translated by Donald Mackinnon
Electronic edition compiled by Ruth Murphy
Funded by The HEA via the LDT Project and
1. First draft, revised and corrected.
Extent of text: 42,000 words
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Created: Date range: 19041908.
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Beatrix Färber (ed.)
Ruth Murphy (ed.)
Ruth Murphy (data capture)
¶1] A feast of great taste and magnificence was prepared by Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, and by the nobles of Ulster besides, in smooth, beautiful Emain Macha. And (all) the nobles of the province came to that feast. And (wine) was served out to them until they were all glad and cheerful and in high spirits. And the musicians and players and poets rose up in their presence to (sing) their songs and lays and chants, and to (recite) their genealogies and their branches of relationship.
¶2] These are the names of the poets who were at that feast, namely, Cathbad son of Congal Flat-nailed son of Rugraid, and Genan Bright-cheek son of Cathbad, and Genan Black-knee son of Cathbad, and Genan Gad [...] son of Cathbad, and Sencha the Great son of Ailill son of Athgno son of Fer[...] son of Gl[...] son of Ros of Ruad, and Fercertne the poet son of Angus Red-mouth son of F[...] the poet son of Gl[...] son of Ros son of Ruad. And it is thus they used to feast at Emain,a certain night was set apart for each man of the household of Conchobar. And the number of Conchobar's household was three hundred three score and five. And they enjoyed themselves there that night until Conchobar raised his loud king's voice on high, and spoke this: I desire to ask of you, warriors, said Conchobar,
p.15whether you have ever seen a braver household than yourselves in Ireland or in Scotland or in the great world in any place you have known(?) as far as the city of Muirn Molfaig. We certainly have not, said they, nor do we know if there be any. If so, said Conchobar, do you know anything in the world which you lack?
¶3] We know nothing, high king, said they. I know, warriors, said he, one thing ye lack, namely, that the three Torches of Valour of the Gael are not with us, to wit, the three sons of Uisnech, Naisi and Ainle and Ardan, and that they should avoid us because of any woman in the world, inasmuch as Naisi, son of Uisnech, is for valour and heroism fit to be high king of Ireland, and the might of his own hand has gained for him a possession upon the slope of Scotland.
¶4] Royal soldier, said they had we dared to say that, we would have said it long ago. For it is well known that they are the sons of a king of a border district, and they would defend the province of Ulster against every other province in Ireland, although no other Ulsterman should rise with them, for they are heroes in courage, and these three are lions in might and valour. If it be so, said Conchobar, let messages and envoys be sent for them to the bounds of Scotland, to Loch Etive, and to the stronghold of the sons of Uisnech in Scotland. Who will go upon that (message)? said they all. I know, said Conchobar, that is one of Naisi's prohibitions
p.17not to come to Ireland in peace, except with three men, namely, Cuchulainn son of Subaltam, and Conall son of Aimirgin, and Fergus son of Ros; and I shall (now) know which if these three men loves me most.
¶5] And he took Conall into a place apart and asked him: What would you do, royal-hero of the world, if you were sent for the sons of Uisnech, and that they were destroyed notwithstanding your safeguard and honour, which I do not purpose to do?
¶6] Not the death of one man would result from that, said Conall, but no Ulsterman whom I could lay hold of would escape from me without death and destruction and slaughter being inflicted upon him. That is true, Conall, said Conchobar; now I understand that you love me not. And he sent Conall from him; and Cuchulainn was brought to him, and he asked the same thing of him. I give my word, said Cuchulainn, if you were to search eastwards unto India, I would not take a bribe in the glove from you, but you yourself would fall in that deed. That is true, Cu, that not with me
and now I perceive that (I am) not hated by you. And he sent Cuchulainn away, and Fergus was brought to him. And he asked the same thing of him. And this is what Fergus said to him: I promise not to take your blood, said Fergus; and yet there is not an Ulsterman whom I should lay hold of who would not find death and slaughter from me.
¶7] It is you who shall go for the children of Uisnech, royal soldier, said Conchobar; and set forward to-morrow, said he for it is with you they will come. And after coming from the East, betake thee to the fortress of Borrach, son of Annti, and give your word to me that so soon as they arrive in Ireland, they will be allowed neither stay nor rest, so that they come that night to Emain Macha.
¶8] They came in thereafter, and Fergus told of his going in warranty of the children of Uisnech. And his other guarantor of the nobles of the province joined him in those warranties. And that night passed.
¶9] And Conchobar addressed Borrach, son of Annti, and asked him: Have you a feast for me? said Conchobar. Certainly I have, said Borrach, and I was able to prepare it, though I am not able to bring it to thee to Emain Macha. If it be so, then, said Conchobar, give it to Fergus, for it is (one) of his prohibitions to refuse a feast. And Borrach promised that. And that night passed without harm or danger.
¶10] And Fergus rose early on the morrow, and he did not bring with him of hosts or multitude save his own two sons, namely, Illann the Fair and Buinne Rude-red, and Cuillenn, the lad of the Iubrach, and the Iubrach. And they set forward to the fortress of the sons of Uisnech and to Loch Etive. And thus were the sons of Uisnech: they had three spacious hunting-booths, and the booth in which they cooked, therein they ate not, and the booth in which they ate, therein they slept not. And Fergus uttered a great shout in the bay which was heard through the farthest parts of the bounds nearest to them. And thus were Naisi and Deirdre at the time with Conchobar's Cenncaom, that is, the king's draughtboard,
p.107between them, and playing on it. And Naisi said, I hear the cry of an Irishman, said he. And Deirdre heard the cry, and knew that it was the cry of Fergus, and she concealed it from them. And Fergus gave a second shout, and Naisi said: I hear another cry, and it is the cry of an Irishman. Not so, said Deirdre, not alike are the cry of an Irishman and that of a Scotsman. And Fergus gave a third shout, and the sons of Uisnech knew that that was the cry of Fergus. And Naisi said to Ardan to go to meet Fergus.
¶11] And Deirdre knew that it was Fergus who made the first shout, and she told Naisi that she recognised the first cry which Fergus made. Why did you conceal it, lady? said Naisi. (Because of) a vision I saw last night, said Deirdre, namely, three birds to have come to us from Emain Macha with three sips of honey in their bills; and those three sips they left with us, and they took three sips of our blood away with them. How do you interpret that vision, lady? said Naisi. Thus, said she, that Fergus has come to us with a message of peace from our own native land, for honey is not sweeter than a message of peace; and the three sips of blood that have been taken from us, they are you who will go with him, and you will be betrayed.
¶12] And they were displeased with what she had said. And Naisi told Ardan to go and meet Fergus. He went then, and when he came to them, he gave them three kisses earnestly and right loyally, and brought them with him to the stronghold of the sons of Uisnech, where Naisi and Deirdre were. And they gave three kisses lovingly and fervently to Fergus and to his sons. And they asked the news of Ireland, and especially of Ulster. The best news we have, said Fergus, are that Conchobar has sent me for you, and has put me in warranty and covenant, for I am loving and loyal to you, and my word is pledged to make
p.109my warranty good. You ought not to go thither, said Deirdre, for your own lordship in Scotland is greater than that of Conchobar in Ireland. Better than everything is one's native land, said Fergus, for the greatest prosperity does not bring joy unless one sees his native land. That is true, said Naisi, for dearer to myself is Ireland than Scotland, though I should get more of Scotland's good. My word and warranty are sure for you, said Fergus. They are assuredly, said Naisi; and we will go with you.
¶13] And it was against Deirdre's wish what they said there, and she was opposing them. Fergus himself gave them his word that though all the men of Ireland should join in betraying them, neither shield nor sword nor helmet should protect them, provided he could lay hold of them. That is true, said Naisi; and we will go with thee to Emain Macha. They rested that night till the early light of morning came on the morrow. And Naisi and Fergus rose and made ready the Iubrach, and they sailed over the sea and great ocean until they arrived at the fortress of Borrach, son of Annti.
¶14] And Deirdre looked behind her on the shores of Scotland, and this is what she said: My love to thee, yonder land in the east, said she, and sad it is for me to leave the sides of thy bays and harbours, and of thy smooth-flowered, lovely meadows, and of thy green-sided delightful knolls. And little did we need to do so. And she sang the lay:
- A land dear (to me) is yon land in the east,
Alba with (its) wonders,
I would not have come hither out of it
Were I not coming with Naisi.
- Dear are Dun-fidhga and Dun-finn;
Dear is the Dun above them;
Dear is Inis Draigen, also;
And dear is Dun Suibhne.
- Caill Cuan!
To which Ainnle used to resort, alas!
Short I deemed the time
With Naisi on the coast of Alba.
- Glen Laidh!
I used to sleep under a lovely rock;
Fish and venison and fat of badger,
That was my food in Glen Laidh.
- Glen Masain!
Tall its sorrel, white its tufts:
We used to have unsteady sleep
Above the shaggy Inver of Masan.
- Glen Etive!
There I built my first house:
Lovely its woods after rising
(A cattlefold of the sun is Glen Etive).
- Glen Urchain!
It was the straight, fair-ridged glen:
Not more gallant was a man of his age
Than Naisi in Glen Urchain.
- Glen Daruadh!
Dear to me each of its native men;
Sweet the cuckoo's note on bending bough,
On the peak above Glen Daruadh.
- Dear (to me) is Draigen with its great beach;
Dear its water in pure sand:
I would not have come out of it from the east,
Were I not coming with my beloved.
¶15] After that they came to Borrach's fortress, and (Borrach) gave three kisses to the sons of Uisnech, and welcomed Fergus and his sons. And this is what Borrach said: I have a feast for you, Fergus, said he, and it is a tabu of yours to leave a feast until it is ended. And when Fergus heard that he became a crimson mass.
¶16] You have done ill, Borrach, said Fergus, to put me under prohibitions, seeing that Conchobar made me pledge my word to bring the sons of Uisnech to Emain on the day that they should come to Ireland. I put you under prohibitions, said Borrach, prohibitions that true heroes suffer you not to escape unless you come to consume that feast.
¶17] And Fergus asked Naisi what he should do in the case. You will do (what Borrach desires), said Deirdre, if you prefer to forsake the sons of Uisnech and to enjoy the feast; but verily to forsake them is a great price for a feast. I will not forsake them, said Fergus, for I will send my two sons with them, viz., Illann the fair and Buinne Rude-red, to Emain Macha, and my own word besides, said Fergus. Its excellence suffices, said Naisi, for no one but ourselves ever defended us in battle or in fight.
¶18] And Naisi left the place in anger. And Deirdre followed him, with Ainnle and Ardan and the two sons of Fergus. And that plan was not carried out by the consent of Deirdre. And Fergus was left behind sad and very sorrowful. Still for one thing Fergus was certain that were the five great provinces of Ireland together, and of one mind, they would not be able to destroy that warranty.
¶19] As to the sons of Uisnech, they went onward, and Deirdre said to them: I would give you good advice, although it be not carried out for me. What is the advice, lady? said Naisi. Let us go to Inis Cuillenn Cr
between Ireland and Scotland, and stay there until Fergus consumes his feast; and that is a fulfilment of Fergus's word, and a long
p.115increase of lordship for you. That is an evil saying with respect to us, said Illann the Fair and Buinne Rude-red. We cannot carry out that plan, said they, even though you had not the strength of your own arms along with us, and the word of Fergus, you would not be betrayed. Woe to (those who) came on (the faith of) that word, said Deirdre, when Fergus has forsaken us for a feast. And she was grieving and greatly depressed at coming to Ireland on Fergus's word. And she spoke this:
- Alas! to have come on the light(?) word
Of Fergus the wanton son of Roig;
I will not make it a matter of vexation,
Alas! bitter is my heart.
- My heart as a lump of sorrow
Is this night, great the shame.
Alas! ye goodly sons,
Your last days have come.
- Say not so, vehement Deirdre,
Woman fairer than the sun!
Fergus will come with mighty(?) valour
- Alas! I am sad for you
Ye handsome sons of Uisnech!
To come from Alba of the red deer,
Long shall be the lasting woe of it!
¶20] After that lay they proceeded to Finncarn of the Watching, on Sliab Fuait, and her sleep fell on Deirdre there, and they left her behind, unknown to them. And Naisi perceived this, and he turned at once for her. And that was the time when she was waking out of her sleep. And Naisi said: Why did you stay here, O Queen? said he. I slept, said Deirdre, and I have had a vision and a dream. What was the dream? said Naisi. I saw, said Deirdre, each of you without (his) head, and Illann the Fair without (his)
p.117head, and his own head on Buinne Rude-red, and his aid not with us. And she made the quatrains:
- Woeful the vision that appeared to me,
Ye four stately, fair bright (youths)!
His head not on any one of you;
No one helping the other.
- Your mouth has sung nought but evil,
O damsel beautiful, radiant!
Vent your wrath, thin, slow lip,
On the foreigners of the sea of Man.
- I would prefer ill to every man,
Said Deirdre, without sadness,
Than ill to you, ye gentle three,
With whom I have sought sea and continent.
- I see his head on Buinne,
Since his life is the longest,
Woeful to me this night,
His head (to be) on Buinne Rude-red.
¶21] Thereafter they went forward to Ard-na-Saileach, which is called Armagh to-day. Then said Deirdre: Sad to me is what I see now, to wit, your wraith, Naisi, in the air, and it is a bloody wraith. And I would give you counsel, sons of Uisnech, said Deirdre. What counsel, O Queen? said Naisi. To go to Dundalk where Cuchulainn is, and remain there until Fergus comes, or go to Emain under Cuchulainn's safeguard. We need not carry out that plan, said Naisi. And the lady said this:
- Naisi, look on your wraith,
Which I see here in the air;
I see over green Emain
A great cloud of crimson blood.
- I am alarmed at the cloud
Which I see here in the air;
Like unto a clot of blood,
The terrible very thin cloud.
- I would give counsel to you,
Ye handsome sons of Uisnech,
Not to go this night to Emain
Because of the great danger to you.
- Let us go to Dundalk,
Where Cu of the crafts is;
We will come to-morrow from the south
Along with the expert Cu.
- Said Naisi in wrath
To Deirdre, the handsome, red-cheeked,
Seeing we are not afraid
We will not do your counsel.
- Seldom were we ever before,
Royal descendant of Rugraide!
Without being of one mind,
I and you, O Naisi!
- The day Manannan gave a cup
To us, and the very swift Cu,
You would not have been against me,
I say unto you, O Naisi!
- The day you brought me out
Across Assaroe of many oars(?),
You would not have been against me,
I say unto you, O Naisi!
¶22] After these quatrains they went forward by every short cut until they saw Emain Macha in the distance. I have a sign for you, said Deirdre, (which shows) whether Conchobar means to work treachery or murder upon you. What is the sign? said Naisi. If you are allowed to go into the
p.121house where Conchobar and the nobles of Ulster are, Conchobar does not intend to do evil to you. If you are put to the house of Craobhruadh, while Conchobar is in the house of Emain, treachery and ruin will be wrought upon you.
¶23] And they went forward in this manner to the door of the house of Emain, and asked that it be opened for them. The doorkeeper answered, and asked who was there. He was told that they were the three sons of Uisnech who were there, and Fergus's two sons, and Deirdre. That was told to Conchobar, and his servants and attendants were brought to him, and he asked them how the house of Craobhruadh fared in the matter of food and drink. They said that should the five battalions of Ulster come there they would find enough of food and drink. If that be so, said Conchobar, let the sons of Uisnech be taken into it. That was told to the sons of Uisnech. And Deirdre said: Now the loss of not taking my advice has touched you, said she, and let us depart forthwith. We will not do so, said Illann the Fair son of Fergus; and we think, lady, that you must perceive very great timidity and cowardice in us when you say that, and we will go to the house of Craobhruadh, said he. We will, assuredly, said Naisi.
¶24] And they went forward to the house of Craobhruadh, and servants and attendants were sent with them. And they were served with noble and delicate foods, and with sweet, intoxicating drinks, till their servants and attendants were, every one, drunk and merry and loud-voiced. But one thing, however, they themselves did not taste food or drink, because of the weariness of their long journey and travel, for they neither rested nor stopped since they left the fortress of Borrach, son of Annti, until they arrived at Emain.
¶25] Then Naisi said: Let Conchobar's Cenncaom be brought to us, that we may play upon it. The Cenncaom was brought to them, and its men were placed upon it. And Naisi and Deirdre began to play upon it intently. It was at
p.123that moment that Conchobar said: Which of you, warriors, should I get to find out whether her own form and figure remain to Deirdre; and if they do, there is not of Adam's race a woman whose form is better than hers. I will go myself, said Levarcham, and bring you news.
