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Reicne Fothaid Canainne

Author: [unknown]

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translated by Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled and proof corrections by Beatrix Färber

Funded by the HEA via PRTLI 4

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent of text: 3570 words


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Text ID Number: T303016

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    Manuscript sources for Irish text
  1. Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 1080 (olim B. IV 2), fo. 133b–135a (poem).
  2. Dublin, Trinity College Library, 1336 olim H. 3. 17, col. 856–858 (introductory prose), 16th century. The manuscript is made up of several parts of differing provenance bound together and is a miscellany of legal, historical, religious and narrative texts.
    Editions and translations
  1. Kuno Meyer (ed. and trans.), Selections from Ancient Irish poetry, selected and translated by Kuno Meyer (London 1911).
  2. Alfred Perceval Graves (ed. and intr.), The Book of Irish poetry. (Every Irishman's Library) (London 1915) 263–269 (an English translation in verse).
  3. David Greene and Frank O'Connor (eds. and transs.), 'A ben, nacham shaig i-lle', A golden treasury of Irish poetry, A.D. 600 to 1200 (London 1967), 86–92 (portions of the poem).
  1. Joseph Vendryes, Revue Celtique 32 (1911) 106–108.
  2. E. J. Gwynn, Revue Celtique 48 (1931) 458.
  3. Vernam Hull, 'The Death of Fothath Cananne, ZCP 20 (1936) 400–404 (A shorter prose version).
  4. Osborn Bergin, 'On the syntax of the verb in Old Irish' Ériu 12 (1938) 197–213: 204.
  5. Vernam Hull, Reicne Fothaid Canainne, Modern Language Notes 58 (Jan 1943) 29–31 (available on JSTOR).
  6. Vernam Hull, 'rondid', Language 25 (1949) 134–135. (Miscellanea Linguistica Hibernica, no. 6).
  7. Vernam Hull, A verse in Reicne Fothaid Canainne, ZCP 29 (1962/64) 183–186. (Notes on Irish texts, no. 1).
  8. Peter McQuillan, 'Finn, Fothad, and Fian: Some Early Associations', in: Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium 8 (1988), 1–10.
  9. Jacqueline Borsje, 'Fled Bricrenn and tales of terror', Peritia 19 (2005), 173–192: 190–191.
  10. Gregory Toner, 'Authority, verse and the transmission of Senchas', Ériu 55 (2005) 59–84.
  11. Jacqueline Borsje, 'The 'Terror of the Night' and the Morrígain: Shifting Faces of the Supernatural', in: Mícheál Ó Flaithearta (ed), Proceedings of the Seventh Symposium of Societas Celtologica Nordica. Studia Celtica Upsaliensia 6. Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis (Uppsala 2007) 71–98. [Available online here:]
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. Kuno Meyer, Reicne Fothaid Canainne in Fianaigecht. , Dublin, School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (1910) (1937) (1993) page 1–17: 5–17


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CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The electronic text covers odd pages 5–17.

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Text has been proof-read twice.


The electronic text represents the edited text. The editor's annotations are integrated into the markup and numbered sequentially. text supplied by the editor is tagged sup resp="KM". sup resp="VH" is used for an emendation by Vernam Hull in verse 19.


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Created: Translated by Kuno Meyer (c.1910)

Use of language

Language: [EN] The text is in English.
Language: [GA] Some words are in Irish.
Language: [LA] Some words are in Latin.

Revision History

Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: T303016

Reicne Fothaid Canainne: Author: [unknown]



There once was a leader of fiana over the men of Connacht, even Fothad Canainne. He and Fothad Airctech and Fothad Cairptech were brothers. This was why they were called the Fothads, because they were fotha suith, 'a foundation of offspring'; for they were the first children whom Fuinche bore to Macnia. Or Fothad, viz., fo-táide, i.e. by stealth were they begotten by Macnia upon Fuinche the daughter of Nár son of Armair.1 Or, Fothad, viz., fí-aeda, i.e. venom of fire, for they were a virulent fire in destroying clans and races. Oendia (‘one god’2), however, and Tréndia (‘strong god’) and Cáindia (‘fair god’) were their names. Oendia was Airctech, Trendia was Cairptech, Caindia was Fothad Canann.

At one birth they were all three brought forth by Fuinche, daughter of Nár. She lay in by Lugaid mac Con, ut alii dicunt. Fuinche brought forth Oendia at nightfall. He is so called, because he was a king's son, for the excellence of the lucky hour. Trendia was born at midnight. The name was given to him for the strength of luck with the gods at that hour.3 Caindia was born in the morning. Because of the loveliness and the beauty of the dawn of morning, therefore Caindia is his name. Of them the shanachie has sung:—

    1. The three Fothads of Ireland without a blemish,
      three sons of Lugaid, Garrchú's son:
      before the men were called Fothad,
      what were their names to show them forth?
    2. Oendia and Cáindia the champion,
      and Tréndia, I hide it not:
      those are—they teach renown—
      the names truly of the Fothads.
    3. Oendia was Airctech of the clans,
      and Cáindia was Fothad Canann,
      Tréndia was Cairptech, you see,

      with the High-king
    4. Three F.


