and so gentle! Thy hospitality and thy patience were accompanied by poets to certify them; also thy mansions' prodigiousness, thy pleasant carriage and skill at weapons; thy good sense and thy senses, that never were heard [vaunted] by thine own speech; thy heart to which [malicious] whisperings were unknown, O handsome bold hero 'Tis Clancullen will be restless [perturbed] for thy being laid into a limewhite sepulchre; which means bosoms exposed to weather, and men 'without memory' [senseless] in thy dwelling. Pink faces made livid, eyes that all were blue till they were reddened, and faculties 'betrayed' [confounded]: these furnish a tale such as never authors sought for. Hateful to Donall of Derry were violence cruelty and intemperate haste; the strong fort of Clancullen's decorum was held by the lion of their choice
In Donall's place Dermot O'Brien ordained over the irachts Melachlainn Mac Conmara, who said that without leave had of Lochlainn he would not accept the title. Lochlainn assented to the irachts' being under Melachlainn's lordship until in person he should return to their relief; and Murtough mac Turlough More's people for their part carried on as described above. Now also it was that Clancullen preyed the O'Dorcons and, immediately after them, Kilnasulach; many other stealths as well they lifted, which here we record not. Kinelfermac on the other hand were busied with making a desert of their own natural and blooming country, all because their enemies had it and held it against them.
In this predicament the parties endured, on either side afflicted with loss by death, immersed in care and reft of peace: Dermot O'Brien seeking to weld the irachts together [in his interest]; clan-Turlough-More straining every nerve to sunder them [from him]. For a season (I repeat) thus they were, and until both by the Connacht English and by those of Munster was published notice of a conference to take place between the earl of Ulster and de Clare. So their forces, and both O'Briens (Murtough and Dermot), sought Hy-Fiachrach's moist lush plainland.
Now was the hour and this the time [a little farther on] when a few of Clancullen's hospitallers that followed a track went far afield into Hy-Flainn; and to this company neither full restitution, nor yet their prayer for the double passage (as safely to come from and to return to their homes), had been granted by their enemies [so that on this quest they were at their proper risks]. Therefore a man of those hospitallers, whom they of the country caught, these treated with English cruelty, deplorably; the rest regained their homes and to their irachts showed their loss. Clancullen at the hearing rose to discharge themselves over Hy-Blood's broad cantred, and were but a short time occupied with their design, when they saw towards them all the leading gentlemen of Hy-Blood in high-couraged and careless noisy troops, homeward bound (after division of the country betwixt the kindred princes Murtough and Dermot) from the Connacht meeting. When Clancullen perceived this squadron advance with their golden hilts and crimson riding rods, their hearts hailed the advent of such men of mark as tending to procure them vengeance on their bitter foe for their good hospitaller [lost]. At once therefore, and as they were,
p.54without either chieftain or chief to lead them like a gentleman, merely a rush of simple clansmen by one impulse driven at thought of the dishonour done them, they set their faces to those nobles. Short was the spell during which they of Hy-Blood held their own; their people were routed quickly, their captains seized, their head men utterly insulted, inasmuch as they were stripped of arms and armour, and their horses taken from them. Condign slaughter was made of their hospitallers; their captives of degree were so many, that actually their mode to bring them home was by driving them along before them. There in good sooth, but that at the time Melachlainn [their acting chief] was in the region of Hy-Blood, they would not long have captive lain nor their lives been spared. At his return he made no pause but forbade to execute them, and eventually had their equivalent ransom paid.
By the chiefs, either one in his appointed place, the partition thus arrived at was observed from a little before Lammas until Allhallows was past. With that, [the de facto] O'Brien [Dermot] made a bold and vigorous excursion over the face of his opponent's domain, and the irachts [each] as they saw him could not choose but greet him with the alarm cry, to which the tuatha out of all airts responded. Over the first of these the chief had the advantage; certain gentlemen of their families he slew, and by sheer hard fighting (during which his own and the other forces repeatedly charged each other and the land was whelmed in general confusion) he made the country his own. Dermot's next step was to enter the upper triucha to reduce it, and in this (after a number of its leading gentlemen killed) he succeeded promptly and completely. Then he played a bold stroke for integral possession of all Thomond, nor left unravaged any but Mac Conmara and his [accompanying] irachts, who for their sure preservation had committed themselves to the fastnesses of their country. Such was their gathering's hardihood, the fortune of their sallies, their captains' lively enterprise, that it was none so easy to get at them in those refuges; to the effect that, many a time as it was essayed to beat up their quarters, never once did any from a like attempt return otherwise than altogether penitent.
Throughout the winter with its cold, its blast and sough of boisterous gales, and until spring visited them, they in this mutually distressful war persisted. Then it was that, upon his
p.55clansmen's and his irachts' exhortation, Lochlainn Mac Conmara confiding in de Clare's safeconduct set out for the baron's residence; but to Lochlainn's hurt Dermot O'Brien laid a trap for him, by telling de Clare that, were he at this opportunity to detain Mac Conmara from his irachts, Thomond would be all the more loyal to himself [Dermot]. Such provocations de Clare, man of unjust judgments, of deadly treachery, of mind unrighteous, took to him in his heart: then by the bandits in force Lochlainn was laid in hold and much iron clapped upon him, and with an eye to their chief's redemption his irachts made peace with de Clare. The outrageous terms which it was insisted on that the irachts must pay for him were: his two sons to be yielded perpetual prisoners to de Clare; three hundred milking cows as premium on acceptance of such pledges from them; Dermot to hold Lochlainn as security for handing over of the irachts' hostages.
In this form again they pulled through the winter, and now were in summer's first beginning, when a disastrous fit of sickness took the lord of Thomond. For after he (as a matter of habit) had been let blood, he never nursed the infirmity; but rashly persisted to run, hunt, ride and (both of precaution and for stout good manhood's sake) to wear armour. All of which combined oppressed the ruling chief greatly, and the ailment grew exceedingly until for its intensity he took to his bed.
To visit Dermot in this his dire extremity, Melachlainn Mac Conmara came on [that which proved to be] a most sorry and illfated journey; for Hy-Blood now beholding their persistent foeman all alone among them, and having Lochlainn in strong fetters strait and fastly laid, Melachlainn too was rudely seized and cast into chains. As for O'Brien, his disease increased mightily and was virulent nor, until death divorced them, could he and his torment be dissociated, as the poet showing the chief's death hath it:
- To visit Brian's rath is come a raid that lifts a king,
which of fair Cliach's land has made a desert;
in all directions it has reached unto the sea,
the creach is come even to Cashel
- Floodlike the creach in all its weight
is rolled to the very edge of Borama;
the creach has been a hot creach indeed,
by which all men have felt bereavement
- From [Borama's] ford to Cuchullin's Leap,
by this mighty creach all is ravaged;
'his bonds and his captivity' oppress [the people]
from Limerick into Connacht [i.e. by Dermot's death, so ingrossing is it, men are as it were seized and held fast]
- Dermot mac Donough, of Dunqueen,
he is a prey lifted from the whole of most pleasant Munster;
this creach, now thus being overpast,
will make all [future] losses seem the less
- Until he departed,
all obits that ever we had heard reported were as trifles to us;
but his death is the door to all our deaths and, be he [as yet] entombed or be he not,
that day was our Monday [our Day of Judgment]
- Yes, our veritable Doomsday was [that of] O'Brien's death,
[death of him] from dewy Tulach;
our Dermot now being gone,
we for our single self implore death multiplied an hundredfold
- Many are the losses that from his death shall ensue:
all borders will be left unkept;
prompt and ready at your need the hero was,
and on those borders kept a watchful guard
- The church, the lay-land, he safe-guarded both;
a lie, or treachery, were his sheer abomination;
of quick action was the pleasant chief of many horses [the horse-loving chief],
and vigorously he could make a sweeping creach
- For all churches he kept up a revenue;
prosperity and peace he gave;
to accompany a so gifted man to the graveyard,
to make one of such a convoy, is to have every wound opened afresh
Immediately on which prey, another and a dreadful one was taken from Clancullen; which is to say that clan-Brian-Rua took treacherous counsel against Lochlainn and Melachlainn. As you may suppose, no rightminded man it was that urged the crime; but Gillamochanna's sons were they that in the wicked business
p.56were chorister-canons, neither of the assembled irachts was there found one to oppose the hard-hearted design. Truly the man of parricide, so he may but grasp him whom he hates to destroy him, never takes count of harm or hurt that through his own foul deed may accrue to himself.
Their purpose being determined thus, the septs concerned repaired for its execution to a certain place and forechosen spot, where in their dealings with those gentle chieftains they made not so much as some show of justice. The stern commanders 'dismissed the country,' and to spray-showering stormswept loch Coolmeen of the easy landing places and green-girt shore carried off Lochlainn [and Melachlainn] for immolation [of the former]. There one and all those nobles 'plied the hand' on him, with Gillamochanna's sons the first striking him; then Hy-Blood gave him the death of blessed Paul, viz, by hewing his head from his body and then sinking it. Melachlainn next into a dismal solitude they led away from Lochlainn to his death. The good chieftain was beheaded and, for fear lest his friends might recover him, he also was not left both head and body in one place. So ended a pair that had been the gentiles' two long tales of woe, their two plagues that prostrated them, their well built habitations' double Judgment-Day; even as in the annals of this important book [of theirs from which I quote] Clancullen's accomplished poet expresses himself in commemoration of their barbarous death (which fell on the kalends of sunny June, when from Christ's conception in human body down to execution of the two, twelve years and thirteen hundred were elapsed):
- Visitation o'ertopping all visitations is this loss of two,
and a most sad tale to rehearse;
alas for the extent to which it has contracted our wealth [of men such as we ill can spare];
one visitation, but of double effect: [one, as regards time and method; double, as taking two victims]
- In the fall of Tuaim's two scions,
two evils at a stroke we have;
the perishing away of those mighty ones is what has decayed me:
the loss is not single, though the hour was one
- Green Moyare's two horsemen,
two branches of cool Echtge,
two hearts that never spared [shirked] battle,
two delightful 'trees,' laid in one clay!
- Were but one of the two fallen,
in all our countries it had been a thing of woe;
this event 'is the quern' of Tulach, [home] of the noble two [i.e. this misfortune crushes Tulach as a quern the corn],
and we are left the sorrow of giving them our utmost pity
- After Donough of Dail,
a short space only it was to the death of Cruchwill's scions twain;
why could not 'they' [i.e. their misfortune] have passed her by? [but no:]
their double mourning has caught up the other [that for Donough]
- Grief for Lochlainn overthrows me:
his pride, no need there was to dread it;
Melachlainn's death, 'tis it has humbled me:
his unfailing affability was such that I fail not to note it
- Death of Melachlainn of Echtge,
it makes an iracht's great solicitude;
that grief for Lochlainn should overspread all seas [reach far and wide],
I beyond other men would have it so
- Lochlainn, whom never any had dared to lay in hold:
such a thing never have we heard bruited;
a branch of the beloved tree, and given to hot fights,
Melachlainn was: Dail's handsome fairhaired man
- Melachlainn Oge, Hectors similitude:
among our irachts be he spoken of;
a heart well strung to encounter no matter whom:
let our poets all treat of Lochlainn
- There is a way to have done with Lochlainn:
that is, could there he found a man to outdo him;
an unfaltering offshoot from chill Achrim he was: Melachlainn's death,
that is what breeds despondency
- No softling our Melachlainn was:
few warriors [i.e. none at all] that he would not excel;
few tasks but Lochlainn with his blade would face,
and the chiefs whom in his charge he would not carry were but few
- By mutilation of the pair,
valour and skill in arms and hospitality are gone;
valour and skill in arms and hospitality:
long shall they be depressed because those two are gone
- Loch of Coolmeen that has a cruel story:
that is the numerously followed Lochlainn's tomb;
but by reason of bright Derry's noble ornament [because of the manner in which he was consigned to it],
it is not a becoming sepulchre
- Melachlainn that never refused an ollave:
eastward on the moorland he was run through;
the generous lion, not far from Grian,
the moorland was his burial place
- After both of Echtge's leopards,
the irachts make but little exultation;
the true Physician, He of the burning good words,
may He work the salvation of the place [Clancullen's country]
[A.D. 1313] Now, these being gone and their enemies much puffed up (for they never supposed but that as a result of these murders their irachts must go on and prosper), God in the end mercifully lent his arm to aid Clancullen's irachts. They chose their lord, and he on whom their election fell was Maccon; nor did they use ceremony other than merely to style him 'Mac Conmara.'
So soon as Murtough mac Turlough More was instructed of these pitiable events, he convened his Connacht friends and readily they flocked to him. Teigue O'Kelly brought his risings-out
p.57to help his natural chief paramount, because to Clankelly above all Connacht's kindreds clan-Brian-of-the-Tribute are sib; seeing that by the working of Brian's auspicious benediction that great clan's prosperous fortunes are maintained. Hither with a great following, all craving for the attempt on Thomond, and impelled by fosterbrethren's zeal, Auliffe mac Murrough O'Madden came; because also Murrough O'Madden aforetime with all his might had clung to Turlough More. Hither came Mac William-Burke's route, and the chief Butler's well armed and furnished martial kerne. Of Thomond's kindly races but scant few members in those days stuck to Murtough: Macraith O'Dea with his own picked gentlemen of Kinelfermac, that in all disputes rallied to Murtough; the company officered by Teigue's sons, and commanded by Donall mac Teigue; the O'Lochlainns under Murtough O'Lochlainn, and the Comyn's brave sons, to safeguard the chief in action.
Blue was the sheen of their swords, bright their equipment, as these valiant and right men of trust in best of fettle moved off, and in one march reached hillgirt Ballyconway. There they built great fires that blazed and roared again, and at these fell to make ready their flesh-meat.
Soon after they were halted they saw towards them a solitary horseman that rode at speed, with [as it turned out] an opportune warning to Murtough. His designation was 'O'Shanny' and, when to privy conference he had invited the chief, fairly and orderly he delivered himself thus: the men of Thomond as a mighty flood are rushed together to one place, and on Tulach's slopes, with horse and foot in troops and companies embattled, colours displayed, under Donall mac Donough O'Brien's two sons, Donough and Brian, even now await you. They count among them clan-Mahon and Hy-Blood, with Kineldunal in close order posted on their flanks; Mahon mac Donall connachtach and his sons, with the names that follow them and with their own, great households; the O'Deas in their divisions, and all these under Mahon's hand. Affably and kindly O'Brien (Murtough) answered him: mine be it in this pressing business to take all proper order; and to Teigue O'Kelly, to Auliffe O'Madden, to his own iracht's gentlemen, calmly and confidently he imparted all the tidings.
Murtough's contingent of gentiles that he had with him to
p.58strive for victory, if not numerous, yet was loyal throughout; his case in short was that of Conor mac Cathba when he, as he marched to the battle of Finnchora, said great numbers sometimes have failed to shake the lesser numbers' constancy; and in this spirit of audacity he addressed the gentlemen in question, with purpose that in his countenance they should note a cheerfulness after the messenger's enunciation of his news.
That which he communicated to his gentles, however, was by no means the true tenour of the announcement, but something to improve their spirit; and as follows he harangued his army: to speak with me an emissary is come from Thomond's weighty irachts, they now being [as he says] in full numbers arrayed upon the sides of Tulach to the southward. Yet let not fear take your young men, for the multitude of them that stand against you; for from certain of them you worthy messenger brings to me this: that such as would pass over to my part are their one half, which from among that host are my very friends, that never but against their will consented with them: Donough Mac Mahon's sons for example. Veritably there too are an hundred of Clancullen that resolutely will slay a man apiece of them along with whom they come into the battle. No such stout words had the envoy spoken, neither (except in so far as, to lift up his good people's soul in them, the chief had imagined these stirring and fortifying periods) had a soul of the hostile army promised to act treasonably. Then he gave orders for his gentlemen to harness themselves, fall in their men silently, raise their distinguishing banners, and be in readiness to march; whereupon the chief made this address:
- Children of Mogh-corb, fight a fight
which to our host shall be a triumphant progress;
laudation of their well fought battles
shall be made in our verses
- The story of us shall be written,
and this privilege shall be a near one [not put off on the long finger];
these others we will bring to controversy,
and of their hundreds will have victory
- Between us and rich booty but a little while interposes;
the strippings of these puffed up wild boars we will have,
and the conquest of them,
and all that their camp shall be found to hold
- Teigue O'Kelly,
that in battle never was made pale-chief of Taiden,
whom it is just to celebrate above [most] gentles-
thou (and thine) play your part
- Taper-fingered O'Madden,
brave and jovial Auliff-
one that largely president over mansions-
from a man that works as thou dost, no battalion is secure
- Children of Cas, wound-giving clan,
weaponed and death-dealing band-
this day fight a hardy battle,
make your despoilers' plunderings to cease
- O clan-Teigue of the newbuilt houses;
Donall of Dungaela,
Murtough whom I would mention,
O'Lochlainn manysided, courteous
- O Macraith of discursive speech,
well-limbed hilarious soldier,
chief of the O'Deas,
thou whose operation is lively above [the measure of] all other corps
- O Clancraith [Magraths], clan of spirit,
shapely bulky company,
against all others [that oppose you] fight for and win the chiefry-
children of Maelmurry of the good land as ye are
- And, O'Dulin of the able horses,
on thee no imputation rests;
therefore with the others enter the debate-
no trifling rill thy carving will originate
- O Cueva, gallant Wolfdog,
whose arts of war stand high
above the rest, to every one thy kindly fortune is of common notoriety-
Elga's protector with thy freshly whetted edge
- In front of all I'll step upon the warpath,
nor ever to desert you give a backward leap;
and now, to meet that which I say,
let the man see [proceed to demonstrate] which one of us shall be the prouder chief
- Ravens will [are about to] disintegrate [the slain],
soft silk [standards] blaze [aloft], [soon many] faces will have changed their colour;
of the hostile army, in its very thickest
and in the battle's central point, I will kill a chief.
At this point his confidentials came to O'Brien to arm him, which they did by putting on him a thick acton of pure white with crimson broidery; over his tunic, glittering mail bordered with gold and scalloped at the edges, to save him on the field of honour; a thick smooth belt that in cunningly wrought sheath carried his deadly skene; around his neck a brilliant torque of marvellous artifice was fastened; and on his head, another that was red-edged and engraved with flowing ornament of interlacery and twining animals nicely delineated, as the poet expresses it:
Munster's Hector is Murtough, son of fiery chief Turlough, son of curly-haired Teigue O'Brien, son of close-slaying Conor, son of good Donough cairbreach, son of bushy-browed Donall More, son of glittering-clad Turlough, son of violent-preying Dermot, son of battle-prompt Turlough, that had [ruled] insular Ireland. It were fitting for tall Teigue-[of-Narrow-water's] grandson, blackbrowed Murtough, that Ireland became to him as Thomond. No other of them all may compare with the darkbrowed champion, whether for size [of body] or for great repute, for form or for accomplishments, for spearthrowing or for hearty hewing asunder. Woe to such whose lot it is to assail him, now presently, on the sparkling field. From this time forth many battles there will be to reckon up; for the hero will make Ireland's circuit, and on the pledges of all Ireland will close his hand. Bold Samson with his mighty strength is counterpart of noble Mogh's descendant, Hercules of the Irish.
This declamation ended, Murtough with his force set forward and in hot haste made for the ground on which the enemy was lodged.
The chief's army made two divisions, composed as follows: clan-Kelly and the O'Maddens [in one; in the other,] the [Dalcassian] corps immediately under Murtough himself, with his Thomond captains and his three bands of Anglo-kerne; these [of the second division all] insisting to accompany Murtough, and in delivering of the attack to have the very foremost front, while at the same time they were impatient and somewhat dangerously surly with the irachts [of the first], who (though often aforetime they had yielded to O'Brien's command-in-chief) now mooted that the others be banished to the rear. Shortly: to awe their foemen the front was conceded to the chief and this indeed was the right place; for though he had taken the rear rank, even so would he have towered as a tree above the whole host.
The course adopted by those formidable columns against which he marched, was this: throughout that night to camp on Tulach [where they stood]; thence to [send out and] post sentries over Murtough to ensure that, when [as needs must be] by reason of his meagre strength he came to be dismayed at prospect of the fight, he should not steal away. These were they: [some few attendants and] Murrough mac Mahon mac Donall connachtach, author of the heinous death inflicted on Donough mac Turlough More; and surely no earnest vigil of friendship and loving solicitude was this which till morning Murrough would keep for Murtough!
Even as he hasted to perform that duty, he saw a force that bore them boldly, aggressively, already come so near as to save him from farther progress with the fool's errand on which he was bound; and the event may shew that, if Murtough needed to be watched through all that night, the misled young man Murrough mac Mahon no less needed it.
When this latter saw Murtough's speedy gait, with colours that shewed gaily in the mountain moor as he led straight for Thomond's spacious leaguer, to his own camp again with quick perception he turned back and lightly told his tale, saying: I went upon the duty which among you I discussed [and undertook] nor, as now I think, had I need to shilly-shally in the setting about it; for not far was I on my way, when right in front I saw
p.60before me two columns that with naked swords, with spears and standards, and as utterly bent on the attack, came on to challenge you. Again, I opine that (to make close survey of them) their number truly is not greater than eight hundred, whereas here on this ground ye stand three thousand able men of war. Where then could ye have a windfall richer or more profitable than this advent of your enemies who, seeking to attack you, commit themselves to the broad open waste, in which their gentlemen may not shift for themselves, their chiefs find cover, nor their people dissolve and singly flee away? Yet another advantage their order proffers: he that over their companies is chief, and our irachts' noble foe, is in the front rank; 'tis he that's tallest, most stately, strongest at his weapons, of all that cleave to him for battle; wherefore the easier for his enemies it is to know him. On him let all men press and do their dear endeavour to get home, for it is to give himself away that now he comes. The gentlemen [Mahon and Murrough] said farther: certain it is that from to-day until the Day of Judgment this broad land shall be yours inalienably; for by reason of their fewness and of the exposed surface which they cross to reach you, they shall not have the power whether to fight or to fly. In exchanging of which speeches they [Murrough and his father] never gave heed to Murtough's nobility and hereditary claim, nor considered his indefeasible right (derived from his father's inborn privilege) to make it good. Over and above all which, they were weighted with the murder that they had committed on their good lord, Donough mac Turlough More. We too, [soon] said the rest, think that the words are true which affirm that host's advance; for they yonder are the same in person, that now manifest themselves and with no halting step, no wavering line, but bold and confident and hardysouled, come at us.
They of the camp rose now and on the [predetermined] battleground drew up in two columns. [In the first were] Donall mac Brian Rua's two sons with Clanmahon's spearmen, that through affinity were bound to guard their bodies; next to these, to cover them, the strength of famous and bellicose Hy-Blood with generous Kinelfermac to support them. The second column's captains and chief nobles were Mahon mac Brian mac Donall connachtach with Brian and Murrough his sons, their followers and households;
p.61many-killing glittering-weaponed Kineldunal, close adherents of Mahon and his sons; and the Clancullen kerne with sharp points, keen hands at a prey, whose number was six-score. The battalions were put in motion, their gentles harnessed, their weapons all ready, their positions assigned, their standards reared over the colours; in the interval Murtough O'Brien was up to themto the very campand to his followers in a powerful distinct voice said these words:
Win victory, fight for a country, lay warriors low, pierce chiefs outright, bore hales in sides, lop heads, maim arms, blind eyes, slash mouths, carve bodies, quell vigour, drive spears, split shields, cling to pride, but not rashly, rude but cannily, they are not we, yon host perverse, that hug deceit, that in the fray, must feeble prove, sore loss 'twill be, to them that now, they offer fight.