¶26] Now thus was Levarcham: and Naisi was dearer to her than any other person on the globe, for she used often to go throughout the regions of the great world to seek for Naisi, and to bring messages to him and from him. After that Levarcham went forward to the place where Naisi and Deirdre were. And thus they were, with Conchobar's Cenncaom between them, playing upon it. And she gave the son of Uisnech and Deirdre kisses lovingly, fervently, right loyally, and she wept showers of tears, until her bosom and breast were wet. And after that she spoke, and said: It is not well for you, dear children, said she, to have with you that (viz. Deirdre) which he (Conchobar) felt hardest to be taken from him, now that you are in his power. And it is to visit you that I have been sent, said Levarcham, and to see whether her own form and figure remain to Deirdre. And sad to me is the deed that will be done this night in Emain, namely, treachery and guile and breach of faith to be wrought upon you, beloved friends, said she, and until the end of the world Emain will not be a single night better than it is this night. And she made this lay:
- Woeful the dishonour
Which will be wrought this night in Emain;
And from the disgrace ever after
It will be the contentious Emain.
- The three best brothers under heaven
Who have walked on the thick earth,
Grievous to me their fate
To be slain on account of one woman.
- Naisi and Ardan renowned,
White-palmed Ainnle, their brother;
Treachery on this band to be told,
To me this is great woe.
¶27] After that Levarcham said to the sons of Fergus to shut the doors and the windows of the house of Craobhruadh: And if you are attacked, victory and blessing to you; and defend yourselves well, and your safeguard and the safeguard of Fergus.
¶28] And thereafter she went forth sadly, very sorrowfully, very depressed, to the place where Conchobar was. And Conchobar asked tidings of her. Then said Levarcham in reply: I have bad news for you, and good news. What are they? said the King of Ulster. They are good news, said Levarcham, that the three whose form and build are best, whose vigour and aim are best, whose deed and valour and prowess are best in Ireland, in Scotland, and in all the great world, are come to you; and you will have henceforward the driving of bird-flocks against the men of Ireland, now that the sons of Uisnech are with you. And these are my best news for you. And my worst are that the woman whose form and figure were the best in the world when she went from us out of Emain, has (no longer) her own form and figure.
¶29] When Conchobar heard that, his jealousy and his vindictiveness vanished. And they drank a round or two after that. And Conchobar asked again: Who will go for me to find out whether her own shape and form and figure remain to Deirdre? And he asked three times before he go his answer.
¶30] Then said Conchobar to Trendorn to go thither. Trendorn, said Conchobar, know you who slew your father? I know, said he, that it was Naisi son of Uisnech who
p.127slew him. If that be so, said Conchobar, go and find out whether her own form or figure remains to Deirdre. And Trendorn went forward and came to the hostel, and found the doors and windows closed; and dread and great fear seized him, and this is what he said: It is not safe to approach the sons of Uisnech; wrath is upon them. And he found a window unshut in the hostel, and he began to look at Naisi and Deirdre through the window. And Deirdre looked at him, for she was the most alert of them. And she nudged Naisi; and Naisi looked in the direction of her look. And thus he was, with a dead man of the men of the draught-board in his (hand), and he made a terrible well-aimed shot with it, so that it hit the young man's eye, and a dreadful exchange was made between them there. And the young man's eye fell on his cheek. And he went to Conchobar, and told him tidings from beginning to end, and this is what he said: Yonder is the one woman whose form is best in the world, and Naisi would be king of the world if she were left to him.
¶31] Then Conchobar and the Ultonians arose and came around the hostel, and uttered many great shouts there, and they placed fires and firebrands against the hostel. And Deirdre and the sons of Fergus heard that, and they asked: Who is there about Craobhruadh? Conchobar and the Ulstermen, said they. And Fergus's safeguard against them! said Illann the Fair. My conscience, said Conchobar, to have my wife with you is a disgrace to you and to the sons of Uisnech. That is true, said Deirdre, and Fergus has betrayed you, Naisi. My conscience, said Buinne the Rude, he has not done so, and neither will we.
¶32] Then Buinne the Rude came out and slew three fifties outside, and he quenched the fires and the firebrands, and
p.129confounded the hosts with that impetuous rush of doom. Conchobar said: Who causes this confusion among the hosts? I, Buinne the Rude son of Fergus, said he. Terms from me to you, said Conchobar. What terms are these? said Buinne. A cantred of land, said Conchobar, and my confidence and my own counsel to you. I will accept (them), said Buinne. And Buinne accepted these terms, and on that night the cantred of land was turned into moorland, whence (the name) Sliab Dal Buinne.
¶33] And Deidre heard that talk. My conscience, said Deirdre, Buinne has forsaken you, sons of Uisnech, and like to his father is yon son. By my own word, said Illann the Fair, I myself will not forsake them so long as this hard sword remains in my hand.
¶34] And Illann came out after that and made three quick circuits around the hostel, and he slew three hundred outside. And he went in to the place where Naisi was, a-playing draughts with Ainnle the Rough. And Illann made a circuit round them, and drank a drink. And he carried a lighted lamp with him out on the green, and began smiting the hosts, and no one dared to go round the hostel. Good was the son who was there, to wit, Illann the Fair son of Fergus. He never refused any one respecting jewels and many treasures; and he received not pay from a king; and he never accepted jewels, except from Fergus only.
¶35] Then Conchobar said: Where is Fiacha, my son? said Conchobar. Here, said Fiacha. By my conscience, it was on the same night you and Illann were born, and he has his father's arms; and do you bring my arms with you, the Orchain,
p.131and the Cosgrach, and the Foga, and my Sword; and fight bravely with them.
¶36] Then each of them approached the other. And Fiacha straightaway attacked Illann, and Illann asked Fiacha: What mean you? said he. I desire to have combat and conflict with thee, said Fiacha. Evil have you done, said Illann, seeing that the sons of Uisnech are under my safeguard. They attacked each other and fought a fierce, heroic, bold, daring, and very vigorous combat. And Illann mastered Fiacha, and forced him to lie upon the edge of his shield. And the shield roared, and the three chief waves of Ireland roared also, namely, the wave of Clidna, and the wave of Tuad, and wave of Rugraide.
¶37] Conall Cernach was in Dunseverick at the time, and he heard the thunder of the wave of Rugraide. That is true, said Conall, Conchobar is in dire distress, and it is wrong not to go to him. And he took his arms, and proceeded to Emain. And he found Fiacha, son of Conchobar, overthrown in the combat, and the Orchain bellowing and roaring terribly(?), lamenting its lord; and the Ulstermen dared not rescue him. And Conall came to Illann from behind and thrust his spear through him, to wit, the Culghlas of Conall. Who has wounded me? said Illann. I, Conall, said he; and who are you? I am Illann the Fair son of Fergus, said he; and ill is the deed which you have done, seeing the sons of Uisnech are under my safeguard. Is that true? said Conall. True it is1
- Seven fat swine, greatly to be desired;
Seven vats (of wine), seven bullocks;
Welcome to children over and above;
Suitable victuals for them as well.
¶39] We will take counsel with our leaders about that, said Fergus. Thereafter were brought to him Cormac Conloinges, and Uaithne Bright-breast son of Conall Cernach, and Angus son of One-hand Gaba, and Goibnenn son of Luirgnech (Big-shins), and the other chiefs. And Fergus gave them authority to deliberate. They advised him to accept the terms and to make peace. And it is from the nobles around Conchobar that (these terms) will be demanded, said Fergus. And he deceived on that point. When Fergus came to know that, he said: I consent, said he,
but if any one of these (conditions) is broken, my friendship with Conchobar is gone for ever. And you have (deceived) me, said Fergus. Thus far about peace.
¶40] But regarding the affairs of Fergus. He proceeded warily [...] valorously on this footing to Ciarraig [...]. That year passed by [...] in anxiety and gloom until the time came for Fergus to make a raid through the whole of Ulster. That was the very time when Conchobar prepared a great feast in smooth, beautiful Emain Macha. And he invited all the nobles
p.211of the province to consume it. And the rooms and anterooms of the house were filled by the (guests). And they were drinking and enjoying themselves until the nobles were loud-voiced and wordy in their cups.
¶41] Then suddenly an unfortunate and unlucky thing happened at the hostel, to wit, (the arrival of) three foreign warriors who were at one time in the household of Conaire son of Etersgel, viz., Dubloingsech son of Tribuait, and Tribuait great-grandson of Loingsech, and Durthach grandson of Fiach. And since the time of Conaire son of Etersgel, these men were held in high honour everywhere throughout Ireland, and no one dared refuse to receive them wherever they went. They came that night to Emain. And there was no doorwardry in Emain at the time. And the band came to the hostel without being perceived, and there was no one to attend or serve or welcome them because of the great uproar and drunkenness and unreason of those before them in the fortress. And they looked all round the house, and they saw the beautiful gold-gilded room of the single women, and they entered it forthwith. And they raised their weapons above their heads, and they were instantly recognised. Great silence fell on Conchobar and the others because of this, for they were ashamed to put (the strangers) out of the room, and their being in it was an omen of great misdeeds.
¶42] They were not long thus when Fergus burst upon the lawn. And he went over to Emain thereafter, with Bricne in front of him. And when Bricne saw that the three handsome foreign warriors were in the room, he turned sharply to Fergus and told him of the fact. And Fergus himself also
p.213witnessed it. He came out upon the lawn and told his chiefs of that great outrage and unseemly clamour. True indeed, said Bricne son of Cairbre, you have paid heavily for your voyaging, Fergus; for were the Ulstermen and Conchobar to promise you
¶43] At that moment the poets arrived on the lawn: viz., Cathbad, gentle wizard, and Genann Bright-cheek son of Cathbad, and Mesdeagha son of Aimergin, and the sons of Fercertne also. And they found the youths destroyed and mis-handled. And they stood over Daire son of Fedelmid
p.215and Fiacha son of Conchobar, and raised a great shout of lamentation over them. And they approached Fergus and offered him abundance of cattle and presents of gold and treasure. And they offered him his choice of rooms from among the various rooms of the high king. And if you do not accept these terms at this time, said they, you shall have strife and quarrel and much smiting. And while they were saying so, they uttered these words:
- A weighty (duty) has been imposed upon us
By Conchobar of deep purpose,
That the nobles on their couches
Be not disturbed.
- Although in all Emain
The highest company were gathered,
You would have a seat there
Nigh to Conchobar's fair couch.
- If you accept not right nor reason,
Presents of silver and gold,
You will have bitter contention
From mighty valorous men.
¶44] The poets returned thereafter, and told these tidings to the Ultonians and to Conchobar. The nobles of Emain and the champions of Craobhruadh rose up. Their affairs thus far.
¶45] The proceedings of Fergus are related now. He plundered and harried on a large scale, and committed many deeds of violence. And these were the most noted of those deeds, viz. (the slaughter of) Fiacha the Fair son of Conchobar and Daire son of Fedelmid, as Fergus said:
- Fiacha the Fair son of Conchobar,
By thine hand he fell;
The death of Daire son of Fedelmid,
Though it was he, was not a deed to benefit.
¶46] They harried and scourged and wounded from the great Raith of O'Bresal to the water pools of Daball, and from the
p.217borders of Emain to Finncarn (White Cairn) of Foraire (the watching). And some say that it was in this foray that Dubthach slew Laidis and Lennabair, the two daughters of Eogan son of Durtacht, in the fortress of Eogan. And it was by him also that Moirenn of the white neck, the wife of Muinremar (Fat-neck) son of Eirgiu, fell, and Ethne of the fair head and bright skin, the wife of Errge Echbel (Horse-mouth), in evidence of which Fergus said these words:
- Muirenn white-neck you have slain,
The wife of Muinremar without blame;
Ethne fair-head you have wounded,
The wife of Errge, a cruel quarrel.
- Laidis and Lendabair
'Tis thine hand that maimed them;
The fair Ethne from Berramain
'Tis you also that destroyed her.
¶47] They committed these ravages, and no-one dared to oppose or attack them. And this is the road they took their plunder, viz. from the hill of Fuad and the Wood of Conall. And they proceeded in that wise to smooth, beautiful Uisnech in Meath. And they stayed there that night. And they rose early on the morrow, and deliberated as to which of the provinces of Ireland they should go. Fergus asked Bricne son of Cairbre son of Ros whether it would be to Finn son of Ros they should go. And some of them said that Curi son of Daire was the prince of highest renown in Ireland. And Bricne spoke as follows: The best province is Connaught. The best of kings is Oilill. The greatest of warriors is Meave, and
the chief seat of Council in Ireland is Cruachan, said Bricne, because of
and the chastity of his wife. Their poets are generous, and it is
we should go at this time. And while he said this, he recited the lay:
- Whither ought we to go, has long been debated,
Or whither carry our battle gear,
Whether to the North, or to the South?
- Shall we to the powerful Cairbre for a season?
To the son of Ros, regal his sway?
Shall we carry our spoils to Boinn,
The bright city where Finn resides?
- You would receive a right hearty greeting,
Son of Ros, were you to reach him,
In the house of Curoi, a long stay,
Should you go to his delightful seat.
- Full time for us to go forward,
Surmounting every danger, to Ruba(?),
To the abode of Meave and Oilill,
Who will succour and sustain us.
- Let us leave the stronghold on which we are,
The raider Conchobar can reach here,
Like a destructive shower he has passed,
Full time to find out whither to go.
¶48] And Bricne further spoke: This is what our old audacity has left to us,visits to the North, a year in Leinster, a pleasant circuit of Munster, and a permanent abode in Connaught. And it is in the country in which we and our children after us can make a home that we ought to stay. And another thing besides: Connaught is the only province in Ireland where there are two kings. And further: from thence we can easier carry on our forays and wars. In real power Meave is king of Ireland, continued Bricne, and the high king of the province is, without doubt, Oilill. Meave is the foremost
patron of soldiers and of ollamhs, of men of learning and of the chief poets of the world. I tell you, Fergus, added Bricne, that in Cruachan are to be found the choicest champions and warriors of the globe, the pick of the best people in the world, and
to go forward if you consider it very desirable to reside in Connaught.
¶49] This was the counsel which they all preferred. If this is the counsel which you have chosen, said Fergus, let Bricne go before us to Cruachan, and let him tell Oilill and Meave
p.221that I and the Dubloinges follow, and do you yourself tell of my affairs.
¶50] Then Bricne proceeded to Cruachan, and Meave and Oilill welcomed him. And the chiefs of Cruachan kissed him (thrice), men and women, (kings and) princes, women and youths. And they were all blithe to receive him. And Meave asked his tidings. And he related the story of Fergus to them, and said to Meave: You will be king of Ireland, now that Fergus is come to you. And he will end the war of the Ulstermen. Meave was glad to hear this, and said: He will receive jewels and wealth from me, said she; viz. a subsidy of three score mighty men and chariots; one-and-twenty cumals of red gold, and wine in Cruachan at all times.
¶51] And they were not long there when Fergus was seen approaching them. And Meave rose to meet him and kissed him. And the women and the poets kissed him, and gave a warm welcome to himself and to Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar, and to all the nobles of Ulster. And Bricne told Fergus of the discourse and conversation of Meave and of her gifts. And Meave herself addressed him, and said: I shall give you the billeting of four thousand armed warriors in Connaught, and you yourself will be always in Cruachan with two thousand champions, besides your wives and poets and ollamhs. That would be a liberal offer indeed, O queen, said Fergus, should we be welcomed by the high king Oilill. In the matter of food and drink he is more liberal than I, said Meave. And as she said this she repeated these staves:
- Welcome, Fergus of Emain,
Thou upright and true manly prince,
Though your numbers were more numerous
You would receive welcome and greeting.
- The billeting of four thousand warriors
Will be given to you in friendly rivalry,
Two thousand for yourself, a fair following,
And not a single night out of Cruachan.
- That would be most liberal, O Meave,
What you have said, assuredly,
Were we to receive heartily
The welcome of the high king Oilill.
- Though the king be not blithe to meet you,
He is more liberal than I in every way,
More liberal in bestowing treasures,
And more gentle besides.
¶52] Fergus was thus served and attended for three days and three nights in Cruachan. The party were all distributed and quartered and arranged for. The billeting of four thousand was apportioned to the people of Fergus, (the maintenance of) two thousand champions to himself in Cruachan through all time, with their wives and youths and attendants besides, and Bricne with his fifty poets. For three months they were served in that wise, and held in high honour. The tidings of Fergus thus far.
¶53] The affairs of Conchobar and the Ulstermen are dealt with now. After being harried by Meave's people, after Fergus had left them, and after the youths and Conchobar's children had been slain, (the king) asked his nobles and his council what vengeance was due to them for the evils and the murders which Fergus and his chiefs had wrought in Emain. And the counsel they agreed upon was to slay such of the sons of Fergus as were in Ulster. And these were their names, viz., the three Illanns of Emain (these were fosterlings of Conchobar), the three Anguses of the eastern district, the three victorious Cobthachs, and the (three) Cairbres of Cuailgne, twelve in all. And there were seven sons of Dubthach as well. They were all slain and massacred.
¶54] This deed was reported throughout the whole of Ireland, and the confirmation of its truth reached Cruachan where
p.225Fergus and Dubthach and the other leaders of the Dubloinges resided. Great silence fell upon Fergus and Dubthach and all the chiefs when they heard these tidings. And Fergus wept for his own children and those of Dubthach, and uttered these words:
- Goodly were my sons
Whom the son of Ness has destroyed;
The three Illanns of Emain,
Manly was their courage.
