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

section 8

On the morrow the hosts went as far as the river Glais Cruind, and they tried to cross the Glaise but failed to do so. Clúain Carpat is the name of the first place where they reached it, and that spot is called Clúain Carpat because the Glaise carried a hundred of their chariots away to the sea. Medb asked of her people that a warrior from amongst them should go and test the depth of the river. A great and valiant warrior of Medb's household called Úalu, rose up and took on his back a huge rock, and he came to test the depth of the stream. And the river Glais swept him back, dead and lifeless, with his stone on his back. Medb ordered him to be brought up out of the river and his grave dug and his stone raised. Whence the name Lia Úaland in the district of Cúailnge.

Cú Chulainn kept very close to the hosts that day, inviting them to fight and do combat, and killed a hundred of their warriors, including Róen and Roí, the two historians of the Foray.

Medb ordered her people to go and fight and do combat with Cú Chulainn. ‘It will not be I’ and ‘It will not be I’, said one and all from the place where they were. ‘No captive is due from my people. Even if he were, it is not I who would go to oppose Cú Chulainn, for it is no easy task to encounter him’.

The hosts proceeded along the side of the river Glaise since they were unable to cross it, and they reached the spot where the


{line 1367-1400} Glaise rises in the mountain, If they wished, they could have gone between the Glaise and the mountain, but Medb did not permit it but ordered them to dig and hack a path for her through the mountain, so that it might be a reproach and disgrace to the Ulstermen. Since then Bernais Tána Bó Cúailnge is the name of that place, for afterwards the drove of cattle was taken through it.

The men of the four great provinces of Ireland encamped that night at Belat Aileáin. Until then its name was Belat Aileáin, but from that time its name was Glenn Táil, because of the great amount of milk which the herds and cattle yielded there to the men of Ireland. And Líasa Líac is another name for that place. It is so called because it was there that the men of Ireland built byres and enclosures for their herds and their cattle.

The men of the four great provinces of Ireland came on as far as Sechair. Sechair was the name of the river until then but Glas Gatlaig is its name ever since. It is so called because the men of Ireland brought their herds and cattle across it tied with withes and ropes, and when they had crossed, the hosts let their withes and ropes drift down the stream. Hence the name of Glas Gatlaig.

That night the men of the four great provinces of Ireland came and encamped in Druim En in the district of Conaille Muirthemne, and Cú Chulainn took up his position close beside them at Ferta in Lerga. And that night Cú Chulainn waved and brandished and shook his weapons so that a hundred warriors among the host died of fright and fear and dread of Cú Chulainn. Medb told Fiachu mac Fir Aba of the Ulstermen to go and parley with Cú Chulainn and to offer him terms. ‘What terms would be offered him?’ asked Fiachu mac Fir Aba. ‘Not hard to say’ answered Medb. ‘He shall be compensated for the damage done to Ulstermen that he may be paid as the men of Ireland best adjudge. He shall have entertainment at all times in Crúachu and wine and mead shall be served to him, and he shall come into my service and into the service of Ailill for that is more advantageous for him than to be in the service of the petty lord with whom he now is’.—And that is the most scornful and insulting speech that was made on the Foray of Cúailnge, namely, to call Conchobor, the finest king of a province in Ireland, a petty lord.

Then came Fiachu mac Fir Aba to parley with Cú Chulainn. Cú Chulainn welcomed him. ‘I trust that welcome’. ‘You may well trust it’. ‘To parley with you have I come from Medb’. ‘What terms did you bring?’ ‘Compensation shall be


{line 1401-1436} made to you for the damage done to the Ulstermen that you may be paid as the men of Ireland best adjudge. You shall have entertainment in Crúachu and be served with wine and mead. And you shall enter the service of Ailill and of Medb, for that is more advantageous for you than to be in the service of the petty lord with whom you now are’. ‘No, indeed’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘I would not exchange my mother's brother for another king’. ‘Come early tomorrow to Glenn Fochaíne to a meeting with Medb and Fergus’.

Then early on the morrow Cú Chulainn came to Glenn Fochaíne. Medb and Fergus came there too to meet him, and Medb gazed at Cú Chulainn, and in her own mind she belittled him for he seemed to her no more than a boy. ‘Is that the famous Cú Chulainn of whom you speak, Fergus?’ asked Medb. And Medb began to speak to Fergus and made the lay:


¶1] If that is the fair Hound of whom ye Ulstermen speak, no man who faces hardship but can ward him off from the men of Ireland.


¶2] Though young the Hound you see there who rides over Mag Muirthemne, no man who places foot on earth but he will repel in single combat.