O'Brien's utterance roused his people's nature to the pitch required of good men and true; headlong and reckless, silent yet, they brushed on at the enemy; but just as both his divisions were for joining battle, they found in their teeth a steep-cut rough and seamy brae, from the top of which a dropping of the enemy's slim [missile] weapons was distilled on them below in the lowlying bottom. Murtough the chief sprang to give stiffness to the leading rank, and himself became the apex of their indomitable charge up the projecting bluff, crying as he went: gallants that steadily follow my lead to battle, is there now present with you a poet's quatrain made some term of years before this present fight: 'a victory won against a steep hill-side, in front of [i.e. by] the raven of Corcach's callow'?
At all events, up the acclivity Murtough forced his men so strenuously that in the same instant they [the whole front rank] got foothold on the tableland above. Ahead of the rest he bared his deep-fluted steely-flashing sword and, when he found his foemen, clan-Brian-Rua with their allies namely, from all sides round about so fiercely pelt him, broke right into their centre. Both sides kept up exchange of spears [receiving and returning them]; and in this traffic never a weapon (no matter how excellent) availed to bear its owner scatheless, for the mêlée was so furious that they could not flourish and make play of fence with their arms. Donall O'Dulin, he being of the seed of noble Fergus [mac Roich's] forbear Mogh-Ruith, was he that into the, opposing
p.62line launched the first javelin; he moreover, that to the chief first had handed a spear to throw when the battle opened.
Now was the hitherto muteness of the contending hosts turned to unearthly uproar: dull sound of emblemed standards and of ensigns flapping; boom of the boisterous wind that made way through the ranks; crackling harsh noise of snapping shafts that gave discordant answer; jarring sudden twang of warlike garb rent by the linesmen forcibly; hard clink and spiteful thud of swords that fell on warriors' helmets, heads and bones.
Then the Irish Hector, the Hercules of noble achievements, the solid-weaponed Achilles, the well-tented Pyrrhus, the unique hero of this age, without his peer of the Irishlordly Murtoughfell to, and on his martial foemen plied the hand; with flank attacks daunted their closepacked files, carried and cleared their positions, with flagrant and permanent imprinting of his mark on their gentiles; nor (so it would appear) was this of Murtough's with his adversaries an evenly matched contest, inasmuch as that (body-armour and all) down to the ground he clove all on whom his sword's impact fell; while upon him, what with the fear that he inspired, and his armature, his enemies could not make shift to draw blood at all.
Mahon's fated son Murrough meanwhile, in accordance with God's permission that (for his treacherous crime on Donough mac Turlough More) he should work out his own destruction, made a wild and illconsidered rush into the battalion of the Hy-Many men [O'Kellys] and of the seed of Anmcha [O'Maddens], whose centre he nearly reached, and would have 'thinned' them. But at their hands he and his people perished; as just it was, that in requital of his crooked deeds an evil fate should reward him at the last.
As for O'Brien now, so rapid were his strokes, so grand his spear-throwing, and so terrible his flaming aspect, that against him Thomond no longer could maintain the battle, but with one mind were resolved that, for their salvation from the chief; they must give up the game and turn their backs upon the field; for they knew that from the moment in which they sought security in flight, Murtough would not kill a man of them. With one motion they made general renunciation of their swords and helmets, of their spears, actons and mail, nor (unless it were in his
p.63own despite) did a single member of that crowded host carry away a piece of armour, no matter how rare, how costly. Truly an astounding notion of theirs for disposing of their armature: that they preferred their enemies rather than themselves to have it.
Throughout all neighbouring woods the heady rout in flying squads was scattered broadcast; what saved them from being to a man 'left' in this action, being the near fall of night and the fact that in its darkness O'Brien's allies could not find their way about the close and rugged country, while they of Thomond [though they knew the ground] were all too few to give them chase.
Now when they broke and ran, Mahon mac Donall connachtach (who on this occasion had not dismounted from his horse to take part in the fight) fetched a compass all around the battle and as far as the young gentlemen, whom the officers in charge of them had not admitted to the arena, and by Mahon's hand a brace of the youngsters fell: a bonny Thomond boy and such another of Hy-Many. Dermot mac Turlough More, he being yet but a child, looked on while Mahon did this cruel killing; he drew near the chieftain and with rapid trusty aim hurled a long javelin full at his midbreast, broke the mail, pierced the acton and gave him a flesh-wound. Mahon seeing how the boy had assailed him, he abandoned him the place; and this exploit of Dermot's childhood in putting Mahon to flight was a most auspicious warranty that henceforth and always Dermot, once come to man's estate, should 'have the rout in front of him.'
Then came Murtough and stood over that bent-sworded broken-speared carnage of noble bodies, and proceeded to express to his allies and to his own good people his gratitude to them, as in these words the chiefs poet presents it:
- Woe to all that side not with Right,
for that Right shall have might may not become matter of despair;
a great 'upright' it is to frown at Right,
whose enemies all [in the long run] she lands in hopeless condition
- Every man that prevails by noxious means,
as the fate of Murrough so shall his fate be;
the genuine seed, that represents the verity of it,
forces an ill end on all 'petty kingdoms' [temporary successes snatched by petty or by wicked actions]
- A seed unmixed with tares-
seed of Turlough More, chief of Barnes-Murtough their leader has [to back him];
in warlike form and strength he is a massive rock,
and wheat that no longer is unripe are they
- In such folk we must place implicit trust,
for with that good clan God will take part;
take, O Lord, part with our battalions,
and Honour cannot choose but light on us!
- Thou hast been with us in this day's day' [battle],
where we have made so great so dense a slaughter;
by time of noon here now our feast is good,
for 'tis with Right that thou hast sided
- Christ inclining to help Right,
a prosperous upshot was assured her;
just causes that 'descend' [are by inheritance legitimate] make not unright,
but our enemies [their cause being of another kind] must drop all hope of winning
- Neither was it unright that, on Tulach's undulations,
Murrough by our battles should be slain;
but right it was that, in requital of Donough's murder,
Murrough's contriving should have unhappy issue
- Our Hector, that was supreme chief
until he put trust in the merciless
when that steadfast captain's anger changed him,
then he became a very Samson
- To Teigue may all 'strong men' [right worthily] be likened
not commonly have I heard of one so fierce as be;
a lord of whom no paltry deeds in war are circulated,
and there you have Clankelly's chief
- O'Madden of Maen's plain (Maenmaa]:
any man [the best may [without feeling himself belittled] stand to be compared with Auliffe;
one that northward yonder keeps good order at his house is he:
a blessing from us be on Murrough's son
- Of all that now retire from our countries,
not many are like the Comyns;
whose fighting powers, as though he had been Hercules,
stout Donall O'Flaherty sought to experience
- Both sides [clan-Turlough and clan-Brian]
set their feet hard;
every man of our mercenaries joined in the general pounding-match,
and well they hewed away against the spears
- Good were the clans of Cas, and I will publish it:
Donall mac Teigue was good;
good again the head of the Hy-Flainn,
that ever does as by his origin he is held to do: Murtough O'Lochlainn
- Macraith was good, nor gave cause for envious displeasure:
'O'Dea,' that never stops short of thorough execution
fine was the charge delivered by them whom I shall recite,
albeit few in number were Clancullen
- Good were Clancraith of the warm work:
great and jocund clan-Mulmurry;
in all battles well they cut in for their share in the victory,
and they have a right to partake of the indemnity
- Well it was that in the brunt of the encounter
we had with us the confidentials;
among whom the O'Dulins were good,
that have laid their gentlemen in earth [sacrificed them to the cause]
- Benison of all be on Cueva:
Wolfdog that never changed his characteristics [i.e. that sustained his previous reputation];
for no other deer did he change his own stag [but stuck to him]:
an instinct this is that is proper to him
- The Hectorlike supreme chief's [i.e. Murtough's] arm
it was that covered Murtough's people;
free this day are all to whom he has been a buckler,
[as for his enemy] he has dispersed all his agglomerations and has severely harried him
Murtough added: long will the irachts that, sore against my will, this day have withstood me suffer for it. With that, they camped in the very quarters of them that so lately were fled before them. Mahon lost no time in retreating to stone-edificed smooth-shored rough-bordered Inchiquin but, as dreading that Murtough and his people might capture it 'on him'[i.e. and he in it], in that round island made no long stay. Sweetly and comfortably after their travel and weariness the victors slept, for
p.64Murtough had shifted all their trouble on to their enemies' backs. At morn 'they made the one rising with' the broad-faced helpful light-shedding sun, that is so far and yet so near; Kinelfermac when they saw their natural head, Murtough, came in; and all together they shaped a straight course for Corcavaskin, with hope that in the west country soon they should catch the enemy. They exacted Corcavaskin's pledges, and banished Donall O'Brien's two sons to Bunratty.
It being reported to Mahon mac Donall connachtach O'Brien that the gentlemen of the west had given the chief hostages, he came and on the plea of their marriage-alliance sought friendly conference with Clancullen; then in familiar wise, as on de Clare's behalf, he sought of Mac Conmara a numerous force with which to vindicate all Thomond against Murtough. Howbeit, Clancullen determined that their host must follow the fortune of clan-Turlough-More, and said that whichever of the antagonists went down in the quarrel it would be a bad business for their septs. [In this perplexity eventually] they 'paid' their good pledges: Mahon mac Cumea, Lochlainn's two sons and the eldest one of Maccon's; and dire compulsion it was that brought these irachts, for chivalrous friendship's sake and to win clan-Turlough's birthright, to put up with forfeiture of their hostages. As for Mahon, with many big words, with much excited speech, he took himself off to Bunratty.
After the west country's consolidation [in his interest], eastwards again O'Brien brought his host and to their own countries for the present dismissed his auxiliaries. He for his part went on into the heart of Clancullen who, when they laid eyes on him, welcomed their heir their lord their noble heart, their fosterbrother and true over-chief. [With whom at once] they marched into Hy-Blood to vex them; and on their eastward way O'Brien with but a few companions chanced to be well in the rearmost rear, when a goodly number of the enemy [thus allured] surrounded him completely and raised the cry. O'Brien being driven to fall back, and his fierce antagonists in force following them up, Clancullen laid a trap for them: two companies of Cullenachs they set [as it were] to mutual destruction; and when Hy-Blood saw one gang of kerne closely hang on the other, the pursuit [hitherto busied with O'Brien) hastened to join [and
p.65reinforce those whom they took for friends of theirs, but who in reality were] their enemies. The trust which in so doing they reposed in their inveterate foes disguised as friends, landed them in dejection; and in such mood it was that, after [too late] they had unmasked them, they [in their turn] retreated. Briskly they were charged, and after brief resistance slaughtered liberally, their remnant afterwards refusing to follow the others to their position. At the next morning's early dawn, O'Brien with his people rose and among the Cuanachs sent out preyers to harry them severely; the gentile irachts of Hy-Blood and of Owney were handled even so, and the stealths driven to the chiefs camp at Cloonanarney. Hither again his auxiliaries (the Comyn's sons and a detachment of the Burkes) gathered to him, plundered the refuse of those irachts with which O'Brien had dealt on the previous day, and this English contingent carried their booty across the Shannon eastwards.
To return to de Clare: out of the plain land of both provinces industriously he brought together their mailed horsemen, and mustered all regions' hardy foot, which in heavy masses marched to Bunratty. And now it was that the baron showed how well he knew his business; for all along the fair high road continually he 'kindled them' to avenge his disgrace and to help him have dominion over his enemies. Clancullen, to save themselves from the oversea-folk, abandoned to de Clare's army the extern borders [within which so fruitfully they had been operating] and fell back into the upper triucha, which with their abundant substance they filled to overflowing.
At this point the baron was resolved forthwith to hang his gentle hostages and, whether of the Gael or of the pale English, not many in number present were they that blamed that hasty sentence. O'Brien's son was led out for death, but de Clare's wife shunned his execution; while the Church and his own noble rank and great wealth saved Mahon mac Cumea from slaughter, for with ninety marks he redeemed himself; but Mac Conmara's heir was hanged out of hand. The army in order marched in quest of the enemy: clan-Brian-Rua in front, clan-Brian-connachtach in close touch with them, de Clare's mail-wearers as rearguard in a lump behind them. In deep silence they, unperceived of any, made their way into the hostile irachts' centre, swept the country,
p.66threw the defenders into utter confusion (with killing of not a few), and clan-Turlough-More (whom in this flitting none but Clancullen and Kinelfermac followed) covered their retreat into the redsworded land of Connacht.
In pursuit of them de Clare entered that province; but [previously], as his forces held their northward line, they came on a small band of the children of Aedh: Hugh Buie mac Lochlainn mac Sheeda Mac Conmara namely, and Rory his brother that was with him there. These gentlemen they surrounded and took, and Hy-Blood beheaded them; as the poet tells us:
In our land a plague is broken out, as in our verse here is depicted: two good men's death is not for us 'a face [turned] towards exultation' [i.e. an encouraging outlook]. A tale that quickly bath 'cauterised me' is that of how they were sped that are fallen; their double overthrow breeds a fear that is not groundless: strong Yellow Hugh 'hard over a company' [i.e. a strict disciplinarian]; ready Rory, whose personal beauty was so great. Exhausted as Hy-Blood have been by this contest: even so shall this [deed] 'be a lasting sorrow that lives not yet' [i.e. the future will prove it to be an enduring grief], just as now actually it is a lamentable story
Murtough mac Turlough More and his nobles united all the trusty friends that they could find: clan-Turlough-More [the rest of them], Clancullen, Kinelfermac, and so through O'Kelly's country eastwards to the Shannon. They crossed and found themselves in Ormond's fertile districts where, as unbidden guests, in their despite they quartered themselves on the O'Hogans of Forgavale. Thence merrily onward to high-hilled many-wooded fish-fruitful Owney, and there again (whether its irachts would or not) they for a time abode. In order to be in their enemies' near neighbourhood, and for espial on Hy-Blood, they came to Aes trímaighe, a country richly grassed and having well-built dwellings. As the immediate result of which watching, under Dermot mac Turlough More and Maccon Mac Conmara an active and weaponskilled company of men ready to attack in small number and to kill in great, with some helpers of the aboriginally English but now Irish-natured Burkes, left O'Brien on Shannon's opposite bank and pierced to Hy-Blood's very heart. Even where opposed by twice their strength of those irachts, they wrecked all: some they wounded sore, cut up whole families, cleaned out kindreds and desolated pretty homes; until the leaders of the country, roused by the blare of their trumpets and their own tribesmen's alarm-cry when they heard the same, together with lowing and bellowing of the great herds driven hard (so that in falling on that mad mob nothing was more difficult than to refrain from going clean distraught), their leaders (I say) made head against the invaders. Hy-Blood's crowds closed them in on every side, and marvelled to see how few they were in comparison
p.67with the number of the preys they had surrounded; but gladdened too they were to see their foe so sparse among them, and cut off from all way to escape them. Quite round the raiders they constituted a tenacious stubborn pale, and with both slings and spears concurrently hailed on them; which same solidity of the pursuers' pale it was that used to hold the kine from rushing frantic off into the woods. Now this was the first battle-scene in which brave young Nicol Mac Conmara had played a part; unrelentingly he used his weapon on his foe, and from that time forth and to his death retained the palm of valour.
When Maccon perceived the grim and thickset fence of enemies that with baleful spears completely hedged him in, he shook his javelins, exalted his soul, and with a happy turn of expression said that as he was not satisfied with the edifice which they had raised about him he would e'en break up the structure. By main strength he forced himself among them backwards, and it was poll foremost that first he made a gap in them. Many good men fell by him there and for a while his own were suffered to pursue their way, when up came Murtough mac Donough mac Brian Rua, supposing (until Maccon abolished the idea) the foe in numbers to have equalled him, and therefore to have been an object worthy of his onslaught. Murtough was amazed at the pursuers' multitude and density (backed as they were too by advantage of their own country's fast places and close woods), and to see the pursued so few. With ruinous intent he charged their rear, but in his effort there proved to be no more than [as we say] 'the setting of a shoulder to a rock': a case in which commonly the lusty fellows [that make the trial] find their broad shoulders to be sore, while the rock unmoved lies on in its old berth.
Here with a loud voice Maccon commanded: young men, leave me in the very rear, neither let a man of you come to succour me; but for you, keep ye the great prey's both sides and front [and so bring it] to the Shannon. The drivers' answer to their fighting chief was this: so long as rocks shall overhang their shores, streams run with continual flow, the sun hold his radiant course, moons wax and wane, and the earth uninverted shall endure, we will not fly; nor until with Hell's cavern glorious Paradise shall make exchange of altitude will we desert thee, but in thy company will fall so many as we are. These words on
p.68either side they [Maccon and his men] made good; so that it were not possible to recount their obstinate charges, to number their tangled melee, to recite the concussions of that one day's reciprocal cutting and carving, to enumerate their bickers. They thus employed at last reached the bright wide Shannon. There ever they would block the preys and thrust them out into the rapid current, while the beasts (scared with the strangeness of the water) would turn and in stark madness break back through the ranks; so that such residue of the herds as was not swept down stream, was scattered in the woods. The frightened boatmen, when they saw the tribesmen fall on the bank continually, let their cots drift. His small posse of Burkes now left Maccon on the field, stricken deep, but lively yet and dispersing small hovering parties of the pursuit, with abundant killing of Hy-Blood and breaching of their closeformed lines; so that in virtue of that day's doings alone, the hero fairly might be styled a 'fighter of an hundred.' The field now being strewed with his handiwork, his horse having renounced his veritable nature, his friends being minished, his household fallen round him, he aimed for the only thing in the way of a ferryboat which in that extremity his best friends had contrived to have for him. With vigorous foot he jumped into the cot, caught his horse by the bridle-rein and across the broad torrent towed him safe to the green yonder-land; where to Murtough it was a 'heart's support,' a boon of faithful loyalty and a precious restitution, to have Maccon back from his enemies to do him potent service.
As for Maccon's kerne now [without a leader] left on the hither bank: in order to have vengeance [for their comrades slain] forthwith they elected a commanding officer and devoted themselves to giving and taking hurt; they made incredible slaughter of the enemy, and their main discontent was that he would not grapple, but from afar picked them off with missiles. Each one of them according as he felt death upon him would in either hand carry to the Shannon's brink a head to hold up and show to his noble lords, then heave them from him to sink in the abyss, and on the bank undismayed breathe out his own life afterwards. One after another perpetually they appointed over themselves a 'master of the pack' to head them, until at last it was a commander of but six good men that handled them. Now of the
p.69whole baud [from start to finish] not a man perished gratis, as the poet addressing Maccon says:
- That is handily done, Maccon:
into sodded graves thou hast put men;
thou hast transpierced the army valiantly,
until thou halt made all roads ruddy red
- Though many a previous battle ever thou hast had,
soldier of Cliach and of thick-packed slaughter,
never, O auspicious warrior,
halt thou had battle like to-day's
- O brown-browed and red-cheeked,
that didst keep thy fury growing:
many are they to whom this day thou gayest death,
and many hundreds thou hast rescued from it
- From the day in which active Sheeda captured
the three creachs of famous memory-from that time till the present,
I say, the half of all that thou hast done
no individual man and horse have wrought
- O'Brien must acknowledge that to thee,
Maccon, he owes his being come safe out of it;
and hadst not thou emerged from out the press,
he surely had 'given his sense a twist' [he would have had his reason disturbed]
- God grant [you both] long-lengthened life,
for to you both all good is due;
make a tough fight to have that western land,
in which [of old] all chiefs had and gave plenty
- Those others [the recent enemy] (yea for ever and for ever)
will the less incline to separate from our battalions,
that thou alone (i.e. thou and thine own immediate following] hast decimated them
and yet art scaped from all their host
- Many dead thou hast left there,
and every separate set-to was rudely fought;
[copiously] the Blodachs fell in the course of it,
and indeed thy folk too, Maccon
- Dermot O'Brien that [so well] promoted battle,
is good material of our [future] chief, though young;
[on which head however] let be him who has proved a match for their men,
and has left their women without their sons
To return to Thomond [which term here denotes all but adherents of clan-Turlough-More]: to famed Moyare they came to inaugurate some issue of Brian's stock to be prince over them, and he whom they elected was Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua. Him without loss of time they made chief in opposition to Murtough mac Turlough More, against whom they supposed him able to have held the country, as the poet recognising his installation said:
- Ennoble the name of Donough,
who with respect to treasure is not 'tight';
the rational rule that he observes is good:
both impetuous he is and active
- Though fierce [on occasion],
yet [by nature] he is amiable; if 'lively,' be is modest;
he is the stiffening of all tuatha,
head of all borders
- Though sudden, he is lovable;
though easily addressed, yet proud;
many are fallen by his strong spear;
if he is wise, yet is he not noisy [to vaunt his wisdom]
- Though fullgrown, still he is ladlike;
a comely soldier, but charitable;
well he has lifted up Tál's house;
though young, he scores many killings
- He is material, aye, of an over-chief;
Munster's [embodied] hospitality;
son of Donall of Dala;
this is sorrow without mourning [i.e. sorrow for the father is balanced by joy for the son]
- He is the younger, yet the senior;
freeborn head of these hosts;
it shall be noised throughout the land,
now that he has exalted his name
Immediately upon the battle of the Callow, and the many happy escapes out of its accidents made by Dermot his brother and Maccon his fosterbrother and main stay in battle, his own second in command over his people, all hands now being rested from their toil of war Murtough and they returned into Owney. Thither the chief Butler sent word to these gentlemen, hoping to procure that their leaders should assent to stay with the noble baron, and during the convivial season of great Christmas be entertained by him with all civility. Moreover, the Butler granted their kerne coigny on the English occupants; but because of the foreigners' lack of acquaintance with this [to them unheard of] ordinance, between their guests and them there was a falling out. From all corners of the land, in no friendly mood certain irachts [suborned by the English] pressed in on the visitors; the frequency with which these turned however, compactness of their impetus, solidity of their march and accuracy of their throwing, brought the freeborn clansmen off from the pursuit and as far as from gently flowing greenbanked áth na cuirre ['the crane's ford'] to lovely Moyaliffe with its handsome dwellings. Which sojourn of theirs as strangers among the pirates was a bold stroke (for strangers there they were, if not by nature yet by nurture, as having been bred elsewhere), and with the constables they successfully had contested their fair share of the cahers.
At the report that his people were in that distress, Murtough and his chieftains: Maccon Mac Conmara, Macraith O'Dea, Lochlainn O'Hechir, Dermot mac Turlough More (his own
p.70brother), made haste and forced their way to relieve them; then unanimously all decreed to transfer themselves out of these parts into Connacht where, without water interposed between them and their own borders [of Thomond], with consequent need of ferrying over and hither, they would lie adjacent to their country. In south Connacht accordingly, contiguous with Thomond's northern verge, they sat down and bided; a step which on their neighbours across the border, when they heard that with offensive purpose the enemy was alongside, scarcely acted as a sleep-compelling charm. After this fashion: with preying of the country far and near, with brisk incursion and with stripping of the marches, all this in defiance of the protectors, Murtough and his force wore out the spring.
Between our two provincial rulers (Murtough mac Turlough More and Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua) at last a partition was made, and between both our chiefs a division, on these terms: the rivals to share triuchas equally; but Murtough over and above [his moiety, and out of Donough's,] to have fertile Clonroad and Hy-Cormac [O'Dea's country and O'Quin's].
