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

poem/story 27


  1. In the plain where our horsemen ride, there, by the will of the right-judging Lord, was buried in fair seclusion a lovely woman, Macha wife of Nemed.
  2. Twice six plains did Nemed clear before his home, to win renown; of these was this plain, to my joy, across which I shall wend my steady way.
  3. Macha, who diffused all excellences, the noble daughter of red-weaponed Aed, the raven of the raids, was buried here when Rechtaid Red-Wrist slew her.
  4. She it was that, seeking no help, shaped with her brooch for grim Dithorba's sons—it was no mean feat—Emain, above the sloping plain.
  5. To bewail her—it was a worthy beginning—was held by the Ulaid's host in full numbers yonder, to all time, the Assembly of Macha on the wide plain.
  6. It is right that I should now tell (for it is a business needing boldness) the tale whereof it came that the Ulaid lay in pangs of general sickness—a spell past cure.

  7. p.127

  8. There came one day in bright glory to Conchobar's appointed Assembly, from the waters eastward, a man rich in herds, Cruinn son of Agnoman, lord of hundreds.
  9. Then they bring, pacing proudly, two horses, whose like I see not, to the warriors' horse-race—hide it not!—held at that season by the king of Ulaid.
  10. Though their like was not found among the horses of Mag Da Gabra, Cruind, eager and shaggy, said that his wife was swifter, though heavy with child.
  11. ‘Arrest ye the chieftain!’ said Conchobar, leader in battle, ‘till the warrior's fair wife come to a noble race against my steeds.’
  12. A messenger was sent to fetch her by the king of the stout levelled spears, to bid her come from the ocean waves to contend on behalf of idle-speaking Cruinn.
  13. The woman came without delay to the assembly of perilous exploits: her two names, not seldom heard in the west, were bright Grian and pure Macha.
  14. Her father, not without might in his home, was Midir of Brí Léith meic Celtchair; in her roofless dwelling in the west she was Grian, the sun of womankind.

  15. p.129

  16. When she arrived, fierce for glory, she prayed at once for respite to the host of undefeated clans, because her hour of travail was come.
  17. The Ulaid made answer thereupon to the quick brisk dame, big with child, that she should find no grace before the contest from the sworded battalion of famous Line.
  18. Then the nimble bright lady bared herself, and loosened the hair about her head: without fierce cry to urge her she came to the race, to the tourney.
  19. The horses were brought close beside her, to drive them in this wise past the noble lady: for the Ulaid of that keep continually that array of steeds was an evil omen.
  20. Swift though the prince's steeds were among the tribes, met in might, swifter was the woman, unsparing of effort: the king's horses were over-slow.
  21. When she reached the end of the green—noble was her stake, great and famous—she bore twin babes, without respite, before the folk of the Red Branch fort.
  22. A boy and a girl together—through her glorious deed sorrow was their nurse; Fir and Fial were the names of the twins that Grian bore, unsparing of effort.

  23. p.131

  24. She leaves a word enduringly upon the pillars of the Red Branch, that in time of war they should be in distress, in anguish and labour-pangs.
  25. The word she uttered then brought distress to the lordly host; it clave to them—it was no occasion for valour—till the ninth of nine lives.
  26. From the reign of Conchobar of Cerna over the strong troops of northern Emain, the ill deed by her imprecation wrought their ruin until the reign of Mal son of Rochraide.
  27. Then the woman died of that sore sickness, 'twas certain, and was buried yonder in solitude in Ard Macha, rich in mead.
  28. From the life, from the death of the woman, famous among the lines of Adam's seed, whose virtues were not left unsung over the spot, her name clave to this plain.
  29. Since Patrick first brought the Faith to Ard Macha where men gather, the plenteous stead he chose is a favoured burial-place, even the great plain.
  30. O King that broughtest Emain to desolation, after it was deserted by its brave host, let not my soul be sad in thine house, after singing psalms of poets in the noble plain.

  31. p.133