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

poem 6


  1. It is time for me to make verse on Ceilbe,
    it is a service due to Athairne;
    to commemorate thee — no paltry favour —
    a tale without verse is insecure.
  2. 5] A chapter without verse on Ceilbe —
    it was remiss of Fercheirtne:
    polish comes not without a dye of some sort,
    nor does a tale without a lay to follow it.
  3. Present with absent now,
    10] ye that adorn the code of law!
    since not to put Ceilbe in verse,
    was not lucky, o poets3!
  4. It has fallen to my lot to make requital therein
    unto you, O teachers of the Dindsenchas!
    15] soon shall I strip its obscurity
    from the cause why Ceilbe is sung of.
  5. Daughter to Cairpre Niafer was she,
    Bé Gelchnes, spirited, fair and bright,
    pre-eminent for live stock and household gear;
    20] in this hill she was wont to dwell.

  6. p.57

  7. She held it wrong (though it was a fatal project)
    that her noble father should lack entertainment,
    never ceasing from work in her home
    till her purpose was accomplished.
  8. 25] Then Finn the poet bethought him —
    the son of Ross Ruad of Rairiu,
    the keen poet used to war-cries —
    to pay a visit at his fair sister's house.4
  9. His errand was an omen of reproach
    30] to the house of the valiant woman;
    neither love nor fear she felt
    in hiding her preparation.
  10. There is brought to him — it was no seemly step —
    food that was only fit for slaves;
    35] there was festal preparation near by;
    Finn perceived that it was kept secret.
  11. The stern poet reproached
    his wicked sister for her churlishness:
    her purpose was not brought to completion,
    40] her fame was impeached for what was attempted.
  12. On account of his wrath he prayed
    for his dear brother's daughter
    not to live to old age;
    he made notorious her mean spirit.

  13. p.59

  14. 45] When bright Bé Gelchnes heard
    the poet's bitter saying,
    then she died on a sudden,
    with her feast before her eyes.
  15. Alas that she refused to give it
    50] to her noble father's own brother:
    her feast after all
    was the entertainment his journey gained.
  16. "Let a grave be dug for the long-haired woman";
    her Domnanns used to say;
    55] "hide Bé in the hill yonder:
    let her make it suitably Ceil-be."
  17. Or if ye so desire, to follow this story,
    (great is ever the fear of the critic)
    I will presently find for the hill
    60] the reason why it is seemly to sing of it.
  18. Cairbre Coilbe (it was not seemly)
    he was the stout warrior trained in contest;
    he buried here — and they alive —
    the hostages of all Elg — it was a cruelty.
  19. 65] When they saw the wicked deeds of the youth
    each and all cried out
    "A great crime — live men in the hill yonder!"
    so that thence Ceilbe is remembered.

  20. p.61

  21. Cairpre Ceilbe is the proper name for him,
    70] even for the treacherous son of Ross,
    though by many he is rightly called
    Cairpre Niafer, giver of wages.
  22. I will not leave unsung the daughter
    of Cearball son of Muiregen:
    75] her place was heir to her,
    Ceilbe her name when she is mentioned.
  23. Thither to seek her goes
    the seer who was famous in his day,
    (in sooth he was noted for no lowly fortune);
    80] Dallán was the poet's name.
  24. Ceilbe comes to greet and welcome
    Dallán son of Machadán:
    she comes having a branch laden with berries
    concealed under her cloak.
  25. 85] When they met in her fair domain
    she said to the grandson of Echtigern,
    "Let it be declared by you, without offence thereat,
    what is under my bosom, if thou canst."
  26. Without need and without compulsion
    90] she spoke only to test the son of Machadan;
    the druid declares to the great indolent lady
    what was under her bosom straightway.

  27. p.63

  28. "Thou hast, O fair-haired maiden,"
    said the druid not carelessly,
    95] ("a hard feat to lean upon spikes,)
    a branch of blackthorn covered with dark sloes."
  29. "Thou shalt rue it, keen maiden,"
    said the ill-boding poet:
    "I in my turn will mar the colour of thy face;
    100] this shall be thy reward for vexing me."
  30. Then said comely Ceilbe,
    "I am under thy protection, O poet!
    Blemish me not for my sport
    because I did not show the fruit.
  31. 105] "Thou shalt have of me, to check thy black displeasure,
    as sufficient satisfaction for my offence,
    in compensation for my demand of you,
    the sod-built liss where you got your asking."
  32. "All my domain without detriment
    110] shall be thine, son of Machadán,
    without my heir being mentioned in my place;
    only Ceilbe shall be its name, after me."
  33. Though she gave her domain to the seer,
    the daughter of white-skinned Cearball gained
    115] the unfading name of that keep:
    was it not an obligation to bestow it on her?

  34. p.65

  35. The poet that is strongest to protect
    through excellence of his knowledge,
    what is due to him is little however much it be:
    120] it is time for me to make verse on Ceilbe.
  36. Seek not recital — all hail,
    if thou, O Lord, purposest to invite me!
    of what thou doest about noontide with thy people,
    if it is the true account that would be required.
  37. 125] Many a step have I gone astray,
    if it were time to tell thereof,
    whereby the nail has been driven into His wound:
    it is more than time to turn.

  38. p.67