When de Clare saw the country as it were patched up, he sailed for England to confer with his friends in those parts, order his landed property there and, as speedily as might be, return to Thomond. So soon as clan-Turlough-More were aware of the baron's journey over sea, they grew malcontent with a settlement whereby now they but shared the country which once they had used to possess integrally. Consequently they introduced into the lowlands of Ogashin a great hosting of Clanmahon; Dermot mac Turlough More with a party of these was detached eastwards, and in the upland moor posted to overhang Hy-Rongaile [O'Shanachan's country] and keep them in order, Murtough and Clancullen lying to the westward to observe them on that side. Peremptorily hostages were required of the O'Shanachans [thus held powerless], and in fear of what might befall their country they gave O'Brien his choice of such.
[A.D. 1314] The O'Shanachans reduced to peace, and the O'Kennedys as well 'put to rights,' Murtough went on to solicit his powerful friends for help to win him his own land with its circumference: I mean Mac William-Burke, Thomas Butler and the Comyns. Though it was not by the one way that they all
p.71travelled, yet was it to the one point that they converged: Mac William and his men coming through the heart of Echtge; [by other paths] the O'Kellys under Teigue, the O'Maddens under Owen, came to join Murtough and to fight in his cause; by way of [the ford of] high-lying Killaloe, Thomas Butler arrived in Ogashin and made one with Mac William and O'Brien.
Together they set their faces towards restless Kineldunal and, with design scrupulously to reconnoitre the country round, took camp in Inchnamona. Two nights they passed there, and started to go on circuit throughout all the land. Thus they attained to O'Grady's strong place, a fair and well put together hold, of which they made a fire in every way sufficient for a decent army's need. This thing accomplished, that night again they camped in smooth and grassy Moycullane; where but a little time they rested when certain companies, thrown out to make a feint against them, came to the skirts of their camp to breed sudden alarm. This they did when previously they had stationed in their rear, to lie close in ambush, five hundred well-armed mailwearing men commanded by Donall mac Brian Rua's two sons Donough and Brian, with Mahon O'Brien, his sons and followers.
Clancullen seeing the decoy still to come pouring on, their alarm-cry too all the while increasing, sallied out angrily, [drove them off] and hunted them right into the middle of the ambuscade. These latter, when they saw the enemy so resolutely bear down on them, as one man and in great consternation rose from their lair and [barred] the fugitives, [who by these means unexpectedly] found themselves [again] in contact with the [pursuing] party from which [but now] they so precipitately fled. Into the ample forest the rout was pressed hard until, lo, Clancullen lighted on the spot where the Dunalachs' noble herds in reliance on their position's close intricacy were bestowed, with a massive fighting stockade of felled trees properly constructed round them for their preservation. Clancullen in the late rout had failed to have all their appetite of the runaways to slaughter them; now therefore they stormed the Dunalachs' strong boolies, and on that clan did grievous killing that played havoc with them: women and boys and [whole] families included; whereby that murderous far-secluded area became a mere heap of carnage thickly stacked. There in abundance they had young
p.72men lying on their faces, women in lamentation, kine that bellowed deafeningly; and by this red raid Clancullen effectually relieved Kineldunal of all care in respect to their cattle and young people. In victory they returned to the main army's camp; there they told their story, and the hearers wondered how a single iracht so mightily had prevailed over the many whom they had attacked.
In this way they passed the night and, before light of dawn, rose and marched straight for that same [part of the] wood again; but [as they went] Donall mac Brian Rua's two sons, Mahon O'Brien, and red-ensigned Kineldunal, drew near to offer them pitched battle. Without delay, boldly those gentlemen faced their foe; [yet only] until they recognised the genuine chief, Murtough, leading his people's front rank as he advanced on them. Then they submitted to turn away from him, and as against his host declined to maintain the field. Then to every airt far and wide some portion of them was scattered minutely subdivided in discomfiture; and westwards as far as the entering in into the strong wood of Fidhail, the seed of Brian [clan-Brian-Rua] were followed up and [where they held together at all] perpetually 'gleaned' on their outer flanks. Clancullen well pleased came back to their camp and brought the spoils to Murtough to be inspected; many also were his enemies' pledges that the chief held that night, [when they came in] 'following their heads' and with their backs well slashed, as in record of the hero's onfall the poet phrases it:
- Murtough is a soldier,
and mighty champion of Thomond,
prince of our burghs in which we harbour;
he is the foundation on which our host rests
- Our host's foundation he is, I repeat:
the athletic 'bushy-eyed' one [well eyebrowed and eyelashed],
a noble man of diversely coloured [red and white] countenance,
showy lord of many dunes and mansions
- Turlough's strong son,
lord of this land,
warrior of this triumph,
this chiefry's highway
- Victorious and battle-strong,
hiding [the fame of] the Branchred;
heart of Grian's surface,
Tree of watery Moy
- That has fought this action,
no fight of puny encounters;
one to whom his firebrands lend a glowing tint,
a supreme chief of many acquirements
- Except Turlough's son,
chief of Boghain's pinnacles,
never think to find any that shall
On the same ground that night they lay, triumphant and rejoicing, till the morrow's morn. They rose and before the host, to lead it in the way, formed a vanguard of exceeding solidity, composed of their best and stoutest men; in their rear they stationed the horse, bearing shield and weapon, close drawn up, indissoluble, steadfast, having in their centre their wounded, their campfollowers, their youngsters and their feeble folk to escort and safeguard. They thus regularly disposed made haste to [the hill called] Tulach-O'Dea, and that night lay on it. With the day at once they rose and formed up their companies, rearing aloft their banners and edge-beaded spears; in front of these companies they appointed gentlemen, set captains to lead the irachts, proper
p.73officers to control the kerne. Then over all the lands around they spread marauding parties, so that from Tulach's braes to ocean's shore they left no airt but was handled contumeliously, nor outskirts unransacked, nor innermost portion undisturbed. It was out of the west eastwards therefore, that universally they gathered herds flocks and all valuable gear of the Corcamachs [O'Conors and O'Lochlainns], in which extended preyings Mahon O'Brien's people also forcibly and industriously were peeled; so that from this expedition not one that cared to have it went home without so much of these stealths as should have been the making of a fortune.
The host now being sensible that for the nonee they all had their full surfeit [as much as they could manage] of the preys, their young men departed with their booty, and their English and auxiliaries [of the Gael] sped to their houses with [their share of] the good things which presently they had won for Murtough. The chief himself backed into the east country to make it safe.
Hereat the rodbartach mustered a vast gathering, and soon they arrived in Thomond where, as fast as their vigorous legs could step it, clan-Brian-Rua came in to them; forthwith readily Mahon O'Brien with his people joined them, and all these united [with the English] to make a simultaneous hosting for expulsion of clan-Turlough-More out of their [viz, clan-Brian-Rua's] lands. Upon the first night, they came to Cor-Hy-Cormnac.
In the mean time Dermot mac Turlough More for his own protection elected to retire into western Corcamrua, and into its most backward part he, barely scraping past the enemy, made his way successfully. The chief for his part, with his own very folk [no auxiliaries], came out of where we left him and on to Bunratty. Here they lighted a fire that was both long and wide, that loudly roared, and within this one occasion's brief space they sent to perdition that which it had cost enormous labour to produce. When with long rankling malevolence they had made an end of ruining the Saxons' ancient nests, and of digging up by the roots those pernicious rascals' domiciles, they raked together that settlement's plenishing and valuables; and so, with selfgratulation and with much relish, back into Hy-Rongaly again.
To return to the oversea-men and the Gael that sided with them: on hearing what order was taken with their mansions and how their houses were wrecked behind them, wrath took them and with ruthless intent they started to pursue the authors of their hurt.
O'Brien (Murtough) and clan-Turlough-More having leisurely marched eastwards and crossed Scariff, they picked a choice band of their most forwardly disposed warriors (being six-score men that were Cullenachs) to scout upon clan-Brian-Rua; whom accordingly they found at their complete ease and making short work of burning up the country in both length and breadth. The Cullenach kerne butted into the enemy's flanks, rolled them in on his centre, and to clan-Turlough-More on the instant sent off messengers to tell them all about the hostile force: saying that with intent to get at clan-Turlough-More they made as though they would cross the border of Hy-Rongaly; and these expresses reached the chief accordingly.
On their own account the detachment [from whom the despatch came] formed a bold ambitious project; for they vowed that they would not 'lose both fords,' but (seeing that from the day of their foe's entering into Ry-Rongaly there no longer was any profit of keeping him in view) would on some other enemies avenge the matter. The leaders of this force were Rory mac Teigue and Hugh Oge mac Donough [Mac Conmaras both]; they made a forced march to the limits of Kilnasula and loudly raised the cry as they fell on the neat boolies of the hospitallers' motley herds, in which bout they much maltreated the Dunalachs: whose abodes were burnt, their people killed, their temporary bothies torn down, their hospitallers ungently captured, their herds in spite of them made into one great flitting drove, and with a quick step the preyers came to Kinelfechin.
If now we revert to O'Brien (Mm-tough) and to them that fiercely and swiftly gave him chase, we find that on the very instant when he would have turned to fight with them O'Shanachan dealt faithlessly with him (as indeed was thought likely). This treasonable defection of Hy-Blood and his own thereby diminished numbers considered, the chief commanded to [do no more than] cover the retreat of their multifarious and extended herds. They harnessed their officers, their emblemed colours
p.75were unfurled, their drivers summoned to urge the droves and to carry baggage, the horsemen had their orders. Quietly, but firmly and with many a turning round [to shew fight], they drew through the hilly upland's passes; the pursuers' van coming up with their afterguard, they faced about and hurled them off their rear. In this running fight they persisted from Scariff to Forbar; and the kerne just returning from the western prey (weary as they were on rejoining) tried hard to have a share in it, but it was only after the parties had separated that they availed to come up with them.
[A.D. 1315] Touching O'Brien with his brethren and Mac Conmara with his iracht, in the fringe of Connacht they stayed by the earl and [as occasion served] harassed their opponents. Then it was that Mac William granted a high hosting of his people to win the country for its [rightful] chieftains, and under O'Brien the whole host (an overwhelming body) marched to Belcrotane. At first mention of these preparations, Clancullen [who as above were on their keeping] on the instant and with one motion were risen: both young and old, [both common and] gentle, women, little boys and tender children, both herds and horses, and by Echtghe's shortest tracks made for their patrimony. In the fast woods they made their close-set camp, lighted their fires and [in due course] gaily entered their country. As for Mac William, him Thomond with extravagant promises debauched, so that the gallant fellow right-about-faced for home and there dismissed his levies.
Even as the Cullenachs looked to have seen the Connachtmen come to join them in vindicating their fatherland, they heard how they were returned into their own region. At news of which conduct, and that they themselves were left solitary to their enemies, the wolfdog's nature in each right whelp of all those litters, the warrior's mettle in all striplings of their families, the soldier's quality in every one of their 'young people' [rank and file], was exalted; and what with the 'prickliness,' what with the threatening energy, of their loving pact that they had made in selfdefence, no easy matter it was to meddle with them. In this stress and jeopardy they passed the cold-winded dark-visaged winter from end to end: they fearful of their noble foe; these on their side exceedingly dreading them.
Early spring broke on them, and now [because in the open season henceforth they would be too much exposed] Maccon submitted to Donall mac Brian Rua's sons: a concession which came not from the heart, neither was it of love that the illustrious associates, Maccon and Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua, struck their [pretended] friendship. To Donough at all events Maccon gave pledges, and they closed their bargain to this effect: that however many the 'distressful exigences, how frequent soever the wars [that might arise], yet were no farther hostages to be required of Clancullen.
On these terms they put in the better part of spring, until by that cantankerous restless-roving grasping quibbler de Clare, a man captious on limitary questions, a hosting on the greatest scale was ordered for distant service in the land of Leinster to confound it.
All made ready for the excursion, until the day came on which they were to have marched. But they were resolved not to go on this hosting, and unanimously voted rather to make war on the knecht-English and their domains; so they gave out a particular day of parley in which to promote such plan of campaign. At their promised time all indeed assembled; but here clan-Brian-Rua (because by Clancullen's enemies it was prescribed to them) treated that tribe to a flagrant breach of faith, inasmuch as they exacted of them pledges in number such as, at the first drawing up of the contract, had not been specified in the same. These then are the gentlemen whom they required: Hugh mac Donough and Mahon mac Donall [Mac Conmaras both]. Clancullen it is true found that this mode of carrying out the agreement was unrighteous; but to an enemy that has the whip-hand of one, all his demands (no matter how exorbitant) needs must be yielded. Said hostages were delivered into Mahon O'Brien's hand; they [the confederates such as they were] turned to 'generalise' their war, to make their doings illustrious, and to furnish people with somewhat to say about them.
Murtough, son of [O'Kennedy's (Philip mac Gillakevin's) daughter] Sabia and of Turlough More, retained for wages a copious force of both Gall and Gael: Brian mac Murrough mac Donough [O'Brien's] sons [and followers], the Condons and the Comyns. He came direct to Thomond's marches, and on the very
p.77border line, in front of his English, camped to receive the foe. These leaving the interior of the country empty made a general movement to the [opposite] frontier line; so on either side there they lay on their respective confines: looking at, and biding their time for, Thomond spread out between them.
Now came Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua with a strong escort of armoured men to Mac Conmara to be his guest, and throughout that night they had sedulous entertainment. But O'Brien had not been any long time in the place [was but newly arrived] when from O'Shanachan there came in to him an urgent warning (fraught indeed with jealousy and malevolence), which immediately was followed by a second and more pressing still, for fear lest Maccon's and Donough's friendship might become knotted in a real loving bond. Which advices the chief believed not overmuch, but [as we have seen] he made up his mind to stay the night by his subordinate chief. With first light of the morrow's morn the visitors rose; in apprehension and with great circumspection [as to their demeanour] they departed from their hosts and, as he turned back from O'Brien to regain his own camp, Maccon [who had escorted him a little way] said: the terms on which in this way, my supreme chief, we stand the one to the other, are not becomingthat mine enemies' great number, and they high in thy favour too, avail to hinder thee of putting good trust in me in mine own house; I on my side as well having cause to fear, because a great chief is but so ill assured of me. Then Donough understood that these words were a farewell, and was displeased at all such as were come between himself and Clancullen's irachts; for he deemed that never could the meddlers do as much as could Mac Conmara, whether to bear him free of attack [by others] or [themselves] to inflict it on him.
When in this fashion he and Donough had said good bye, to de Clare's great stone hold Maccon despatched Cumea Mac Conmara's grandson, Mahon, thereby to have confirmation of his own and his irachts' conditions: the base of which was that the baron must grant Maccon chartered right over the cantred of Hy-Cashin. Most readily they got every item of the profitable terms that they demanded; and the affair now being surely put in good form and ratified, to Hugh mac Donough [Clancullen's hostage previously delivered] Mahon Mac Conmara communicated
p.78some trivial sign with instruction that, whenever he should see the same, he must make off hardily. As it was prescribed to him, so Hugh acted dextrously: that night in wily form he sped from Mahon's lodging and, with no more than the tokens of passage through rough places, in safety reached his own folk.
With many and strong companies of preyers O'Brien and de Clare covered Hy-Rongaly, in the open part of which country the baron paused for the purpose of conferring the degree of knighthood (according to the foreign use) upon [members of] the pale English; it being at the same time also that Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua with his host were in position at the entering in into the white ford of Scariff, and ready to burst out to battle.
When Murtough and Maccon had tidings that Donough stood, they likewise made haste to the same ford's edge to fall on him; but when clan-Brian-Rua saw the chief's face as he drew near to them, with one accord they made a weak-knee'd run away of it; for thus long [and no longer] lasts his enemies' advance: until the noble Murtough is recognised. Eastwards for a space Maccon followed the rout on the fugitives, with the result that there is no counting the slain, the horses, and the cattle of that single creach, from which they returned home laden with heavy spoils. Subsequently, again they gathered and revisited those identical borders to treat them with fire; insomuch that, to save the pride-infected gentiles from all violent and fatal recrudescence of that same disorder's noxious virus, the whole country was cauterised to perfection.
In consequence, under the eloquent and veracious Ricard Burke's safeconduct O'Shanachan came to visit de Clare; his peace was made with that party, his hostages were agreed upon, a day set for giving effect to the stipulations, [and he went home]. Howbeit, because against the day on which he had promised to hand them over to the English he had not been able to collect the hostages, in discharge of his word honourably he came into de Clare's house. He was taken in pawn for the pledges [whom he had failed to procure], and from that time to this never has come back from that journey, nor ever will return to visit his dear friends: [at least not] until the ultimate Assize which perforce all men must face, both young and old, both gentle and simple, both
p.79woman and tender child; for at that term none (how bad soever) may pass in lieu of his fellow, neither in that Day shall any escape separate individual arraignment by [Him that once was] his Guest and [now is] his One and Only Lord.
When Mahon Mac Donall connachtach O'Brien knew that Brian his son was taken by Clancullen, he came into de Clare's house and in the baron's presence the parties debated terms of exchange: Mahon mac Donall mac Teigue Mac Conmara, that presently was in Mahon O'Brien's hands, to be given up for Brian mac Mahon. But even as they treated together, here comes Mahon Mac Conmara to them into the very cahir in which they dealt for his exchange. Right heartily his own side welcomed the unexpected find, and the new comer was called on for his story; for there was not a man, Mahon O'Brien alone excepted, but was rejoiced at this [most peculiar] swap [in which one side merely gave, the other only took]. In pleasant terms Mahon mac Conmara told how his release was procured: that it was the generous-hearted Kinelfermac had forcibly enlarged him from his enemies, an adventure which now his irachts heard with the greatest zest.
To O'Brien straightway came an emissary from Kinelfermac, praying him that without delay he would repair to them, when they would enlist themselves under his command. De Clare and the chief with either Clancullen, hastening to help them, came as far as Belcarranaseilach, and for a part of the way Mahon O'Brien had accompanied them; but here he left them and diverged into Kineldunal, in which region he found before him Donall O'Brien's sons [Donough and Brian] with their following, lying quiet. They enquired of him what he had to tell, and he said: I have good news for you. I set out at one and the same time as the Gaelo-English host with whom so newly I conferred; and longer still we should have held one way, but that I sped in to you to declare the errand on which they go: that Kinelfermac desert us, and that 'tis to join them the others now proceed. Would ye then win those great irachts to your own interest, go to them at once; if on the other hand ye cannot hold them, their room and their substance at anyrate shall be yours: the taking of which fat perquisites [under the circumstances] involves no element of blame to you. Supposing then your battalions to have in them
p.80heart sufficient to give their bitter enemy the onfall, [for their encouragement I would tell them that] in number they are more than O'Brien's horsemen and de Clare's together, along with what I saw of Clancullen's gathering. At this luminous exhortation they headed for Kinelfermac, and invaded first the borders, then the innermost refuges of their hosts and herds. Kinelfermac's condition at the time was this: they had just dismissed themselves with their valuables, every man with his convoy taking his own direction and his own short cut. Hence could there no favourable opportunity be had to shew fight to the invaders; so that some of Kinelfermac's gentlemen, and of their lesser folk many were laid low, and at lamentable cost of life an enormous prey of the whole cantred's horn and hoof was made.
When O'Brien's host heard of the incursion that clan-Brian-Rua made on those tuatha, they rose to meet the outrage: their horses were saddled, their spears were grasped, their standards called for, their bone-hilted swords made secure; their soldiers got the route, and westwards they crossed the Fergus in search of the enemy. Now this vigorous effort of theirs to come up with them that they pursued, was a bit of daring all the greater that neither was O'Brien there to marshal nor yet Mac Conmara to consolidate them, but they for themselves played the part of officers. With arrogant confidence they came on to close; with some big words Mac Conmara's sons asseverated, and on their consciences the rest of Clancullen swore, that in spite of there not being there a lord to bring them in steady order to the scratch, they would not turn. With that, and after exchange of a heavy shower of small arms by way of preliminary, they dinted in the enemy's front in such style that during the actual charge neither side [we almost might say] caught a sight of the other, and so they came breast to breast. [We suppose it was] because clan-Brian-Rua were both the nobler and the more numerous of the two, that nevertheless in front of that handful they could bear to practise elusion most unusual [extraordinary]: in double quick time they voided the slaughter groundbut we will not [seek to] give orderly account of a battle which they never fought; for they tarried not until a single sword was bared in our good fellows' rear rank, but the entire mob broke into shameless derout and, for all their brave show, made an ill and a negative exchange: their valour's honour they
p.81bartered for escape, yielded their lands for sake of headlong flight, trafficked away their puissant nature for debility, sold their firm onward march for tergiversation, their steadfastness for mere cutting of capers; and although the gentiles were not lacking in affection among themselves, still they declined all association: each one of them being minded that all and every place except that in which actually he found himself must be a sure asylum.
Into the four [cardinal] points thus brokenly they fled discomfited and timorous, the Cullenachs powerfully and thickly cutting them down: a task which the pursuers found all the easier that from their brave enemies every man wearing a hand [with which to pick them up and use them] got a loan of 'hand-arms' [axes swords and skenes], and this made the hewing to be on terms equally convenient for all parties. These arms too were obtained the more readily because the fugitives reduced their own armoured state to one of absolute bodily nakedness [judge therefore how much they kept in their hands]. The winners made heaps of their heads, loads of their mail, heavy burthens of their other strippings, faggots of their arms [and] to the top of Drumderg [carried all] to shew them to their three lords: Murtough, Maccon and de Clare; as the author, upon seeing the ground which so stubbornly they had won all covered with precious spoils, said:
- Well this name befits Drumderg [lit. this name that 'Red Ridge' bears is 'kind']:
a name in accordance with the verity of things,
and devoid of partiality as of intentional deception; a name that tells of bodies mangled in the fight:
Drumderg's name befits it well
- The victory of Drumderg it is
that to us assuredly hath brought relief:
an army of heretofore propitious fortune it has made to cease from their warring [and has taught them that]
the errand on which they came hither was unfortunate
- Since they hotly marching came
upon the one field with us,
ours will be a fruitful return to our homes;
to them, their attack is matter of repentance
- Woe to an army that came hither
and did not as one man 'lean on us' [fall upon and crush us];
our paucity and their multitude considered,
how most wretched was the [kind of] charge they made
- From this day 'upward,'
Thomond as 'swordland' we shall have;
this pleasant land which war thoroughly has searched out,
this country indeed is 'kind' to us [is ours both by descent and by natural fitness]
The breach of Drumderg being so valorously and with such hardihood effected, and Donall mac Brian Rua's sons scattered through the land, incontinently Donough mac Donall got him away into Irrus. When O'Brien (Murtough) heard that his kinsman was escaped thither, on the instant he followed in his wake to take from him the west country as lately he took the east. With a grand Gaelo-English army he made his way into the hills of western Irrus; churches and places of sanctuary excepted, in its outlying parts and hindmost recesses, in its hills, in cave and in deep-sunken glen, from famed Cuchullin's Leap to Cnoc an locha [hill of the loch] they ravaged the land, neither in all districts that they punished left a hold unburnt; thus at their leisure they frequented the region in all its parts. As for Donough mac Donall, he taking a posse of his confederates and
p.82next friends proceeded with them and, in order to petition for support, went into Clankelly and was welcomed by Teigue [their chief].
O'Brien (Murtough) went about to put the country on a sound footing, seeking with the stitch of peace to bring together the edges of her rents, to get her gentlemen into order, discipline her captains, allot her domains, safely bestow her pledges, confirm her peace; and on this progress he braced the whole land well together.
