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

poem 32

Loch Garman

  1. King of loughs is this lough in the south,
    Loch Garman of the famous poets,
    wide and winding haven of the ships,
    gathering-place of the buoyant boats.
  2. 5] A place that is a king's demesne,
    where sea and mainland meet,
    a stronghold, after the ejection of idols,
    merrily was spread its story.
  3. Which of them was earlier in date,
    10] let it be asked of the learned of Erin —
    the lough of the hosts wont to frequent it on the east,
    or the cold river that ran down to it?
  4. 'Tis long between one and the other,
    if the truth be well tried,
    15] from the outburst of the stainless stream
    to the outburst of the limpid lough.
  5. The river first arose —
    I am versed in their fortunes —
    the broad pure placid lake was not
    20] till long after the river.
  6. In the time of Cathair of the bitter battles
    came the outburst of pure cold Loch Garman:
    in the time of the unblenching Fir Bolg
    came the outburst here of ancient Slane.

  7. p.171

  8. 25] Three divisions there were among the Fir Bolg;
    to mention them is not out of place;
    they conquered Erin at intervals by force,
    from three river-mouths.
  9. One-third of them is numbered there
    30] at populous Inber Domnand;
    the second third, without feebleness,
    at warlike Inber Dubglaise.
  10. The last third that came hither
    came to Inber Slane of the armies,
    35] led by Slane, whose repute would not be scanty,
    from whom the river has its name.
  11. It is there they came to land,
    the expedition of the Fir Bolg, smooth of speech —
    to Port Coelrenna — conceal it not! —
    40] for that was its name at that time.
  12. It is there the hosts arrived,
    at Port Coelrenna of the carouse:
    from the oars they brought thither,
    from them is Ramand named.
  13. 45] The story of the name of the brimming lough,
    if we give an account of it,
    in the narration — though great the undertaking —
    the profit lies in the exposition.
  14. The Feast of Temair every third year,
    50] for implementing of laws and ordinances,
    which were made firmly at that time
    by the noble kings of Erin.

  15. p.173

  16. Cathair of the many kinsmen held
    the right pleasant feast of the kings of Temair;
    55] to keep the feast came — the better cheer! —
    the men of Erin to the same spot.
  17. Three days before Samain, a standing custom,
    three days after it, it was a good custom,
    the gathering spent, and vast the blaze before them,
    60] carousing ever the length of the week.
  18. No theft, no manslaying,
    among them at this season;
    no play of weapons nor wounds,
    no brooding over enmity.
  19. 65] Whoever should do any of these things
    was a culprit fated to evil doom;
    money in atonement would not be accepted from him,
    but his life was required straightway.
  20. There was a champion there in the house
    70] at Cathair's back (we conceal it not):
    Garman, son of Boimm Licce
    of the people of dappled Berba,
  21. When it came to pass there in the house,
    while the great host was in drink,
    75] that he stole the queen's golden coronet;
    it was no right deed for a friend to do.
  22. He makes off with the golden coronet
    from Temair of the mighty host;
    till he reached narrow Inber Slane
    80] in the east of the southern part of Erin.

  23. p.175

  24. After him, from the north, comes
    the household of Cathair of the pointed spears;
    they overtake him there by the well
    that was at the river's mouth.
  25. 85] When they took fierce Garman,
    the spring burst forth strong and high,
    from the rock to the lovely sea;
    since then it is a lough, green and broad.
  26. Garman is drowned in the brimming lough;
    90] the learned are continually making mention of it,
    haven of knives and bright shields;
    from him the name Lough Garman clave to it.
  27. That is the right and true story
    of the lough so bright and broad,
    95] and of the river, — lovely their splendour!
    whereby tarries every high king.
  28. Once on a time, clear-souled Cathair was
    in the prosperous prime of his life,
    when there appeared to him a vision that became known,
    100] which threw the host of Erin into deep distress.
  29. The daughter of a goodly landowner, lord of hundreds,
    radiant of form, perfect in beauty,
    appeared (it was no sin)
    to the hero in his sleep.
  30. 105] Every fair hue man can see,
    blue, dappled, yellow,
    and purple — the sight was pleasant —
    were in the raiment the lady wore.