- The three eastern Anguses,
The three victorious Cobthachs,
The three Cairbres of Cuailgne,
Their slaughter has dyed my cheeks.
- And the seven sons of Dubthach,
The chafers of Ulster, a bitter tryst,
Brave champions were they;
Great and goodly were they.
¶55] Dubthach asked Fergus what vengeance he meant to exact from Ulster for the slaughter of his sons. All the vengeance I am capable of. Do you bring with you
to assist yourself in the matter, said Fergus; and the Dubloinges will be gathered, he added. If you mean to wait for them, said Dubthach, your sons will never be avenged. And I go to avenge my own sons, said he. And you and your people ought to avenge these murders, for it is because of you they were done. And Dubthach rose thereupon, and seized his weapon and took his polished(?) shield, and left the place forthwith. No attendant or warrior followed him.
¶56] It was an invariable custom with Dubthach at this time that, when the four great provinces of Ireland were on the march, advancing or retreating, he was ever in the front or in the rear harrying and harassing. And (now) he went forth without taking counsel or leave of any one and reached
p.227Ulster territory, where he made great ravages and vast plundering. And he killed many cows and cattle, and burned the kilns and mills of the province at large. And others say that it was in this foray that he slew the queens who we have already spoken of. He returned to Cruachan victoriously, exultingly, and related his story and exploits and triumphs. And they were all glad to hear of them.
¶57] That was the very time when Oilill and Meave and Fergus made a great muster for the purpose of raiding and hosting in the province of Conchobar. They proceeded thereafter to the borders of Oriel, and they pillaged and massacred and plundered the whole district. The Oriel men overtook them with Eogan son of Durtacht, the stalwart high king of Farney, at the head of the host. A stubborn battle was fought between them in which Eogan son of Durtacht fell by the hand of Fergus son of Roich. And the stout smiter Garadh, son of One-hand Gaba, fell by (the hand of) Muiredach the stammerer, son of Oilill the Fair, with many others whom we do not recount here.
¶58] The battle went against the Ulstermen [...] thereafter, and there is no count or reckoning of (the numbers that fell of them) there. The fortress of Eogan son (of Durtacht) was destroyed and its treasures and booty taken away. They marched proudly, victoriously, exultingly back to Connaught. And that was the (greatest) punishment which Fergus inflicted upon Ulster for the slaughter of his sons. They proceeded thereafter to the residence of Meave and Oilill, and boasted of their exploits. And the Connaught men were pleased thereat.
¶59] But one thing. That year was passed in Connaught without lack of gold or silver or treasure, without lack of food or drink, and the best of everything in Cruachan (was given) to Fergus. Meave conceived a passion [...] for the great warrior Fergus which the latter returned. For
p.229a year he was her lover in secret [...] and she became pregnant by him.
¶60] One day as Oilill went forth from Cruachan he saw the hazel tree off the road a-bobbing. He approached, looked near, and at once recognised who were there, viz., Fergus and Meave in dalliance. And thus was Fergus, with his sword leaning against a tree behind his back. Oilill looked at the sword and took to in his hand. And he drew it from its terrible sheath, purposing to slay Fergus where he stood (in revenge) for the loss of his honour. Nevertheless thus Oilill, with these three qualities ever adhering to him; he was without niggardliness, without jealousy, without fear. So he turned away from them, and put Fergus's sword in the hand of Nera son of Niadul. And he put a wood blade in Fergus's scabbard, and made a vow that he would not deliver his own sword to Fergus until the day of the great fight, when the four provinces of Ireland would meet at the great battle of Tain bo Cuailgne on Gairech and Ilgairech.
¶61] 2Nevertheless they were (themselves) a heavy burden upon Connaught during that time, not to speak of the wives and children and attendants. And to meet the honour of Fergus was to Meave the greatest burden of all, for everything that Fergus promised she had to pay for.
¶62] One night a feast of great splendour was given by Oilill and Meave and the Tuatha Taiden, and the palace of Cruachan was prepared by them. And this was the arrangement in the palace since Fergus came among them. Meave used to sit down first on the royal dais. And Fergus sat at her right hand. Cormac Conloinges sat beside him, and the Dubloinges sat (in order) from Cormac down. Oilill sat on the left hand of Meave with (Conodhar) son of Cecht on his left, and the nobles of Connaught after Conodhar to the doorpost. Cet sat in the champion's seat, with Ferdiadh on the other couch in front of him, and the Gamhanraidh after these from the back to the royal dais. Fraoch son of Fidach sat on the royal bench with the seven Maines around him. From there to the back bench sat the sons of Fidach, with the red Gaman of Rea, and the sure-footed Gamans, and the smiting Gamans thirty in number, and the attacking Gamans forty, and the slashing Gamans sixty, and the deadly-wounding Gamans ninety, with the lithe Gaman of Sidgal in the champion's seat by the door-post. Eochaidh Rond and Dail Druithne and the family of the son of Cecht were in the champion's seat on the back bench in front of them. The
p.299Ollamhs who were in Bricne's train, viz., Neide and Lugaid and Ferbaoth, and Diangus the wizard, and Ferchu Echtach (the daring), and Loingsech of Loch Key, had a seat around him on Meave's couch. On a side seat in front of (Bricne) were the spencers, and Belca of Brefne with his seven sons, and Nera son of Niadul, with his brother Dungus and his family. Finnabair the daughter of Oilill with her fifty maidens sat in a rectangular gold-gilded compartment in the centre of the hall in front of the princes, and in the full gaze of the men of Ireland. Such was the arrangement of the palace of Oilill and Meave.
¶63] Arranged and seated in this order the company drank and made merry until the chiefs were drunk and mellow and loud-voiced. It was then that Fergus and Bricne engaged in pleasant conversation and delightful discourse. Do you remember, dear Fergus, said Bricne, the stipends which you promised to your people when you left Ulster, viz., sixty chariots with (their) shields and weapons and horses? And you promised to the women of your household three hundred irnas of red gold, as you were wont to give yearly in former times. I have not such for them, Bricne, said Fergus; and I know not how to obtain it, for we are already a great burden upon this province. It is difficult to minister to our people because of our large household and the great number of our lords and nobles and leaders and chiefs and princes and youths and women-folk. And the other four provinces of Ireland could not maintain us as we are maintained here, and indeed we cannot ask them to supply all our needs. That is a great pity, Fergus, said Bricne; I am much distressed that you cannot pay their allowances to your people. And it seems to me that since you have come to Connaught all you are good for is to do the bidding of Meave for her gifts of treasure and ornaments. And while saying this he recited the lay:
- Great the pity, Fergus of Emain,
The edge of your high spirit is blunted,
(Doing) the pleasure of Meave, pride of valour,
In return for her stipend.
- You uttered brave words,
That your host should not be a single year
Without threescore fair chariots,
With their weapons and many shields;
- That the women of your household,
However numerous, would not be
Nigh to the banqueting-house,
Without three hundred irnas of red gold.
- There is nothing in your hand this night
Which your friends, though in evil case, can receive;
You are quite without resources,
No condition can be more pitiful.
Great the pity.
¶64] Fergus was furious at this language of Bricne. And the night passed in this wise until the dawn of the morrow. Then Bricne rose with his three fifties of pupils, and went to have counsel with Meave. What is your wish, Ollamh? said Meave. I desire much to go, said Bricne, to seek presents and treasure among the nobles of Gamhanraidh. I give you permission, said Meave, and there you will find the noble of highest spirit and generosity and honour in Ireland. Bricne went forth upon the lawn and fell in with Fergus. What now, Ollamh? said Fergus. I desire to go in search of the wages which you promised to your people. I desire much that you go on that quest, said Fergus.
¶65] Bricne proceeded westwards from Cruachan, and this is the road which he travelled with his train, viz.: By the left of the Fort of Finn Caom, which is now called the Fort of Cenn Faolad, and over Beola Fasras, now called Beola Coille, and over Crick Cuirc (the territory of Corc), called Crich Airtech, and over Sliab Fairgsin (Prospect hill), called Sliab Lugha, and past the western territory of Lugna son of Firter, now called the territory of West Corann, and (past) Colba
p.303Crich Cein (the pillar of the distant land), called Crich Galeng (Leinster), and across Sal Srotha Deirg (the heel of Red Stream), called Merbruin of Moy, and nigh by Loch Con (Dog-loch) and Loch Cuilinn (Holly-loch), and towards Dun Atha Fen (the fortress of the ford of wagons) where Ailill the Fair son of Donald Dualbuide (yellow-locks) resided.
¶66] When they arrived upon the green the beautiful picturesque company were seen, and tidings were asked from them forthwith. And they told that this was Bricne son of Cairbre, the Ollamh of Connaught and Cruchan and all Ireland. When they heard this, the people of the stead, women and men and youths with Oilill the Fair himself and his household at their head, went forth to welcome Bricne and his train. And he was carried on the shoulders of soldiers and warriors to the presence of Oilill the Fair in the hostel. Oilill and the nobles of Gamhanraidh who were present rose to meet him. And they kissed him thrice, and he was seated beside Oilill the Fair. And they asked him the tidings of Cruachan and Oilill and Meave and Fergus. Bricne told them all these. Bedrooms were prepared for Bricne's people, and they were supplied and served with the rarest of drinks and the choicest of good food that night.
¶67] Thereafter the king's own house was prepared. And the nobles of Gamhanraidh were brought in and seated in their rightful places according to their rank and station. And these were the household of Oilill the Fair at all times, although a number of them was reckoned (also) the house of Cruachan with Oilill and Meave, viz.: Ferdia son of Daman son of Daire, the great brave warrior, and there were a hundred Ferdias around him; Fraoch son of Fidach with three hundred Fraochs around him; Goll Oilech and Goll Acla with three hundred Golls around him (or them); seven hundred Breslenns along with the seven Breslenns of Brefne; Ferderg son of Dolar with three hundred champions of the
p.305same name around him; Gaman of Sidgal with three hundred Gamans around him; Duban son of the Gaman with three hundred Dubans around him; and Dartad of Diberg with three hundred Dartads around him. And some say that there was an equal number of others with different names.
¶68] Thus was the banquet-hall arranged and seated by Oilill on that night. Messengers were sent for Bricne, and he was escorted with honour and dignity to the hostel. He was seated beside Oilill the Fair, and his poets were put in a place opposite him. And the freshest of every kind of food and the oldest of every kind of drink were brought into the hostel. And there were served to themwhite wine to the princes, very old light mead to the nobles, bragget to the hospitallers, and ale to all and sundry.
¶69] And when the nobles and champions were sated with eating and drinking, the warriors became greatly excited by the potency of the liquor. They asked Bricne whether he had a song or a lay or a poem in honour of Oilill the Fair son of Donald Dualbuide, King of the Gamhanraidh. Bricne said he had, and the matter passed for a while. But the Gamhanraidh were impatient to hear Bricne, and they called (for his song) a second and a third time. After that things calmed down a little.
¶70] The Bricne asked his followers to bring him the nine-stringed (harp). They all rose and placed the harp upon its pedestal of red gold beside him at the corner of his seat. Bricne took it and sang, his choir accompanying him, the
p.307song which he composed, in cepog to the King, i.e. to Oilill the Fair son of Donald Dualbuide. And this is the song:
- I request from Ailill, famous prince,
Three horses to each of us from his land,
A chariot with the (three) vigorous horses
We ask in pure hospitality.
- Fifty swords you will give to us,
Fifty clean white tunics
From the King whose greatness we recognise.
- I ask the like from his numerous warriors,
On viewing his eyes, spacious his stead,
Slaughter to men by the great sea,
Against men of valour their wrath is terrible.
- I request the son of Donald Dal,
Emperor of Erris, his designation,
The noble soldier whose courage is great and high,
A pillar against angry contentions.
¶71] The Gamhanraidh all praised the song. They said they never heard a better. But one thing, we have a fault to find with the song, said the Gamhanraidh; we do not understand it. I will explain it, said Bricne:
: That means that (Ailill) is to give to each one who has come with me three horses, and with every three horses a chariot of white bronze, and two spears with each chariot; and to give to me fifty swords as also the richly ornamented sword of Donald Dualbuide, king of the Gamhanraidh, his father, for that is one of the two, or of the three, best swords in Ireland.
- Ailim Ailill, amra an triath
Bid am tre each as a iath
¶72] Ailim lin a leithid luiscc: That means I request Ailill and his multitude of heroes.
¶73] Re rompa ruisg, borb a bla: That is, On beholding the eye of the royal prince; borb a bla, i.e. great his stead, and many his soldiers.
¶74] Ailill Finn mac Domnaill Dail: i.e. The Emperor of Erris, and the Emperor of Western Europe.
¶75] An seglann is saor mor losg: That means, Noble his assemblies, and valorous are his battalions and his conflicts. And that is the meaning of this song, said Bricne.
¶76] We never heard a better song, said the Gamhanraidh; it is worth more than all you have asked. And his own award was given to Bricne just as he sought it in the song. He was three days and three nights in the stead.
¶77] One day as Bricne and Oilill were talking, the former said: I find no fault with this house, Oilill, save only that you
p.311have not a queen worthy of you in your society. But I have, said Oilill, even Flidais Foltchain (of the beautiful hair) daughter of Oilill the Black, son of Find. She is in the west in the fort of Rath Morgan, having gone westward to visit the Maol (hummel or hornless cow) Flidais. What is she? asked Bricne. Easy to tell, said Oilill, a cow with the gift of milking and milk and full produce; a cow, to wit, which yields in one night sufficient (milk) for three hundred men, besides women and boys.
¶78] Have you brought with you a song in honour of the queen, Bricne? asked the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh. I have assuredly, said Bricne. On my conscience, said one of them, if you had not, your visit to the Gamhanraidh would be ill received, and there would be no prospect of presents. Bricne then sang the song of the queen to Oilill and the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh. That is a good song, said Oilill, and we would recompense you for it, only we fancy that the queen herself will do so. Messengers will be sent in front of you to where Flidais is, and I can promise you that you will not be more pleased with any person in Ireland than with her.
¶79] To-morrow morning came, and Bricne prepared to depart. But for one thing: during the three days and three nights that he was in the place, he did not leave behind him two companions or friends but were, through his machinations and interposition, placed in deadly enmity to each other. Bricne then left the stead, and guides were sent with him till he came to Dun Morgan, beyond the round hill of Letriach.
¶80] When they arrived there, word passed that Bricne son of Cairbre was on the lawn. The wives and youths and women-folk of the place went forth to meet Bricne, and to welcome him. And he was carried with dignity and honour by the queen's household over to the stead. And Flidais rose to meet him and kissed him three times, and gave a warm and courteous welcome to his train. A spacious banquet-hall was prepared that night. And Bricne was seated beside queen Flidais, and the ladies of her household sat on the royal side of the hostel along to the doorpost at the back. And Bricne's
p.313people were seated opposite to them. And they enjoyed their food and sustenance, and they drank and made merry. [...] One of the ladies asked whether Bricne has a song in honour of queen Flidais. I have, certainly, said Bricne. Well then, sing your song, said they. His followers closed round him, and they sang (together) the song which he sang previously (at Ath Fén). And this is the song:
- From Cruachan we have come
To Erris in the west of Elga;
In every Dùn we passed, we heard
Of Flidais and her cow.
- Flidais the lady of Oilill,
Dear to me the name of his spouse,
Domnall Dualbuide's warrior son,
Bounteous the lady who will not forsake me.
- When we came out of Emain,
Our quarrel left no slight track;
The cause of Fergus whose exploits are many,
Brought us in numbers to Cruachan.
¶81] They all praised the song, and said they never heard a better. And his own award was given in jewels and treasure to Bricne for his song by Flidais the wife of Oilill the Fair. He was for a whole week in Flidais's house. Still, notwithstanding the number of her women and household, there were not (even) two friends or companions among them, however well disposed previously, but conceived ill-will and distrust and hatred to each other through his intriguings among them during the time he was there.
¶82] Flidais asked: What sort of man is Fergus, Bricne? Why should you ask such a question? said Bricne; for though I had seven heads, and though in each head were seven mouths, and seven tongues in each mouth, and the
p.315eloquence of an orator seven times told in each tongue, I could not give (an adequate) appreciation of the man. For I have not seen among the heroes of the word one to compare with him. Not have I ever heard of any such save only Lugh Longhand of Moytura fame, and Hercules son of Amphitrion, the royal warrior of the Greeks, and Hector son of Priam, the royal warrior of the Trojans. And I declare on my conscience that Fergus excels all these heroes in valour and bravery, in beauty and intellect and birth, in spirit and fame and generosity. Further, among the kings of the earth there is none more liberal to his warriors than he. For each samhuin (Martinmas, All-Hallowtide), he gives three thousand chariots, three thousand shields, three thousand swords, three thousand golden
¶83] He has, at his hand, three thousand irnas of red gold
and diverse suits of armour for his men. But for one thing, with respect to his deeds of valour in war
¶84] I pledge my word, said Bricne, that Fergus fought and won thirty battles. One of these was the battle of Inver Tuagh against Niall Niamhglonnach (Bright-deeds), son of red Ros [...] where the manly prince and battle warrior R. fell; another was the battle of Carn Eolarg, where the amazon Camallichta fell. There were also the great battle of Carn Eolarg where Bolg son of Bolg son of Eolarg and Eolarg son of E. (and) two fifties (besides) fell: and the battle of Inver Loinne, where fell Finn, son of Innadamar, King of Tara. He it was who won the battle of Maistiu against the whole of the clans of Ros; and the battle of Mullach dub (black-top) of Ros against the clans of Ros as well; and the battle of Mana against Conchobar and the Ultonians; and a stubborn fight against the clans of Durtacht, where Eogan the son of Durtacht was killed; and the battle of Luachra against the clans of Degad; and the battle of the Fort of two Peaks; and the battle of Boirche; and many other battles not here enumerated, in proof of which battles and exploits(?) the historian composed these quatrains:
- A mighty man Fergus of the many towers,
Who conquered Conchobar in battle;
There has not been seen his equal in valour,
That issued from Rugraide.