Touching Brian Bane mac Donall: so soon as he [not only] heard that his brother was deposed, but was certified that it was a fact, with utmost celerity and very boldly he marched into one [the north western] side of Thomond, threw himself into hilly Corcamrua, and there on the night of his arrival lay in the fastness of the country.
At the report that his kinsman had taken this step, for the purpose of getting at him O'Brien mustered. Brian being made aware of the gathering, smartly he rose out of that quarter to vacate the country for his cousin; his force took eastwards across that side of Thomond and reached the territory of Kinelea, all tuathas into which they entered making gaps in their flanks, they in return copiously slaying them, until in Echtge's blue ridges, wind-tormented, cold and with buttressed sides, in some practicable spot they found an abiding place. In vehement pursuit Thomond's great host came up, and made them out away in the mountain as far as their sight could reach.
Brian Bane mac Donall O'Brien's following [from their coign of vantage] noticing how great was the number of them that sought them, crisply and methodically their leader said: my good people, ye are they that win me all fame such as in the various toils of battle which we share may accrue to me. Now, though ye (conspicuous body as ye are) were all unwearied and devoid of anxious care, nevertheless even twice your number together were not a match for clan-Turlough-More, so noble are they, so great their multitude, and because overhead of all the Irish they stand as it were honour's rooftree. They then being such, as roundly as may be scatter ye yourselves abroad, but let your hearts bide fast. Let your horse at speed strike through Hy-Turlough's plain and gain the ford of Kilmalua; by which
p.83means if perchance they shall escape, by the strong hand assuredly they never would. [For the rest,] every man of you that has not private reason to distrust the land of Connacht, let him bolt into the same. I myself with some very few companions from among you, by utmost endeavours of our feet will [doubtful as the venture is] make for Inniscaltrach. Universally they assented to the plan, and against the race they had to run so many as wore armour doffed all that they could spare. Actively they carried out Brian's every order, and in this way their gentlemen came off scot-free: each one of them according to his fancy doing his best to drop the enemy; but upon their followers some execution was done, and in pledge of this excursion all [as above] abandoned their armature.
O'Brien (Murtough) returned home and ordained the land in a state of calm, of wisdom-based stability, which lasted for a space: until there came a certain overwhelming wave, broken-topped, hoarsely rumbling, virulent in destructiveness, scorching terribly and giving off lively sparks; an earnest of enduring malice and ill-will, breaking down all embankment, all hills and every hoary rock. Or [if it like you better] a black cloud with vaporous-creeping offshoots and dark mist, hard to meet. [Whichever of the two you choose, at all events it was] made up of close-packed Scots and, as a thick-billowed deep-thundering flood, covered our Ireland's surface.
When all hands heard that (after plundering of Ulster and ruin of both Meath and Leinster) this 'Great Assembly' and refractory crew with zealous progress came the way; that in fact after spoiling all Ireland they now were entered into fair mid-Munster, and that clan-Brian-Rim closely accompanying the king of Scotland and Edward [Bruce his brother] came on that hostingfor yonder in Ulster Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua had been with the Scots, intreating them that they would come on this progress; as come they did, but at present it is not the ins and outs of their rambles that we narratethey were much disturbed. At all events, in overweening mood the Scots reached limpid Shannon's banks; with intent to attack them Thomond gathered on the opposite bank, the Scots lying at Castleconnell, and between the parties ensued some skirmishing in the river's vicinity. As for such as were hurt of the Albanachs,
p.84not they are the gentry whom we bemoan; but on this hither side was wounded a noble scion of the Thomond host: one that was stuff of a captain, an impe of the genuine orchard, Hugh mac Donough mac Conmara I mean, who however recovered from that 'scare' [peril].
[A.D. 1316] Concerning the warrior-barons of the Southern Half: both earl and lord of high degree, both knecht and battle-baron, both gentleman and knight, both son-and-heir and man-at-arms, in force they assembled to withstand the Scots. When they were come to the strong hold of Limerick [their trysting place], and their nobles proving to be of one mind in the matter, a commander-in-chief was elected to take them into action. Their choice was Murtough mac Turlough More mac Teigue of Narrow-water mac Conor of the wood of Siudan [mac Donough cairbreach], weighty-and many-weaponed lord of Thomond. For the foreign leaders comprehended that Murtough was 'the true root' and, had the gentile tribes [i.e. all but his own] yielded him his due, heir of this Ireland. And again, here was concurrence of two advantages: one, of the English force; another, of Murtough's natural right. Readily and at once therefore, by Gall and Gael of both provinces Turlough More's son was made chief.
To revert to the Scots: when they learned that Ireland's rightful king approached them, they turned back from the conflict and recoiled from battle.
The Albanachs having now put about, this flood [of theirs by so ebbing] left clan-Brian-Rua stranded high and dry, for red-ensigned Kineldunal also had sent them word that they backed out of it: regarding the irachts of which latter I must tell you that through apprehension of the Scots [that they would not shew fight] they had disbanded previously, and this the Dunalachs' vehement suspicion 'was true for them' [justified by the event, as we see]. Then clan-Brian-Rua left those parts and came to Belladerg, where in their way there chanced a very fair share of Mac Conmara's commissariat which, at tidings of the Scots' departure for their native land, were on the return to their own country. Some portion of these hospitallers clan-Brian-Rua quickly despoiled; then they went off into the western region and made their own of Corcamrua.
Out of the south of his own country, Mac Conmara with a
p.85sufficient force sought the well fortified island of Inchiquin to recover such portion of his flitting as Mahon O'Brien 'had under his permanent protection'; and [without obstacle interposed] they brought them home to their irachts, whereas they had supposed that, notwithstanding those droves were their own, they must have recovered them by superiority in battle.
To continue the history: clan-Brian-Rua made a great and secret gathering, with which out of their present quarters they issued to vist their enemies; which so they managed that all along the way, as to this end they marched, they were not seen; nor until they were advanced well into Thomond, even to Quin hard by their enemies, to deal with them inexorably.
Clan-Turlough-More, when they perceived three strong corps that came down on them, were startled into action: they looked for their horses, called for their armature, gathered their herds, harnessed their gentlemen, hurried up their companies, got ready their flittings, and in their rear to cover them stationed three sets of picked men. Ever according as any of them that gave chase straggled out of close column, at once they would be marked and killed all the way back again right up to their main body's front, with the effect that by the hands of clan-Turlough-More fell better than twenty of them, and the flittings (all but a very small proportion of them) reached Bunratty. Clan-Brian-Rua next turned their attention to the territoy of Hy-Flainn, but O'Cullane with some more of them perished by Hugh Mac Conmara. In these relative postures they spent the ensuing night, and together with the next day's far-spreading light Felim mac Donall rose: which Donall O'Conor, his father, with respect to kinglike honour was as a standard weight for which in all Ireland an equipoise could not be found. The same Felim, I say, merely to test his own handiwork singly on those gentlemen, sprang eastwards and fell on them: a sudden and successful effort from which he brought back divers loads of heads to exhibit to his own side. This hardy exploit gained him worship in the sight of those battalions; and this their grave consideration of him has had no ebb, but rather daily and widely he increases it.
After these losses that they had suffered, clan-Brian-Rua retreated into the strength of their own back-country. Between the rival chiefs de Clare effected a cessation of arms, and for a
p.86while all parties observed it; soon however the perfidious treacherous baron promised that with clan-Turlough-More he would make a hosting for clan-Brian-Rua's expulsion out of their country, and [this he did designing] to play him [Murtough] false [by turning on him] immediately after perpetration of the former job.
And now it was that crooked-dealing de Clare went to the session of Dublin's walled and ditch-kept city to purchase peace for clan-Brian-Rua; whereat, to the same session and under the Butler's efficient guarantee, clan-Turlough-More and their irachts deputed Murtough to diametrically oppose de Clare, confute him in his sly devices, and depose to the loving familiarity which, to thwart right succession of the chiefry, he used with all [pretenders and their] impudent marauders.
Into Dermot his brother's hands Murtough committed the chiefry and his country until he himself should come back to deliver it. Therefore with the English [of the Butler's faction], in hope that speedily he should have worked de Clare some detriment, he set out; and a good instrument to a foreigner's prejudice indeed he was, for of various tongues he skilled to the extent that in any controversy he could fluently speak them to oppose the Gall. In addition: seeing that the chief was dark-browed, white-toothed, tall and broad, he made a fine presence for the pirates to look upon; and whatsoever he might have advanced in favour of his claim to [Thomond's] chiefry, the same had been but right and just though it were as claiming all Ireland he had urged it against them from over sea.
From Murtough the chief, Dermot [received and] took in hand that stewardship; and he that was material of a monarch for all Ireland said paternally that, as for the true gentleman [that undertook it], under that great stress he would not break down nor, with respect to the precious stake [Thomond] entrusted to his hand, would that ever be found wanting [suffer diminution]: at least not so long as he should be there to help her in her extended borders; as the author giving that noble youth's description said:
Ireland's sweetheart Dermot mac Turlough More mac Teigue O'Brien is, with whom none rightfully may be compared. Dermot of the Black Pool's dune is a beam that checks all provincial kings, a valve of battle past the which no raging enemies' effort may force its way, a wave that drowns all lords of hostile following, a stream which foeman's host fords not; Heber's descendant, Eoghan More's and Brian's, to whom is due all spray-encircled Ireland. What now is the new title which the Stone of noble Hostages' proclaims? Tara makes her heavy plaint for all ill that in her single state [widowhood] she has had, from the death of great Fergus' son [Dermot, last king that sat in Tara,] till she saw [our own] noble Dermot. Emania laments that from [the time of] Fergus, unsurpassed in onset, down to blue-eyed Saby's son she lacks a shapely comely spouse. From Raghallach's royal day to Dermot of Doonmast, and from Cerball to [our] gentle Dermot, Naas has been without all joyous clamour. From wise-judging Cormac's epoch down to battle-fierce Teigue's son's son, verdant rampart-girt Cashel in her dwellings lacks a king. Those grand conspicuous strongholds [all round], he that is Cormac-and-Brian-descended will set in order; all qualities of supreme rule royal Mogh-Corb's progeny combines: greatly he excels in wisdom, is equitable to judge, inflexible, yet modest, not overbearing. The Lorc-Brian-descendant wears a prince's form, with curling locks his hair shows golden-brown. The hero's face is as the unclouded moon, his eye of greeny blue bodes valorous achievement, his ruddy mouth vents words of eloquence. Perfection of athletic form he is, with hair bushy but fine: a red-cheeked hot-flushing warrior, one that to Ireland is her only sweetheart.
[A.D. 1317] Dermot now sent word to the tribes in general to convene them to him for the purpose of [confessing and] lamenting
p.87to his irachts his anxious condition; and that auspicious day chanced to be precisely that of Mary Virgin's Assumption: in order, the fifteenth day of the emperor's illustrious month of August; for (since against the Bible none may bring in a writ of error) that wise-judging right sovereign truly was emperor of the entire globe, and under himthe monarch from whom that bright month has its nameit was that Christ of glorious form was conceived and born in flesh. To well-fenced Ralahine chieftains and gentles congregated; with well-bred carriage, conformably to golden rule, in honour of Jesu's Virgin Mother they heard Mass, and the Virgin with her Son they lowly supplicated to vouchsafe that good event should wait upon the counsels of their chief. [Afterwards] they [the irachts] caused their nobles to reassemble [in secular conclave] and they discussed [how, or whether, to] assail their enemies. Then in the way of declaring and enjoining the measures to be adopted, of keeping them up to the undertaking and of calling for aggression, to barely moot which (so many were its deterrents) was proof positive of inherent valorous honour, Dermot made this worthy utterance:
- Children of Tál, now counsel take
and be your minds on one side ranged;
a cause of exceeding roughness' is that cause which necessitates it,
your wisest counsel therefore bring to bear on it
- Wisely and gently, O Maccon,
thy counsel show;
thereby speedily be every feature of the question cleared and,
be it good or be it bad, let us abide by it
- O Mahon, O Teigue's son
gather our strong men's opinions;
thine utterances keep not closed against the people,
Donal, but give us advice
- Great and impetuous Clanmahon,
by your debatings let men be resolved:
O Brian, O Donough of Deel,
ye pair of leopards of Formoyle
- Thou Felim, whose luck runs high,
son of headlong-battalioned Donall:
thou being a soldier to whom fierceness is habitual,
above that of all the rest exalt [advance and maintain] thy counsel
- Thou, O'Dea, blue-eyed red-cheeked captain,
whose anger is not slow to come:
accuse not, but instruct leniently
and for us say as we will say (i.e. speak and we will assent]
- Thy counsel's mystery,
generous Lochlainn O'Hechir, hide not;
O lion of the bright suns,
procure us to take an exultant westward course
- O Mahon of great record,
orderly impart thy counsel adequate;
O heart well braced by valour's yoke,
thy counsel as thy very soul's care give to light on us
- Son of spirited Cumea,
to engage in combat is not a thing by thee to be desired;
should thy counsel be a gallant charge on that stern host,
then in the battle (and this is no mean false surmise) I shall 'have' their regal chief
- At your spears' ends silk shall blaze,
and in your warriors shall high courage be;
the fury shall make men to be divided [cut to bits],
but the land undivided shall be yours
- Gain the battle then-no labour of mere vain spite it is-[and to that end]
use the falcon's swoop;
brave will be the enemy's good intent against you,
ye therefore do all that may bring us honour
Now then concisely parley, and in a manner profitable to victory: breathing war, but friendly among yourselves. Have your minds in unison, your hearts compact together; [when the time comes] make ready your arms, form your ranks and have at your foe!
From the instant in which Dermot had spoken these words, lovingly and tightly they 'knitted together the edges of their minds.' Maccon promised that without subterfuge he would rise out to execute the hest, and the clan, chiming in to promote the business, affirmed: though saving us, these Clancullen irachts, there went not any to look up our enemy's battalions, nevertheless would it for these be utterly unprofitable to come into the field as looking to turn us back. Gladly and zealously Clanmahon adhered to proceed at once and fall on their opponents; between whom and themselves, to be accurately remembered, was enmity no less than this: that by the former in the west [as we have seen] their gallant fathers fell. Clan-Teigue craned and strained to get at them to cut them down; Felim O'Conor prescribed to assault without farther delay; the O'Deas made favourable forecast of the matter in hand;
p.88Lochlainn O'Hechir bade his people hurry with their preparations; under Rory Magrath, Clancraith with enunciation of their choicest counsels edified the gentles, saying that this enterprise surely was one to undertake without scruple; the sharp-blue-sworded confidentials that accompanied Donall O'Dowden and his good brethren Conor and Hugh, under Cueva [Mac Gorman] worthy prompter to sterling honour and close killing (who himself practised the virtues that he preached), actively corroborated and confirmed the [projected] hosting; as the author, demanding it, said:
Come on your march, high raise your bate, your young men arm, to seek the fight. Enter the land, your arms prepare, strong effort make, to ensure the rout. On warriors' spears smooth silk shall glow, soft waving flags shall take the route. In silence step to quell their host, not shame bring back from out the north. Westward ye'll fight, the thing's at hand, Lugh's counterpart will drench the plain: Dermot of Doonloe, a gentle hand, the ready chief that sees the just. Brian of the brugh (whom all men love) mac Donall More mac Donall dor. The stout Maccon not devious moves; as a golden wand that dominates the wood he'll lead them up. Hard at his heel Clancullen comes to shelter us: a prince's guard. And Mahon More, his sons are swift; come, reckless folk, with Brian of the Bens. With Rory's son of comely tint, come handsome Donough so kind to bards. Fair-skinned clan-Teigue will join the match: hard game they'll play, I know it well. A desperate rush, a royal mind, the bold O'Deas just as we part will treat us to. His pointed sword shall outdo all: fair Felim he, that mighty leaper o'er the field. Fiery Lochlain O'Hechir too, a bulwark in himself, and that has owned the one true chief. Since in poesy Clancraith excel all others, by and bye upon the way publicly they will recite it all. O'Dulin's sons come on, and brave Cueva (whose wisdom has embraced the right) with all the trusty confidentials. All other men shall hear of our visit to the glen (where]-and 'tis a fight for which I have no blame-bodies shall want heads. By the time the play is played, all will have suffered loss; the men of Dal's host-pity it is for both us and them
Without shadow of misgiving the whole assembly dispersed to their homes to get on with all that was needed for the emergency of that formidable encounter on which, towards the recovery of their patrimonial rights, they so proudly were resolved; and the place of meeting which they appointed for the last muster before the march was Ruane of the grass-clad caves.
[All preparation now being made,] scrupulously and truthfully as they had promised, these perfervid Gael of the true breed, with new standards and with burnished arms, rose to make good the enterprise which they had undertaken. With ready memory, in faithful discharge of their obligations and with sound appetite for the fray, they covered the distance to Ruane, where cheerily the contingents welcomed every one the other. Not a man of those crowded irachts but longed to fall to, and among them much mutual exhortation passed. Surely it must be imputed to them for fortitude that without a single failure they kept that tryst; neither from the manner of their doing it, since together they seemed moved by as it were the mind and spirit of one man, could it be argued whose spirit were the greater.
The prudent Maccon, far from loquacious as he was, gave them these few words: I am a prophet that is endowed with genuine science (said the chief), and to you all now will e'en declare some portion of my forecast. A hard and mortal battle ye will have this time: one such that not for long and long before has there been delivered another which in its final parting shall have been more grim. In the very centre of the enemy's prime column this complement of them will fall: Donough their chief, Brian of Berra, far-famed Teigue of Limerick. My favourite mailshirt
p.89which [the opposite] O'Brien has, I will now bring home again. In order to back up which good prognostic, I myself inflexibly will the very first join battle, for in the hour of onset a chief utters truth only; as Meave [surnamed the] 'half-red' said to Cahir More her spouse:
Announce that which is pleasant, persevere to declare all that is most favourable; for every true prince is a prophet too...
With these plain words the host was rejoiced, and northwards as straight as a pole urged their way towards the enemy, the course which after Maccon's stirring harangue they held from Ruane being as follows: they just grazed Barnakilleen and the pathetic grave of famed O'Lochlainn's daughter; straight on still into upper Clancullen and to the causeway of Achrim, cautiously; with left hands towards dewy Tulach-O'Dea, across Bescnat's streaming banks to Macaburren's causeway.
Here they halted and snatched some sort of rest, eked out with uneasy sleep: with making beds of their mail and actons, pillows of their collars, and naked bedfellows of their swords; while in prelude to their slumber, warriors' hands were clenched upon their spear-shafts.
At first percolation of the morrow's light, their numerous companies being fallen in, they made a hurried start and took straight along Boharnainacree (on which peaceful morning this highway's original ancient name i.e. 'road of king's sons' was indeed an apposite title) up into white-stoned Mullachgyle, touching Lenane's dairy lands, past Kilmacodonnan (the ascetic's church), steadily yet through Cruchwill in its diameter and, in array for stout defence, threading the fastness-begirt tracks that lead to Dughlen; for in these close border-paths and rugged margins of Dughlen, and in the enemy's own country, it was that they looked for him to meet and desperately face them. Here however they 'got no fight'; so in despair of such they drove and lumped together all the long glen's cattle. To O'Ahiarn, who in virtue of fosterage-tie always adhered to Dermot, whereas his iracht was with the enemy in opposition, they handed over all beasts that were his iracht's; but all stock belonging to Donough O'Brien's confidentials with one acclaim they ruled to butcher, so that by this one incursion Dughlen's tangled aspect was crimson-dyed and red. Then through Coill an áir [wood of slaughter] ominously
p.90and persistently they passed out into the Abbey of Corcomrua's clear land, and in the smooth-walled monastery's stone-fast precinct bestowed their lifted kine. Themselves that night they harboured within the sumptuous abbey's best and most comfortable buildings, as the admirable poet hath it:
Billet yourselves, O host of Adhar, warlike fighting race, clear in utterance and of kingly bearing! Now that out of Moyare's domain we are come on a progress of terror, gaily and with good event we will make circuit of the shores. This night and until [i.e. so that], as the fruit of our expedition, the land be in our power, abide we in the sacred dwelling of bright lights. Bold choleric and steadfast host, of jealous honour, full of men in companies; O noble race ruled by just judgments, carrying white spear-staves, sword-wearing; hawklike and proudly ye have sprung to this hosting, and in their country will make a great chief to be 'reddened' [slain]. Sleep ye, but so that at morn early ye rise, and mettlesome; O strong and populous host, to your household [your chief and his immediate defenders] no happy resistance will be made. Your contest will be powerful, a prince will fall, there shall be heavy drip of red; under the white borders your wrath shall make all footways to be crimsoned. Over keen weapons' points the crow will scream: a piercing voice which, by reason of gilded young men [the dead with gilded arms], along the royal road shall not be rare
Now they in that fair limewhite edifice, smooth-floored with unblemished flags, having for that night taken up their quarters, from among his nearest friends an earnest messenger sought out Donough mac Donall mac Brian Ria the de facto chief, and: chief (said he), be your whole army's bulk assembled, your armours dight; spur up your contingents, stimulate your 'strong men' [champions] and your captains; your mercenaries [and their kerne] forget not; let your 'route' [English allies], as hard as they can, cross Burren's hilly grey expanse of jagged points and slippery steeps, [a country] nevertheless flowing with milk and yielding luscious grass. I say moreover (the same man continued), against those noble battalions [that oppose you] forget ye not now to make a proper gathering; for they are three divisions that handle spear-staves thick and strong, hold drawn swords, move warily, and in all battlefields are wisely helpful each one to his fellow. Which host, my chief, although thou shouldst sift through, aye, man by man, yet among them all shouldst thou not find one but was either a tried hand that in rude battle many a time had made his trusty weapon red, or again some noble lad of father-begotten hardihood and glorious nature, all greedy for the bicker as a wherewithal to enhance his credit. And their advance is the more formidable that it is not against their inclination they are upon this hosting; neither is it to learn how to run away that they are come.
Donough mac Donall mac Brian Rua grew flaming red as he made answer: to universal Gaeldom this story shall be a tale of woeful import, and this encounter is big with sorrow for the Erinachs; seeing that for the freeborn clans of Brian's seed, brave, proud and populous, and the [other] children of Conall echluath's son Cas, to come to one place for unsparing mutual destruction, is merely to give the pale English charter and conveyance of all countries of the Gael.