¶3] Let terms be taken from us to the warrior. He is mad if he violate them. He shall have half his cows and half his womenfolk, and let him change his way of fighting.


¶4] I wish that the Hound from great Muirthemne be not defeated by you. I know that if it be he, he fears no fierce or famous deed of arms.

‘Speak you to Cú Chulainn, Fergus’ said Medb. ‘Nay’, said Fergus, ‘rather speak to him yourself, for ye are not far apart in this glen, Glenn Fochaíre’. And Medb began to address Cú Chulainn and chanted a lay:


¶1] O Cú Chulainn renowned in song, ward off from us your sling. Your fierce famed fighting has overcome us and confused us.


{line 1437-1472}

Cú Chulainn

O Medb from Múr mac Mágach, I am no inglorious coward. As long as I live I shall not yield to you the driving of the herd of Cúailnge.


¶3] If you would accept from us, O triumphant Hound of Cúailnge, half your cows and half your womenfolk, you will get them from us through fear of you

"you ... you", following ST


Cú Chulainn

¶4] Since I, by virtue of those I have slain, am the veteran who guards Ulster, I shall accept no terms until am given every milch cow, every women of the Gael.


¶5] Too greatly do you boast, after slaughtering our nobles, that we should keep guard on the best of our steeds, the best of our possessions, all because of one man.

Cú Chulainn

¶6] O daughter of Eochu Find Fáil, I am no good in such a contention. Though I am a warrior—clear omen!—my counsels are few.


¶7] No reproach to you is what you say, many-retinued son of Deichtere. The terms are such as will bring fame to you, O triumphant Cú Chulainn.

After that lay: Cú Chulainn accepted none of the terms that Medb asked of him. In that manner they parted in the glen and each side withdrew equally angry.

The men of the four great provinces of Ireland encamped for three days and three nights at Druim En in Conaille Muirthemne. But neither huts nor tents were set up, nor was meal or repast eaten by them and no music or melody was played by them during those three nights. And every night until the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow, Cú Chulainn used to kill a hundred of their warriors. ‘Not long will our hosts last in this manner’ said Medb, ‘if Cú Chulainn kill a hundred of our men every night. Why do we not offer him terms and why do we not parley with him?’ ‘What terms are those?’ asked Ailill. ‘Let him be offered those of the cattle that have milk and those of the captives who are base-born, and let him cease to ply his sling on the men of Ireland and let him allow the hosts at least to sleep’. ‘Who


{line 1473-1505} will go with those terms?’ asked Ailill. ‘Who else but Mac Roth, the messenger’ said Medb. ‘I shall not go indeed’ said Mac Roth, ‘for I do not know the way and I do not know where Cú Chulainn is’. ‘Ask Fergus’ said Medb, ‘it is likely that he knows’. ‘I do not know’ said Fergus, ‘but I should think that he might be between Fochaín and the sea, exposing himself to wind and sun after his sleeplessness last night when single-handed he slew and demolished the host’. It was as Fergus had said.

Heavy snow fell that night so that all the provinces of Ireland were one white expanse. And Cú Chulainn cast off the twenty-seven shirts, waxed and hard as boards, which used to be bound to his skin with ropes and cords so that his sense might not be deranged when his fit of fury came upon him. The snow melted for thirty feet around him on all sides, so great was the ardour of the warrior and so hot the body of Cú Chulainn, and the charioteer could not remain near him because of the greatness of the fury and ardour of the warrior and because of the heat of his body.

‘A single warrior comes towards us, little Cú’ said Láeg. ‘What kind of warrior?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘A dark-haired, handsome, broad-faced fellow. A fine brown cloak about him, a bronze pin in his cloak. A strong, plaited shirt next to his skin. Two shoes between his feet and the ground. He carries a staff of white hazel in one hand and in the other a one-edged sword with guards of ivory’. ‘Well, driver’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘those are the tokens of a messenger. That is one of the messengers of Ireland coming to speak and parley with me’.

Then Mac Roth arrived at the spot where Láeg was. ‘Whose vassal are you, fellow?

"Whose ... fellow", follwing ST

’ asked Mac Roth. ‘I am vassal to the warrior up yonder’ said the driver. Mac Roth came to the spot where Cú Chulainn was. ‘Whose vassal are you, warrior?