- Greater than any son the son of Ros;
Mightier than any hand that of Fergus;
A model to kings is the son of Ros,
For acquiring silver and gold.
- He gives three hundred chariots,
With weapons and many shields,
With suitable accoutrements
In stipends to his warriors.
- I declare of certain knowledge,
And will not boast of it,
That Fergus won
Thirty battles in Ireland.
- The battle of Luachra over the clans of Degad,
Multitudes he put to shame,
The battle of Maisdiu over the clans of Ros,
And the great battle of Mullach-dub-Ros.
- The battle of Boirche, the third I mention,
The battle of Inver Loinne over Bre
And the battle of Rock Eolarg.
(thirty) hundred irnas of red gold,
To the wives of mercenaries and warriors.
on his face nor on his cheek,
(No one) would have refusal from
he never spoke falsely,
From the day (he became) a warrior.
¶85] I give my word, said Bricne, that Fergus lacks in nothing save that he is not king of Ulster, and that he has not a queen worthy of him. I am in similar plight, Bricne, said Flidais, (I lack nothing) on earth except a suitable husband(?). By my word now, replied Bricne, I never met a more excellent spouse than (Oilill) the Fair, your husband. You speak foolishly, Bricne, said Flidais, and I will not hear such language from you. For I love Fergus greatly, and when you depart (I ask nothing of you) save to put Fergus under prohibitions as to his coming to carry me away from the Gamhanraidh of consent or compulsion(?).
¶86] Bricne was wroth when he heard this, and said: Sad is the evil fate of the man to whom you have given your love. For he never had a wife but eventually hated him. And he
p.25has not had a spouse worthy of him, only the society of Meave because of his vigorous manhood. And besides there is another matter which affects his honour, the three torches of valour of the Gael have been slain in Emain Macha while under his safeguard. And during his reign the sun of prosperity did not shine upon the (subject) princes. Further, O queen, I have travelled the world from the city of Muirn Molfaig in the north to here, and in all my journeyings I have not seen a better man that Oilill the Fair, added Bricne.
¶87] Idle talk, Bricne, which I do not believe, said Flidais. But you shall have your choice of the treasures of Ireland in return for carrying out my instructions, Bricne. I shall direct Fergus how to proceed, for I have heard that the men of Ireland are to go as one host to Ulster to carry away the cows of Cuailgne. Let him come for a subsidy of horses, weapons, and armour from the Gamhanraidh, and I shall go with him. And although three thousand stout men of you should come, a suitable wife will be provided for every man of them. And I shall bring with me my hummel cow, the best in Ireland. And if my herds and the Maol Flidais accompany me, they will amply supply the men of Ireland every seventh night. And as she spoke she recited this love-song:
- Bricne, leave me forthwith,
And betake thee to sterile Cruachan;
Lay nine prohibitions on the son of Roich,
If he comes not instantly with you.
- Though three thousand should come thither,
A wife for each man of them
Shall wed with her lord(?)
- If I bring my cow and herds,
Flidais shall feed the hosts
Every seventh night,
Should the campaign last for ever.
- The folks of the East have vast wealth,
I shall protect you, floods of valour
- Lady, you have taken upon you
A great undertaking,
To forsake your brave king
- He is my rightful spouse,
The man called son of Roich,
His worthy wife I shall be,
(And do thou depart), Bricne.
¶88] Bricne thereupon left the stead, and never did Ollamh carry away (such) wealth from women before. He proceeded to the fort of Ath Fen. When the people saw him they all went forth to meet him. They gave him a warm welcome, kissed him often, and asked whether he was not well pleased with Flidais. Bricne said he was. He stayed that night in the palace of Ath Fen. He rose early on the morrow and asked for his presents and treasures. Thrice fifty warriors were sent with him, one in each chariot of white bronze which he possessed, and their number had the appearance of a large host. He bade farewell to Oilill the Fair and to his chiefs. And he told Oilill that Fergus would come to have parley with him, and to seek aid in horses and armour from the Gamhanraidh.
¶89] This is the road on which they travelled:past the end of Dog-loch and the heel of Red-stream into the territory of Breas son of Ealathan, (now) called the land of Fiachra in Meath, and across the silver strand of Ros (now) called the Strand of Eothal, and over the Strath of the Druids (now) called the Strath of Feran, and into the plain of Corand, daughter of Fal son of Fidhga, (now) called the Plain of the son of Aire of Corand of the clans Uaine, and by the little round (or bare) of the head of Old Hill, (now) called the dear beautiful Ceis of Corand, and across the Stream of Fanglen (sloping-glen), (now) called Buill.
¶90] At this point Oilill's people turned back, and Bricne proceeded to Cruachan. And when the vast cavalcade was seen approaching them, all wondered greatly thereat. They thought it was Cet or Conodhar son of Cecht with plunder from Ulster. When Bricne arrived at Cruchan, he was welcomed, and people asked what this great booty was which he brought with him. None other, said Bricne, than my presents from the Gamhanraidh, from Oilill the Fair and the nobles generally.
¶91] What sort of house is the house of Oilill the Fair? asked Meave of Bricne. The best I ever visited, said Bricne. And besides, added he, I have not seen one to equal it, since I went to travel the globe along with Fergus. Meave was wroth because any house in the world was named as superior to her own. You ought not to provoke me to a quarrel, Bricne, said Meave. I do not, said Bricne. And yet in Oilill Finn's palace are to be found the greatest number of ollamhs and poets and jesters and women's playthings and boys and children; champions and warriors and battle-soldiers and valiant troops; country banquets, and town hospitallers. For this number of champions of like names are there, viz., Ferdia son of Daman with three hundred Ferdias in his train; Fraoch son of Fidhach with three hundred Fraochs: three hundred Golls with Goll Oilech and Acla; three hundred Gamans with Gaman of Sidgal; three
p.31hundred Dubans with Duban son of Gaman; three hundred Dartads with Dartad of Diberg; three hundred Fosgamuins with the three Fosgamuins of Erris; and three hundred Breslenns with the seven Breslenns of Brefne. And I declare on my honour, Meave, that there are as many again of different names. Although Meave hated the Gamhanraidh, it pleased her to hear her own warriors' praises. And Bricne continued his laudation of the palace of Oilill the Fair, and recited the lay:
- I fared forth on a visit from Cruchan Ai,
I declare to you, on a certain road;
Goodly the prince whose palace I quickly reached,
Goodly his worth spouse.
- I arrived at the castle of the ford of wagons,
I told many a tale there,
At Oilill the Fair's, warrior of Erris,
Son of the king of the Domnannus.
- Taller than all others the people of that castle,
Handsomer its men, pleasanter their disposition:
Three hundred eight times told are there
Of champions of like names.
- Three hundred valorous Ferdiads are there
With Ferdiad son of Daman;
Three hundred Fraochs abide there
With Fraoch son of Fidach.
- Three hundred Gamans, bold in strife,
With Gaman of Sidgal,
Three hundred Dubans, of merciless grip,
With Duban, that goodly youth.
- Three hundred Fosgamuins, a truthful statement,
With the three Fosgamuins of Erris;
Three hundred Golls with polished spears,
With Goll Oilech and Acla.
- Three hundred Dartads, a loyal band,
Around Dartad of Diberg;
Three hundred Breslenns, of like devotion,
With the seven Breslenns of Brefne.
- Louder than all shouts the shout
Of this household, of majestic mien;
There are as many others again,
Whose tribe names are different.
- I have not seen in Ireland, I say it deliberately,
A household to compare with this,
The palace of Oilill with its many spears,
The populous palace to which I fared.
¶92] You are right in your praise of the palace of Oilill the Fair, said Meave; nevertheless mine is much the superior of the two. The valour of my heroes and champions is greater. My chiefs and my dependents are more numerous. Greater in number are my youths and women-folk; my jewels and treasures; my cows and cattle. My soldiers are nobler born and more valiant. My musicians, artists, and scientists are more numerous. So are my ollamhs and jesters and dwarfs; my slaves and my little children; my women-folk and female attendants. My resources and material for banquets are superior, apart from the (grandeur of the) palace of Cruachan. For there is not in (all) Ireland a mansion that equals or compares with it in size and beauty and adornment; in the number of its courts and rooms and windows; in the amount of its gold and treasure and precious stones.
¶93] For there are to be seen thrice fifty principal rooms surrounding my own fair, beautifully-shaped, crystal-adorned room, with its four golden pillars, the top of each mounted with gems of flashing precious stones, which are covered with four diverse coverlets from morn till eve. And when these covering are removed from the pillars they gleam in the face of all beholders. In addition to this, fifty champions of mine are in attendance upon Fergus and Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar. And there are, besides, Finnabair and red Cainner with their fifty attendant maidens, not to speak of our ollamhs and men of learning.
¶94] I do not profess to dispute with you said Bricne. And yet, the palace of Oilill is the grandest in Ireland. This is the description of that mansion. There are thrice fifty principal rooms, and thrice inferior couches around a principal couch, on a polished floor of copper, without a speck of dust or permanent blotch. Fourteen chairs are round its doors. As to Oilill's room: thrice fifty warriors wearing golden helmets attend there, with thrice fifty royal maidens dressed in gold, and thrice fifty royal pages, besides poets and ollamhs. Fifty birds are round that bed with heads all silver-white, with beautiful golden plumage on the head of each, and with white chains flashing with gems between each two birds save one. A musical ball of gold on the end of each of these chains. And when wind blows gently over roof or skylight or window
p.103of that mansion, the melody of these musical balls is as sweet as that of the strings of a lyre touched by the fingers of a sage. At Oilill's back is a partition of silver and white bronze which, proceeding upwards through the building, forms the ridge of the palace. Fifty golden helmets protect the girls and maidens. There are, moreover, thrice fifty kings' helmets around Oilill the Fair himself. And while saying this he repeated the lay:
- A wonderful palace the palace of Oilill,
I have come away from it well pleased;
Many a champion is there, in truth,
Many a king, many a lord.
- Thrice fifty rooms are there,
With lofty walls reaching to the roof;
In each individual room of them
Fifty (warriors) are conspicuously seen.
- The beautiful room of Oilill
Delightful a feast within it;
With its gleaming walls of brass,
Its beautiful pillars of red gold.
- The bottom of that couch
Of pure white silver for its lord to rest upon,
Its middle of brass
Its upper part of yellow gold.
- There move round that couch
Its birds never ceasing,
Sweeter than human music
To listen to their warble.
- (Decked with) crystal and carbuncle,
The four golden pillars;
Fifty crystal lamps
Are a-light in the pleasant, peopled room.
- Fifty chains of special pattern
Of the gold of the peaceful holy land,
p.105My mouth does not utter a lie,
Upon each two birds in the dwelling.
- A polished floor of copper
In whatever direction I approach it:
Seven score men, fit warriors,
Are the guardians of the king's bed.
- A partition of silver and white bronze
To the back of the incomparable(?) Oilill,
In the room of many swords,
Which joins to the wall of the roof.
- Thrice fifty champions carousing
Of princes and nobles;
Thrice fifty champions in waiting
Of youths and gentlemen.
- Fifty goblets of white silver,
For drinking intoxicating mead;
Fifty polished trenchers of copper;
Fifty cups, fifty beakers.
- Thrice fifty golden helmets,
Around the maidens in the abode;
And thrice fifty kings' helmets;
Truly wonderful palace.
¶95] All the chiefs of the men of Ireland said they never heard a nobler description of mansion. Thereupon the disputation ceased. Meave was sorry that she entered upon a dispute with Bricne. Still, because it was on account of her own virulence and combativeness that he debated with her, she made Bricne welcome. We will regard you all the more, said she that you have spoken so well.
¶96] The great palace of Cruachan was thereupon prepared, and Meave and Ailill and Fergus and Cormac and all the chiefs sat down (to the banquet). The ollamhs were seated,
p.107and Bricne sat opposite Fergus. When the others were making merry, Bricne said: Yonder, Fergus are the hundred and fifty chariots with their horses and shields, and the three hundred mantles, and the three thousand irnas of red gold which you promised to the women of your household, in order to provide armour of diverse pattern for your warriors. The luck and the blessing are yours, Bricne, said Fergus; the wealth is great and the ownership (thereof) vast. Another while was passed in drinking and enjoyment, when Fergus and Cormac and Dubthach and Angus son of One-hand Gaba came to have talk with Bricne. Little did you know, my dear Fergus, that I have been a-courting for you, said Bricne. What scrape have you got me into now, Bricne? said Fergus. As they spoke thus, the following staves were repeated between them:
- Little have you thought now,
Great Fergus, son of Ros,
That I was making a tryst for you,
With ladies of gentle bearing.
- I say to you, son of Cairbre,
Though you debate the matter hard,
The lands are kindly,
However rough the witnesses.
- Now withdraw your words,
A taboo is upon you, and the pangs of a woman,
If you do not carry away from her home
The queen of featful Oilill.
- Do not say, shameless one,
What is unseemly,
We shall not get in our day (elsewhere),
Our position in Connaught.
- You have cast your valour aside,
Since you have left your castle,
Your prowess and dread have taken wings,
Your vigour has all but vanished.
¶97] Upon hearing what the son of greyheaded Cairbre said, (Dubthach) gave a violent kick to Bricne, so that the back of the ollamh was forthwith in the great blazing fire, and it was all the attendants could do to save him from being singed and his back burned.
¶98] There was great confusion in the hostel because of this. Many of the Ultonians drew their weapons, and the tribes of Taidiu responded to the uproar. Meave raised her head and suddenly asked: What have you done to the ollamh, Ulstermen? said she. What has often hurt him, replied Dubthach, that sharp loud tongue of his. Fergus resented greatly this public insult to Bricne. He longed to attack Dubthach, but the Dubloinges prevented him. Meave and Oilill blamed all and sundry for dishonouring Bricne in their presence. The women and youths of Cruachan were all pleased at the great insult which Bricne received, and they said that no tongue ever deserved punishment more than his; for there were not in Cruachan (even) two who loved each other ever so much, but Bricne managed to put deadly and irreconcilable enmity between them.
¶99] The matter passed for that night. When the morrow's morning came Fergus and the Dubloinges summoned Bricne to a place apart, and inquired of him: How does this tryst hang together? I (only) tell you, said Bricne, what Flidais asked you to do, viz., to go to the Gamhanraidh
p.111for a subsidy of horses and weapons and armour, and that she would come away from you with her herds and her hummel cow, the best in Ireland, and would bring along with her three thousand women fit to mate with kings and lords to meet your people, i.e. a wife for every man of them; and should you carry these away, they will sustain the men of Ireland every seventh night, both men and women, youths and children, each night. Do you deliberate upon that proposal. added Bricne. And if you go on that expedition, it will be an omen of great contests and the cause of disaster. For you will have instant combat and vigorous fighting from the featful dexterous champions and the nimble battalions of the warriors of the Gamhanraidh. That means, said Fergus, that you do not (intend to) accompany us to the (country of the) Gamhanraidh, Bricne. I do not, great prince, said Bricne, for you will not miss me; and (moreover) the feeble's proper (home) is in Emain. That will not be so, Bricne, said Fergus, if you come not with us willingly, you will come in spite of you, to save your hair and pile. I shall go, said Bricne, and I shall rue it. And while talking thus, he chanted this lay, Fergus replying:
- Tidings for you, generous Fergus,
Mild son of Roigh, not peaceful tidings,
Flidais has bestowed upon you, omen of great deeds,
I know it well, great manifest love.
- Should you abide here, she has laid upon you,
If to your sorrow, nine taboos this night.
I shall go west, and carry her away with me,
A lightsome task to go in quest of her.
- If him I saw in the west be hale and well,
Should his ire arise, the slope will be red;
I give my word, said Oilill the Fair,
He shall be the first to be sent adrift on sea.
- I see the hosts of Cruachan, numerous though you be,
Your strength will be of small account in opposing the king:
You folks here, should you go west,
Will encounter genuine feats of arms.