After this delivery he called to him one that was a confidential
p.91of his, and: go forth (said the chief) and, as speedily as may be, gather our strong men and all our host; for to serve yonder force is a thing which by no means must be neglected, since if that 'great bardic assembly,' haughty, intolerant and altogether devoid of modesty as they are, come short of having all their whole demand, then even to the very sea-stream they will visit every practicable quarter of the land. Thou therefore, messenger, arise and go to Brian Bane mac Donall, and let him hasten in to defend his country and his brother; bring Murtough mac Donough, and to learn his first lesson let that pup of ours, Brian of Berra, come; across the widespread crags of Burren let Teigue of Limerick speed to help us, Clanmahon and clan-Teigue also out of their country's rearmost parts; let triucha na dtaoiseach ['the cantred of captains' i.e. Hy-Blood] join us; to the same appointed place let the O'Lochlainns in full numbers come, and Kineldunal to confront the Cullenachs; let Angus O'Flaherty rise to hold the field, clan-Gillamochanna hasten to our union, Flahertach donn O'Dea's sons also; hither let O'Donnagan's son rush to succour us. Go then (the chief concluded) and neither in cave nor in lonely solitude, neither in remote recess nor in deep-lying glen, leave a man unsummoned to this hosting! Even as he [the poet] treating of this muster said:
- Trusty envoy, get thee up
and to our chiefs make haste away; gather them,
tell them to come-go,
visit every iracht
- To Brian of the brugh,
son of Mogh-Corb's descendant Donall, go;
let him repair to the demesne of spears,
for in mortal strait his brother is
- Hasten, hurry, make a start
and visit gallant Murtough;
one near-allied to the Wolfdog is he:
let Donough's son then hasten
- Early let Brian-of-Berra come,
and over all exalt his victory;
let him come fight and do rough deeds,
and to that 'matter of a high chief' say so
- Let Teigue of Limerick, him of the prowed ships,
with his battle-band come to us;
if Teigue of Limerick come to us now,
our army will be fierce and gladdened
- From the wave [sea] let
the clans of Mahon of the smooth land come in their gathering;
twice kinsmen unto me they are,
if so they rush in to support us
- The battle in all its corners will fly asunder before
Teigue's clans along with Turlough;
if Turlough enter into the fray,
the enemy's triumph will be full of gaps
- Let the O'Shanachans seek the fight,
the O'Ahiarns and O'Hogans;
as hard as thou canst speed,
seek out and to us bring in the O'Kennedys
- Hard Gillamochanna's sons,
bring them back together;
Kineldunal thou wilt rejoice to see,
that are a people yellow-haired and white of skin
- Let the O'Deas,
many or few, troop in;
hither let the O'Lochlainns come,
whom beyond any triad [of names] I would elect
- At our message let the chief,
generous Angus O'Flaherty, come too;
O'Sedna that in his surroundings is not feeble,
O'Donnagan's active son likewise
- To their battalion: to the household, the housefolk,
I myself will be very near;
when all are come into one place,
'twill be a company that shall bear no little fruit
- For a while now make speed and gather,
hasten and use thy best despatch;
in this wise make thy tidings known
then loiter not, but get thee up!
At his behest, away the messenger sped through the land and called out the host which he was bidden to collect. Readily and blithely captains and gentlemen responded to the invitation and flocked in to their chief; onwards as it were a flood they poured in companie, with swords and flying colours; in kern-bands, in ranks having gleaming arms and vesture of defence, to gain one selfsame lair that night, at Kilmaloran. There in a great round mass, bristling and bright with glittering spears, and good whether inertly to resist or headlong to attack, without a taint of dread, actively and strongly, they encamped.
Now the contending parties' relative positions on that night were curious to consider; inasmuch as the host of them that for so long actually had occupied the land [clan-Brian-Rua] were they that lay abroad; whereas the crowd that [from outside] boldly intruded into it, were the very set that in most comfortable
p.92cubicles enjoyed soft luxury and securely, deeply, slept. Be all that as it may, on the one as on the other side [each man after his manner] they brought off the night in enjoyment that was founded on bare nothingness; for not a being of them there was but on the morrow had suffered loss, if not of his own life, then of some dear friend.
With dawn's first springing light Brian Rua's great hosting alertly rose, and throughout the camp anon grew buzz and clang and clamour of strong men as they harnessed their nobles, picked out their own weapons, placed and strapped on their helmets, fastened their collars' edges, made their mail secure, confirmed their swords in their belts, poised and brandished their javelins, gave their spears the whetstone, gathered their good store of round pebbles, and polished up their bows; [the captains] exhorting their men to stand to it, and to their gentlemen imparting the coming battle's tactics, while upon all they enjoined to quit themselves like men. Their colours being smoothly stretched to their lances, suddenly at last Donough's standard shot aloft and bodingly waved over all. So soon then as the columns had had their course set them, advantage of the wind also favouring such wisely chosen lines of march, the army's initial preparation was complete; as Donough's poet put it when he said: hold now, young men, and hearken to my speech. In your hearts remember that the purpose with which ye come on this perilous expedition is to gain the field [once for all] and so make an end of [our long] dissension, either by your gentile antagonists' destruction bodily, or by your own wholesale violent death one and all. Never dream that yonder gentlemen ye will [with ease] pound small and put to rout; for not to fly are they come on this trip, but to fall or stoutly win their country. Neither let any look to survive on the condition that [when it comes to the point] those gentles will shirk [the business]; for long and well your armies know the rough game yon good fellows play. Steadfastly therefore, children of Cas, give on to encounter Cas his progeny; for of clanna Chais are both your friend-enemies [foes of the same blood] that offer you battle, and your own gathering; with whom your close embrace of kinship will be that of steel to steel. Then he, ordering the advance, went on:
- Children of Cas,
ye with whom riches stand not in great honour, hold fast!
the glowing anger of your men abate not,
but incline your colours' pliant folds
- Beneath the supreme chief's standard,
uplifted be 'the points of battle' [spears];
to display them separately [independently] is not proper,
but let all flags together form one threatening cloud
- Go on then,
make you ready and then march;
under this perverse necessity,
slope your spears and armour all your champions
- Throw your strong shafts,
and bare your swords of enduring surface;
then fall or win certain victory,
O children of both Tál and Cas
- Stand your ground so that on both sides men fall,
and all sod-bordered ways be wet and red;
as to giving up our quarrel with the others,
certain it is that never will we do so
- The hissing of our spears has 'scattered abroad frost,'
and the loud braying of our horns;
so shall our bond have a rude strength,
and to our foemen be the Office for the Dead
- In the books our battle with
clan-Turlough-More shall be read;
our standing controversy shall not be an opprobrium,
but all men will recite it
- This day in our crowded battle
carrion-crows shall grateful be,
for they lust after flesh-meat;
the ravens also will be thankful
- Attack, and then stand your ground,
considering the windfall ye have gotten!
who hath not heard all that certifies good fortune [have not all good prognostics been declared to you]?
then for God's sake do well and valiantly!
Plentifully, and with earnest intention to keep their word, they promised that in their action they would fulfil and perform all that he had said, and [in virtue of his monition] they less than ever were inclined to fail in execution of all that which originally [before ever he addressed them] they had taken on themselves.
A mighty impulse they gave to their departure thence to the determined spot in which they were to find the enemy; nor in [the course of any] struggle fought for this fertile Ireland was there ever stepped a march more obstinate than this, unless perchance it were that of the other side to meet them. Quietly the broad-sworded warriors [of clan-Brian-Rua], many in number, in closest order, came hard by loch Rask; all together they looked on the shining mere, and there they saw the monstrous and distorted form of a lone ancient hideous hag that stooped over the bright loch's shore. The loathly creature's semblance was this: she was thatched with elf-locks foxy-grey and rough as heather, long as sea-wrack, inextricably tangled; had a bossy wrinkled foully ulcerated forehead; every hair of her eyebrows was like a strong fish-hook and, from under them, bleary dripping eyes peered with malignant fire between lids all rawly crimson-edged; she had a great blueish nose, flattened and wide, copiously and snortingly catarrhous; lips livid, white-rimmed, pustulous, that outwards turned up to her snout, and downwards to a stubby beard...
The crone had a cairn of heads, a pile of arms and legs, a load, of spoils, all which she rinsed and diligently washed, so that by her labour the water in its whole extension was covered with hair and gory brains. The army, hushed, intently and long gaze at her; but dauntlessly the chief accosts the beldam: what name affectest thou, or of what people are thine immediate friends, or to whom are kin these so maltreated dead on this moist shore? and she nothing loath replies: 'the Dismal of Burren' I am named alway; 'tis of the tuatha dé Danann I declare myself and, royal chief (the withered crone went on), this carnage here stands for your [army's] heads with, in their very midst, thine own head: the which though now thou carriest it, yet no longer is it thine. Proudly as thou goest to the battle's field, the time is not far from you when, all to a very few, ye must
p.94be slain. By the perverse wretch's bitter forecast the host was startled, and with javelins straightway would have cast at her; but on the rushing wind she rose above them and, being well aloft, delivered herself thus defiantly:
Ill betide all that march here! a baneful trip 'twill be, an effort big with wrath! the combat will be rude; till Doom 'twill ring how such an host rushed into fight; there will abound both pointless spears and swords [shivered] to the bone[-hilt], sighs moans and grief for clan-Cas slain, a woeful tale; the red chiefs clan, 'tis they must fail, must sink at last; their prince shall fall; thou, comely Donough, thou com'st not back; smooth Brian of Berra shall supine be left; Murtough More though fierce is stricken, his body pruned. I tell you all, your march bodes ill, your eastward course will breed much woe!
But to his good host Donough cried: never heed ye the daft thing's rambling prophecy; for in yon miserable being ye have nought but one that is a warlock leman to Brian-descended clan-Turlough-More and, in dread of their destruction at your hands, seeks thus to turn you back. For all that, let her not bring your gentles' natures to recoil; but 'heads down' [like charging bulls] valorously achieve the onset which against your enemies ye have decreed.
With Donough's incitement their temper rose, and undeviatingly they strode on.
For a while now we take up the other army and their doings. Within the fair abbey's 'smooth-sided' [wrought-stone] buildings comfortably and cosily they had slept their fill when, at the very hour of dawning day, a certain 'young man' rose: one of the chiefs next followers he was, and one that in this quarrel closely attended on the person of [Murtough's brother] Dermot; his designation was 'O'Grifa,' his name was Thomas mac Urthaile. He then not long had stood and surveyed the country's face, when towards him he descried a great and concentrated host, various and brightly flecked with standard displayed, with colours flying and with glint of spears, as like some vast sphere they seemed to roll onward in the open land, silently, incessantly. When Thomas saw this overweening progress, he faced about to his own people and in a clear intelligible voice cried aloud: now is his supreme chiefry's countenance turned to noble Dermot! now is possession of all good luck at hand for his chiefs, a beginning of
p.95all opulence for his captains, a superfluity of every good thing for his [mercenary] gentiles! Here and close at hand ye have princely treasure-trove such that never have we seen any that was more precious and more profitable [than this now within your grasp], viz, that presently, and all united in one place, ye catch your gentle foes to slaughter them. Haughtily then go to meet them, and on them [hand to hand] make one mighty consummation of it all, so that their battalion's greater multitude waste you not with [preliminary] missile-play. Let your nobles arm, your warriors bare their swords, your people level their spears, your archers strain their bowstrings, and let all look to their stone-provision! and he invented this rosg, saying:
Time it is for all to vie...
Cordially and without hesitation the response to these monitions came: Dermot was armoured; together with his warrior-monks Maccon issued from the Abbey, and a strange sight it was to see those Cullenachs come tumbling out and wriggle on their harness as they ran; nor ever, out of any monastery whatsoever, had there streamed an order [of friars] more grimly bent on fighting for their lands.
The irachts ranged themselves each under its own individual lord apart, and they that closely ordered fell in under Dermot himself were these: Murtough the high chief's faithful confidentials, truthful in word, in action strong, and wise to counsel, that were left with Dermot to closely keep him until his brother should return; as Cueva Mac Gorman, and Donough O'Dowden's three sons: sons of him by whom in the war of Turlough More, and many a time, the hard won victory had been snatched. The eldest of the freeborn (as here I give you them to plainly read) was Donall O'Dowden, openhanded and of lovable feature, but a close tough fighter; next was Conor O'Dowden his brother, a fiery yet steadfast man of war; lastly Hugh O'Dowden, a bright and lively sort: keen and constant in his duty, chief youngster and leading spirit in all harassing service, in scouting work and in honour's quest, pink of this whole well-assured description. They were accompanied by the gentlemen of the confidentials, and formed Dermot's actual bodyguard.
Then Maccon got himself into his defensive gear: hard mail
p.96of proof, and a propitious tunic that was white, and overlaid with scales; in which garb as the chief was a-harnessing, and they [in their haste] had put it back in front upon him, he bade them return it carefully, and said ingeniously: we shall be all the better for the oversight, which doubtless but portends some gain still greater [even than that we looked for]. Now solidly with their maintaining hooks clasp on the tippet and the comely mail; on my head fast tie the helmet; for this armour I will not exchange until as its price from yonder folk I win a better.
Here Clancullen's phalanx fell in about their lord, and the leading gentlemen of the attack were Nicol mac Cumea Mac Conmara (very Conall caemh of the Cullenachs), extreme particular spear-point of all onset, special shield of deadly retreat, whose veritable portraiture (to reflect it for you) was as follows: a ruddy youth of open countenance and handsome lineament, red-lipped, close-bearded, pink-nailed, stalwart and staunch, whose lot it was in this affair to take his brother and chief's right shoulder, nor surely may we pity one that in this juncture had a shoulder-prop such [as this of Maccon's]; young Hugh mac Donough mac Cumea also, bushy and curly headed, genuine heir of the Cullenachs, who stepped to his kinsman's other shoulder to be his guard. Next came clan-Teigue under Rory mac Teigue mac Maccon Mac Conmara (which Maccon was wise father to both Cumea and Teigue), thither came both sons of Donall mac Teigue (the same Teigue): Mahon and Teigue More; clan-Sheeda rallied to the chief, and ever-contentious clan-Donough with all their gentlemen; clan-Melachlainn also, and Claninerheny, watching their princely chief; Clanlorcan of the many spears, that during the battle should frontguard their overlord; red-sworded clan-Clarach, rich clan-Menama, ready for the field; the Gillamoyle's branch, calling to be led on; the O'Molonys under their own gentlemen and captains; the O'Hallorans, the thriftily prosperous O'Currys, the O'Slatterys, the O'Hessias, the many-familied Clanmaley, the O'Hartagans, O'Kinnergans, O'Halys, the Mac Conduffs and the O'Meehans; with Brian mac Donall mac Donall mac Teigue, whose it was to order the general charge, and many other irachts and kindreds besides. How blest the captains whom such as these followed to the battle! how rueful for the ground which they should overrun to fight for it! They advanced spears, let fly the brilliant colours,
p.97drew swords, and universally promised even as also by and by they fulfilled; and there now you have 'the gathering of Clancullen.'
As regards 'smooth' [quiet-mannered] but vastly effective Clanmahon: under Brian mac Dermot, Donough mac Rory, Rory mac Rory and the rest of Rory Mac Mahon's sons, also under Teigue Mac Mahon's sons Donough and Murrough, as fast as they could travel they likewise came up, and were joined by the gentlemen of farther kindreds still: the O'Linchys, O'Keilys and Mac Regans, bringing in the strong contingents of their countries. Under Mahon mac Teigue and Donall came clan-Teigue, with swords carried, long spears in plenty, and bringing with them Felim O'Conor: the efficient cause of this hero's mention as here being unattended with an iracht, being that clan-Brian-Rua had gotten his iracht into their clutches; Felim however had not 'transgressed his truth' [broken the ties of honour] but, all alone as he was, stood by his chief; and on this field he shewed fight, skill at arms and conduct, in proportion that would have graced an integral iracht. Nor was it long after the battle when he was at the head of men enough; as when all was over the author in that leader's praise composed:
Well hath valour's scion [Felim] won the renown that Fergus's descendant [O'Conor] now enjoys: a bonny scion that outstrips all chiefs, for not a man has outstripped Felim.
Thither moreover came the Fermacachs with all their young leaders, under Hugh Rua's sons Donall and Murray, and Donough's two: Flahertach and Donough, under mirth-tuneful Rory mac Gillapatrick and Donall carrach; for their chief captain, bold-counselling Macraith O'Dea (in consequence of a [bad] fall suffered the day before on this same hosting) lay in extremity, and that was what hindered him of being present.
Other irachts came to take a hand in it: the O'Grifas, the O'Hivars, the warlike Mac Concroes, with their kindreds; the O'Lees, O'Dowalls and O'Galvans, with many more; to convoy and safeguard all which gentlemen aforesaid, Hy-Cormac under broad-sworded Lochlainn O'Hechir marched up.
Conor [O'Brien also, surnamed] mac an togha came in: besides whom there was not present there a single member of the descents sprung from Brian-of-the-Tribute's son Donough, that was monarch of all Ireland, and of whose loins indubitably are good Clanbrian
p.98of the [glen of] Aharlach in their integrity. On this memorable occasion Conor strove for, and had, his own share of fighting.
At last: the irachts being afoot, their gentles armoured, their leaders stationed, their hospitallers incited, their young men all equipped with arms and their gentiles well stirred up, certain from among the host insisted that they must pause to get the battalions into due order [of precedence] for the battle; but with a lusty voice Maccon proclaimed: in this field we will, if it so please you, have no precedence of kindreds; but every man that elects to be in front, let him for the first onfall race even as I will race; he that likes the centre, there let him take his place and keep it; for such as shall be satisfied to bring up the rear, according to their fancy let them hang back and there do such service as they may.
All in general having heard these words addressed to them, their soldiers felt their spirit roused in them, their chieftains were inspired with emulation, their tribesmen inflamed, their kerne wound up to fierceness, and of the whole host was formed one long line in front. With politic words again Maccon called out: where now are the hundred Cullenachs, shapely venom-speared reddeners of the sword, that have, vowed to fall with me before they flinch? and: here we are! the whole mass of Clancullen answered with a voice; nor more than barely once had he intoned the question when, to make good their word, ten hundred men at once stepped forward.
The army thus in all its parts being united under Dermot mac Turlough More, he (as prudent as he was aggressively inclined) spoke these words: we know (quoth that material of an overchief) that in you on this day your manly natures are at ease, seeing that but a little distance now there is between yourselves and destruction of your deadly if close-allied enemies; [but a little while] to your gentles' acquisition of much armour, and until your chieftains shall be seized of all their fair lands in their wide expanse. Whereby in your dwellings, quiet [henceforth], assiduous and careful ministration to your poets' wants shall [once more] be feasible. Make then a fight to win for your freeborn wives grateful comfort and sweet repose; so that, within your borders wealth increase, a final term be set to hither and thither transport of your little babes, to ceaseless peregrination of your flittings, and to your reverend clerics' enforced vagrancy. By which struggle ye shall
p.99win in perpetuity three prizes: as of victory, when ye shall have gained the day; of hospitality, when your treasures shall have grown; of great prosperity, when ye shall possess the irachts with their tuatha. Wherefore I say to you: endure that in this grave controversy your veriest friends [nearest relatives] fall before your face; and how better may your nobles find a worthy spot in which to avenge their kin, than by following them hot foot into the enemy's thickest [where they perished]?
This then and so far was Dermot's exhortation to his people, and the chief's poet also said to them: let your nobles rise, shew forth your cognizances, close up your irachts, lower your spears to the charge, have your other arms to hand, turn you each man to his respective handiwork, hard and fast grip your bone-hilted swords, and to the Almighty Virgin-mothered King make supplication; for the time to begin is come, and -battle's hour is there: now is the instant of the charge. For I see, and ye see, certain grim ruthless columns, that in even and steady silent progress towards you bring with them sharp edges. Ye also therefore, freeborn children of the seed of Cormac Cas, step out! and he added these quatrains:
- Children of Cormac,
bold-stepping army, march!
from your dark white-chequered phalanx
level a bristling line of points
- Drive spears into ribs,
gash warriors' skins;
a struggle this is that in abundance has good grounds of enmity,
and in it many a ruddy face shall clouded be
- Let all endure to be maimed
win land for our chiefs;
Teigue's race has [will have] established
their sway over the regions
- Until they stay [leave off ] we will not stay,
all dunes that we shall breach are high [no petty ones];
tough all the fights that we shall fight,
and until we shall be wearied out we will not stay
- Until yon daring host face right about,
let not your battalions pause;
your onslaught, though not unattended with much battling,
shall be a breaking up of them
- Let all have triumph over them,
reduce ye them to 'unswiftness' [paralyze them];
a tale of fortune to come, not of impending death [defeat] it is,
that our columns are they which the first have marched
By this time the whole of either army had a near view of the other and made out that the leaders 'sought no prop,' their soldiers wavered not nor their young men hesitated; they perceived them rather to be angrily reckless, mettlesome, glad to encounter. In both hosts indiscriminately indeed many were the strapping freehanded hardhitting heavy-weaponed gentlemen who, even as they strove to be first into it, were fey; but the fashion of brave clan-Brian-Rua's coming upon the field was with a flock of scallcrows, a clump of ravens and a pack of wolves, in close attendance after them.
All reached the dorsal ridge of the stubborn plain that shewed its bleached face varied with dark irregular seams; and they being there, at this first almost contact of the parties certain hot spirits in the way of challenge let fly with stones and javelins, darts and arrows, reciprocally. By these first contributions was established a darkling dropping mist, a showering cloud of pebbles and of splintering shafts, that assailed their heads and arms and legs; yea,
p.100so thickly that the spears flying would split each other and, in the malice of that pelting rain, stones turn the slender arrows' points.
At once both sides impetuously followed up these provocations: full tilt they came at each other and, if all bands got the charitable dole to solicit which they came, it shewed that neither was any guilty of parsimonious remissness in bestowing.
As the lines touched they vented ringing cheers, a call which failed not of response from the creatures both of Heaven and of this fair Earth: for loudly Ireland's coasts reechoed this hateful strife's commotion; the ever-beneficent Sun renounced his brilliant aspect and for the time hid his face from the Erinachs; uproariously the Sea discoursed, and with her great insolent waves showed as though she would have poured in over the edges and flooded the central plain of Erin. But when actually they crashed together, straight before them with their spears they pushed undeviatingly, and so stiffly stood to it that the tough shafts, no more enduring the distress, were sprung and shivered until in red-wetted fragments they strewed all the ground. From point to cross-hilt, swords they gapped on heads and skulls until the weapons damaged and disfigured lay piled in chaos: their bossy pommels shed, cross-guards twisted, ivory cheeks of their gripes split or knocked off. Now came the leaders 'with their scabbards emptied' [swords drawn] and made their good people to fall on in earnest for the real brunt and main effort: they chopped up the mailshirts to such purpose that after the battle it was by little bits they were picked up; and the greenedged redbroidered actons were hewn asunder dyed completely crimson for, white as they had been coming into the dilemma, any one of them might have been turned inside out and found impurpled through and through. Their enormous quantity considered, never had there been met spoils more profitless for extent of their defects and dilapidations; unless indeed it were [that their profit lay in] the loss of their owners perished in making a good fight for them.
They all sticking to it thus and holding out at close quarters; the gentlemen also on either side being resolved to stand their ground, their helmets' plates split upon their heads and their collars in pieces about their necks; every man recognised in the press some special mark for his swordstroke, and greedily, perpetually, they leaped out of their own into the opposing ranks:
p.101each one at his kinsman-enemy, whom then either by his curling hair and his headgear he would hale to him and bring back among his own, or (should the other prove the stronger) remain his prize. At last they were so, that with the vigour of the 'dipping,' sore-ness of the hammering and energy of concussion, they actually changed places: the host that came out of the west now being to the eastward, and clan-Turlough-More like a demesne fence on their enemy's west side.
Here Dermot rose and diligently devoted himself to fall on clan-Brian-Rua: their gentlemen he slew, cut their armature to pieces, filled their warriors' skins with holes, and by death abated their good people's numbers.
As for Maccon, against Donough the chief and his clans hardily and successfully he held his own. In the end there grew between them rows of the noble dead; so that across those mounds of them no one might reach another, but it was by fetching a compass round about the thick-laid slain that they had to keep the battle going. There many a one searched for his own peculiar foe to have at him; heroes dealt wounds: some shore off arms, some carved crisscrossways, young men had their weapons in smart play, and so without remission of spirit all irachts took on them and performed each one its duty.