According to others they were called Fothad, as it were fó-suit, i.e. fo means ‘good’, viz., they were good foundations, i.e. a distinguished progeny. Fothad Canann is so called from Canann, a houndthat he had; whence also Canann4 in Mag Life is called. Or Fothad Cáinine, viz. cáin, i.e. delightful was the day when he was born.

Fothad Aircthech ‘the silvery’ is so called because wealth was dearest to him; for that was his champion's bracelet and his two rings and his neck-torque.5

Fothad Cairptech ‘of the chariots’ is so called because this is the portion that he used to give to his sons, steeds with their chariots. And he was also called Fothad Dolus6.

This Fothad Canainne was noble and ingenious. He was the diadem of a household and of a host. He had a war-band fian of famous warriors, who were distingished for dress and terror and dignity and raiment and fierceness beyond the warriors of that time.

There was also at that time a famous leader of fiana in Munster, even Ailill Flann Bec. There was mutual strife between them on both sides; and they made raids upon each other. Fothad's shape was more marvellous than that of Ailill, but Ailill's wife was more marvellous and delightful than Fothad's wife. Then Failbe was sent by7 Fothad to woo Ailill's wife in disregard of her husband. She said that she would not go with them until he should give her bride-price to her. She fixed her bride-price, even a bushel of gold and a bushel of silver and a bushel of white bronze. Failbe reports that answer to Fothad. Fothad said she should have that. The woman asked [...]8 she would take it in whatever form it was offered (?). He said that each man of Fothad's household had six rivets in his spear, viz. two rivets of gold and two rivets of silver and two rivets of white bronze; and they would take three rivets out of every spear and leave three rivets in every spear, and thus three bushels would be filled with them, even a bushel of gold, and a bushel of silver, and a bushel of bronze.


So she came to a tryst with Fothad and he carried her off. However, Ailill Flann Bec went with all his warrior-bands fiana in pursuit of his wife, so that he encountered Fothad the same night. They fought a battle with their two warrior-bands.9 They had sworn that they would overthrow each other. Fothad falls there and is beheaded. The woman who comes to a tryst with Fothad carries his head to him in the grave where it is. Then the head of Fothad sang the reicne to the woman and said:—
‘Hush, woman, do not speak to me, &c.’


    1. Hush, woman! Do not speak to me!
      My thoughts are not with thee.
      My thoughts are still
      in the encounter at Féic.10
    2. My bloody corpse lies
      by the side of the Slope of two Brinks,
      my head all unwashed is
      among warrior-bands in fierce slaughter.
    3. It is blindness11 for anyone making a tryst
      to set aside the tryst with death:
      the tryst that was made at Clárach
      has been kept by me in pale death.12
    4. It was destined for me,—unhappy was my journey!—
      at Féic my grave had been marked out;
      it was ordained for me—sorrowful fight!13
      to fall by warriors of another land.
    5. 'Tis not I alone who in the fulness of desires
      have gone astray to meet a woman—
      no reproach to thee, though it was for thy sake—
      wretched is our last meeting!
    6. I have come from afar to the tryst with thee;
      there was horror upon my noble companion.14
      If we had known it would be thus,
      it had been easy not to persist.
    7. Men were wont to bear away gifts from Fothad
      who is now on his bed of death to the very hour in which he fell:
      even thus—a fight against fate!—
      the slaying of Fothad is not without benefit.15
    8. The noble-faced grey-horsed warrior-band
      has not betrayed me
      [gap: meaning unclear]
      Alas for the wonderful yew-forest
      that they should go into the abode of clay!
    9. If they had been alive,
      they would have revenged their lords:
      had mighty death not intervened,16
      this warrior-band had not been unavenged by me.17
    10. To their very end they were swift;
      they strove ever for victory over their foes.
      They would sing a stave—heavy their shout—
      it was from a noble lord they sprang.
    11. That was a joyous lithe-limbed band
      to the very hour when they were slain:
      the green-leaved forest has received them,
      it was an all-fierce slaughter.

