Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Metrical Dindshenchas (Author: [unknown])

poem/story 18


  1. Breccan's Cauldron, where it lies, without
    , without contention, may I never come till I die, drunkenly, to the Cauldron of a hundred measures.
  2. Four seas, wrapt in gloom, ever in flood, unvexed, range hither from every quarter; they gather at the whirlpool.
  3. From east and west—no passing gust—the sea of Orkney and the sea of the cold Britons meet for fierce eager fame betwixt Alba and Erin.

  4. p.83

  5. Where meet after their journeying the waters of divers seas, darkly they coil, howe'er it be, each of them about his fellow.
  6. Wide spreads the circle, meet home for one doomed to wretched fate: a small thing to fill it, all told, were the entire host of old Adam's seed.
  7. There lives not the man that would cover at speed—long the space!—the Cauldron's circuit, from edge to edge, within a month, a tireless task.
  8. No generous chieftain that reached it ever returned hither again from its white-paven floor, since Breccán of Bérre went his way.
  9. Breccán son of Partholan, that seer of old, drank no wholesome draught: he was drowned here with his fifty ships by the crowding waves of the whirlpool.
  10. I know the tale sages tell of the mighty whirlpool's home, whence comes, to denote it perpetually, the familiar name and its clear reason.
  11. I have heard of famous Breccán, whose is the loud-roaring grave—him that enriched every hearth of Uí Néill, busily plying in his vessel a brisk trade.
  12. Breccán son of Maine, rich in graces, the Cauldron drowned with its red spray, and he lies under the heavy high-piled strand with his ship and his valiant following.

  13. p.85

  14. Though it has buried unforgotten Breccán, his name endures in story with his bark and its burthen that lie beneath the whirlpool's stormy water.
  15. The hosts of the three parts of the world, were they set there, side by side with all people that have yet been born, it were too little to fill the Cauldron.
  16. There came hither a stranger from afar, a holy man of bright Niall's line: empty-handed he departed thence from the Cauldron, even holy Columcille.
  17. When eager Columcille came westward to holy Cluain, with Ciaran's hymn, neither kine, nor dun horses, nor chased gold did he accept in recompense:
  18. But three handfuls of red potent clay, a secret power mysterious in a far land—this he sought, for his loved spot inviolate, from the bed of clay where Ciaran lies.
  19. When Colum obtained from the fair church a boon that seduced not his spirit, he came away back from the west to Mag Ura—no long journey.
  20. There he met a busy winged crowd of demons in pitiful plight, a cowering reprobate host, a treacherous brood, dismally wailing.

  21. p.87

  22. When holy Colum saw the raging host, barred from covenanted grace, he cast among them, to disperse them, a handful of clay, here among their swarms.
  23. The second handful ('twas a holy deed) he cast into Breccán's Cauldron: he made feeble and faint its fury, so that it is now a pool right peaceful.
  24. The third handful, no causer of sickness, (hail to him whose harbourage is this ground!) my Saint scattered quietly in the burial-place of Odrán of high Iona.
  25. Thus was Mag Ura delivered by the unerring spells, the Cauldron, with its roaring wall of water, and Mag Odráin, by one and the same clay.
  26. I choose a boon, O holy Christ, by favour of Colum and of Ciarán—to have my place, after earth of the warm flocks, with the radiant Chief of a hundred companies.