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

poem 1



  1. Hearken, ye Leinstermen of the graves,
    O host that rule Raigne of hallowed rights,
    till ye get from me, gathered on every hand,
    the fair legend of Carmun high in fame!
  2. 5] Carmun, gathering place of a hospitable fair,
    with level sward for courses: —
    the hosts that used to come to its celebration
    conquered in its bright races.
  3. A burial-ground of kings is its noble cemetery,
    10] even specially dear to hosts of high rank;
    under the mounds of assembly are many
    of its host of a stock ever-honoured.
  4. To bewail queens and kings,
    to lament revenges and ill deeds,
    15] there came many a fair host at harvest-time
    across the noble lean cheek of ancient Carmun.
  5. Was it men, or a man of mighty prowess,
    or woman with passionate emulation,
    that won a title of
    without disrepute
    20] and gave its proper name to noble Carmun?

  6. p.5

  7. Not men it was, nor wrathful man,
    but one fierce marauding woman —
    bright was her precinct and her fame —
    from whom Carmun got its name at the first.
  8. 25] Carmun, wife of the son of fierce Dibad,
    son of right hospitable Doirche of the hosts,
    son of Ancgeis rich in substance,
    was a leader with experience in many battles.
  9. No supply of gain appeased them
    30] in their ardent desire for noble Banba;
    because they were distressed perpetually in the East,
    the children of the son of Dibad and their mother.
  10. They fared westward for the second time
    — Dian and Dub and Dothur, —
    35] from the East out of distant Athens,
    they and Carmun their mother.
  11. In the borders of the Tuatha De
    the folk of a hostile wedlock ravaged
    the fruit of every land to the shore:
    40] it was a dreadful lawless pillage.
  12. Carmun, by means of every spell of fame,
    destroyed all sap of swelling fruit,
    after strife waged with all arts unlawful,
    and the sons through battle and lawlessness.
  13. 45] Then the Tuatha De perceived them;
    horror and hideousness betrayed them
    for every cruel deed they did,
    the Tuatha De inflicted the like number upon them.

  14. p.7

  15. Crichinbel — no deception this!
    50] and Lug Laebach son of Cacher
    Be Chuilli into which I shall go above all battlefields
    and Ai son of Ollam,
  16. The stern four, equal-strong,
    said to them on overtaking them,
    55] "A woman is here to match your mother,
    three men to the brothers three;
  17. "Death to you — no choice ye would choose,
    no blessing, no lucky wish!
    or else leave with good grace a hostage;
    60] depart from Erin ye three only!"
  18. Those men departed from us;
    stern means were found to expel them;
    though it seemed distant to them, they leave here
    Carmun — alive in her narrow cell.
  19. 65] Every pledge was given that is not transgressed with safety,
    the sea with its beasts, heaven, earth with its bright array,
    that the strong chiefs should not come southward
    so long as the sea should be round Erin.
  20. Carmun, death and yearning carried her off.
    70] increase of mourning visited her
    she found her fate, as was right,
    among the oaks of the strong graves.

  21. p.9

  22. Thither came, for the delight of her beauty,
    to keen and raise the first wailing over her,
    75] the Tuath De over this noble plain eastward:
    it was to the first true fair of Carmun.
  23. The grave of Carmun, who digged it?
    do ye learn, or do ye know?
    according to the judgment of every esteemed elder
    80] it was Bres son of Eladu: hearken!
  24. Five fair hundred four score
    years it is since then — no lie!
    from Carmun, a captive under tribute,
    to the psalm-sung birth of Jesus in human form.
  25. 85] Four hundred two and thirty
    from the birth of Christ — not false the count!
    to Crimthand ruler over captive Carmun
    to Patrick great and glorious.
  26. Five and thirty kings in the east without a curse
    90] of the Leinstermen before the faith of Christ;
    the noise of them reached over Erin
    from thy sweet-omened haven, O Carmun!
  27. Five and fifty kings — laborious these —
    of the warriorhood of Christendom
    95] from Crimthann, mark for wounds,
    to Diarmait Durgen, stout and goodly:

  28. p.11

  29. Eight sons of Galam, with the number of their hosts,
    Donn, Hir, Eber, Heremon,
    Amairgen, unvexed Colptha,
    100] Herech, Febria, and Erennan:
  30. These were the warranties of the Fair,
    loudly acclaimed at all seasons,
    at coming in and at going forth
    without any rude hostility.
  31. 105] From the Tuatha De to the children of Mil,
    it was a refuge for noble ladies and princely men;
    from the children of Mil ('twas a clear fact),
    till Patrick of Ard Macha, it was a refuge.
  32. Heaven, earth, sun, moon, and sea,
    110] fruits of earth and sea-stuff,
    mouths, ears, eyes, possessions,
    feet, hands, warriors' tongues,
  33. Horses, swords, chariots fair,
    spears, shields, and faces of men,
    115] dew, mast, sheen on leaf,
    day and night, ebb and flow: —
  34. The hosts of Banba, free from enduring sorrow,
    gave all these completely as pledges
    that it should not lie under gloom of disputes
    120] to interrupt it, every third year.
  35. The Gentiles of the Gaels held
    often time with great acclamation
    a Fair, without law, without sin,
    without deed of violence, without impurity.

  36. p.13

  37. 125] People of Christ's baptism, conceal it not!
    hearken to him, for it is certain
    men deserve a curse the more when they depart
    from Christ and from Christianity.
  38. Kings and saints of Erin there
    130] around Patrick and Crimthand:
    they it was who strictly checked every fight;
    they blessed the Fair.
  39. Nine fairs before the time of the Tuatha of active De
    over the borders of well-famed Carmun:
    135] fifty between them1, quickly,
    from Herimon to Patrick.
  40. Five times forty pleasant
    glorious fairs in succession
    from Bresal Broenach without treachery
    140] till the final fair.
  41. From Crimthand pure of beauty
    to the high battle of violent Ocha
    nine right famous fairs without division
    held by the seed of heroic-gentle Labraid.
  42. 145] Sixteen kings, I am certified
    by every sage, every glib shanachie, —
    from Carmun of the winding harbours
    did the host bring into the mighty fair.
  43. Eight from populous Dothra,
    150] a host of renown, ever boasted,
    duly held the fair of Carmun
    with pomp and with pure weapons.

  44. p.15

  45. Twelve without long possession of a share
    in famous fairs, I own,
    155] were of the falcon-like company of valour
    sprung of the royal seed from great Maistiu.
  46. Five from fierce Fid Gaibli
    gathered above Carmun high in fame
    a fair well-furnished with ranks of men,
    160] with saddles, with bridle-horses.
  47. Six men from Raigne of the races,
    of the seed of Bresal Brec the smiter;
    a fair-haired band for raidings of the west
    over the cheek of hundred-wounding Carmun.
  48. 165] Patrick and Brigit together,
    Caemgen and Columcille,
    it is they that are warranty against every troop
    that none dare assail their own troop of riders.
  49. The fair of the saints in the first place,
    170] strength to hold it and law to direct it:
    the fair of the high kings with pure

    it is this that comes next in order.
  50. The game next day of the women of Leinster
    from the radiant host — no false saying —
    175] womenkind not small in esteem abroad;
    this is their gathering, the third fair.
  51. The Laigsi, the Fothairt, enduring their fame —
    their turn was after the women's share:
    Leinster with all her treasures is theirs,
    180] the brave men set to guard them.

  52. p.17

  53. By honoured princes there
    was held the fifth game in Carmun:
    the honourable companies of Erin, however,
    to them was firmly pledged the sixth.
  54. 185] Lastly by the Clann Condla was held
    the game of well-protected Carmun:
    noble was the compact beyond every host
    above every triumph and royal revenue.
  55. Seven games, as as thou art taught,
    190] that is the charge Patrick left,
    every day for a week set apart:
    for the sake of your loved fame, steadily hearken!
  56. The Leinstermen use to do on this wise
    by tribes and by households,
    195] from the days of Labraid Longsech, with number of hosts,
    to powerful Cathair of the red spears.
  57. Cathair of Carmun left nothing
    save only to his mighty offspring:
    at their head, with special wealth,
    200] behold the seed of Ros Failge!
  58. The seat of the noble king of Argatros
    on the right of the pleasant, modest king of Carmun;
    at his left hand, with no beggarly inheritance,
    the seat of the king of bright-scioned Gaible.
  59. 205] The Laigsi are descendants of the seed
    of mighty Lugaid son of Conall Cendmor;
    and the Fothairt, whom drought visits not,
    free from poverty to persecute them.

