Liadain of the Corco Dubne, a poetess, went visiting into the country of Connaught. There Cuirithir, Otter's son, of Connaught, himself a poet, made an ale-feast for her.
Why should not we two unite, Liadain? saith Cuirithir. A son of us two would be famous.
Do not let us do so, saith she, lest my round of visiting be ruined for me. If you will come for me again at my home, I shall go with you.
That fell so. Southward he went, and a single gillie behind him with his poet's cloak in a bag upon his back, while Cuirithir himself was in a poor cloak. And there were spearheads in the bag also. He went till he was at the well beside Liadain's court. There he took his crimson cloak about him, and the heads were put upon their shafts, and he stood brandishing them.
Then he saw Mac Da Cherda, coming towards him, a fool, the son of Maelochtraig, son of Dinertach, of the Dessi of Munster. He would go dryshod across sea and land alike. Chief poet he was and the fool of all Ireland.
He went up to Cuirithir. Well met!, said Mac Da Cherda.
So be it! said Curithir. Are you the owner of the court? Not I, said Curithir; whence are you yourself? I am the poor fool of the Dessi, Mac Da Cherda is my name.
We have heard of you, said Curithir. Will you go into the court?.
I will, said he. Do me a favour, said Curithir. The tall woman who is there, tell her, using your own wits, to come to this well. What is your name? Liadain. What is yours? Curithir Otter's son. Right! quoth he. He goes into the house. She was there in her bed-room with four other women. Down he sat, but no notice was taken of him. 'Twas then he said:
- The mansion
Which the pillars support
If any there be who have made a tryst,
The behest for them is till sunset.
- It were timely one should visit thee,
O well which art before the house,
Around it larks
Fair, hesitating (?), take flight.
- Darkness is on my eyes,
I make nothing of indications,
So that I call Liadain (the Grey Lady)
Every woman whom I do not know.
- O woman with the firm foot,
Thy like for great fame I have not found:
Under nun's veil will not be known
A woman with more sense.
- The son of the beast
That stays at night under pools,
As he waits for you,
Pale-grey feet with points support him.
It is after this she went with Curithir, and they put themselves under the spiritual direction of Cummine the Tall, the son of Fiachna.
Good, said Cummine. It is many of my morsels that are offered up. The power of soul-friendship be upon you! Whether for you shall it be seeing, or talking together?
Talking for us! said Curithir. What will come of it will be better. We have ever been looking at each other.
So whenever he went around the grave-stones of the saints, her cell was closed upon her. In the same way his would be closed upon him whenever she went. 'Tis then she said:
[She expostulates with Cummine and exculpates herself.]
- Curithir, once the poet,
I loved; the profit has not reached me:
Dear lord of two grey feet,
It will be alas to be without their company for ever!
- The flagstone to the south of the oratory
Upon which is he who was poet once,
It is there I often go each day,
At eve after the triumph of prayer.
- He shall have neither cow
Nor yearlings nor heifers,
Never a mate shall be
At the right hand of him who once was a poet.
- Beloved is the dear voice that I hear,
I dare not welcome it!
But this only do I say:
Beloved is this dear voice!
Says the woman:
- The voice which comes to me through the wattled wall,
It is right for it to blame me:
What the voice does to me, is
It will not let me sleep.
- Thou man, ill it is what thou dost,
To name me with Curithir:
He from the brink of Lough Seng,
I from Kil-Conchinn.
Sleep by each other to-night! said Cummine, And let a little scholar go between you lest you do any folly.
It was then Curithir said:
- If it is one night you say
I am to sleep with Liadain,
A layman who would sleep the night
Would make much of it that he had not bought it.
It was then Liadain said:
- If it is one night you say
I am to sleep with Curithir,
Though a year we gave to it,
There would be converse between us.
They sleep by each other that night. On the morrow the little boy is brought to Cummine to be examined on soul and conscience.
You must not conceal anything, said Cummine; I shall kill you if you do,
It is indifferent to him whether he dies: I shall kill you if you confess.
After that Curithir was taken to another church. It was then he said:
[Liadain repudiates the term 'wife'.]
- Of late
Since I parted from Liadain,
Long as a month every day,
Long as a year every month.
- If Curithir to-day
Is gone to the scholars,
Alas for the sense he will make
To any who do not know!
- What you say is not well,
Liadain, wife of Curithir.
Curithir was here, he was not mad,
Any more than before he came.
- That Friday
It was no camping on pastures of honey,
Upon the fleeces of my white couch
Between the arms of Curithir.
He however went on a pilgrimage until he came to Kil-Letrech in the land of the Dessi. She went seeking him and said:
The bargain I have made!
The heart of him I loved I wrung.
- 'Twas madness
Not to do his pleasure,
Were there not the fear of the King of Heaven.
- To him the way he has wished
Was great gain,
To go past the pains of Hell into Paradise.
- 'Twas a trifle
That wrung Curithir's heart against me:
To him great was my gentleness.
- I am Liadain
Who loved Curithir:
It is true as they say.
- A short while I was
In the company of Curithir:
Sweet was my intimacy with him.
- The music of the forest
Would sing to me when with Curithir,
Together with the voice of the purple sea.
- Would that
Nothing whatever of all I might do
Should wring the heart of Curithir against me!
- Conceal it not!
He was the love of my heart,
If I loved every other.
- A roaring flame
Dissolved this heart of mine,
However, for certain it will cease to beat.
But how she had wrung his heart was the haste with which she had taken the veil.
When he heard that she was coming from the west, he went in a coracle upon the sea, and took to strange lands and pilgrimage, so that she never saw him more. He has gone now! she said.
The flagstone upon which he was wont to pray, she was upon it till she died. Her soul went to Heaven. And that flagstone was put over her face.
Thus far the Meeting of Liadain and Curithir.