Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
Táin Bó Cúalnge from the Book of Leinster (Author: [unknown])

section 20

Breslech Maige Muirthemne

The four provinces of Ireland pitched their camp at the place called Breslech Mór in Mag Muirtheimne. They sent their share of the cattle and booty on ahead southwards to Clithar Bó Ulad. Cú Chulainn took his post at Ferta I l- Lergaib close beside them, and his charioteer, Lóeg mac Riangabra, kindled a fire for him on the evening of that night. Cú Chulainn saw far off, over the heads of the four great provinces of Ireland, the fiery glitter of the bright gold weapons at the setting of the sun in the clouds of evening. Anger and rage filled him when he saw the host, because of the multitude of his foes and the great number of his enemies. He seized his two spears and his shield and his sword. He shook his shield and brandished his spears and waved his sword, and he uttered a hero's shout from his throat. And the goblins and sprites and spectres of the glen and demons of the air gave answer for terror of the shout that he had uttered

"he had uttered", following ST

, and Nemain, the war


{line 2134-2166} goddess, brought confusion on the host. The four provinces of Ireland made a clangour of arms around the points of their own spears and weapons, and a hundred warriors of them fell dead that night of terror and fright in the middle of the encampment.

As Lóeg was there, he saw something: a single man coming straight towards him from the north-east across the camp of the four great provinces. ‘A single man approaches now, little Cú’ said Lóeg. ‘What manner of man is there?’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘An easy question: a man fair and tall, with his hair cut broad, curly, yellow hair. He has a green mantle wrapped about him with a brooch of white silver in the mantle above his breast. He wears a tunic of royal satin with red insertion of red gold next to his white skin and reaching to his knees. he carries a black shield with a hard boss of white bronze. In his hand a five-pointed spear and beside it a forked javelin. Wonderful is the play and sport and diversion he makes with these weapons. But none accosts him and he accosts none, as if no one in the camp of the four great provinces of Ireland saw him’. ‘That is true, my fosterling’ said he. ‘That is one of my friends from the fairy mounds coming to commiserate with me for they know of my sore distress as I stand alone now against the four great provinces of Ireland on the Foray of Cúailnge’. It was indeed as Cú Chulainn said. When the warrior came to where Cú Chulainn was, he spoke to him and commiserated with him. ‘Sleep now for a little while, Cú Chulainn’ said the warrior, ‘your heavy slumber at the Ferta in Lerga till the end of three days and three nights, and for that space of time I shall fight against the hosts’.

Then Cú Chulainn slept his deep slumber at the Ferta in Lerga till the end of three days and three nights. It was right that the length of the sleep should correspond to the greatness of his weariness, for from the Monday before Samain exactly until the Wednesday after the festival of spring Cú Chulainn had not slept in that time, except when he dozed for a little while leaning against his spear after midday, with his head on his clenched fist and his clenched fist about his spear and his spear resting on his knee, but he was striking and cutting down and slaying and killing the four great provinces of Ireland during that time. Then the warrior put plants from the síd and healing herbs and a curing charm into the wounds and cuts and gashes and many injuries of Cú Chulainn so that Cú Chulainn recovered in his sleep without his perceiving it at all.


{line 2167-2204}

It was at this time that the youths came southwards from Emain Macha, thrice fifty of the kings' sons of Ulster together with Follomain mac Conchobuir, and they gave battle thrice to the hosts and three times their own number fell by them, but the youths fell too, all except Follomain mac Conchobuir. Follomain vowed that he would never go back to Emain until he should take with him Ailill's head and the golden diadem that was on it. That was no easy thing for him for the two sons of Beithe mac Báin, the two sons of Ailill's fostermother and fosterfather, came up with him and wounded him so that he fell by them. That is the Death of the Youths from Ulster and of Follomain mac Conchobuir.

Cú Chulainn however was in his deep sleep at Ferta in Lerga till the end of three days and three nights. He arose then from his sleep and passed his hand over his face and he blushed crimson from head to foot, and his spirit was strengthened as if he were going to an assembly or a march or a tryst or a feast or to one of the chief assemblies of Ireland. ‘How long have I been now in this sleep, warrior? Woe is me!’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘Why is that?’ said the warrior. ‘Because the hosts have been left without attack for that space of time’. said Cú Chulainn. ‘They have not so been left indeed’ said the warrior. ‘Tell me, who has attacked them?’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘The youths came from the north, from Emain Macha, thrice fifty of the kings' sons of Ulster led by Follomain mac Conchobuir, and thrice they gave battle to the hosts in the space of the three days and three nights when you were asleep, and three times their own number fell by them and all the youths fell too except for Follomain mac Conchobuir. Follomain vowed etc’. ‘Alas that I was not in my full strength, for had I been, the youths would not have fallen as they did nor would Follomain have fallen’.

‘Strive on, little Hound, it is no reproach to your honour and no disgrace to your valour’. ‘Stay here for us tonight, O warrior’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘that we may together avenge the youths on the hosts’. ‘I shall not stay indeed’ said the warrior, ‘for though a man do many valourous and heroic deeds in your company, not he but you will have the fame or the reputation of them. Therefore I shall not stay, but exert your valour, yourself alone, on the hosts for not with them lies any power over your life at this time’.

‘The scythed chariot, my friend Lóeg’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘can you yoke it? If you can yoke it and have its equipment, then yoke it, but if you have not its equipment, do not yoke it’.