"Whose ... warrior", following ST

’ asked Mac Roth. ‘I am the vassal of Conchobor mac Fachtna Fáthaig’. ‘Have you no information more exact than that?’‘That is enough for now’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘Find out for me where I might find that famous Cú Chulainn whom the men of Ireland are hunting now on this hosting’. ‘What would you say to him that you would not say to me?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘I have come from Ailill and Medb to parley with him and to offer him terms and peace’. ‘What terms have you brought him?’ ‘All that are milch of the kine, all that are base-born among the


{line 1506-1538} captives, on condition that he cease to ply his sling against the hosts, for not pleasant is the thunder feat he performs against them every evening’. ‘Even if he whom you seek were at hand, he would not accept the proposals you ask. For the Ulstermen, if they have no dry cows, will kill their milch cows for companies and satirists and guests, for the sake of their honour, and they will take their low-born women to bed and thus there will arise in the land of Ulster a progeny which is base on the side of the mothers’. Mac Roth went back. ‘Did you not find him?’ asked Medb. ‘I found a surly, angry, fearsome, fierce fellow between Fochaín and the sea. I do not know if he is the famed Cú Chulainn’. ‘Did he accept those terms?’ ‘He did not indeed’. And Mac Roth told them the reason why he did not accept. ‘It was Cú Chulainn to who you spoke’ said Fergus.

‘Let other terms be taken to him’ said Medb. ‘What terms?’ asked Ailill. ‘All the dry kine of the herds, all the noble among the captives, and let him cease to ply his sling on the hosts for not pleasant is the thunder feat he performs against them every evening’. ‘Who will go with those terms?’ ‘Who but Mac Roth’. ‘I shall indeed go’ said Mac Roth, ‘for now I know the way’. Mac Roth came to speak to Cú Chulainn. ‘ I have come now to speak with you for I know that you are the famous Cú Chulainn’. ‘What terms did you bring with you then?’ ‘All the dry kine in the herd, all the nobly-born among the captives, and cease to ply your sling against the men of Ireland and let them sleep, for not pleasant is the thunder feat you perform against them every evening’. ‘I shall not accept those terms, for the Ulstermen will kill their dry kine for the sake of their honour, for Ulstermen are generous, and Ulstermen will be left without any dry cattle or any milch cattle. They will set their free-born women to work at querns and kneading troughs and bring them into slavery and servile work. I do not wish to leave after me in Ulster the reproach of having made slaves and bondwomen of the daughters of the kings and royal leaders of Ulster’. ‘Are there any terms at all that you accept now.?’ ‘There are indeed’ said Cú Chulainn. ‘Do you tell me terms then?’ asked Mac Roth. ‘I vow’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘that it is not I who will tell them to you’. ‘Who then?’ asked Mac Roth. ‘If you have within the camp’ said Cú Chulainn, ‘some one who should know my terms, let him tell you, and if you have not, let no one come any more to me offering terms or peace, for whoever so comes, that will be the length of his life’. Mac Roth went back


{line 1539-1572} and Medb asked him for news. ‘Did you find him?’ said Medb. ‘I did indeed’ said Mac Roth. ‘Did he accept?’ asked Medb. ‘He did not’ said Mac Roth. ‘Are there any terms which he accepts?’ ‘There are, he says’. ‘Did he make known those terms to you?’ ‘What he said’ answered Mac Roth, ‘was that it will not be he who will tell you them’. ‘Who then?’ asked Medb. ‘But if there is among us one who should know the terms he asks, let him tell me, and if there is not, let no one ever again come near him. But there is one thing I assert’ said Mac Roth, ‘even if you were to give me the kingship of Ireland I myself shall not go to tell them to him’.

Then Medb gazed at Fergus. ‘What terms does yonder man demand, Fergus?’ said Medb. ‘I see no advantage at all for you in the terms he asks’ said Fergus. ‘What terms are those?’ said Medb. ‘That one man from the men of Ireland should fight him every day. While that man is being killed, the army to be permitted to continue their march. Then when he has killed that man, another warrior to be sent to him at the ford or else the men of Ireland to remain in camp there until the bright hour of sunrise on the morrow. And further, Cú Chulainn to be fed and clothed by you as long as the Foray lasts’.

‘By my conscience’ said Ailill, ‘those are grievous terms’. ‘What he asks is good’ said Medb, ‘and he shall get those terms, for we deem it preferable to lose one warrior every day rather than a hundred warriors every night’. ‘Who will go and tell those terms to Cú Chulainn?’ ‘Who but Fergus’ said Medb. ‘No’ said Fergus. ‘Why not?’ asked Ailill. ‘Let pledges and covenants, bonds and guarantees be given for abiding by those terms and for fulfilling them to Cú Chulainn’. ‘I agree to that’ said Medb, and Fergus bound them to security in the same way.