With his good confidentials Dermot sought by main force to 'disperse the battle'; O'Brien's (Donough's) confidentials laid about them viciously. The Corcamachs held the 'yoke of battle' unmoved in its exact right place, saying (and well they acted up to it) that whoso should budge an inch from his fighting station no more should be a man of Corcamrua. Clanmahon strove to break the enemy; clan-Teigue swept round them, and in divers parts of the field Brian, son's son to Donall mac Teigue More, did ample execution until he was hurt and bonesplit in the head. Felim O'Conor wrought equally; and he it was that, as the armies advanced to close, had done the marasgalacht [mareschal's office] of his own, in exercise of which he had his travail well rewarded by the enemy's [missile] weapons at close range, until ahead of all he charged right up to them. Kinelfermac held good and, in the effort made to dislodge them, bore to be cut down in their places; Hy-Cormac accepted some of the hardest fighting of the day, for their chief and generous captain Lochlainn O'Hechir
p.102gave his life to uphold his honour, his valour, and to vindicate his patrimony.
At the very outset, Conor mac an togha of the thick spear and broad blade with two hundred men hurtled among them, maiming some, beheading others, until by mere number and weight of the weapons brought to bear on him he was overmatched. However, though one and all individually, and every iracht collectively, charged over and over again in the style described by us, still on Maccon fell the task of keeping the battle 'braced together': there he stood rooted and held the key of the position, at the same time that he multiplied the slain and minished the living of his enemies. For out of the west hardly was there come champion or great chief's son, chieftain or noble captain of clan-Brian-Rua, but continually and wildly cried out for 'Mac Conmara'; and all the mutiny that the leader had to put up with from his irachts amounted only to this: that his gentlemen insisted on answering these provocations, and in response to them would impersonate Mac Conmara with springing to meet his challengers. As for Maccon's self, no easy game had he to play where he found himself planted: in the nucleus of the fight, encircled with a trusty pale of Cullenach gentlemen that parried for him; Felim O'Conor also being in the same predicament, and in like wise busied. To range through the battle they detached a chosen party of Cullenachs, every man of whom for enhancement of his own fame above [that of] others sought opportunity to give and to take blows and buffets. Nicol Mac Conmara, belabouring them furiously in head and leg, and even trisecting them, slew the great chief's folk at discretion; and the feats that he performed were some from which (but for his shield that proved his salvation) he never had returned. Hugh mac Donough mac Conmara rose to disintegrate and exterminate his foes; and he (son's son to Cumea More), though but a stripling, disported himself manfully on them that were full grown, working the Blodachs grievous losses. Rory mac Teigue Mac Conmara leaping into them burst through the pen-folds of their shields, laid many low, and weeded out their sections; while contemplation of Dermot mac Turlough More as with his good sword he felled and prostrated their leaders, made it the easier for his own gentlemen to keep their hearts staunch in their place.
When then Donough, chief of clan-Brian-Rua, saw his companies attenuated, his people cut up small and his very nearest kin annihilated, he drove into the enemy's actual centre and there Felim O'Conor happened in his way to meet him. The chief, levelling his well-rivetted keen-tipped spear, put it through Felim's hand [his left]; O'Conor raised the deadly hard-steeled polished blue-glancing axe, and on the princely commander delivered a slanting stroke that to one side of his reins took effect on his mail, breaking the skin and rupturing a kidney, but one single ring of the mail it never broke. Donough now perceiving his fighting power to fail, his strength to ebb and his vigour to be reduced by the blow, bravely he faced for Dermot mac Turlough More's encircling bodyguard and, in a last rally to get at his noble kinsman, bore himself well and desperately. They however with their heavy weapons completely 'thatched' the chief, piercing him with spears and hacking him with swords, so that between the over-whelming numbers of their arms and their persistence [in using them] Donough the chief perished by Dermot's guard.
Now Brian Bane mac Donall O'Brien seeing Donough his brother cut off, Murtough garbh both otherwise wounded and pruned of a limb, Brian of Berra fallen with his side laid open, Teigue of Limerick fairly split down with swordblades, and his gentlemen all destroyed, he cast about to shift for himself and so took a precipitate eastward course to the skirts of Burren, that is hoary and slippery with her crag.
Over wide Burren's naked hills the swiftly fleeing rout with much destruction was pursued. Athwart the battleground on which they met, many a chieftain was stretched on his back; many a one lay mangled, many a young man groaned and many a gentleman made act of penance. In numbers there, and on both sides, they had turbulent hate-inspired members of opposing septs extended by the side or else thrown one atop of other. By the beard clutched in great handfuls, some held their rivals fast to them; many a man still alive and able faintly to articulate, lay prisoner to the valiant dead whose grip was frozen on his limbs or armour; even not a few, all hastening as they were to death, because their hands were shredded off and fallen to the ground sought with their teeth to behead their enemies, to 'nose-chew' them, to flail them [with their stumps]; with uncertain steps
p.104others again that had their eyeballs slit across with swords groped, guided by each others' voices. Nor was it easy for any there to recognise his dearest friend, so many were the bodies that lay contiguous to heads other than their own; arms flung far from their native shoulders; fingers wandered off from their rightful hands; feet strayed from their straight long shanks. Much hair in spirals, great plenty of fair locks in rolls and wavy tresses, ingrained red 'at the first heat,' were whistled down the shrilly wind.
Clan-Turlough-More, victorious, but covered with wounds and having great gaps in their kindreds, battle-decimated, nevertheless with exultation rallied to one place to count their own losses, to estimate those they had inflicted, to attend to their gentlemen's hurts, to throw an eye over their freeborn clans; and each iracht's gathering separately proceeded to search for and to visit them that they missed.
Then Dermot mac Turlough More said: never let the magnitude of your bereavement here oppress your warlike souls; but rather give heed to this: that around your dead on all sides lie twice so many of your foemen's nobles. Let your chiefs gladly and with all truth consider that from this day forth, and so long as ye endure, the broad land will be yours. Excessive grief for your friends would, moreover, be the less warranted in presence of an eric so perfect as is this that ye have in lieu of them. In addition to which he uttered this rosc:
Good army, children of Tál, now play the men! no soldiers' work soft grieving is; shake off your care and ours; our remedy exceeds our hurts; ye have before you labours which it were right that ye performed efficiently: all that by you on this ground are fallen of Brian-of-the-Tribute's clans, to honour them with tomb and sepulture; from among those heroes to seek out and to set aside your own dead friends; to count the spoils and heads; to bind wounds stricken home to the quick; to enter into possession of the principality; at any cost to keep up your spirits. In God's name then, play the men and do it well!
Around their brave chief, Clancullen sat apart and told over their losses nor, to judge by their numbers prostrate in the field's whole circumference: perished with the enemies they had slain, was it hard to recognise that they had endured the main tumult
p.105of the battle. Hugh mac Donough Mac Conmara was brought in, hard hit in the head after a rush into the Blodachs whereby the lad killed many of them, until he and O'Shanachan meeting fought and fell each by each. Although no radical recovery out of that pass could be secured for him, yet among his friends and in full possession of his senses for a full fortnight several times he received the Lord's Body in Communion. His chief and princely brother Maccon made lamentation for Hugh so laid, with eight gentlemen of his race slain about him, and thirteen men of his iracht that had made part of the same slaughter-heap. Maccon therefore, bewailing Hugh, said:
Both good and bad this hosting has turned out: many as are our losses, the onfall to which we treated our enemy was a proper one; good restitution we have gotten: our noble foe's best gentles; for all that, alas that I have not Hugh: my heart's gentle darling, sense and intelligence of my soul! our far-ranging hunting hawk the athletic dark-browed stripling was, and shepherd of our irachts, swift, and the well beloved of our fighting men! after Hugh of the golden weapons, sad is our solitary singleness!
In gallant humour Clanmahon came and stood over clan-Brian-Rua to compute them. They looked on Donough, on Brian of Berra, on powerful Murtough garbh, on Teigue of Limerick, on the brave O'Kennedys littered in death; and the sight of that holocaust warmed them with hot pleasure, because by forbears of those freeborn slain once fell three that to certain of Clanmahon's noble progenies were fathers: to Dermot's sons, to Rory's and to Teigue Mac Mahon's; as [on behalf of clan-Dermot] Brian mac Dermot expressed it:
A hosting justified by good event hath this our expedition been, which without let or hindrance, without once being turned back, we now have consummated after pouring like an impetuous flood's rough waves into this country's northern part. Our share of it at all events is good, inasmuch as by massacre of clan-Brian-Rua we have vengeance for our good fathers: Dermot More Mac Mahon slain on the ridge-paths of Dughlen; red-weaponed Turlough Oge O'Brien it was that broke into Disert, whereby generous Rory died, Teigue also in the same affray. To see the O'Kennedys levelled therefore is comfortable to my heart, and more delicious than would have been all wealth in compensation!
With Mahon and Donall, clan-Teigue roamed the field and surveyed them; nor was it to mourn for them that they inclined,
p.106since by the same it was that Donall's father violently was put to death in treason. They came and stood over Turlough Oge mac Brian Rua to lift him and to do him honour, saying as they looked on their good blood-relative: a calamity to usyet may we not grieve for itis this measure that is dealt thee, noble warrior! an ill errand was yours all, when ye came to this encounter; but for the journey that we have taken we rejoice! Then Mahon, triumphing over Turlough Oge, said:
Disastrous hath their nobles' errand been, but one for which we sorrow not; no pleasant course of theirs was this that landed them where to the merciless ravens their carcasses are thrown in gory medley. Tough Turlough: alas that ever he accompanied those chiefs and that he, a tower, is fallen. But not from us the evil came.
From off the ground on which the main stand was made, O'Conor (Felim) was raised to have his hurts bound up. He looked on the lordly dead that were thick about him, and said: for all that we ourselves are not scot-free come off from our enemies, the manly work done on these gentlemen is a delight to us; and though immediately upon termination of this quarrel we ourselves too made an end, yet had we been abundantly well paid. As he said:
A prince's triumph is this triumph which darkbrowed Dermot, mail-clad son of Turlough More, now hath achieved, and one that bodes us fortune. Glad am I to have come on this business; nor deplore my death, if die I must by perforation of my martial hand. As I gaze on the chiefs that butchered lie, all full of wounds and bone-cloven, our triumph [I say] is a far-reaching victory indeed.
Kinelfermac made their scrutiny, questioning the carnage-layers and distinguishing their enemies; among whom, it was certain of their own that had been the most deadly hostile to them, and they said that it rejoiced them to have them as there they were. As the Fermacachs' poet recited:
We came on a journey which [for some folk] will have been one without return, for from the fight no more will ye come back. Your woe we find to be a joy; your loss, to us a gain. Seed of Fermac fionn, to you day by day this journey shall be hateful; but to our [common] country, a source of ease.
Then it was that before his death O'Hechir (Lochlainn)
p.107addressed his iracht and said: forasmuch as [before my own departure] I see upon the bloody field these woeful hideous losses of my longstanding enemies, unto Heaven's and the sacred Earth's mighty King I offer thanks. And in commemoration he pronounced:
Alas for the state to which this time I am reduced, in the great battle of the Abbey, among the pinnacles of Burren's land; yet in that fane my violent destruction is not death. In virtue of the triumph that we have had, and our noble enemies being fallen, in affluence and in security henceforward the pleasant countries shall be our chief's. To clan-Turlough-More, that abounds in chieftains, my best blessing I bequeath; and Thee, bountiful Monarch of Truth, do fervently implore that, according to the measure in which they relieve the poor and needy, Thou wilt guard their wealth and substance.
Then the confidentials came and tearfully contemplated Donall O'Dowden, that on the reddened ground lay slain. Some time grievously they lamented him; until because that now the supreme chiefry without a break was noble Murtough's, and that the general execution which everywhere they saw was so close and thick, betwixt them and their grief for that good warrior a shield of gladness was uplifted. Even as the author, telling of it, said:
Weary, but rejoiced, after the great battle's toil this army is; victorious, if full of wounds and battle-gapped, is red-ensigned Dermot's host. A loss to us is Donall O'Dowden, a man of reckless valour: save that, in comparison with our enemy's [multiple] slaughter, it is not meet to reckon him. One source of courage and good spirits: our leading chiefs survive; safe and sound is the noble lion, all Munster's king, Murtough. Dermot of the good sword [his brother] lives, lives Maccon also, the close-slaying; the best of our gentlemen, all but a few, remain to us. To our generous septs 'it is a troop' [it is worth a regiment] that our formidable enemies' commander breathes not; over and above which, by way of payment let us have the rest also of Thomond. Joyful indeed will our story be, as henceforth and for all time by shennachies it shall be read, yea, pleasant nor ever wearisome.
Then Rory Magrath the poet, invested with due authority, profitably judicious, keensighted, formidable in arms withal, said to the battalions:
See to it that with due honour ye bury these gently descended kindreds here in your power; and since now they have renounced their inveterate enmity and ceased to strive with you for the chiefry, remember your consanguinity with those fair branches of the [parent] vine; for had they but willed to refrain from such factious antagonism, the loss of them had to your numbers been a calamity indeed. He having in lawful form been inaugurated 'O'Brien,' for Donough the chief be there made a permanent and worthy tomb, a statelier than for his noble brethren Brian and Murtough and Teigue More. At the prince's side have Brian of Berra laid, in lasting token of your victory; Murtough's grand bulk, beside the stripling; by him again, Teigue of Limerick; next in order be Turlough mac Teigue also set.
For the O'Kennedys, have a litter strewn; a cold lair for the O'Hogans, dressed and polished stones planted over the O'Shanachans. Let habitations be prepared for the O'Ahiarns, and narrow flags laid over clan-Gillamochanna; a limestone flag, true to rule, over O'Flaherty. Have O'Donnagan put down in a good place and, as by you heretofore these members of [your] highborn kindreds have been extinguished in the mighty battle, even so
p.108make ye now ready and adorn their beds. Over their kerne [laid in one long trench] be the earth heaped rampartwise; to their English allies be decent burial given.
Inter all therefore; but first from their gentles take their armour, then look to your own and to your irachts' losses. Surely no deprivation that may not be mourned is Clancullen's heavy reckoning that fell with Hugh mac Donough mac Cumea and eight gentlemen of his breed in his close company, besides two-and-twenty of his iracht's gentles killed 'on the floor' of the encounter. Enormous are Hy-Cormac's losses also: O'Hechir (Lochlainn) and, with him, many of his people slain. Gravely this time clan-Teigue have suffered, inasmuch as that venomous serpent Macraith, blind Hugh O'Conor's grandson, is fallen.
Let every man of you attend, each to his own particular friend to honour him; to the dead of your own people assign such place of sepulture as yourselves shall choose. Tell over how ye have fought; count your winnings; for your leaders be deathsongs made, healing care bestowed on your followers' hurts. For your whole host now is incarnadine, your glittering armour rubricated, arid all your kindreds full of damage, ye children of Cormac cas! As the author, counting up the missing, expresses himself:
- Children of Cormac Cas, over the green expanse mantled in tender grass
this has been a bloody business;
comely and slaughterful host of Adhar,
a bloody fight is this that ye have fought
- Clan-Brian-Rua, holders of strong spears
pleasant and excellently well-famed host from the brugh
our losses and theirs are not alike,
yet are we as well as they cut up
- Our loss in Burren is not small
seven times so much have they;
[apart from the number of our slain, the mere fact] that they by noxious means have maimed us (which to them ought to have been an interdicted thing) is in itself a loss [a woeful thing]
that is open to the charge of factious malice
- It was Donough mac Donall of Doonskee
that they had for chief;
[than his fatal hurts] no wounding that occurred there was more grave,
no death than his more big [with consequence] to our nobles
- A quarry that must be counted is Brian-of-Berra,
that never knew reproach;
in its train the killing of Brian-Berra
brings to our people reconciliation
- Rough Murtough of the boisterous mirth
never ceased from cutting down of men;
he that fell 'was a scion to us' [i.e. of ours] but he,
Donough of Doon's son, was not loyal
- Until he was laid low,
never I trow was it with us that Teigue of Limerick was consorted;
till Teigue 'got a leap' [was made to take one],
his mind fiercely was bent on triumph
- By Turlough mac Teigue in all its angles
the battle throughly was ransacked;
though all his faculties were strung so high,
still Turlough, doughty chieftain, fell
- Of all their graves,
what grave is nobler than O'Flaherty's bed here?
if Mogh-Corb's progeny engaged so closely,
what, think you, was the valour shown by Brian of-the-Tribute's seed ?
- They were clan-Turlough that fell there,
and clan-Dermot-finn of Frewin;
so many branches of the Ark's [precious] woods:
the O'Deas and the O'Duracks
- There a mighty pillar fell:
finely framed Conor mac Donough;
a sad blow 'twas to have Hy-Cormac's champion full of hurts,
and that by his own tribesmen's blows
- The O'Kennedys' gentles in the battle,
Macraith and Philip prasach ['the loquacious']:
those men's exertions never ceased until both of them,
towers of Eva, were counted [with the dead]
- Until he was 'lopped' [maimed]
and fell among the carnage, there stood that noble tree, O'Shanachan;
a stalwart clean-limbed and well-footed lion,
light his agility was till he was felled
- Echiarn's seed [the O'Ahiarns] perished there,
there fell the gentlemen of the O'Hogans
no happy exploration was that of the field
and the O'Keatys' sept as well
- In the army's very centre
Gillamochanna's hard son fell
no singular son was he for want of rancour
and a good member of the O'Conors
- O'Donnagan the brown-haired fell,
whose style of fighting by none was surpassed;
and no disgrace to any under heaven
could it be to take rank in that slaughter's number
- From this point onwards to enumerate them,
never will expert compass it;
never will any arrive at certainty [i. e. at their total] without remainder over:
God and the general Judgment must declare it
- For all that clan-Brian's host is slaughtered richly,
and albeit their high ones are brought low:
a host that more finely touched the utmost pitch of valour,
never has come nor ever shown itself
- A host of better active vigour unrelaxed,
one that more handsomely could give the onfall,
one better to stand and stem the battle's tide,
upon Earth's surface-sod is not
- An army haughtier on all hostings,
one that more redly dyed itself in sword-play
never open the mouth to quote such in comparison,
except indeed it be ourselves [that beat them]
- Had it but been on loving terms
and bent on common ends we were
had we but played the game both of a side-along all pleasant green-branched ways
there's never a sod of Ireland but had felt us!
- Never there will, nor ever has there come,
whether of the Gaels' host or of the Gallens',
an army-and may we have such with us always
to hold out at it as we have done
- In process of bending them,
and before we prevailed to turn them, there fell
and the pick of all existing men are not bolder
the better part of a hundred of our gentlemen
- There Hugh mac Donough,
not scant of reputation, fell;
a lasting burthen and a copious woe [his loss is],
pity but 'twas a hundred others we had 'left' there
- Pity we had not left a score ere we left Menma's son:
white-toothed Donall that lived not his span;
his prowess was good,
though we have left him
- Farther there fell-alas for his flame extinguished
his son in his presence:
alas that we have to ask [and in vain]
for our Dermot [father] and our Donall [son]
- Hugh mac Sheeda, good 'to clap side to spear' [to charge with levelled lance],
and brave Hugh, the Clarach's son:
until both Hughs were I wearied out' [killed],
no clan was found to face them
- Niall's perfervid son Melachlainn,
and [another that was] Lugaid's of 'the blade-proficiency':
the portion [meed of praise] due to either I will express,
for two Melachlainns make not a single 'tale' [lamentable occurrence]
- Of the O'Molonys there lay redly mangled
four warriors that always did bravely:
there fell William's angry son,
who closely embraced every combat
- Donall's son of merry visage,
a third Melachlainn with strong weapons,
and yet another that from among the forest
of maddened combatants was a branch of the white hazel [i. e. a choice specimen]
- Kellach's son Rory in the battle,
and Gilla-Isa of the great chiefs:
with such ingredients the fray [between them] bade not fair for peace,
and David's son's death came of it
- There Teigue mac Donlevy of the blades,
tough gladiator, perished:
he that 'lorded' [commanded] the battalion and,
undisputed, was 'O'Molony'
- We will not forget two O'Hallorans:
Thomas and Melachlainn;
a great loss to the sept are they,
and for their fate our heart and voice are weary both
- Alas for the world out of which Menma O'Kelechar is gone;
also that 'measuring rod of lands,'
who never aimed at little things,
- Hugh-of-the-horses O'Curry dropped there:
a brave and bulky prey he was;
and along with Donnachar the slayer,
Conor O'Kinnergan besides
- Teigue O'Quinnin, stout in battle,
and vigorous Johnock Mac Binny:
enunciation of their wounds I will not suppress,
for they made two losses to Clancullen
- Twenty tens of them, and three tens more I certify
making two hundred and full thirty that universally had a right to lands,
and right well raddled all were they,
were wounded of Clancullen
- Of Maccon wounded, of Clancullen's lord,
I'll tell aloud;
the fruit of no small effort it was that he brought home;
he got his own lord [Dermot O'Brien] safe away
- Athwart Nicol's blushing face (and no gentle hurt it was)
a sword came down;
for every enemy's fury that was 'quelled' by him,
[by him again] a sword was gotten in return
- A great loss was Cullaun's prop in the hour of stress:
O'Hechir; Lochlainn's death,
estimated at its magnitude,
must be held to coincide exactly with a hundred others
- The bitterest enemy to them conceals not [will not deny]
that in him the noblest of the sept is 'left';
Hy-Cormac's disaster, I hide it not,
is a tale that has stricken that whole country outright
- O'Conor's son, son's son to blind Hugh:
in act of doing his best,
Macraith fell there;
who in no feeble wise discharged his fighting duty
- Death of Philip, who relieved all straits,
is grievous to good Kinelfermac:
in every fight he ever fought,
in all encounters, O'Grifa's play was good
- To represent the confidentials,
with sword and spear Donall O'Dowden came;
many a one he treated
to a lesson of successful fence
- Hardly Felim, a destroying chief,
came out of the tribulation;
to such a destroying chief, to Felim,
all good that as yet he has not shall in his own time accrue
- The battle was fought out bravely:
small wonder that all are full of hurts;
marvellous was our chasing of their host,
whereby the land's white face is reddened
- Whereby the rivulets are become purple streams,
and the 'ballies' all are variegated;
to them our visitation was a mad and early breakfast,
with the upshot that every sept was full of vacancies
- Whereby our faces forcibly are carved,
whereby our spears were well brought into play;
whereby good legislation is assured us,
and our gentlemen have placed their names on record
- As for all them through whom [by whose fault] these things are done,
of all their nobles there survives not one;
that our own slaughter [losses] in the quarrel is far from trifling,
detracts not from the annihilation of their army
- Although ourselves be wounded with the battle,
yet have we won our land's prosperity; for that,
as without hindrance thou must see,
is the corollary to our having divorced her and them
- Good times have bidden their crowd farewell,
and not a transient emigration theirs [good times'] will be;
a number sufficient for a battle there is not of them,
and good luck has parted from their chiefs
- This land now is our own, that is notorious:
let us then practise love and brotherly affection;
they [our side] excel at gaining victory,
and every triumph is well won that's won at cost of wounds
Howbeit, after burial of their dead and hasty binding of their own gaping and almost mortal hurts; when they that were faint and weak had made confession; when their superb spoils were collected and the heads stackeda grisly stacking, and one which had followed very hard upon the reapingthese, the survivors all, in the leeches' handling of their own profound angry wounds had as much as they could bear: some the while enquiring for their sons and heirs to confer with them; others returning thanks for the sinister vengeance that they had taken, since for their kindreds thereby they had conquered territory. There were fathers that in their debility with slow and faltering steps carried their sons, or again sons that bore their fathers, to their abiding-places of clayey mould; so that with excess of newmade graves the abbey's earthen floor and the graveyard's area of rest grew red.