  31. p.177

  32. In this wise was the white woman,
    110] great with child, and her womb ever full,
    to the end of eight hundred good years,
    though strange it be to relate:
  33. Till she bore a son, brave was his bulk,
    who brought many a champion to sudden death;
    115] the day he was born (this was illusion)
    the son was stronger than his mother.
  34. The mother, great above women,
    attempts to go from him, so as to avoid him;
    she found no way (they join strife)
    120] but through the midst of her great son.
  35. A beautiful hill above the comely head
    of the woman and her son together;
    clear to view from its summit the enduring earth;
    not often was it without a great host.
  36. 125] A tree of gold on the hill free from battle,
    its crown reached the cloudy welkin;
    thence the music of the men of the world
    was heard from the tree's crown.
  37. Whenever the violent wind would beat
    130] on the soft fresh foliage of the tree
    there would be vast plenty, O sir!
    of its fruits on the soil of earth.
  38. Every fruit the hosts would choose,
    from east, from south, and from north,
    135] like the flood-tide of the lazy sea,
    would come from the top of that one tree.

  39. p.179

  40. This was the vision of the warrior of the combat,
    round whom the Leinstermen made rejoicing,
    Cathair, son of fair Fedilmid,
    40] the high king of Erin from Alend.
  41. Thereupon the noble prince awakes
    from his slumber long and deep, —
    the head of the people of Leinster generally, —
    to relate his dream.
  42. 145] There is called to him the well-attended druid, —
    high in favour was he with the king,
    that he might solve for him, even with the edge [of his wit],
    all the riddles the king had seen.
  43. "I will solve them," said the keen druid,
    150] "if I have a reward that shall be fully sufficient,"
    with honour from thee all thy days as well,"
    said Bri, son of Bairchid.
  44. Firm covenants are given to him
    for receiving reward every day
    155] and for honour there in his house
    and for wealth, as he demanded.
  45. Thereafter the druid gives them
    the interpretation of the vision faithfully:
    according as he gave of yore the famous interpretation
    160] it is fulfilled in later times, though long after.

  46. p.181

  47. "This is the young woman, mighty and tall,
    thou sawest, O fiercest king! —
    the river that is in thy land yonder
    whose abiding name is Slane."
  48. 165] "These are the colours thou speakest of
    in the young woman's raiment, —
    the men of every new art under heaven,
    without sameness in their metres13."
  49. "This is the landowner lord of hundreds, be sure,
    170] who was father to the fair woman, —
    the earth," said the druid of his own accord,
    "through which every kind yields a hundred-fold."
  50. "This is the son who was in her womb
    eight hundred years, as I pledge my word, —
    175] a lough that shall be born from her on green sward,
    and shall spread abroad in thy time."
  51. "The day he shall be born with his shouting
    he shall drown the brimming river:
    everyone shall be drinking of her along her margin,
    180] but great though she be, he shall be greater."
  52. "This is the great hill, greater than any eminence,
    which thou sawest above their heads —
    thine own might over everyone, good luck to it!
    unbroken, unsubdued."

  53. p.183

  54. 185] "This is the storm-tossed tree of gold,
    branching, wide, full of fruit, —
    thyself in thy kingship over tuneful Banba,
    and over every dwelling in Erin."
  55. "This is the stately music
    190] that was in the crown of the enduring tree —
    thy noble eloquence, lovelier thereby,
    when appeasing a multitude."
  56. "This is the wind, steady without harshness,
    that shook down the fruits, —
    195] thy generosity, O white-toothed king, sung in lays,
    when dividing kine among the comely hosts."
  57. "To thee pertains the peculiar import
    of the vision on every chief hill;
    thou shalt not believe the Faith in thy life-time
    200] till thou art sole king over Erin."
  58. Eochaid the Learned, to whom it was easy,
    found legendary lore
    for Lough Garman yonder in his country,
    while kindling the light of verse for a great king.
  59. 205] I crave a boon for myself from God,
    that good may be the fortune of my soul
    (may no sin in the flesh besmirch it)
    with Him who had no father's kin.

  60. p.185