- You people here, though distressful to me,
Birds of prey will wheel over your heads;
Hands will be in mould; lips will be pale;
Slaughter will be rife: birds (of prey) will be gorged.
- Should Donald and his hosts attack you,
They will obtain booty, it will not be a slight encounter;
Should Fermenn son of Daire the Red be there,
He will make a charge; the dead on the field (will be many).
- Should the host of Goll Acla from the west come,
His force will be well led, the dead will be numerous;
I will not accompany you, I am not over strong,
I will stay here, that is best for me.
- Foolish Bricne, you shall come with me,
In the shelter of my shield, protection from a hundred lances.
I am now labouring under heavy sickness,
Restore me, O hero, to my home.
- Come with me, willingly, sweet-voiced Bricne,
Or you will come instantly to save your head.
I shall accompany you, an omen of tears;
My lot is hard, true the tale.
Tidings for you.
¶100] They resolved to go on that quest. And thereafter they went over to Cruachan, and Oilill and Dubthach sat down to play chess for a while. That was the very time when Fergus went to have parley with Oilill and Meave. He sought permission to go to the Gamhanraidh for a subsidy of weapons and armour; and he received leave readily from Oilill and Meave. Dubthach was asked whether he was not ready to accompany them. You go forward, said Dubthach, and tell me where you mean to stay this night. I know, said
p.115Meave, in the house of Moda Minadhmadadh, my chief steward, in the fort of Red-ford on the black river of Brea, call the Ford of
¶101] The Dubloinges and Fergus fared forth and arrived at the fort of Red-ford. Moda Minadhmadadh rose to meet them, and kissed Fergus and Cormac Conloinges, and welcomed all the chiefs of the Dubloinges. They were served and ministered to thereafter, for he (Moda) had a great and excellent banquet ready for Oilill and Meave. For that royal hostel was a great Rath, and he (Moda) was moreover the principal steward of the province. Besides there were there a triad (of rules) which a cerd observed, viz., point thrusts(?), and furious combat, and respite in fighting; and a triad which an hospitaller observed, viz., the ever full caldron, and welcome to every company, and refusal to none. And they were there until close of day. Their proceedings thus far.
¶102] With respect to Dubthach: the afternoon found him still in Cruachan; he lost the game, and he was loudly and derisively laughed at. He rose up angrily and asked his servant whether the horses had been caught, or the chariot yoked. There they stand, said the lad. The horses were brought to Dubthach. He stepped into his chariot and drove
p.117to the castle of Red-ford. And when the attendants of the Dubloinges saw Dubthach (approaching) they cursed him. Dubthach alighted from his chariot and proceeded to Fergus's quarters. Every one made way for him.
¶103] As to Dubthach's servant, he looked round and found the horses of the Dubloinges, the horses of Fergus, as likewise those of Moda, each in a paddock apart. He approached the stable boys of the Dubloinges, and they laughed at him, and would not permit him or his horses to find room with them. He went to Fergus's men and they repulsed him. He then approached the landlord's servants. Death and destruction to you! said they, if the whole world were to receive you as we do, you would get no resting-place in it. The lad scoured the stead three times, and he could find no place for his horses, nor bed nor food nor fare (for himself). When everything failed him he came to where his master was, and this is what he said: The servant of a bad master I must be, seeing that I am this night without food or drink or bed.
¶104] Dubtach sat up when he heard this, and said: How is it, Moda, said he, that you do not provide food and drink and a sleeping-place for my servant? With respect to sleeping-houses, said Moda, I have not a single one save that which is common to all the company, and neither your servant nor that of any other warrior shall find room therein. As to food, added Moda, if one man's surfeit does not satisfy your servant, he will be the surfeit of nine. Dubthach was furious at the answer, and the two quarrelled. And Dubthach was eager to rise, but was not permitted. However, when he ceased to be observed Dubthach rose up and gave a sword blow to Moda, which cut him in two.
¶105] Fergus rose up thereupon, but the Dubloinges rose also and held him back. And Fergus never after met with anything to compare with the slaughter of Moda by Dubthach. And they passed that night anxiously until the morrow's morning came. And Fergus rose up and approached
p.119Moda Minadhmadadh's body, and was greatly lamenting him, and spoke this: Woeful is the deed which you have done, Dubthach, said he and evil was your deed in Emain, when you slew Fiacha son of Conchobar and Daire son of Fedelmid. And cruel were the other murders you have done, viz., the murder of Laidis and Lennabair, the two daughters of Eogan son of Durtacht, and Moirenn of the white neck, the wife of Fatneck son of Eirgiu, and Ethne of the fair head, wife of Errge House-mouth. And it is not (desire of) renown that caused you to do this deed. And as he spoke thus he recited the lay:
- O Dubthach, thou has betrayed us,
For long thou hast brought shame to us;
Though thy deed this might is evil,
So were thy doings in Emain.
- Fiacha the Fair, son of Conchobar,
By thine hand he fell;
The death of Daire son of Fedelmid,
Though it was he, was not a deed to benefit.
- Moirenn white-neck thou hast slain,
Wife of Fat-neck, without shame,
Ethne fair-head thou hast wounded,
Wife of Errge, a cruel quarrel.
- Laidis and Lennabair,
'Tis thine hand that mangled them;
The fair Edain from Berramain,
Thou hast destroyed her also.
- Moda Minnadhmad has fallen by thine hand,
Meave's great artificer who committed no crime;
Although thou doest savage deeds,
It is not from the hardness of thine heart.
- Thou hast been the cause of our exile,
Although thou canst not aid us now;
Thou hast ruined the sway of Fergus,
A wild deed thou hast done, O Dubthach.
¶106] Thus was that night passed. They rose on the morrow anxiously and sorrowfully. Fergus moved about mournfully; and severely reproaching his chiefs, said: we shall no longer have place or power in Connaught after this deed which we have done.
¶107] These tidings reached Cruachan, and the people yelled and roared when they heard them. Meave rose and gathered her household together. She greatly pressed the Maines, and sent messengers for Cet and the sons of Magach, urging them to pursue the Dubloinges closely and avenge the terrible murder which they committed. But Oilill was restraining her, and said: I shall have no part in these proceedings, said Oilill. Our dependants shall not be put to death for their violent deeds; nor shall our allies fall for their crimes; and neither shall we make an enemy for a season of the greatest riever and raider in Europe. The pursuit of Fergus thereupon ceased.
¶108] The proceedings of Fergus are related now. They deliberated as to what they should do, and they resolved to proceed westwards. They arrived that night at the house of Airne son of Dub Docladh, the fort of the Airnes' Loch. And Airne son of Dub (the Black), and his seven brothers, i.e. the Airnes after whom the loch is named, rose and gave a warm and courteous welcome to Fergus. And the hospitaller's house was put in order by them. Fergus, Cormac Conloinges, and the other chiefs, were then brought into the hostel. The house was arranged comfortably and luxuriously and Fergus was seated. Airne son of Dub Docladh, sat beside Fergus, and Cormac Conloinges sat beside him. And the seven Airnes, the hospitaller's brothers, sat beside Cormac. The seven noblest of the heroes of the Dubloinges sat (next). And Breac and Nainnesg, the hospitaller's two sons, sat in the champions' seat opposite to them. Uaithne Bright-breast, son of Conall Cernach sat down, with Goibnenn son of Luirgnech beside him. And the couches were filled, alternately, by the chiefs of Fergus and of the Airnes. They were ministered to and served with mead and wine and flesh and the choicest of every kind of food. And the stout heroes were plied with liquor until the company were merry and sated, and became excited with drunkenness and unreason.
¶109] When bedtime came, his couch was made ready for Fergus, and their couches were made ready for all the high nobles. Each of them thereupon sprang into his bed and Dubthach was left alone upon the floor. Dubthach asked, Where is my bed? said he. Inquire of your own friends, replied Airne. When Dubthach heard this he began
p.205to fasten a quarrel upon Airne. Fergus heard the violent language of the champions, and rose from very shame to punish Dubthach for his ill tongue. And the Dubloinges rose to shield Dubthach from Fergus. The womenfolk and non-combatants of the stead gathered in a menacing manner. All the people in the fort now heard the uproar, and they all, Fergus's folk and those of Airne, came at once to the castle. And they pacified the folk in the royal hostel and saved Dubthach from injury. Cormac Conloinges and Airne son of Dub Docladh went forth to view the crowd and found it no easy task to separate the two parties. Threescore of the people of these warriors fell in the house or outside. Then each of them joined his own people, and they had an anxious and disturbed time of it until day with its full light came.
¶110] Fergus rose very early and gathered his chiefs around him. He came upon the lawn, and bade farewell to the Airnes in angry mood. He then placed a front and rear guard upon his goodly champions. They left the country hurriedly, and did not halt upon that march and on rush until they reached the fort of Ath Fen, when they sent Bricne to the stead to herald them.
¶111] Bricne went to the place where Oilill the Fair was, and he was recognised. All went forth to meet him, and they gave him a genuine and hearty welcome. They kissed him many times, and asked tidings from him. And Oilill said, Oblige me by carrying Bricne over to the castle. Bricne was thereupon brought to the stead. Lofty and very delightful bowers, and richly furnished sleeping apartments, were prepared and strewn with fresh rushes for Bricne and his party, and they were told to go to their rooms where they would be served and attended to. We shall on no account go, said Bricne, for a greater and nobler guest than we has come, i.e. Fergus son of Roigh, to hold converse and to make alliance with you, and to seek assistance in weapons
p.207and armour from you and from the Gamhanraidh, for, apart from Oilill and Meave, there is no one in Ireland whose friendship he desires as much s yours. His coming and arrival are alike pleasing to me, said Oilill. He will receive horses and armour and warlike weapons as a guerdon of his visit; and the Gamhanraidh will join him on any quest and expedition he pleases. And they were blithe to welcome Fergus. How far distant is Fergus? asked Oilill. He is quite nigh, said Bricne. Oilill thereupon made ready a spacious royal mansion for Fergus son of Roigh.
¶112] Now when the mansion was put in order and made ready Oilill said to Bricne, Let us go inside and have our repast. They went; and the freshest of every food and the oldest of every noble drink were brought to them, and they became merry and loud-voiced and reckless. The mind of the ollamh was excited by the strength of the liquor and the fickleness of ill-luck; and the quantity and frequency of the streams of old mead (which he quaffed) altogether confused Bricne's senses. He bent over Oilill and said Good now, Oilill, do you know the quest on which Fergus has come to this place? No, I do not, said Oilill. For your wife has he come, said Bricne, to carry her away in elopement and secrecy. Is she herself privy to that plot, ollamh? asked Oilill. She is, assuredly, said Bricne, for it was she who put him under prohibitions, if he did not come to carry her away from the Gamhanraidh of her free will or by violence. And she promised that she would bring with her the hummel cow, the best in all Ireland, as well as her other herds. And she undertook to feed the men of Ireland every seventh night on the great expedition of Tain bo Cuailgni. I should much wish that his quest were different, said Oilill. The subject was dropped then, and they continued drinking.
¶113] As to Fergus now. He marshalled his people and formed
p.209the Dubloinges in three vast brave weapon brilliant divisions, and in three imposing princely great powerful battalions, and in three magnificent huge grand cohorts. The first battalion of the champions consisted of two thousand fighting warriors under the command of Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar of the elite of the crown princes of the royal race of Rugraide, armed with purple-brown beautifully-coloured very large and tall shields, with mantles ornate and of one colour, with well-fitting dun-coloured edge-figured tunics, with scalloped smooth-white finely-woven smocks, and with slender gray figured sharp swords of steel, and with sharp bladed smooth-polished long-pointed spears, and with closely-fitted fully-carved long strong and flashing coats of mail, and with handsome hair plated soft satin collars, and with well-fitting beautifully-shaped gem-flashing headpieces.
¶114] Their gentry, their nobles and princes, surrounded Fergus the high king. These carried gold-adorned smooth gussetted green-coloured shields on the left hand of each hero, and long terror-striking bloody spears, and long timely-tempered sharp-pointed swords on their thighs. They wore green smooth-edged gold-fringed mantles, fastened on their breasts with richly-figured white-silver brooches, while very elegant kingly-beautiful diadems adorned with magic scrolls covered the brow of each noble.
¶115] Their seniors and elders, their wise counsellors, their men of trust and knowledge, were in the rear of the Dubloinges. Their mercenaries, their strong officers, and the hired troops, formed the last company. These wore blue peaked mantles, and the powerful men carried long sharp-headed sword-pointed spears, and yellow purple-speckled variegated diverse-coloured banners waved over them.
¶116] They marched forward in this order to the castle of Ath Fen. And when the people of the place saw that fairy brilliant well-disposed host approaching they went to the windows and on the ramparts of the cattle to behold and view them. And they were all impressed with the spectacular display.
¶117] Fergus then appeared upon the lawn. And when the Gamhanraidh saw them, they all went forth with Oilill the Fair to welcome Fergus. They were put into a sleeping house, for the Gamhanraidh had prepared a spacious mansion for the reception of the Dubloinges. And these were placed there, and they put their arms and numerous weapons upon the racks.
¶118] Then the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh were summoned by Oilill the Fair. He asked them how Fergus should be lodged, whether in the guest house or in Oilill the Fair's own palace. That should be asked of himself and of his chiefs rather than of us, said they. But it has been asked of you (said Oilill). We should prefer, said they, that Fergus and his principal men should be in the same house with Oilill the Fair and the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh, so that Fergus and Oilill can observe the goodwill and friendship of both parties. Messengers were sent for them then, and they were brought to the palace. And thus they were seated; two of Fergus's chiefs on either side of each one of Oilill the Fair's chiefs, and two of Oilill the Fair's chiefs on either side of each one of Fergus's chiefs, to provide against their wrath and fury, in case anger or dispute or quarrel should arise among them, for these were the two (foremost) tribes of the chivalry and bravery of Conn's Half, the Gamhanraidh of Irrus Domnann and the predatory troops of the clan Rugraide.
¶119] Oilill the Fair asked Fergus whether they (two) should sit side by side, or each sit among his own chiefs. The value of the welcome is its sincerity, said Fergus. Oilill thereupon went to his couch and sat in his royal seat and ordered Fergus beside him. And until now Fergus was not used to such treatment, for in every assembly in which he was present not (even) a king dared to issue a command to another except through Fergus; and no one ever dared to sit (even) on a throne before he (Fergus) was seated, until he came to the palace of Oilill the Fair, that haughty and renowned king of the Gamhanraidh. He would yield his own seat to no man. But as for Fergus, he took the seat assigned to him, for he
p.213would not condescend to dispute with Oilill about a matter of precedence, being certain that eventually he would punish (that potentate) for this disrespect to him.
¶120] But one thing. They drank and made merry, and Oilill the Fair and Fergus engaged in pleasant talk. Oilill asked Fergus what brought him to Irrus Domnann on this occasion. I have come to ask assistance in weapons and armour from you and the Gamhanraidh, and to make the acquaintance of you all. That is not your object as we have heard, said Oilill, and folks say that you never conceal anything if questioned about it. What do you mean by that? said Fergus. What I have heard, said Oilill, is that it is for my wife you have come, to carry her away willingly or by force.. I do not deny it, said Fergus. It were indeed better if it could be denied, said Oilill; but look here, if you mean to act thus, Fergus, added Oilill, repeat this talk to none. But go early on the morrow to the Ford of the Game, by the Dún of slaughter, taking your charioteer, and he who returns of us two shall have the lady. Agreed, said Fergus. Their affairs thus far.
¶121] As to Bricne: When his first stage of drunkenness passed, he began to look all round the house. And he saw the flush of anger in the faces of Fergus and Oilill. A fit of repentance for what he had done seized him, and he went forth from the house. And he saw the place being filled from east and west, north and south with battalions in battle array and hosts under arms. When Bricne saw this he went in and asked Oilill what these battle cohorts and great armed hosts were that came, filling all the place. My people and my household these, replied Oilill the Fair. They have come to celebrate the
p.215Hallowmas fair on the morrow. And Bricne went forth again and saw a great company due south of him, a company, to wit, dark very large in close array, with brown mantles fringed with silver round them all, with broad woollen smocks, and with broad gray-blue swords in their hands flashing, and great sharp spears with long shafts and thick for a stout hero's grip, and brown broad-tufted very large shields. A stately sedate very tall youth marched in front of the noble company who maintained perfect discipline among them, Ailill recognised them, and this lay was composed on the occasion:
- A squadron is approaching the castle,
They are not the men to retreat,
With mantles brown coloured
And shields of like colour.
- Dark men with hero's strength,
With smocks shining white in the sun;
Tall men of black complexion
Who have come from the great sea.
- Grey swords in their hands,
Which strike deadly in conflict
Spears pennoned, large,
Men very tall, not to be gainsaid.
- I recognise the hosts,
Those men of high spirit
Angus son of Echtach from over (the sea)
And the youthful warriors of Aran.
- They are men hard to contend with,
Their protection is hard to obtain,
These men will not be slain,
Till the grass is soaked with their blood.
(A squadron) is.