    12. p.13

    13. Well-armed Domnall, he of the red draught,
      he was the Lug18 of the well-accoutred hosts:
      by him in the ford—it was doom of death19
      Congal the Slender fell.
    14. The three Eogans, the three Flanns,
      they were renowned outlaws;
      four men fell by each of them,
      it was not a coward's portion.
    15. Swiftly Cú Domna reached us,
      making for his name-sake:
      on the hill of the encounter
      the body of Flann the Little will be found.
    16. Thou wilt find20
      —a ready union—
      it is hard for Conchobar!
      a hard fall that was of Eogan the Red's
      to the north-east of the river.21
    17. With him where his bloody bed is
      thou wilt find eight men:
      though we thought them feeble,
      the leavings of the weapon of Mugairne's son.22
    18. Not feebly fights Falbe Flann,
      the play of his spear-strings withers the host;
      Fercorb of radiant body leapt upon the field
      and dealt seven murderous blows.
    19. The combat of Mugarn with Mugna,—
      two brave whelps were they;
      if the puissant fian had not come to them,
      their contest had been dour.
    20. It casts every tribe into dread,
      the fair brood of staunch Falbe the Red:
      before all the rest our two cup-bearers
      perished by each other's hand.
    21. O great distress from lack of drink,
      the parting for ever from copious plenty!
      I thought thou wouldst have come to me,23
      though thou hadst not promised the fian.
    22. Front to front twelve warriors
      stood against me in mutual fight:
      not one of them all remains
      that I did not leave in slaughter.
    23. Thereupon we exchanged spears,
      I and Ailill, Eogan's son:
      we both of us perished thereof—
      Oh, the fierceness of these two stout thrusts!
      we perished mutually, though it was senseless;
      it was the encounter of two heroes.
    24. Do not wait for the terror of night
      on the battle-field among the resting-places of the hosts;
      one should not hold converse with a dead man,
      betake thee to thy house, carry my spoils with thee!

    25. p.15

    26. Everyone will tell thee
      that it was not the raiment of a churl:
      a crimson cloak and a white tunic,
      a belt of silver, no paltry work.
    27. My five-pronged spear, a lance with venom,
      whose slaughters were many;
      a shield with five circles, with a boss of bronze,
      by which they used to swear binding oaths.
    28. The white cup of my cup-bearer,
      a shining gem, will glitter before thee;
      my golden finger-ring, my bracelets, treasures without a flaw,
      Nia Nár24 brought them across the sea.
    29. Cáilte's brooch, a pin with luck,
      it was one of his marvellous treasures:
      two heads of silver round a head of gold,
      it is a good piece, though it is small.
    30. Quickly unclasp it—there was the end of blood-shedding!—
      the bronze coil around my neck:
      all this—they are noble spoils—
      is in the place where I fell on my side.25
    31. My draught-board, no mean treasure,
      is thine; take it with thee!
      Noble blood drips upon its rim,
      it is not far hence where it lies.
    32. Many a body of the spear-armed hosts lies
      here and there around its crimson woof:
      the dense bush of the ruddy oak-wood conceals it
      by the side of the grave north-west.
    33. As thou carefully searchest for it,
      thou shouldst not speak much:
      earth never covered
      anything so marvellous as it.
    34. One half of its figures are yellow gold,
      the others are white bronze;
      its woof is of pearl;
      it is the wonder of smiths how it was wrought.
    35. Four candle -sticks, a white light,
      not feebly do they illumine its board;
      grease in their fire, no false story,

      [gap: meaning unclear]
    36. The bag for its figures—'tis a marvel of a story—
      its rim is embroidered with gold;
      the master-smith has left a lock upon it
      which no ignorant person can open.
    37. A four-cornered casket—it is tiny—
      it has been made of coils of red gold;
      one hundred ounces of white bronze
      have been put into it firmly.
    38. For it is of a coil of firm red gold,
      Dínoll the gold-smith brought it over the sea;
      even one of its clasps only
      has been priced at seven lay-women.

    39. p.17

    40. Memories describe it
      as one of Turbe's master-works:27
      in the time of Art,—he was a luxurious king,—
      'tis then Turbe, lord of many herds, made it.
    41. Many a skirmish has been fought about it
      by the king of the Romans in Latium;
      after a banquet of wine,—'twas an intoxicating drink,—
      'tis then it was revealed to Find.
    42. Smiths never made any work
      to which it can be compared;
      earth never has hidden
      with a king a jewel that is so marvellous.
    43. If thou be cunning as to its price,
      'tis plain to me thy children will not be miserable;
      if thou hoard it, a close treasure,
      no race of thine will be in want.28
    44. There are around us here and there
      many spoils whose luck is famous;
      horrible are the huge entrails
      which the Mórrígan29 washes.
    45. She has come to us from the edge of a pillar (?),
      'tis she who has egged us on;
      many are the spoils she washes,
      horrible the hateful laugh she laughs.
    46. She has flung her mane over her back,
      a stout heart
      [gap: meaning unclear]
      30 that hates her;
      though it is near us here where she is,
      let not fear attack thy shape.
    47. If hitherto I have been in peril,

      [gap: meaning unclear]
      for my salvation;
      O woman,
      [gap: meaning unclear]

      fair was the aspect under which we parted.
    48. I shall now part from all that is human,
      in the morning after the band of youths.
      Go to thy house, do not stay here,
      the end of the night is at hand.
    49. Some one will at all times remember
      the reicne of Fothad Canainne;
      my discourse with thee shall not be unrenowned,
      if thou consider my bequest.
    50. Since my grave will be frequented,
      let a
      31 be placed, a conspicuous tomb;
      no loss of labour thou seest
      from thy trouble after thy love.
    51. My riddled body must part from thee awhile,
      my soul to be tortured by the black demon.
      Save for the worship of Heaven's King,
      love of this world is folly.
    52. It is the dusky ousel that laughs
      a greeting to all the faithful:
      my speech, my shape are spectral—
      hush, woman, do not speak to me!