  60. p.19

  61. On the kalends of August free from reproach
    210] they would go thither every third year:
    they would hold seven races, for a glorious object,
    seven days in the week.
  62. There they would discuss with strife of speech
    the dues and tributes of the province,
    215] every legal enactment right piously
    every third year it was settled.
  63. Corn, milk, peace, happy ease,
    full nets, ocean's plenty,
    greybearded men, chieftains in amity
    220] with troops overbearing Erin.
  64. Suing, harsh levying of debts,
    satirising, quarrelling, misconduct,
    is not dared during the races
    absconding with a deposit, nor distraint.
  65. 225] No men to go into an assembly of women,
    no women into an assembly of fair, pure men;
    as for elopement, it is not to be heard of there,
    neither a second husband nor a second family.
  66. Whoever transgresses the law of the kings
    230] Benen prescribed firmly for ever
    that he should not thrive in his tribe,
    but should die for his mortal sin.
  67. These are the Fair's great privileges:
    trumpets, harps, hollow-throated horns,
    235] pipers, timpanists unwearied,
    poets and meek musicians.

  68. p.21

  69. Tales of Find and the Fianna, a matter inexhaustible,
    sacks, forays, wooings,
    tablets, and books of lore,
    240] satires, keen riddles:
  70. Proverbs, maxims, the Rule
    and truthful teachings of Fithal,
    dark lays of the Dindsenchas for thee,
    teachings of Cairpre and Cormac;
  71. 245] The feasts round the mighty Feast of Tara,
    the fairs, round the Fair of Emain;
    annals there, this is true;
    every division into which Erin has been divided:
  72. The tale of the household of Tara, that is not scanty,
    250] the knowledge of every cantred in Erin,
    the chronicle of women, tales of armies, conflicts,
    hostels, tabus, captures:
  73. The ten-fold Testament of hundreded Cathair
    to his right pleasant offspring kingly of stature:
    255] assigns the estate of each man as is due,
    so that all may listen to it.
  74. Pipes, fiddles, gleemen,
    bones-players and bag-pipers,
    a crowd hideous, noisy, profane,
    260] shriekers and shouters.
  75. They exert all their efforts
    for the King of seething Berba:
    the king, noble and honoured,
    pays for each art its proper honour.
  76. 265] Tales of death and slaughter, strains of music;
    exact synchronising of the goodly race;
    his royal pedigree, a blessing through Bregmag
    his battle and his stark valour.

  77. p.23

  78. That is the sign for breaking up the Fair
    270] by the fortunate ever-joyous host:
    may there be given to them, from the Lord,
    the earth with her pleasant fruits!

  79. [...]
    of the Leinstermen next day
    the saint of the compact — no deceitful blessing —
    275] above the hallowed water of Carmun, devoutly,
    mass, genuflection, chanting of psalms.
  80. A fast was held in autumn
    in Carmun, all at once,
    by the Leinstermen, not thinly gathered here,
    280] against wrong and oppression.
  81. Clerics and laymen of the Leinstermen there,
    wives of the warriors assuredly,
    God knoweth how they have deserved;
    to their noble prayers He hearkens.
  82. 285] Hospitality of the Ui Drona next,
    and horse-fights of Ossory,
    and a shout raised with spear shafts
    by the host there — that is the end.
  83. Though we should call it Firt Mesca,
    290] it were not raillery nor malice;
    she and Sengarman the crooked, her husband,
    it is there she was buried for eternity.
  84. Even from them was it called
    among leaguered hosts;
    295] it belonged to them, without poverty, and they to it;
    O Leinstermen of the graves, hearken!

  85. p.25

  86. One and twenty raths — their fame endures —
    where lies the host under earth's sod,
    and their count of graveyards right famous
    300] where lies the beloved of noble Carmun.
  87. Seven mounds next, unvisited,
    for frequent keening of the dead,
    seven plains, purlieus without a house,
    under the funeral games of Carmun.
  88. 305] Three busy markets in the land,
    the market of food, the market of live stock,
    the great market of the Greek foreigners,
    where were gold and fine raiment.
  89. The slope of the horses, the slope of the cooking,
    310] the slope of the women met for embroidery;
    no man of the host of the noisy Gaedil
    boasted of them nor reviled them.
  90. There comes for neglect of it
    baldness, weakness, early greyness,
    315] kings without keenness or jollity,
    without hospitality or truth.
  91. Vigorous till now has been the wrath
    of the numerous hosts of Labraid's keep:
    every host that is not aggressive is sapless,
    320] men dare them, and they dare not.
  92. A welcome with the heavenly host of the saints
    for me, and with God, beautiful, noble, and kind!
    the King with blessed hosts who rules them;
    to every supplication he hearkens.

  93. p.27