¶122] Then Bricne went forth, and viewed the lawn all around. And he saw a large squadron seated upon the edge of the
p.217green. They appeared to be two hundred in number; the half of them clothed in purple mantles of one shade and fringed; the other half in green diverse coloured mantles. There sat in the centre of them a man with fair curly hair, sedate, alert, handsome, of ruddy face and lisping tongue. Oilill recognised them, and this lay was made:
- There is a troop upon the plain,
Where they can be seen;
About two hundred in number,
With weapons and many shields.
- A hundred in purple mantles,
Men handsome worthy of high praise;
An hundred in green mantles
Fair and truly gallant men.
- There is one in the hand,
The fairest of the world's men;
A tall hero with fair hair,
And of melodious utterance.
- That is the great Muiredach,
Son of Oilill, numerous his host;
He will not flee while life lasts,
Or he becomes a changed man.
¶123] After that lay Bricne went forth again upon the green, and looked about him. And he was amazed at the multitude of people and the ranked battalions which he saw coming to the place. He returned within and said to Oilill: There is a great squadron now on the hill to the west. They look about four hundred warriors in number. Five brown-haired distinguished noble heroes clad in leaders' dress are in the front of the host; a straight light-brown man in bright armour is in the rear of the numerous company; while a broad-headed, curly-haired, mild-spoken, fair-skinned man is in the midst of the battle warriors, commanding them. I recognise
p.219that other troop, said Oilill. And as they spoke thus Bricne recited the lay and Oilill responded thereto:
- Another squadron there on the hill,
They come not from the east but from the west;
Hosts most eager at the hunt,
In their purple blood-red array.
- There are in front of the company
Five heroes, fierce their spears;
There is in the rear, a space apart,
A rough straight light-brown youth.
- In the midst of the soldiers,
A tall, noble
A man fit to decide every case
That may arise in Ireland's courts.
- Gamhanraidh all of them,
With Gaman of Sidgal;
A man whose sway and good humour is absolute,
And whose troops are the handsomest.
Another squadron there.
¶124] Then Bricne went forth again upon the green, and he kept gazing around him on every side. And he saw the gallant very large crowds, and the serried ranks, and the squadrons in beautiful mantles, and the vast daring multitudes. Great terror took hold of him and he returned within again. Oilill asked Any news, Bricne? I have, indeed, replied Bricne; for until the sand of the sea is counted up, and the leaves of the forest, and dew upon grass, and grass upon green, the hosts and armed troops, the foot champions and battle-soldiers of the king, and the mercenaries upon the green of this castle at the present time cannot be numbered. My people these, said Oilill the Fair, who have come to hold this fair on the morrow.
¶125] And Bricne went forth again, and he saw a troop in the green in the south-west. And this is their description, as Bricne related it:
- Here is a mighty squadron,
Of men well-shaped and stern,
Bright their complexion
Four hundred and twelve their number.
- A purple shield on the left hand of each champion
Of the chiefs that cannot be challenged;
In the diadems of the princes,
Spikelets green of one colour.
- A dark man in front of the company,
His household consists of four hundred lords;
Two-colours distinguish the lord of havens,
White skin, face purple like cruan.
- These are the clans of Find
Accompanying Fraoch of Rea
The mighty will march as you see them.
¶126] Bricne went (again) upon the green, and kept viewing the four airts of the earth around him. He saw not an airt of them, but with hosts and multitudes coming to the place. And he saw a great vast squadron coming straight from the north of dark very tall men, dressed in short cloaks all of one colour, and with brown very lofty shields on the shoulders of the manky warriors. The equal of these in size or soldierly bearing had not (hitherto) come upon the green. As Bricne was describing them he recited the lay:
- This is the greatest squadron,
Of a truth no falsehood;
There has not come up till now
A troop to match them.
- In the company in front
Are four hundred sedate champions;
In the rear company
Are four hundred equally conspicuous.
- There are other four hundred,
Tall fierce champions;
Each warrior fitly armed
In the great squadron in the centre.
- A shield on the back of each hero,
Speckled and very large;
There is a heavy unwieldy stone,
Fastened to each white shield.
- These are the men from the north,
From the borders of Assaroe
Aedh and Angus of equal valour,
The two noble sons of black-footed Curnan.
- A squadron of highest courage
That comes in their splendid form;
There are not (men) of greater daring or strength,
I declare unto you.
¶127] Bricne went forth once again, and viewed the green all round. And he saw an unknown strange troop coming from the north in the track of the first squadron, about two hundred in number. Each hero had a spear, and each battle-soldier a very large stone in the hollow of his shield. In the centre of the warriors marched a very tall brave beardless man with plaited curls of saffron-yellow hair. Bricne went within and told these tidings to Oilill, and this lay was recited by the two of them:
- You who look on the hosts,
View them in the line of your spear;
If you recognise them, tell me
What this great company on the field is.
- Describe to me, persistent Bricne,
The distinctive garb of the warriors,
That I may give to you
An account of each individual.
- I judge them to be two hundred fierce warriors,
Taller than the men of other troops,
Red their shields, yellow their hair,
From the north they have come.
- With two hundred broad spears,
As they come into the thick of conflict;
With two hundred heavy champion stones
Fastened to their curved shields.
- A tall beardless stammering warrior,
Is he around whom the hosts sit,
Over his crown there flows
Hair curly beautiful soft smooth.
- These men, I tell you,
Are the chivalry of Muigh Eme;
The tall man, pride without deceit,
Is Fermenn son of the handsome Dara the Red.
- War to those against whom they fight,
Whenever their ire arises;
Happy indeed the chief
With whom they take up arms, O man.
¶128] Now as to Oilill the Fair. He made himself pleasant to Fergus, and this is what he said to him: What has brought you to this country, Fergus? asked Ailill. You have heard already, replied Fergus. In the case, I shall not give of my wealth to my hurt, said Oilill. I, for one, shall not taste your food or your drink, rejoined Fergus, for I have never slain (a man) after partaking of his food. And Fergus went out. Ailill whispered to Fergus: Let not the Gamhanraidh hear this. But betake thee early to the Ford of the Game, and let no one hear of it but your charioteer. And no one shall hear of it from me but my charioteer. Let us fight, and whichever of us survives shall have the lady. Fergus went out and Dubthach and Angus followed at his heel. They asked what the cause of his wrath was, but he did not like to tell them. And he charged them to tell no one else. He then
p.305told them. Dubthach requested (Fergus) to allow himself to fight Oilill. Fergus said that he had given up the idea of fighting (Oilill) on that issue, for he was by no means a worthy opponent of his; and thereupon this lay was repeated by them:
- Fergus, will you abide
Every fierce angry quarrel?
Why should you undertake
This conflict in preference to me.
- It does not become you to meet him,
The man is not of your rank;
To succour him might be suitable work for you,
Not to avenge (his insolence).
- Ailill the Fair, the lordly prince,
Prince of Erris in the west of Ireland,
Is not a fitting opponent
To the famous King of Ulster.
- I shall hurl this sharp-pointed spear
Against Oilill of the Ford of Fernas;
There is not my equal in the fight,
Saving you only, Fergus.
¶129] Fergus thereupon went to his sleeping apartment, and the night passed. He arose early on the morrow, and wakened his attendant, who caught the horses and yoked the chariot. Early though they arrived they found Oilill at the Ford. And the two brandished their very sharp, mighty-swift, easily-hurled weapons against each other, and made a fierce but undecisive attack. The warriors handled the weapons dexterously, so that there was no mark nor blood on the princes until the day dawned on the heroes.
¶130] Dubthach and Angus observed that Fergus has gone forth, and they seized their weapons and made for the Ford. They found the champions fighting at the Ford, and each of them made a thrust at Oilill, and Oilill made a thrust at each of them. Cormac Conloinges son of Conchobar and Uaithne Bright-breast son of Conall Cernach observed that
p.307Fergus had gone out. And Cormac (and Uaithne) went forth. They saw the heroes fighting, and when they did they approached them. And (Cormac) made a thrust at Oilill. Uaithne made another thrust at him, and Oilill wounded both of them. Birrdeg son of Ruad and Edar son of Eogaoth, and Fiach son of Fireba thereafter went forth, and each of them attacked Oilill, and Oilill inflicted deep wounds on each mighty man of them. Then Goibnenn son of Luirgnech and Suanach son of Salgaba, foster-brother of Cormac, and Lugaid Lamderc (Redhand) son of D[...] and Sith [...] son of Edgat went to the scene of the conflict, and each of them struck at Oilill, and Oilill wounded each man of them. How is it, servant of Oilill, said Fergus's servant, that you did not tell your mighty chiefs the dire extremity in which (Oilill) is? It is a vow of mine, replied the lad, as long as the combat is equal to say nothing about it.
¶131] And so it was that from the end of the night until full afternoon they fought in this furious fashion. There were heard throughout the camp the clash of swords raised on high, the clang of blades against helmets, and the whistle of spears mid the tempestuous winds. The din was heard in the tent of the clan Fidach. These rose up furiously madly angrily valiantly courageously recklessly so that their rush and tramp were heard in the clouds of heaven and in the hollows of trees and rough rocks; the wild dangerous urgently-persistent uproar of the Gamhanraidh as they rose up; the ... of the warriors as they donned their armour; the shout of the youth at their sudden awakening; the frown of the young folks as they rose reluctantly; the inciting and counselling of the champions and warriors as they pressed the mighty, and urged the attendants, and hurried the swift-footed to exert their battle-frenzy and avenge their enmity on the Dubloinges. They marched forth very swiftly in close columns sharply pointed very lofty terrible, and in roughly marshalled doggedly furious battalions and in agile troops with banners displayed on red standards,
p.309and arrived at the place of conflict and the scene of hard blows.
¶132] Then the Dubloinges gathered fiercely terribly restlessly recklessly wrathfully firmly, and formed themselves into a phalanx warlike victorious steel-edged awe-inspiring rough, and into a bulwark broad and stern hero-valiant thick-shafted hero-furious, and into a palisade pointed red-tipped fateful dangerous speckled pale purpled. They marched forward in that order in dense masses insatiable large-speared, [...], and in select powerful featful rock-firm columns, and selected a spacious trampled field at the eastern angle of the Ford. They and the Gamhanraidh shouted vigorously and exultantly on seeing each other, so that their pæan reached the clouds. And over the heads of the hosts the great heavy showers of brandished spears and flashing sharp-pointed deadly venomous javelins shout out the light.
¶133] And the thick-shafted battle spears of the champions were twisted, and the shafts were bent and broken in splinters against the battle shields; and walls echoed the din; and coats of mail were shortened by the frequent hacking of them; and heroes were slashed through their valorous chests; and heads were cloven through helmets; and hair was twisted by curved blades, and eyes were blinded by the fierce red streams of blood that fell thickly upon the ground. The battle became at once a series of duels and strife, so that far away from the actors could be heard the onset of valiant soldiers, the mighty efforts of the champions, the onrush of the crown princes, the thunder of the lords, the clamour of the troops warding off danger, the sword play of the brave foot-soldiers in all parts of the field; the spirit and eagerness of the young and tender warriors; the ire of the stalwart men as they were being hacked; the arrogance of the gentry towards the plebeians; the loud voices of the nobles and officers and warriors in pressing the fight, inciting the charge, and urging the heroes.
¶134] Now when their battle supports reached the others Fergus
p.311and Angus and Dubtach charged their shields Oilill alone, and he with his three shields charged them. Fergus leapt back, brandished his battle spear, and wounded Oilill below the belt. Oilill brandished his great broad spear from shaft to point and wounded Fergus right valiantly. Dubthach and Angus wounded Oilill, and he in turn fiercely wounded them to such purpose that the heroes were a mass of gore from the spear-thrusts.
¶135] When the Gamhanraidh heard clearly these three terrible blows upon the single shield of Oilill the Fair, the flower of the fiery chivalry of the Gamhanraidh of Erris responded, viz. the slim Gaman of Sidgal and his two (brother) Gamans along with him. The three brothers delivered three tremendous fateful but indecisive blows of their shields upon Fergus, which the latter met with fury and effect. (Other) three mighty valiant men of the same Gamhanraidh joined the fight, and gave three furious compelling blows to the high king which were heard by all the chiefs.
¶136] Howbeit it was a source of terror and dread to those engaged in that fight to listen to the screaming of carrion crows and birds of prey of bird-flocks and bird-tribe, the howling of dogs and dog-packs hungering for carnage and entrails, the watching of wild birds, and fluttering of the birds of the air as they swooped down on wounded men. For there indeed within a short space could be seen many a warrior sorely wounded, many a champion mangled, heroes with their hands hacked, lords fallen, chiefs mortally wounded, princes outdone, yeomen with bosoms ripped, stout men hacked, troops with bloody mantles, heads cut, eyes half-blinded, lips locked and pale, eyes turned, breasts panting, knees cross-swaying, and feet chopped. So that after the fierce encounters the field was one continuous ominous confused tumult of wounded lords and churls, and one stout strong firm-armed phalanx of broken shafts whittled swords and cloven helmets, and one purple path of broken swords
p.313and carcases wound-gaping foam-bubbling all-bloody. The slaughters were multiplied and the field made impassable by the number of spears and swords and battle-shields, the hacked and mangled carcases, the unwieldy warriors stark dead, the high-spirited soldiers destroyed, and the attendants as they lay hideous and swollen(?). Such was the slaughter by the Gamhanraidh in that fight, in which fell a countless host of the Dubloinges,(not less than) a thousand in number.
¶137] Now when Fergus saw his people being slain and destroyed, and the Gamhanraidh gaining upon them, he began (afresh) to show his royal military spirit,wielding the heavy swords, laying mighty men low, plying the gapped spears, hurling the shafts, piercing princes, cutting bodies in two, annihilating troops, cleaving shields, driving home his blows, and rousing his wrath; for according to the historians Fergus's wrath did not attain to its full fury until he waded ankle deep in blood. He stretched forth his hand for his swordthe Hard-bladeand found it not in its scabbard. And this is how it was: one day as he was in dalliance with Meave by a hazel-tree in Cruachan Ailill caught them in the act. And he removed the Hard-blade from its sheath and put a wooden blade in its stead. When Fergus observed this, he thought the Connaught men had done it to insult him. So he ordered Bricne to go and tell Cormac Conloinges to leave the fight with as many of his people as he could bring with him. But as for myself I shall not retreat one foot during my career or my course. Bricne went to the Ultonians and told his message to them. Cormac then withdrew from the battle when he saw that the forces of the Gamhanraidh were so much superior, and covered the retreat of his men.
¶138] But as to Fergus. He and Dubthach and Angus were ever attacking Oilill with their shields. When Gaman of Sidgal observed this he approached them, and made a very valiant thrust at Fergus, who made a furious thrust at him. Goll Oilech and Goll Acla sought them, and each made a thrust at Fergus who gave an avenging blow to each of them. Then came Aodh son of Echtach and Angus son of Echtach, and each of them made a thrust at Fergus's shield, and he made a thrust at each of them. Duban son of the Gaman then made for him. He gave a stinging stroke to Fergus which the latter instantly returned with interest. Thereupon the seven Breislenns of Brefne sought him all at once; and each made a thrust at him, but Fergus gave as good as he got to each stout man of them.
¶139] And now all the Gamhanraidh went to attack him in this wise, and last of all went Fraoch son of Fidach. When he arrived he did not allow the men to attack Fergus further, but ordered the Gamhanraidh to seize him. They instantly surrounded him, and secured him with chain and lock and shackle. They fettered and bound the royal soldier very firmly with these. They also seized Angus and Dubthach. Moreover when Fergus and Angus and Dubthach were thus captured, he ordered a battalion of the Gamhanraidh to pursue Cormac and the Dubloinges.
¶140] When Bricne saw Fergus and Dubthach and Angus made prisoners and their people slain, his mind forsook its seat. His feet trembled under him; his fingers were benumbed; his heart beat furiously; his sense became paralysed, and his vision distorted. He instantly kilted his clothes about him, and
p.13hastily left the place. He fared forward lightly and speedily from the field over brushwood, grass, and water; and halted not in his race until he reached the Rath of Cruachan Ai. And he found Meave and Oilill before him in their well-ordered banqueting-house. When he arrived he threw himself down dead lifeless across the floor. Meave and Oilill asked his news. He told them wildly that the Dubloinges were slain, and that Fergus and Dubthach and Angus were prisoners; and I alone am the only living son of woman or man among all the Ultonians who went on that expedition, said Bricne. Who would dare to do such deeds, said Meave, and who could compass the slaughter of such high-spirited men with their numerous battalions and champions? I saw no one there, of a truth, replied he, save the people of the king, and I have never seen a king's household higher in courage or greater in number than they. And if you had not forsaken us Meave, added Bricne, neither the men of Domnann nor the Gamhanraidh could harm us ought. And as they spoke thus, they said the lay:
- In this guise, O enduring Bricne,
Whence your toilsome journey?
Your white lips seem almost
An omen of grave tidings.
- I have terrible tidings;
We were taken at disadvantage;
All the Ultonians have fallen
With the descendant of Ros of Rugraide.