To procure them some cooling after the laying on, their [living] gentlemen's armour was stripped from them; and indeed, however
p.109much said battle-vestments savoured of victory, being (as they were) covered with enemies' hair and gory brains, as well as with their owners' blood tapped by the rude and terrible service done on themselveseven so, say I, they scarce made a trim that befitted bed mates.
So the army after their toil and travail had respite: some of the gentlemen triumphing over the foe and counting their own successes [how many and whom they had killed]; others bewailing their own losses and discussing those they had inflicted; others equitably dividing the strippings and totting up their gains; some shaking their actons and washing their mail, while others moaned and hoarsely groaned for the fresh wounds that made them like to swoon.
It was but a short time that they had been devoted to these strange occupations when there came to them a hurried messenger, and: let your gentlemen arise to fall you in, he cried, and your chiefs to get you into position; with all speed armour your champions, bustle up your kerne; in silence but resolutely, promptly, come forth of the monastery; for to attack you comes on a very torrent of enemies, a battle-armed flagflying array, and smooth-panoplied over-numerous formidable mass, of anything but friends.
By these words pleasurable feelings were evoked both in leaders and in men, and they [the former] answered: not for a mere random while, not for a brief spell only, fortune escorts and follows you, from the day when good luck has conveyed your enemies to fall on you here. And whereas on this field many a one of you fought hard without preconceived special enmity to your opponents, now on the contrary not a man of you but feels for them abiding rooted detestation because of your companies fallen by their captains; [while they regard us in the same light] because of their supreme chief and foremost notables perished at our companies' hands. Neither in this present strait should we find coming against us 'heads of battle' equal to the chiefs of a while ago [whom we have buried]; hold ye therefore fast and maintain the triumph ye have won, and your kith and kin save ye that they be not beheaded. For your mangled are a multitude indeed, and to defend them we must make a dogged stand. And the poet of the host went on:
Let your massed battles rise, O clans of red-sworded Cas to whom fighting is familiar, cheery blue-eyed troops! now with ancestral steadiness endure that your enemies do their worst on you; this rude struggle shall be your determined foe's last bloody battle. Their vitality's last end it shall be if here ye hew them well in pieces; let your gentles' anger rise, your royal leaders' wrath. See that ye have your faces warmly flushed [i.e. let not any man's face be pale]; on the hilts of your ivoried swords tighten your palms, by their shafts grasp your spears; in all wine-feasting Ireland, who now suffices in spear-play to engage you? But time it is for you to rise!
At which bright words, proudly they strode towards the enemy to meet him. Even their injured rose and in rough-and-ready fashion stanched their wounds: firstly, with moss they plugged the holes in their skins; then clapped on the rigid surface of closefitting armour and the flat of their broad belts, to close the lips of their live cuts and gashes.
With this coarse treatment they came away, cheerily saying: we verily being they to whom this coming bout promises the more advantage, all for the best it is that this godsend of our foemen's present menacing advance is granted to us; for our tribesmen have no interest to spare us, that on our enemies we should not spend our strength's last remnant. Then their superiors strove to turn these damaged ones back to their sick-beds again, but they said: nay, not so; this your design is not conceived aright; for of you all there is not a band whom more than us, this crippled company, it should become now to do battle valiantly. For this reason: both that we the least are able to elude it; and that, by our immediate forcible extinction, we shall be to you a loss the more trifling that already we stand in so near jeopardy of our doom. Neither in the result would it bring us honour that we tarried here behind you, which would but involve our decapitation by the enemy. Wherefore a just thing it is to use us up in the battle's first shock, and in the opening passage of the handiwork; for our ability to fly has abandoned us, our swift motion is disabled, nor have we possibility of escape from them, although our courage and skill at arms continue unimpaired.
After this debate it was but a little time (which they spent in nursing fierce inclination, in wrathfulness and impatience) until they saw hasty runners that from the other party came in, and advised them that the crowded phalanx they perceived to draw towards them was Conor O'Dea, the messenger adding: to sue for friendship, that he may come and speak with you, such is the motive of our advent.
At which hearing, disappointment overtook the gentlemen and petulantly, with small reticence, they said that to Conor they would give no amity: rather (quoth they) take him our curse; no good bodes this essay of his to get at [spy out] our invalids. Here now their condition was pitiable: such as the most proudly
p.111had worn their armour to the place of that lively scrimmage which [as the thing turned out] they never had, were they that from their standing posture in the ranks fell fast and lay along. The mail being taken off them, ruddy jets came redly spirting and spouting through their wounds, at their angry hurts' slant-open portals, and wide apertures of slashes dealt into the life, so that with those brave men's blood the softly green-grassed spot which they had taken up was all bedabbled and defiled. Never was heard muffled sound more lamentable than their diverse companies' confused hum as they lighted on their friends, carefully tended the infirm and called to their leeches; into their fresh wounds stuffed pledgets, expedited their confessions, and tenderly carried off their generous comrades. For now that they found themselves defrauded of the battle, of that brilliant host great plenty that in the very front readily and briskly [for this second time] came out of the monastery all eager to encounter, into the same were lifted back speechless and weak and torpid.
Now this made the third summit of high emprise and genuine honour of the far-westerns, achieved [in the interval extending] from the day in which first from blue Spain's rugged coasts the Gael arrived in Ireland, until [this in which] the great battle of the Abbey [was decided]. And it cannot be but that to them of all Erin besides it is a mischief [grievance] that one and the same noble stock should have ambitioned and attained to said three pinnacles of renown. The first occasion then on which Brian's clans made their own of victory so imperishable was the day of Clontarf's battle, by which both Gael and fresh-come Norseman thickly were exterminated; but by obstinacy of the Gael it was won after their leaders all were fallen with Brian and his son Murrough. When the white Panes however, quite fresh, and their city's whole garrison as well [by way of reinforcement], came upon the scene to fall on the freeborn but enfeebled residue which [before they themselves died] the Norsemen had left of the Gael, a fine tale of slaughter there would have been to tell had not the Dalcassians (cut up as they were) risen and put the black Galls to instant flight.
The second turn at which again the Clancassians took the honours was when, as Brian's son Donough returned from his preyings and with the remnant of his gallant companies was on
p.112the march, Ossory in force gathered against the Dalcassians to require hostages of Donough mac Brian. Heart's torment to clanna Chais were these expressions: that by reason of their fewness and debility, their own continued and ex origine natural servitors would have pledges of them. Therefore in their weak ones anger rose, valorous disposition in their injured, and in their dilapidated a flame was kindled, when they heard them whom the natural fitness of things disqualified for such presumption, demand to have superiority over the children of Cas. Out of the order of battle in which they had stood to make their demand, headlong in spite of them they hurled Ossory; who being fled, many of the [wounded] Clancassians (after the effort of screwing themselves up for the fight) died.
The present turn was the third at which the Dalcassians scored even such another signal triumph; but for outsiders in general [all Ireland] it was far from a triumph that above all Erin's tribes clanna Chais should have had this success, no matter how creditably they (as we have seen) carried it.
Their heavy burthens they raised accordingly and bore into the abbey, where abundant wounded were in extremity, soldiers mutilated, leaders in dead faint, and where young men made lamentation. As the army's poet said in sorrow for that second setting in motion which [by a false alarm] had been inflicted on them:
- A baneful scare is this that ye have had,
O children of Tál that never sought to fly;
and a visitation of which by no means ye stood in need,
for ye were but just escaped out of a heavy fight
- Woe to him that [with false alarm] compelled you
that made a company in your condition-to stand up;
whereby he brought out [of their refuge] the host of Saby's offspring, smouldering with valour still,
though crimsoned o'er with wounds
- There it might have seemed to thee
that not a man of our septs had been hurt at all;
for the well-ordered regularity of their ranks,
they were more threatening than all chiefs
- But when they were baulked of the fray-those numbers which,
all wearied as they were, nevertheless were eager for the shock
a host to whom all hardship but lends vigour
then indeed was their state a state of debility
- There [for their disappointment] much anger was,
and fury, and blood-red wounds [opened afresh] abounded;
many and many were they whose colour was eclipsed,
and many a hero was well carved
- From the preceding battle our people's nobles
already are sufficiently well damaged;
no wonder that by the number of our individual combats
and hurts our vigour is enfeebled
- Valiantly have all hands fought
with clan-Brian-Rua of destructive ravagings;
to have made trial of clan-Brian-Rua of the envenomed points,
is no commonplace achievement
- Generous Donough and Felim fought
an effort in which all strength was put forth;
of the two active chiefs the one wounded the other,
until one of that couple-Donough and Felim-fell
- Nicol, soul of honour,
fought with triumphant Murtough;
in which two champions' duel
the brawny Murtough perished
- Hugh MacConmara among the heroes,
and O'Shanachan, athletic chief:
of dewy Grian's two ornaments,
either fell by the other
- Thick-lipped Philip, hard in battle,
and Donall O'Dowden of numerous following
two that were neither soft nor timorous:
their set-to ended in a double fall
- Numerous have been the combats and the battles,
the men of spirit [that fought them] have been many;
all soldiers' faces reddened till they seemed on fire,
and many a young man was a prey to horror there
Thus by Dermot mac Turlough More O'Brien with his brethren, by Cumea Mac Conmara's son Maccon with his own brothers and near relatives; by Clancullen, Clanmahon, the O'Deas; by O'Conor (Felim) of Corcamrua, who at the time found himself outside the pale of his own people and on clan-Turlough-More's side; by Kinelfermac and Hy-Cormac; with sword and spear and outcry of brave men this murderous battle of the Abbey was 'broken on' [won against] their chief enemies from among Thomond's stiffest captains.
Thus again, by the aforesaid were slain the major part of their adversaries: Donough O'Brien himself with the flower of his people: as Brian-of-Berra mac Conor O'Brien, Murtough garbh mac Donough, Teigue-of-Limerick mac Donall O'Brien, Turlough mac Donough mac Teigue, Rory O'Flaherty; most of the O'Kennedys,
p.113O'Ahiarns, O'Hogans, O'Shanachans, O'Conaings, O'Keatys, O'Duracks; of Murrough More Mac Mahon's sons, and of Flahertach donn O'Dea's; Conor mac Donough Oge O'Hechir, Mahon More mac Gillamochanna Mac Conmara, Donall O'Liddy. So on, and in the same proportion, with all the rest of their septs; so that of clan-Turlough-More's foemen none save a bruised and battered few escaped with Brian Bane mac Donall O'Brien over Burren northwards; and as for Brian himself, it was in sore hurt and scathed condition that even he came out of the tangled battle's medley.
[While we are busied with clan-Brian-Rua and their partners, it were well also to disclose that] what caused this Gillamochanna with his stout sons and others his immediate congeners to be with that confederation, was the fact that with Hy-Blood they had been mixed up as aiding and abetting in the felonious parricide [which to them it was] executed on their chief, their lord and good kinsman, Lochlainn mac Cumea Mac Conmara: supreme captain of Hy-Cashin, of Hy-Flannchada, of Echtge, of western Kinelea and of many other countries. In denunciation of which conduct the poet made this quatrain:
It was Mac Conmara that in durance lay; woe to the kith that could devise it! because of their violent hands laid on Lochlainn, woe to all such as would screen them! a grave amercement it was, that (all help being denied him) he must be as a deer among them!
With Melachlainn Mac Conmara as well, in the same day, and in cooperation with the same cantred, they had dealt treasonably. Which perfidy wrought on two Mac Conmaras cast in strait hold, and fettered, was amongst the weightiest originating causes of Thomond's thenceforward battles, preys and warrings, of her many slain, of her digressions, of kindreds and families expelled from their patrimony.
To revert to Thomond [the term now applies to clan-Turlough-More and their partisans]: after meet jubilation for their victory, in order to count and to enquire into their losses and deficiencies, how many were wanting of their gentles and of their septs, they retained and camped in the same positions. For the purpose also of binding up and otherwise assuaging such others as were hit and hurt; of shewing honour and giving burial to the lost of both
p.114friends and friend-enemies, in fact to all clan-members that were fallen by them. [In performance of which] though they exulted, yet were they sad. They passed the night with commemoration of their strong men gone, in listening to plaints and sighs and lamentations of the stricken as the leeches dressed them; all that were whole bestirring themselves, [some] to prepare stretchers for their transport [homewards], others bearing them away on spears' and javelins' shafts.
The winners' deficit was as follows: of Clancullen, one-and-twenty (eight of the same being of the proud síot Aedha 'seed of Aedh') with Hugh mac Donough Mac Conmara. Of this total perished three that were 'Hugh': as he whom we have named (rightful heir of Clancashin), Hugh Oge mac Sheeda, and Hugh son of the Clarach; three Melachlainns: as Melachlainn mac Nicol Buie, Melachlainn mac Donall mac Sheeda, and Melachlainn mac Lughaid; Donall Rua mac Menma, and Dermot Rua his son. Of the O'Molonys, four: William mac Glúinfinn ['whiteknee'], Teigue mac Donlevy, Rory maol mac Cellaeh, Gilla-Isa mac Isoge; of the O'Hallorans, two: Thomas mac Teigue, Melachlainn mac Mahon; one private of the O'Keatys, Hugh mac Donall; a man of the O'Hartagans: Macraith; one of the O'Keleehars: Menma O'Kelechar; of the O'Quinnins, one: Teigue mac Donall; of the O'Kinnergans, one: Conor mac Gillarua; of Clanbinny, one: Shane; of the O'Gerans, one: Conor O'Geran's son.
Seven (sic) of the above number attained to unction and confession, received Christ's Body, gained time for penance, and were brought to their homes among their wives and laddies. Hugh mac Donough Mac Conmara above was one of them: who died in Ennis after a whole week's converse with his friends, and practice of penance. How happy must we deem one that met with such an end, in that he came decked with honour out of the battle and to his grandfather's [Cumea More's] place of sepulture, to Ennis! and it was to enunciate this that the poet made a quatrain:
As the price of Hugh's blood, they that stood up to him [killed him] fell by him, and this is fighting indeed; not in any other man of his race [but in his own arm] the hero trusted to avenge him.
The other five (sic) were these: Donall Rua mac Menma Mac
p.115Conmara, William mac Glúinfinn O'Molony, Thomas O'Halloran, Hugh O'Curry, and Shane Mac Binny.
Hy-Cormac's losses were: Lochlainn O'Heehir, captain and lord of Hy-Cormac, with five of his confidentials; one man of Corcamrua: Macraith O'Conor. Of Hy-Fermac, one man: Philip O'Grifa, with a man of his confidentials, Donall O'Dowden; Clanmahon came off without killed or wounded, though they carried themselves valiantly in the field. Brian mac Donall mac Teigue O'Brien had a cruel stroke; a spear was put through mac Conmara's foot (for not another limb of him but that was found unarmoured), although if such was done to pin him to his place, there was but little need to so severely harm it; for always in all battles and affrays his step was as deliberate as bold, solidly maintained no less than lively taken. Fine command he had of his strong fast-striking arm, of his polished long blue Danish blade, that shore and rent and laid about whenever any measured swords with him. In all phases of war his heart was firm, daring, hardy to undertake; never fear nor anxiety assailed his nature, for enemy's numbers that he saw drawn up against him and it was to expound all this that the poet made these acute quatrains:
- A hero's qualities has Maccon,
a man he is with quiet promise of a champion;
of him no ill report is current,
his spoil-stripping and his weapon-play are mighty both
- Slow [deliberate] in battle his footstep is,
and few the men found fit to tackle him;
but in slitting of skins his hand is quick,
as in responding to other men's war and exultation
- Hardy, steadfast the man's heart is,
and with his strong blade a rough bout he plays;
all septs he puts to their very best,
such is his spirit, his heart so great
- Mac Conmara of Moyfail
woe to them whom he would offer to encounter;
great are the man's pride and generosity
happy he that is endowed with all his points
In company of him their chief and lord were wounded of his kith, of his iracht and of his own peculiar faithful people, which is as much as to say of Clancullen, eleven-score and ten [say two hundred and fifty], forby them that perished outright.
They [the able-bodied survivors] made an early morning's rising of it and altogether abandoned the camp: loud commands were given, their trumpets brayed, every man of the rank and file answered the call to duty and took his station for the carriage of their crippled and incapable; for many of these there were that [hitherto] never had been laid on a stretcher at all, but had had horses only to convey them, others of the sort even being afoot. In this guise [i.e. hampered with ambulance work] they made their way in the edge-stoned huge-rocked rough-hilled land of Corc; through Burren's uncouth ways, narrow gaps, crooked passes, rugged boulders and high sharp crests, and so entered upon Boharnamacree. But when Mahon mac Brian mac Donall connachtach O'Brien heard of this legion that was so gapped, so laden and embarrassed with their many invalids, for their behoof he
p.116gathered in and mustered his irachts and his rising out; for [he knew that] he would be vexed and must repent if, this opportunity for attack thus lying before him, he with his posse neglected to lend clan-Brian-Rua a helping hand.
Clan-Turlough-More learning that these non-friends had preparation made for and awaited them, at once they instructed their front, took measures to cover their rear, 'thicken their thin' [strengthen their weak points], went through the army encouraging their men, seeing to comfort and consolation of their weak [the wounded], and in general attending to their order and formation for impending action. When therefore Mahon O'Brien perceived such a courage and spirit to be in these gentlemen, he for this time at any rate declined to meet them; for he was an acute man and a politic, filled with mendacious arts and ensnaring wiles, very versatile. So he left them a clear road, but sent envoys to confer with and to question them.
Many were they that against the looked for fight had called for their arms and armature and, now that they were baulked, lay prostrate with their pains. Many a man of clan-Brian-Rua's people, after coming in headlong flight from yesterday's rout, was in hiding with Mahon O'Brien; and these omitted not, to dissuade [their hosts], although 'twas not for love they did it, from forcing battle on the new comers.
In truth, so great were the hard service, manhood and masterful vigour; so high the spirit, daring and grand nature; so large the heart and hardihood and valiance of this march that, since the return which after the battle of Clontarf Donough mac Brian-of-the-Tribute made from Kilmainham to Kincora, there has not been effected a movement more strenuous, more boldly resolute, [than this that we have chronicled].
Then Dermot mac Turlough More retired to his own quarters; Maccon Mac Conmara went to the hold of Clonroad to be healed. Hugh mac Donough Mac Conmara was brought for treatment to Ennis: whose body though it recovered not, yet his soul's cure was the result; which means that he was at peace with God. The other wounded were bone to their homes; the whole host, sound and lame, scattered to their dwellings, and then it was that the poet uttered a lay:
- Victorious, O progeny of Tál,
hath your journey into white-hilled Burren been;
ye have indeed won a brave battle,
in which both a chief and the matter of a chief are fallen
- For all that ye are badly damaged,
your progress has been one of prosperous war and death-dealing;
albeit the fight leaves you sore hurt,
your enemies' ranks are full of chasms
- Ye are they that are braver than the rest,
and your story shall endure for ever;
so long as a school of poets shall exist after you,
for ever your warlike record shall be published
- Over your greatness of soul neither weariness
nor hard pounding triumphed to oppress you;
nor did multiplicity of wounds and hurts,
nor deaths, nor your own losses
- For the affronting of the battle,
neither fellowship ye craved nor allies' help;
yet every hour there came against you
all other countries' forces to surround you
- A benison, O clans of Tál, is yours:
ye have carried off all and every butting-match;
never otherwise than well bedecked with wounds
came ye out of any battle or other fight
- Than all besides on their own side that fell,
there fell more of Clancullen;
a score and one man of the set,
that is what fell in that encounter
- Thirty men and hundreds two,
that verily is what fell of them
in act of bravely plying the sharp-headed spear
round about their lord and chief
- Of the freeborn crew not a [private] man fell,
but some chief's son fell as his equivalent;
never a wound they suffered there,
but a man was killed to match it
- Clancullen are they that were the bravest there,
on whom it is that the tokens of it most abound;
it was they that in the battle scored most deaths,
and [after it] are wounded but victorious
After all these passages, Murtough O'Brien their lord and chief returned into the country; the cause of the late campaign's being fought without him lying in this: that in company of Ireland's chief Butler he was gone to Dublin in order to lodge with the superior English (the king's folk to wit) an indictment against de Clare for sustaining clan-Brian-Rua, that went into Ulster to fetch the Scots, and in their ranks and companies guided those battalions to Cashel of the kings; thence to Nenagh, where some time they lay in camp; thence again for another while to Castleconnell, Thomond's forces being massed at the Shannon to receive them. Lastly, in quest of battle from the [English] nobles of Ireland the Scots moved on to Singland; for that which Ireland's head barons had determined and concluded was, [not only] to have the action fought at Singland, [but also that it must be] under Murtough O'Brien's conduct, whereby they looked to have the justice of their cause much improved.
[Robert Bruce] king of Scotland and Edward his brother were made aware of this design and they, as loath to trust in the fortune of war and [to stake all on] the hazard of this battle, declined to fight; for this carriage of de Clare's was strange [suspect] indeed: that one who on this expedition was joined with the king of England's people should at the same time help clan-Brian-Rua now leagued with the Scots, and consequently outlaws from the king.
[After so much by the way:] Thomond with their gentlemen and captains, with their tuatha and septs (that is to say, all but a handful or small fraction which to serve de Clare's own purposes Mahon O'Brien had of him), rallied to Murtough their lord. How felicitous a chief must have been he that, for a people, had such as in his absence won him back his country!
During autumn's and winter's revolution, after that battle of the Abbey they kept quiet: chiefs abiding in their holds, chieftains in their strong places, tanists among their households; men- at-arms, each in his own quarters; hospitallers in their dwellings, ollaves in their raths, coarbs in their respective churches; every 'son of a good man'in his own residence, every layman in his liss, and every bishop in his august see. In which conditions they rubbed on right pleasantly: in noble and becoming style they banqueted and feasted, with accompaniment of wine and mead;
p.118greyhounds [and others] in abundance they had, and hunted; entertained the poets largely, were generous, gift-giving, wage-dispensing; comfortable they wore with it all, bright and merry, loved each other and kept the peace; their own numbers increased, their flocks and herds were many: finally, they dealt righteously, were equitably and truly judged. Thus they maintained their countries, and prospered under a reign of happiness.
One thing alone there was: in Murtough O'Brien's estimation it was neither a credit nor an ornament that Mahon O'Brien gave him not his allegiance, as to Turlough More his father and to Donough his brother before him he had given it. It wrang his heart to have Mahon in his father's hold, the noble residence of Inchiquin; and he found it a hard thing to see Irrus and the Dunes and Ibrecane, a slice of western Corcamrua and half of the upper cantred, Hy-Flannchada and western Kineleaall of them bulked together without a break, from Cuchullin's Leap eastwards to Kilmacduachsubject to Mahon as de Clare's vicegerent.
Now in the course of this winter aforesaid, by the Butlers of Ireland and sir William Burke, with the addition of Murtough O'Brien, a hosting was made into Ely against Brian Bane mac Donall O'Brien and Donough fionn O'Carroll: the hosting of Glasderry. But in favour of Brian Bane and O'Carroll, some seduced Mahon O'Brien to desert the Gael and the Gaill with whom he was associated. On this occasion the invaders prevailed not: they were deprived of a portion of their people horses and armour, and were it not that Mac William succeeded in covering their rear, even their gentlemen would not have come out of it. There resulted an exchange of angry words between Murtough and Mahon, during which the former promised to spoil and expel the latter; but Mahon said: that troubles me not; for what thou dost promise, that is the very thing which thou fulflllest not. Thereupon O'Brien pledged his word that what he had said he also would perform.