- Who would dare, who did dare,
Who did the mighty smiting?
Considering your brave battalions,
Who could compass your slaughter?
- I saw none there of a truth,
Save only the king's household,
I never saw up till now
A royal household more powerful.
- You who devised this ambuscade,
I say it to your face, Meave,
If you had not betrayed us
A troop of Domnanns would not dare to attack us.
- I can give my oath truly,
In the presence of the five kings,
That I did not sanction the fair fight,
And neither did Oilill.
- If you are not the cause of the disaster,
Muster your battalions;
Assert your strength and courage
And avenge the treachery to the full.
In this guise.
¶141] Now Oilill and Meave were greatly grieved at hearing these tidings. And they summoned the chiefs of the four great provinces of Ireland to their presence, for these were in Cruachan at the time, having been brought thither by Oilill and Meave to go on the Raid of the cows of Cuailgne in Ulster. And these are the high chiefs who were there, to wit, Lugaid son of Curoi, and Eochaid son of Fingen son of Luchta, and Eochaid Gusmar (strong) son of Tigernach Tetbannach son of Degad, and Eochaid Faobar (edge, weapon) his brother, and Lugaid son of Nos, and Loch son of the Feibis, and Angus son of Mesgedra son of the King of Leinster, and MacNia son of Finn son of Ros, and Angus son of Eochu Aincenn, and Illann the Fair son of Fergus, and Conodar son of Cecht, and the chiefs of Dal(d)ruithne, Eochaid Rond and the men of Craobh, MacMagach and the men of Mag Maon, and the men of Remhand, and the men of Coill Anchosnama son of Umhor, and the men of Erna, the Maines, and the tribes of Taidiu.
¶142] These chiefs were all brought to Oilill and Meave. And Meave told them of the outrage by the Gamhanraidh, and of Fergus and his people being slain while under her own safeguard. And she besought the chiefs of Ireland to go along with her to avenge her honour upon the Gamhanraidh. They undertook to go upon that expedition. And they were indeed glad to do so; for their champions and warriors were certain that they would win renown and fame and distinction
p.17by going. For they were convinced that no small tribe in the world were a match for them because of their number, and the excellence of their heroes and men of valour. And Meave held parley with Lugaid son of Curoi, and asked help and counsel of him, and (they) said the lay:
- O Lugaid!
Give suitable counsel to me,
Fergus has been destroyed, alas!
A deed of great loss to me.
- Noble Meave!
A man unpraised is feeble,
So also is one without power,
For every law brings evil in its train.
- Undertake the task with courage,
As is right as is fitting;
March in front of us to avenge him,
Assert your valour, O Lugaid.
¶143] Thereupon Meave rose and ordered the tribes of Taidiu to horse. And the hosts followed her in their cohorts. And thus were these battalions marshalled: Lugaid son of Curoi, and Eochaid Gusmar son of Tigernach Tetbannach, in command of the clans of Degad; Lugaid son of Nos, and Loch son of Feibis, and Eogan the Fair son of Fingen, in command of the (men of the) province of Eochu son of Luchta; MacNia son of Finn son of Ros, and Eochaid Faobar, and Eochaid Ainchend son of Eochu, in command of (the men of) the province of Gailian; and finally, Angus son of Mesgedra in command of the men of Leinster.
¶144] When their plans were made, and their stations and routes fixed, they marched forward. And this is the road which Meave with her chiefs and cavalry followed, viz., across the smooth plain of Ai, and over the east of Sliabh
p.19Trebland, and across the top of Cruad-Luachra, and across the Black-river of Brea, and across the western part of the race of Forcall's land, and across the Moor of Coindeadh, and over the Old-roads of Senchan, and southward of Forannan, and across the Ford of Black-river called the wild Ford, and across the end of Hard-ridge, when they halted and encamped at the end of the Loch of the descendant of Arthur, now called the Loch of the Airnes. And their foot (soldiers) and followers advanced to meet them across the woods of Ciarraig, and by the short cuts of the eastern territory of Broadupland until they reached the spot where Meave and Oilill and the (men of the) other provinces were. They encamped in the Fort of Airne son of Fer (man) Dochla that night. They found that hostel deserted by its people. But it was by no means emptied of its provisions, for they found an ample supply of food and drink there. The hosts (of Meave) sat down to fully enjoy the rich banquet, without tendering thanks to the hospitaller. And they were there quietly and comfortably the whole evening.
¶145] When night came his sons and people gathered around Airne. They were a short space apart from (Meave's) people, and they resolved to attack the great hosts secretly, and to avenge their wrongs and their eviction upon them. They came to the skirts of the camp and killed thrice fifty battle-armed champions of Meave's people. They themselves all escaped (safely) thereafter. The camp was greatly terrified and alarmed because of this, and the tidings were reported to Oilill and Meave. Meave said that she would assuredly avenge this outrage, and added that Airne had well avenged his hospitality upon them, and recited the lay:
- That is the food with inhospitality,
Which the Black of the Airnes has given to me;
His peace is dispeace,
He has inflicted his cruelty upon us.
- Three fifties of our hosts
They have slain, great the calamity;
Though by them these have fallen,
By me they shall long be remembered.
- I vow it and declare it,
I swear it upon mine own weapons,
That from this we shall not move
Until we avenge the deed sixfold.
¶146] Thereafter Meave sent the Maines with her own people and household to oppose Airne, and to watch and observe the hosts. She urged and exhorted the Maines vigorously. They left the place, and proceeded to watch the movements of Airne; for he and his people were threatening and challenging the chiefs. They and the Maines fought, and there was great slaughter on both sides. One thousand battle-armed warriors of the Maines' people fell; and Airne son of Dub Dochla with all his people fell there on that morning, save only the two sons of the hospitaller, Breac and Nainnesg, who fled in terror before the mighty men. Meave and Oilill and all the chiefs went to view the slaughter, and Meave praised her men greatly, and expressed her gratitude to the Maines, and said the lay:
- Here are the proofs of heroism,
Our thanks to the warriors of Ulster,
Airne son of the Black
His head is here, cleft in twain.
- Does the renowned Oilill hear
Of the great victory of the Maines?
A fight with heroes of great valour,
The fruit thereof is neither food nor clothing.
- Airne to our joy had fallen,
We have slain full ten hundred;
He fought his combats manfully,
Though sad his plight now.
¶147] His tomb was dug by them there, his tombstone was set up and his grave made, together with the tomb of his brothers. Their heads and feet were thrown into the lake, whence its name, Loch of the Airnes, ever since. And they
p.23were viewing the loch and the hostel, while Meave related the story of the royal hostel, and described it clearly. And while doing so, she said the lay:
- The house of Airne!
Hostile though its people have been;
Few have found it so
Save only those here present(?).
- Fifty caldrons there a-boiling;
Fifty vats there for feasting;
There could be accommodated within its walls
Four and four hundred guests.
- The two sons of the king
Both Breac and Nainnesg;
Each was a match for fifty,
When contention was rife.
- My testimony regarding the hostel is,
The house of Airne of the numerous household,
That no one during my time
Entered it without being satisfied.
¶148] Thereafter they marched forward without halt or rest until they arrived at the eastern border of Mothar, and past the west of the plain of Sanas, and by the Loch of the Smithy, when they halted and encamped at the fort of Nochta, daughter of Dearg (the Red) son of Dolar. And Nochta challenged the men of Ireland to conflict. The conflict to which she challenged she challenged them was a race to the top of Prospect Hill, now called Nemthainn O'Awlay. They then raced against her. And to each as he broke down in the race she would turn, and give him a stroke of her sword and sweep his head off. In this fashion she slew nine times nine men, to wit, Eogan Gar son of Oilill with his leading men. Meave entreated Lugaid son of Curoi to save them from Nochta. Lugaid raced against her until they reached the middle of the ascent, when Nochta broke down. When she did so, Lugaid turned around, and with a blow swept her head from off her body. He brought it to Meave. Meave was pleased
p.25thereat, and took to praising Lugaid, and composed the lay:
- A glorious deed that of yours, O Lugaid!
My darling, the hero under whom we march;
The death of our men is loss indeed,
Thrice nine nine have been cut down.
- Thrice nine nine of our champions
Made for the top of the hill (?);
None of them escaped from
The daughter of Dearg of evil purpose.
- There are in the cairn west of the knoll,
The bodies of the men not far distant;
Nine champions, her victims, are
Above her head near her dwelling.
- The woman who slew Eogan Gar,
The son of Oilill, (with) nine nine (others),
O Lugaid, with (?) the half of the host,
Her death by thine hand is great victory.
A glorious deed.
¶149] Lugaid was pleased with this eulogy by Meave, And they departed thence on the morrow for the stronghold of Oilill the Fair at Ath Fen.
¶150] They were now formed in seven brave battalions of equal numbers. And they were drawn up in ranks terrible warlike (tastefully) variegated (as to colour),armed with shields, some purple and of one colour; others smooth, green; others dark, close-plaited, very tall; others spotted, tough-boarded, speckled-yellow; and still others edged, of hard wood, diverse-coloured; and with swords some of which were [...] blue, iron-grey, gold-plaited; others slender-grey, smooth-bladed, figured; others heavy, broad-bladed, strong; and with spears (some) thick-shafted, steel-pointed, five-barbed; others beautiful, well-finished, gold-socketted; others long, well-tempered, sharp-edged; and with coats of mail well-fitting, triple-plaited; and with helmets handsome, ornamented; and with battle implements fit for heroes; and with battle maces; and with hooks for feats; and with warlike javelins. Great was the beauty and splendour of the array and appearance of that numerous host, with their dresses of many and diverse colours of blue and purple, green and yellow and speckled, and every other colour by which cloth is dyed, ornamented with gold and silver and gems of crystal and carbuncles. And to behold them at the juncture of time with their many keen many-edged weapons, with their banners wide-spread, pale-purpled, many-coloured, strange and terrible, with the thunder of their chariots, the tramp of the heavy infantry, and the uproar of the great and numerous hosts, would suffice to cause terror and shock.
¶151] They were not long there when the mighty Torna, a
p.117great valiant soldier of Oilill the Fair's people, appeared. He challenged them to combat. Six churls answered the challenge, Torn and Maol from the division under Lugaid son of Curoi, Meron and Midhna from that of Oilill and Meave, and Rubne and Rodan from the squadron of Finn son of Ros. And the six churls maintained the conflict against Torna furiously, recklessly, violently, madly, stubbornly, with their heavy well-made [...], and their thick-shafted, broad-headed spears, and their great rusty(?) swords. And Torna sustained the combat briskly, dexterously, and stoutly, nimbly against the churls. He circled round them as a hawk circles round the birds of air. And he made a little heap of them, and forthwith cut off their six heads. Thereafter he attacked those in front of him, and wreaked his wrath upon them. They, on the other hand, surrounded him and slew him with their spears. His tomb was thereafter dug and his lament made. And they made a very great mound over (his grave) which is called the mound of Torna since.
¶152] The men of Ireland marched forward to Ath Fen, and they halted and encamped there. Goll Oilech with his seven sons and three hundred champions of his name attacked and instantly slew many of the hosts. He slew a hundred armed stout warriors in this onset. The stronghold of Oilill the Fair was put under the charge of Lugaid the son of Curoi that the Dubloinges might hear of it, and that in a body they would attack Oilill the Fair. The men of Ireland were divided in two investing columns around that castle, Lugaid son of Curoi with the half of the men of Ireland under his command, and Meave with her hosts forming the other half.
p.119And Goll Oilech engaged them in a terrible stone fight until morning, and allowed them neither sleep nor rest. And he killed Meave's two horses, whence the name of that place thereafterEch Oilech (Horse of Oilech).
¶153] On the morrow thereafter they went to Femdail Knoll, Goll with his chiefs still slaying and exterminating them. The two columns occupied separate camps that night: Lugaid son of Curoi at Flitting River, and Meave at Stone Mound. Fermenn and Dara Derg his father with three thousand men attacked the Munstermen and Lugaid son of Curoi. Fermenn engaged the Munstermen in a furious stone battle, so that the warriors were not able to have food or drink or slumber or sleep during that night. Dara Derg and his son harassed the hosts in this stone fight as Goll Oilech did, and committed similar havoc among them. And they slew a countless number in the fight of that night. The knoll on which Meave encamped that night was called Stone Knoll, from the huge stones which the combatants hurled at each other; and the fort was called Red Fort from the red carcases and the pool-streams of deep red blood poured out there. That night was passed in great anxiety.
¶154] They moved forward on the morrow. But numbers of the Gamhanraidh overtook them and did not permit them to proceed any distance, for they slew fifty stalwart and highly distinguished warriors of their number that day, as well as the hero-warrior Legan with his people, after whom the stream of Legan is named. They encamped that night at Meeting Knoll. It received its name from the meeting of the four great provinces of Ireland there.
¶155] Goll Oilech parted from the men of Ireland that night, and proceeded to Dun Flidais where Oilill the Fair and Fergus were. For after Fergus was captured in the battle of Ath Fen he was brought to Flidais's castle. And he was tied to the very great pillar of the palace in the presence of Flidais, and they used to expose him to the queen daily at the morning meal. Fergus felt this outrage more than
p.121any strait in which he ever was. And the youths and children of the great camp used to crowd around him and make him the subject of derision, and of silly mockery and laughter continually. Goll Oilech went on his course to the house where Oilill the Fair and Fergus were, and told them that the (men of the) four provinces of Ireland were come into their territory. Oilill the Fair asked Goll Oilech which of the chiefs of the men of Ireland had come. He (Goll) told him, and recited the lay:
- They are here at your door,
Stalwart men from the plain of Ai in battle order;
There are seven battalions linked together
Of the four great provinces of Ireland.
- With Oilill and Meave from their land,
The Maicne under the seven Maines;
Under Lugaid son of the Hound of battles,
And under the seven sons of Magach.
- With Angus son Mesgedra,
The hosts of Galian, handsome their form;
With Angus son of the son of Ros,
And with Illann son of Fergus.
- With Eochaid Gusmar from his land,
Son of Tigernach Tetbannach;
With Eochaid Faobhar, firm his tread,
And with Eochaid Aincend.
- With Lugaid son of Nos from the south;
With Loch the great son of Moda Feibis;
With Lugaid son of Curoi to oppose you;
With Eogan the Fair son of Fingen.
- Cormac Conloinges is there,
With three thousand of a following;
The exiles of Ulster, with hardly one absent,
Are there, be it known to you.
¶156] After making this lay Goll Oilech turned back from the west the men of Ireland, and attacked them fiercely so that a multitude of them fell that night. The men of
p.123Ireland left Meeting Knoll on the morrow. The Gamhanraidh thereupon closed round and permitted them neither to march nor halt, but kept them like cows in a fold tortured by the heat. Such was the ring which the Gamhanraidh made round the men of Ireland. And in the fight Fermenn son of Dara Deg cast a spear at Meave. Meave bent her head to avoid the weapon, which hit red Cainner the daughter of Oilill and Meave, and pierced her heart in her bosom, so that she fell dead. The girl was taken out of her chariot thereafter, and Meave began to dig her grave and made the lay:
- Dig ye the grave of Cainner
Lying here on the mound slain;
Fermenn son of Dara Derg
Threw the spear which caused her death.
- Red Cainner daughter of Oilill
And Meave, she is the victim,
At the mound of the shade,
The darling of the warriors of Emain.
- The spouse of Lugaid son of Curoi,
During seven (short) days, delight of valour;
Raise her pillar above her grave stone,
Dig ye her grave.
Let (her grave) be dug.
¶157] Thereupon the grave of the girl was made beside the river, so that Cainner became the name of the river and Glen Cainner the name of the glen. And the hosts raised a great wail of sorrow over her, and Lugaid son of Curoi almost died lamenting her.
¶158] The Irish host immediately thereafter moved westwards across Glen Cainner, and on to the Glen of Destruction where many of the Irish chiefs were put to death, and across Glen Calraide where Calraide son of bald Birrach fell. And during that time the Gamhanraidh ceased not slaying and destroying
p.125them, so that many of their chiefs fell, and among them Gris and R and Ruicne, the three satirists of Oilill and Meave, as also the three fierce hounds that guarded them. They went thereafter westward and still west across Muincenn to the stronghold of Fort Morgan, otherwise called Dun Flidais of the fair hair, on the hill above Loch Letriach. The men of Ireland pitched fort and camp around Fort Morgan south and north.
¶159] As to Meave. The chiefs of the great host were brought to her tent, viz., Lugaid son of Curoi, Angus son of Mesgedra, Lugaid son of Nos, and Loch the great son of Moda Feibis. These chiefs held counsel, for fear and dread seized them all upon seeing the fort of Oilill the Fair. They said that were the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh united with those in the fort the Irish host would be powerless against them. I have a plan for you, said Meave: let messages and messengers be sent from me to them, and let liberal terms be offered them, i.e. to Ferdia son of Daman, and to Cet son of Magach, and to Fraoch son of Fidach, and to Angus son of Echtach. These are the terms, viz., the kingship of the Gamhanraidh to be offered to each of them, unknown to the others; and permanent quarters in Cruachan; and alliance with my blood in addition. The Irish chiefs were all pleased with this proposal. Who will go with that message? said they all. Who but grey Carra, the female messenger? said Meave.