The origin of Mac Conmara's not being on that route was that he failed of being ready at the one time with the others, and that they tarried not for him; which if they had done, it had been all the better for themselves, and their case quite other than as it turned out. At all events, 'with his country' and full gathering Mac Conmara followed them; and where he met them,
p.119coming in his face, was at Nenagh [on their way back]. Then they fell to mutual recrimination: he blaming them that they had not waited on him; they him, for the length of time it had taken him to succour them; and so into all airts the various corps broke up to their dwellings.
[A.D. 1318] Murtough being returned into Thomond, he convened the heads of his people, and proceeded to tell them the verbal affront which in presence of foreigners Mahon O'Brien had put on him, and with all manner of petty damage, seizure and violence inflicted on Mahon's irachts, a beginning was made of his vengeance on the other; for [as yet] Thomond cared not explicitly to break their peace with de Clare. Away to Cork however Mahon O'Brien sent Donall his son, that in the strangers' English tongue was singularly expert, to confer with de Clare, and before him to vilify harm and complain of O'Brien and all Thomond.
With respect to de Clare: in the beginning of spring, immediately he sent out to cite into his presence O'Brien and the chiefest of his people, there to come to a settlement with Mahon in the matter of his charges that he preferred and of his injuries [their subject-matter]; as well as with the baron himself, for the soath wrought on his vassal.
In their turn, the parties summoned sent and required of de Clare safe conduct and good faith 'for their bodies,' to come and go for so long as they should be rendering the account; for they called to mind the barbarity by Thomas de Clare, his father, done on Brian Rua when he was 'come into his house,' and in this present de Clare they were well acquainted with treacheries and wiles and malice of his own. He refused them such protection; consequently what they now determined, what was ordained by them (O'Brien and Thomond's nobles all namely), was: that since apparently war they must have, they would harry and banish Mahon O'Brien so that he should not be in their midst, and de Clare on their outer side, to vex them with hostilities. For to elude their enemies and to provide against them on one hand alone, seemed easier than it would be with some of them in their own bosom.
At early morn and in the one day, rigorously, unsparingly, with all circumstance of hostile fury and resentment, from the
p.120Leap to S. Mac Duach's church they made the intended creachs. So efficiently and skilfully they congregated flocks and herds, that whether of single horses or of whole studs, of kine by the head or kine in frightened droves, of swine, of small cattle few or many, of sheep, of plough-teams, of wolfdogs or of hounds in packs, of 'agriculture' [implements and produce], of gear and goods of value, of raiment and of arms, they left not a jot but speedily and completely they swept clean and forcibly brought away. In testimony of which it was that the poet said:
- Long time a-threatening the chief's wrath has been:
[I speak of] Murtough, that can boast great deeds
and is a warrior mighty to avenge
the grudge he bears to Mahon
- But little it wanted that a third of Thomond
had been in Mahon O'Brien's hands;
he never submitting to his auspicious chief,
but being on the one side with de Clare
- Murtough O'Brien whom I have called auspicious:
until de Clare had played him false
he never broke his peace with him,
nor against Mahon whetted his anger
- Added to which,
on the occasion of the hosting into Ely,
and in a house of English (a thing indecent),
betwixt the two-Murtough and Mahon-there was a falling out
- Murtough without concealment
passed his word to Mahon that,
so soon as he was home again,
he either would expel him or would effect his violent death
- O'Brien then having reached his home
and duly there recalled to mind his plighted word,
he with his stout followers
proceeds to completely harry Mahon
- Fiercely and entirely,
all from the Leap to S. Mac Duach's church was wasted by them;
not a patch of good soil,
not a fruitful nook, was left to Mahon
- 'Twas but by stealing off that even he escaped away
from them that so utterly had ruined him;
and saving only a few horsemen,
none followed him into the men of Connacht's borders
- Nevermore afterwards Mahon O'Brien
I 'sat' in this land;
but he depended on his sword and spear,
and long his course of rapine lasted
- Woe to him, how great soever his numbers be,
that rises against his supreme chief;
he will not be long-lived, and shall be left without kine,
against whom [the chief's] long-enduring keen-edged wrath shall be directed.
Mahon O'Brien being thus banished away out of Thomond, to their own original kindly and natural occupants O'Brien equitably restored the regions which said Mahon had administered. He for his part sat down in Inchiquin; appointed his stewards over his freeborn tuatha immediately around, and throughout Thomond composed together the country in all its districts. Subsequently, under guarantee of de Clare's wife and son and family, Mac Conmara as O'Brien's representative went and offered de Clare his conditions. The baron rejected them; but on his own account began to lure and make effort to 'retain' [enlist] Mac Conmara, promising all sorts of privileges, great wages, and that for creach or war or raid in which they had been concerned, never should he nor his irachts be reproached but, would they now turn and be with him, they should have his protection.
Mac Conmara's answer was that unless O'Brien had the same, peace for himself he would not accept: seeing (he said) that whether for peace or whether for war, by him it is that I will stand. Therewith the chief took his leave of de Clare, went home, and in conference with O'Brien and the notables of Thomond addressed them, saying: at the hands of yonder abominable perverse English gang, cruel and insatiable, overbearing, surly, sullen, full of spite malevolence and ill design, never (excepting as by virtue of bravery and of conduct in war, and by the strong hand generally ye shall extort them) will ye have freedom or truce, peace or goodfellowship. Hence it behoves us stoutly and by main force of soldiers to hold our countries against de Clare.
Immediately on this, out of all his frontier and marches de
p.121Clare in order to a general hosting drew in his young men and veterans, also the flittings of his service-folk and borderers. Back out of all neighbourhood and contiguity to him Thomond likewise retired their fighting-men their hospitallers and irachts, accompanied by their families and flittings, to the [remotest] fertile outskirts of their own plain country, within easy reach of shelter and of strengths, of forts and fenced dwellings; so that between both parties lay deserted pastures, broad wide expanse of green grass fading into blue distance, completely bare of buildings.
It came to pass now, that within the city of Limerick Ireland's principal barons appointed a general meeting, having for its purpose a composition of some sort between O'Brien and the gentlemen of Thomond of the one part, de Clare and Mahon O'Brien of the other. All concerned, both Gall and Gael, answered the tryst; Murtough O'Brien and Mac Conmara, with many others of degree, coming (under protection of the chief Butler and of sir Maurice, joined with Thomas and sir William Oge Burke) with proposals of redress to de Clare and Mahon, in the matter of preyings done on the latter.
They propounded their terms, with guarantee of the barons that they should have effect; but de Clare refused the security and insisted rather that they should submit themselves to his honour, that is to say: their tender of reparation to be duly carried out at maturity, or [failing that] themselves to lie [in his hands] as pledges of fulfilment. The other side, as well knowing what measure of grace would be theirs if they gave in to de Clare, repelled such settlement; for in the person of the baron's father before him, and at Brian Rua's cost, where a similar award was concerned, [the value of] that probity [which now he proffered them] had been proven to demonstration.
Of the barons under whose protection they were, Thomond now prayed that they would convoy them safe [out of de Clare's immediate grasp]. They did so, coming with them as far as the head of Thomond-bridge, where the barons told them that it was injustice was done them, and added: it just happens well for you that at this departing on your journey both tide and moon at the full await you. The Butler went on: I beseech you injure not this night aught that is de Clare's, but suffer him to use [this present favourable] opportunity of the sea to gain Bunratty; for
p.122he himself says that, at all times when it may be his chance personally to oppose you, no whit he cares for your war. Wherefore be ye not again cozened in the same quarter; so shall ye fare well. They took leave one of the other, and O'Brien's party sought the place in which their horses their riding-gear and horse-boys expected them.
With spirits bent on action, yet prudently contained, roundly they coasted along the Cratalachs' ['Cratloes'] thick-sheltering fruitful-branched mast-abounding woods; entered into Hy-Amrid of the high hills with pleasant levels, clear good horse-paths and salmon-yielding rivers; past hazel-woody Ballymulcashel towards the much-resorted hard-flagged strath of Cullane, with its tracks among the rocks and eminences of pleasant prospect; on to Tulach na nespoc ['hill of bishops'] sanctified by bell and precious Mass, by relics gold-enshrined, by rare piety and notable miracles. In shelter of which fatuous church that night they lay, and on the irachts enjoined to keep good watch and ward in their 'gaps of danger' [at their vulnerable points], at the common border-fords, and to guard the ways; to be alert and vigilant, ready to meet all alarms assaults and sudden war. On the extreme verge of demarcation [between de Clare and him] O'Brien pitched a standing camp to hold that position. With a strong body of horse Mac Conmara penetrated to Bunratty of the wide roads, oared galleys and safe harbour, where past and close to the town's outskirts he drove a trifling stealth of cattle, sheep and horses; and de Clare pursued, because he thought that Mac Conmara would be found following close in the wake of the prey, whereby opportunity might be had to detain him; and that day he had it too, had his own numbers but been sufficient.
Concerning Mahon O'Brien's two sons: out of Connacht by night they came with a troop of horsemen and rode through Thomond to Bunratty, to speak with de Clare for the purpose of soliciting that he would provide a passage for Mahon O'Brien's and for Kineldunal's flittings, by requesting sir William Oge Burke (under whose protection presently they were) to convoy them over the border from the northward and into the heart of Hy-Cashin, whither also they prayed the baron that he would go to meet them; thence to bring them back to Bunratty, there to be sheltered by him.
Concerning O'Brien and the men of Thomond: the aforesaid night was the same during which they set themselves in motion to execute a creach on de Clare, who [so soon as he was advised that they stirred] determined himself to go in pursuit and to effect their detention.
The cows the boolies and the families that tended them [the entire contemplated prey in fact] lay in Maethal, where precisely Mahon O'Brien's sons had left their horses and horseboys; and there it was that O'Brien appointed his men to lie low: along the very way by which he supposed that de Clare would come [on his avenging progress, and so walk fair] in among the ambushed parties. In the morning he covered Maethal with squads of marauders [apparently] rashly daring, and ostentatious with flying colours, who to the baron's contumely, by main force yet without a blow stricken, pillaged and gutted the place of its horses, its stock of all other kinds, its plenishing and wealth.
When de Clare beheld these preys boldly before his face lumped together and, without zig-zag or twist or wavering, without offer to evade, without let or hindrance driven straight along the road; in his heart he understood that it was on behalf of Thomond's main host and Murtough O'Brien the chief that this overweening attack so was pushed home on him. For which reason he suffered not a man of his own pursuing force to press or follow the raiders, nor with the children of Cas to contend for this ample haul that they had made.
O'Brien marking that de Clare persevered not in the quest, he made his men to rise out of the lurking watch that they had kept; and when the baron saw the ranks start up out of their hiding places, the conduct that he had observed pleased him vastly. Well for him who had shunned those young men's weaponed vigour, and refrained from meddling with them!
As from the English aforesaid they had had neither fight nor other hardship, jovially and prosperously they followed the preys, droves and herds, into Echtge's woody deep-valleyed white-rocked lofty-hilled pap-peaked fastnesses, and there divided their creachs and other booty. A good thing and an opportune too they judged it that they had hold of Mahon O'Brien's sons' horsemen: horsemen of them that came for de Clare to go and meet their enemies' flittings, for ever meddling and
p.124making to their mischief, and fomenting constant war upon them.
De Clare now despatched messengers to sir William Oge Burke to bid him protect Mahon O'Brien and Kineldunal with their irachts and flittings, and convey them to Kilnasula's causeway, whither he with his full numbers would repair to meet them. [On arrival of the envoy] Mac William mustered heavily, and on that day [of his start] came as far as Ardrahen; de Clare in the same day marching to the venerable fane of Quin. That night he abode in S. Finian's church, and on the morrow's morn early advanced into grassy apple-fruitful fiadh uachtarach; thence up to the glittering river and rushing water of Curra-Neill, not fairly practicable for horses. But as they were for crossing the cool broad pools, boiling eddies, swelling volume and clear calm backwaters of huge-fish-containing Fergus, there they saw await them a horrific beldam [of the pattern which we have seen], that in the current washed and with huge exertion dipped old armours, satin vestments, goldthreaded jacks of price, smooth finetextured silken shirts, handsome oversea-fashioned wares, with other garments and strippings of a host; so that of all the river below her was made a broo of blood and water, while from above the sunlighted glaucous spoutings, in gurgling torrent of pure water, over smooth sand rolled down to her.
From the frightful being's fists [as she wrang those fabrics], violently the red blood squirted and fell, dyeing the river over. De Clare with his cavalry and the rest took heed to her fashion and behaviour, to the work she had in hand and to the change of the fair proud river's hue; then to the gentlemen of the Gael that for the nonce were with him, he signified that, in a tongue by vehicle of which she might [be made to] comprehend, this strange and hideous creature they should question as to whose gear and armour was that which she washed. [This being done] she answered them, and to this effect:
Armour, raiment and other strippings of de Clare with his sons, chief barons, knights, and young lads of gentle birth, with his squires of high degree, his oversea-men and his noble Gael, are these which now I wash. Blood and gore of their hurts and wounds and bodies are these crimson rills which thou [that speakest with me] seest carried away with this rushing stream.
p.125Haughty as ye go on this your errand, your immolation all together (some few excepted) is very near to you.
He that conversed with her asked her what was her name, her business and original habitation, and she said: I am 'the Water-doleful,' that in this land's hill-dwellings often sojourn, but in my origin I am of Hell's tuatha; and to invite you all I am come now, for but a little while and we [you and I] shall be denizens of one country.
At this point de Clare enquired: what is yon weird thing's message? and her fellow in the dialogue replied: in melancholy grumbling wise, and with discordant voice, she makes for us ill-omened presage and evil prophecy on this course we run. But for the very reason that she is fallen in our way, the rather should we infer that all good luck attends us; inasmuch as we may tell that 'tis as a wellwisher to clan-Turlough-More she comes to frustrate us of this expedition.
It is not she that has it in her, said de Clare, neither can that she utters work us harm, because a witch cannot be truthful; and she shall not prevail to hinder us but that this time we overrun all Thomond and make her tributary to us. For Murtough O'Brien has not means to encounter even ourselves; whereas the Burkes' host is on the way to act with us and for ever to hunt Murtough away out of the country. With that they pass on; but of that colloquy with the hag it resulted that for the night they needs must halt in the open ground of Ruane's grassgrown hollow cahers.
Concerning the judicious Conor O'Dea: his scouts and sentinels come in with intelligence of de Clare's being on his way towards him. To O'Hechir (Lochlainn) therefore, and to O'Conor (Felim), hastily he sends to show them the baron's journey and to pray them come with their irachts in full force, and without delay, to meet the same; to the end that of de Clare (if to such pass it came) they collectively should have terms of peace all the more favourable for the fact that the individual means of each would be found ranked on the same side [so that he could not hope to use them one against the other as his wont was]. Moreover, to de Clare he commissioned O'Grifa (Thomas mac Urhilly) to offer him conditions and tribute.
De Clare's answer was that, at this time of asking, nor peace
p.126nor satisfaction whatsoever would he grant, whether to him [O'Dea] or to any other whom he held to live in inveterate enmity to him, as always they had been with his friends before him.
Which bad news having reached O'Dea (Conor), out of all quarters he calls in his people, discloses to them de Clare's reply; hurriedly they debate of this quandary, and that which they hit off and agreed upon was: to ambush the great bulk of their good men well to the rear, out of sight of de Clare's army; the remnant to hold the 'fighting ford'[that which was to be the pivot of the battle] and to protect their preys until Felim O'Conor's and Lochlainn O'Hechir's advent to relieve them. To accelerate those captains, again he sends them despatches bearing de Clare's answer to his overtures.
Let us return to the English leader: as morning broke, he wondered at the stillness of the country round about, just as though every one had been at peace with him. He made of his force three divisions to waste the land in all directions, to kill their women and their 'silly [little] boys': one he detailed to pass by Tulach-O'Dea and westwards on to Rath; another to follow the Fergus through Kinelcualachta down to Magowna; while as straight as might be, he with the notables of his host held a due-west course for Disert, where at that time O'Dea's residence was, to sack it. When they were come thither, they saw a well ordered detachment of horse and foot that diligently conveyed a heavy prey across the stream westwards; whereupon universally that dense mass of de Clare's follows them, and by the English a good share of the rearmost chase are killed before they could win over the ford. Withal, boldly O'Dea turns to hold the ford against the enemy, so that, ere long, it had been hard to count them that on either side were slain.
When de Clare made out that it was by that small number the ford so stiffly was held against him, in furious temper he urging on his troops put himself at their head. At sight of the baron in person advancing on them, O'Dea's handful began 'to fight and back' [fight on the retreat] towards the ford at which, and close to hand, the ambush lay. The English continue to follow them hard and massacre them, so that along with de Clare a large body of his men impetuously cross the ford westwards.
Now for the am bush: smartly and boldly they stand up; and while one party of them independently goes to help hold the ford against the heavy shock of the enemy's main corps [which as yet was not come over], the lesser section joins the chase in lashing and smiting de Clare and company insomuch that, before the overwhelming strength of his reserves could succour him, the O'Deas killed both himself and every man that he had with him. Howbeit, those Gael (so many of them as lived) were forced to refuge in a neighbouring wood; and there their assailants 'make of themselves a battle-hedge' to surround them.
But over the hill of Scule, out of the west, here comes red-sworded Felim O'Conor; in whom as in his merry men all, when they were certified of the many slain, their spirit was magnified, and without roundabout or digression he presses on until he is in the thick of it. For the O'Deas, he hacked and rent out a passage, a high road, by which to come out of the wood to join him; and they now, all being of a side, fell to lacerating of their eternal enemies and to fending for themselves, de Clare's forces all the time (after abandoning of their preys and enormous plunder) marching up compact and crowded and coining on the field. Both parties, Gall and Gael, mowed down and mishandled each other: some diving into and rigidly keeping up the fray and 'setting foot to fulcrum'; others indeed scared, and even terrified into flight from off the ground; so that of either set many gentles and fine warriors were destroyed.
That in which the Gael were now, was a sad plight indeed: the greater part of their men having perished, and before their faces lying piled in death, they were driven to form themselves into a fast impenetrable phalanx that their enemies should not break through them; and he among them that had the least on his hands, him four of his fierce foes beset at once. Besides and beyond all which, O'Conor (Felim) and de Clare's arrogant hot-headed son (that after his father's death was fair gone wud, rushing at all and sundry) came together. Equally rapid as were their well-meant blows, yet not long their combat retained this equilibrium; for Felim wounds and rewounds and triple-wounds the Englishman and, in all his gentlemen's despite, converted him upon the spot into a disfigured corpse.
Again now we take up O'Brien and the men of Thomond:
p.128after having at the goad's point driven Mahon O'Brien's prey, in Echtge's leafy borders they rested when certain of their own near friends and favourers that were in de Clare's host hurried off to the chief advice of the baron's vigorous enterprise, and the motive of his journey. To Murtough O'Brien it was as a violent mortal sickness that ever his faithful natural friends should come to lie under merciless oppression of those English; therefore on the instant his gentlemen and irachts all (horse and foot) assemble and, before clearing and full shining of the day, across the grasslands of the open plain strike westwards, past the pleasant hill of Uarchoill [Spancelhill], westwards still to the Fergus, ever as hard as they could go. Broad Fergus being crossed, in all directions they see the land aflame, hear it resound as with one mighty outcry. Soon they descry headlong folk (hard to stay), and swiftly flying groups that head towards them; insomuch that they found it a main effort to check the fugitives in their mad career. Dejectedly then, and they scarce able to contain themselves, these narrate the deaths and losses [of which we have heard].
As for O'Brien's gentlemen and men, as one they intensify their travail to relieve their friends in common danger: some abandon their mantles and 'rampart-arms' [missile weapons]; others leave behind them their horses and all superfluous weight; for they (so many as thus divested themselves of armour) thought that on foot they would make better play over the rough intricate paths. When at last they neared the spot in which the tug of war went on (which they did without halt for formation, without consideration or respect shewed by loon to lord, by man-at-arms to high commander), O'Conor seeing them at a distance [and not knowing them] said, angrily despairing: a pity 'tis; for we this poor remainder of the Gael stand in need of succour more than does our foe. Still, now that out of this pinch there is no way for us (since to fly beseems us not), on our bitter enemies avenge we ourselves handsomely, and in such guise that after us they shall not muster strong enough to offer battle to our friends!
With the lionlike chief's exhortation their valour blazed and their strength expanded, in such measure that right through the pale English they made for themselves 'a warrior's gap' and common path, to go [as they thought] to this fresh enemy's
p.129encounter. But when they knew their fellows, loudly they emitted three cries: one of joy and welcome; one of triumph and exultation for the deeds that they had done, the slaughter they had made; lastly, a groanful cry of lamentation for their own hurts and losses. Here [at last] the wounded fell to the rear of the others as they fought; from their respective directions both parties [O'Conor and the O'Deas on the one hand, O'Brien and Clancullen on the other] charge each towards each, in form so grim that neither may one count nor [consequently] recite all that fell of them [friend and foe] while the thing lasted, so imperious was their desire to reach their comrades and to join their forces. So dour the hand-to-hand work was, that nor noble nor commander of them [the English] left the ground, but the far greater part fell where they stood. Nor was Lochlainn O'Hechir with his iracht, who came on the scene a little before O'Brien, idle in the tight-jammed press.
There remains but to say that the gentles of the pale English being extinguished utterly: both knecht and battle-baron, both knight and aspirant, the common herd (so many as survived) took to shift for themselves. Which when the Gael perceived, they followed them hard and close; seeking to get round them [head them off] so that not a soul of them should pull through; for they esteemed that now, de Clare and his son and Mahon O'Brien's two sons with the gentlemen of his iracht and people being fallen, there was an end of the cleavage among them [the Dalcassians] all. Nevertheless, by main fighting strength Brian Bane mac Donall mac Brian Rua came off; but he never cried halt until he had crossed Shannon eastwards [into Duharra], where for his race he (with Murtough O'Brien's goodwill) effected a settlement.
As for O'Brien and his people: with cutting down and expeditious slaying of their perpetual enemies, earnestly they follow the rout right into Bunratty of the spacious roads; and (a thing which never had happened) the manner in which he found the town before him was: deserted, empty, wrapped in fire. For upon his wife's and household's receiving of the tidings that de Clare was killed, with one consent they betake them to their fast galleys and shove off on Shannon, taking with them the choicest of the town's wealth and valuable effects, and having at all points set
p.130it on fire. From which time to this, never a one of their breed has come back to look after it.
So far as concerns O'Brien himself, he knitted and bound together in unity his [own] irachts [and those which newly he had acquired]. All individuals of the latter to whom his sternest enmity was due he or expelled or executed, and [unopposed] assumed power over the residue; they for the extravagance of de Clare's misdeeds preferring that O'Brien rather than he should exercise it. For the baron had been a knavish man, an ill performer of covenants, and of an overbearing temper.
When then for a score and twelve years O'Brien (as ye have heard) had enjoyed that chiefry, in the year of Christ's Age one thousand, three hundred, a score and sixteen [recte 1343] he died at Clonroad and was buried in Ennis.
After Murtough his brother, Dermot O'Brien (youngest of Turlough More's sons) for a score and two years succeeded to the power of Thomond. During which spell not much is told of any troubles of his, for in his time the land prospered and was at peace; and so, in the year of Christ's Age one thousand, three hundred, two-score and fifteen years [recte 1364], in the abbey of Ennis he both died and was laid.