¶160] Grey Carra fared forth to Fraoch son of Fidach's castle, and told him of the purpose of her visit. Fraoch accepted the terms forthwith. She then went to the fort of Ferdia, and she mentioned the same conditions to him. Ferdia accepted them all. The end of it was that there was not a leader of nine men among the Gamhanraidh but she held parley with him, and promised to each of the heroes apart the kingship of the Gamhanraidh, and they all on their part promised to be loyal to Meave. They forsook Oilill the Fair in this wise. And not one of them knew that these terms were promised to any other save to himself alone. The she-messenger
p.127then returned to where Meave and the Irish chiefs were.
¶161] As to Oilill the Fair. When he saw the Irish host around his castle he summoned his household and his counsellors. They after deliberation resolved to send messengers to the Gamhanraidh asking them to fix a day (for mustering) with the people. His two chief messengers were summonedEngan out of his fort and Edar out of his glen. And they were sent with messages to Ros Inver-two-salmon (now) called Assaroe, to the two sons of Curnan black-foot, viz., Angus and Aodh; to the youth of the plain of Eine, and to the soldiers of the same plain; to the seven Breislenns of Breifne with their three hundred champions of like name, from hill to sea; to Curnan black-foot; to D[...] Sligech (?Shell ridge); to Dartadh of Diberg with his sons, viz., the two Reds; to Iatha son of Etarbha, to the fair fort of Cungahead, to the lovely Ainchend daughter of Goll Oilech, to B[...] of the plain of Oilech; to the loyal friends of Oilill the Fair, from lake to sea and from grove to castle; to the seven sons of Oilill the Fair with their following of seven hundred champions; to Gaman of Sidgal in Dun-end-hill with his hundred impetuous Gamans; to Duban son of Gaman in Dun-thorn; to the seven Fosgamans of Erris, with the Red Gaman of Rea in Dun-two-stags; to the seven Echaids of Imrenn in Dun-one-man; to the seven Dartadhs of Oilill the Fair in Dun Inver-two-cataracts; to Etarbha son of Nuatha in his dùn; to Ilar Nuatha son of Etarbha in his glen. He (Edar) thereupon departed.
¶162] And Engan, the other chief messenger, went in a south-westerly direction for the portion of the Gamhanraidh who lived to the south, viz., Aodh son of Echtach in Dun-round-hill;
p.129to the stout warriors Cairbre son of Dubthach in Dun-curve-glen; to Muiredach the stammerer son of Oilill the Fair in the fort of Great-hill called Plain-hill; to red-haired Fidach in the fort of Leitriach; to Moncha in Moy-glen; and to Angus son of Echtach in Aran; to Ros son of Great-gaman in Wester-Boirenn; to the stalwart Uada son of Roigh in Easter-Boirenn; to Rod son of Ros in Rod-hill; to Mongach the warrior in Inver; to Angus son of Oilill the Fair in Dun-gleor; to the seven sons of gentle Ibar in Glen of lovely cataract; to Failbe Ros son of Black-of-two-waves in Ros of slaughter; to Fraoch son of Fidach in Port Erris; to Etarbha son of Nuatha and to the two daughters of Etarbha in Glen-coibedh; to Bec in Boirenn; to Illann son of Echtach in Finn-letter; to Genann son of Faobhar in Letter-Genann; to the Red of Rea in Dun-osra, called Croagh Patrick; to Cobthach of Kintail in Dun-Easter; to Conn Cimidh; to Modha Mighnel; to the mild-judging Caei son of Fidach in Letter-caei; to warlike Eo son of Fidach in Dun-ros-plain; to Uamna daughter of Fidach in Dun Inver-two-waves; to the seven sons of Ibar, and to Achill; to Goll Acla; to the seven Blacks from Wester Fair Isle; to the seven Teimens from Easter Fair Isle; to the seven Bloodhounds from Isle Smooth-plain; to the seven Watchdogs from Shadow Isle; to the seven Finns from Finnan's Isle; to red-eared Eitne in Dun Treathan; to Tuaidh in Gap-letter; to Fiachra the Fair son of Faobhar in Dun Fiachra; to the three Fosgamans of Erris in Dunmore; to Ferderg (red man) son of Dolar in Red-fort; to Dubthach the black in Dun-one-man; to Donald Yellowlocks king of the Gamhanraidh in Dun Tuaith; to Ferdia son of Daman in Dun-of-the-heads, and to his two sons Guas and Gosa; to Flann the tall son of Fidach in the fort of Crunn-hill; to Muincenn the warrior in Dub-above-loch; to Daire the Red in Dun Daire; to Gulbann the grey; to Findchan of the tombs; to Dartadh of Diberg.
¶163] These are the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh who were enumerated in the Raid of the cows of Flidais. And no one was included in that muster save their chiefs and great nobles, their princes and mighty men, their lords and counsellors. And this was the subject of that thread of instruction which the poet Ailill son of Fer-da-loch (Lord of two lakes), and uterine brother to Cet son of Magach, composed, in which he said:
- Up, Engan, and away!
Summon our people;
Make for us, as hastily as possible,
Their gathering and muster.
- Here are of hosts, I ween,
The four great provinces of Ireland,
Commanded by Oilill and Meave from Magh (Ai);
By fierce Angus and Lugaid.
- By the seven Maines renowned in war,
By the seven sons of Magach;
Three thousand brave Galians,
Under seven chiefs of Domnann race.
- There are
Their strength and efficiency are great,
Three thousand seven times told,
Of Ultonians here in one camp.
- We are here to meet them, as you see us,
You can tell the Gamhanraidh,
If we have to wait for them long,
We will be then in evil case.
- Go to Dun-round-hill the fair,
Summon to your side Aodh son of Echtach;
Go without danger to Dun-curve-glen,
Fetch the stout warrior Cairbre.
- Go to the fort of Great-hill,
To Muiredach, leader of hosts;
To Dun Leitriach of fame,
For Fidach the red-haired.
- Before venturing on the wave
Visit Muncha son of Moda in Moy-glen;
Go then westward to Aran,
And bring hither Aodh son of Echtach.
- Reach Wester Boirenn by the sea,
Where dwells Ros on of Great-gaman;
Go to Easter Boirenn, and luck attend you,
For the excellent and stalwart Uada.
- Seek Rod son of Ros in his hill,
From which there is no distant prospect;
Thereafter visit Sonnach,
And fetch hither the warrior Mongach.
- Angus son of Ailill the Fair
Bring from the beautiful Dun-gleor;
Go to Ridge of lovely cataract,
To the seven sons of fair Ibar.
- From the Failbe Ros in Ros of slaughter,
Guide the son of Black-of-two-waves to us;
Then on to Port Erris,
And being with you Fraoch son of Fidach.
- Go to the fair fort of Cunga-head,
To Etarbha son of Nuatha;
Interview Eabha the fine warrior,
Bring with you Beg from Boirenn.
- Reach Letter, delight and valour,
Where Genann son of Faobhar abides;
To the Red Gaman of Rea, ever his own,
In Dun-two-stags above Royal-hill.
- To the dear Cobthach of Kintail,
In Dun-Easter with splendour;
To Conn Cimidh with his hundreds of champions
To Modha Mighnel hasten.
- To Dun-ros-plain, honour without reproach,
To the warlike Eo son of Fidach;
To Dun Inver-two-waves also,
To Uamna daughter of Iubar.
- To the seven sons of the majestic Iubar
From the cave, from Achill;
To Goll Acla, fierce his valour,
With his four hundred champions.
- Go to west of Fair Isle,
Bring with you the three Blacks from Dael;
From the splendid easter Fair Isle
The seven Teimens with cordiality.
- The seven Bloodhounds with their forces,
Bring from Isle Smooth-plain;
The seven Watchdogs of Shadow Isle;
The seven Finns from Finnan's Isle.
- To Dun Treathan to Trethan,
To valiant red-eared Ethne;
to Tuaidh should you come
Bring with you the two women of Tuaidh.
- Reach his Dun, stern his valour,
Fiachra the Fair, of keen blade;
Go to Dunmore without resting,
To the three Fosgamans of Erris.
- Go to Ferderg in his Dun,
To the son of Dolar of vast schemes;
To Dun-one-man also,
The seat of Dubthach the black.
- From Dun Tuaithi without violence
Invite hither Donald Yellowlocks;
Tell the king of mighty deeds,
That I am here in great straits.
- Reach Dun-of-the-heads with alacrity,
And bring Ferdia son of Daman;
As also his two sons,
Guas and Gosa the aggressive.
- To the fort of fair Crunn-hill,
To Flann the tall son of Fidach;
To Muincenn the wild warrior,
To (Dun)-above-loch where he bides.
- Reach Duban of great prowess,
Son of Gaman in Dun-thorn;
Let the hero come to me here,
With all his host and troops.
- Find Daire the red in his Dun;
Gulbann the grey, resolute in purpose;
Findchan of the tombs besides;
And Dartadh of Diberg.
- Three hundred champions with each of them,
Such is their muster;
Deliver to these this message of verity;
Go to seek them, and away!
¶164] As to Engan. He fared forth towards the Gamhanraidh to their several habitations, from the river Drowes in the north to Wester Boirenn in the south, and from Cuchulainn's Leap to Ros of two great forests called Luimnech, and to the hill of Grey-foot son of Luibnech, called the hill of the very bleak Esarg: and to the secluded lovely-hued thick-wooded havens of Devenish; and from the delightful ever-sheltered wide-viewing peak of Echlapar to the rich(?) blue-waved white-beached harbours of Tor-isle in the north of the same extensive plain; for this was the territory and goodly land of the Gamhanraidh. Their proceedings thus far.
¶165] As to the men of Ireland. When they arrived at Flidais's Dun they halted and pitched their camp there. It was then that four select mighty men of prowess of Meave's very brave people set forth to win renown and fame among the Gamhanraidh. These were their names,Carra son of Carra Congna, and Mongach the warrior, and Letriach Red-hand, and Cuillend stalwart champion. And these were the warriors whom they selected to fight against, viz., Carra son of Carra Congna against Aodh son of Echtach in Dun Round-hill, and Mongach the soldier against Muiredach the stammerer, son of Oilill the Fair, in Dun Letriach, and the victorious Cuillend against Flann son of Fidach in his Dun in Letter, and Letriach Red-hand against Muincend the warrior in Dun-above-Loch.
¶166] Now the proceedings of Carra son of Carra Congna are the first recorded here. He went to Aodh son of Echtach's castle, and Aodh son of Echtach met him. And he (Aodh) began to address the stout man and recited the lay:
- Thou who hast come to my walls,
Say what has brought thee to my Dun,
What is thy name, so please you?
Declare at once who you are.
- My family name, I take pride in it(?),
Is Carra son of Carra Congna;
What has brought me from my home,
Is to seek Aodh son of Echtach.
- I have left Meave, great her renown,
At Dun Flidais, numerous her host,
Challenging Oilill there,
And the warriors of Irrus Domnann.
- Pity to have come from the great muster,
And to have parted from the huge hosts;
The quest that brought thee here,
Thou shalt rue it, O warrior.
¶167] After reciting this lay the warriors fought. And they made a brave heroic stern wrathful angry fight. They broke their shields and bent their swords in the conflict. In the event the veteran Aodh son of Echtach mastered Carra son of Carra Congna and cut off his head in that duel.
¶168] Mongach went to challenge Muiredhach the stammerer, son of Oilill the Fair, to combat. Muiredach said that he would on no account decline to fight the stout warrior, and they made the lay thereafter:
They then fought an angry valorous and well-sustained duel, and a fearful indecisive contest with steel blades, and a fierce reckless unheard-of quarrel, until the combatants were one mass of gore and hacked flesh. Eventually Mongach
- Thou biggest of big men,
I shall not decline your challenge:
Why should I avoid you, as matters are,
The fixing of conditions does not lie with you?
- Should you carry my message to the castle,
You will have assurance of protection,
Seek from Muiredach the stammerer,
A duel with Mongach Bald-head.
- I am the great Muiredach;
Mine this fortress and its hosts;
I assure you we shall not be sought after,
No one will offer to separate us.
- Mongach, great is your arrogance,
In seeking a meeting with me,
Your boasts are those of a vain man,
I tell you of a truth.
p.203fell in the fierce onset, and Muiredach cut his head off his body.
¶169] Letriach, a valorous soldier of Meave's army, went forth to meet the warrior Muincenn (Hairy-head) who was the herd of the Maol Flidais. Letriach's great desire was to carry away the Maol Flidais and her herdsman; for he boasted among his people that he would do so. He viewed the cattle in angry mood. Muincenn met the warrior, and had speech with him, when this lay was recited:
Letriach told Muincenn to surrender the Maol Flidais, and that he would give him quarter. But Muincenn was too proud to allow any champion in the world to carry away his herds and cattle by force. The warriors forthwith buckled on their shields, and grasped their long sharp-pointed spears in the centre, and their steel-hard broad-grooved swords by the hilts. And the two battle-soldiers fought a sturdy valorous duel; and their swords were bent against the wooden shields,
- Thou who pursuest a champion's career,
Many warriors hast thou overcome;
(Still) thou shalt not carry away without a struggle,
My herds that are in the wood.
- Churl in charge of the cows,
You seem to have but few to assist you
Have you, indeed, any,
Or are you alone at your task?
- I am here, as you see me,
Tending the Maol;
No warrior, with pleasure unmixed,
Shall take her away without a struggle.
- I would not quarrel wit you about your herds,
Said the great valiant warrior,
If you would go straight to your home
And leave your cattle here
p.205and their spear-(shafts) whittled by the perpetual thrusts, and their heads were bowed by the sword blows, and wounded by the battle maces, and their sides were cut through the heavy coats of mail, until finally their weapons were rendered useless. Then they stretched their hands across each other's mighty shoulders. And they had a wrestling bout, furious, sustained, and strong, so that they twisted each other's stout bodies, and strained ribs and sides, and pulled each other's heads to the ground. Rough streams in big drops of thick sweat poured from the faces of the champions, and from the shoulders of the brave warriors, and from the sides of the mighty soldiers in that struggle. At length Muincenn was overcome and prostrated and heavily thrown in that stout encounter. The hero was bound and tied and fettered in the issue of the contest. Letriach raised him on his shoulders thereafter. He spoke to him in upbraiding scornful derisive language. He said that he would bring the warrior into the presence of Meave. Muincenn replied that for a season he could do well without that honour. Your leave will not be asked in the matter, said Letriach. And they recited this lay then:
After this lay Letriach moved from the scene of the conflict full speedily, with Muincenn the warrior on his back.
- Come quickly, Muincenn,
Aloft on my back,
If I bring you eastwards
Ravens will drink your blood.
- What road will you bring me,
O Letriach, with speed?
I would prefer to be on my feet,
Though it be pleasanter to be carried.
- You will see Meave
And Oilill the king;
Till this day, during my career,
I have been on your track.
- I shall carry you
To the nine-pronged spits;
Your bed will be made red hot,
You will be cast into it.
- That will be your lot,
Your efforts will be of no avail;
This night your pith is feeble;
Birds of prey will peck at your entrails.
¶170] Muincenn was fully alive to the fact that his friends who could protect him were not nigh him, nor a sufficient number of supporters within reach. He felt besides quite convinced that should Letriach manage to carry him away speedily, a violent and certain death awaited him. Letriach did not proceed far when Muincenn the warrior by a sudden vigorous spring freed his limbs bravely and valorously from the cords and hard fetters by which he was bound, so that the champion was able to fling his hands about and struggle with his feet. When his feet caught a firm footing on the ground, he wound his powerful well-trained arms most firmly around the arms of the royal warrior, so that the champion could neither turn nor fight nor wrestle nor struggle. He then planted his knee to intercept the other's foot, and pressed the noble warrior backwards so that he fell under him prone. He fettered and bound the battle-warrior securely, and said that he would now give a return ride to the veteran. Letriach inquired in what direction he meant to carry him. I shall not bring you to Oilill and Meave, said Muincenn, but back
p.209to the margin of this dark lake, and speedily drown you, and the lake will assuredly be named after you, for you will never again come in search of cattle. And they said the lay:
- Come, Letriach, on my back,
You will now, in turn, be carried;
You will receive such treatment
As you have given to me.
- What road will you take,
Muincenn, answer briefly?
Not to the presence of your champions
That they may rejoice at seeing you.
- But, to reply to your inquiry,
We shall quietly go forward
To the borders of this lake,
And to your swift destruction.
- You will be effectually drowned
Under the waves of this winter lake;
From you most assuredly,
The dark loch will be named.
- Your plundering career,
Letriach, will come to a close(?),
In quest of cattle, a mad venture,
Wretched man, speed through the waves.
¶171] After this lay Muincenn raised Letriach aloft on his shoulders, and went to the edge of the lake full swiftly. And in a twinkling he seized Letriach in his two hands and flung the royal warrior into the lake, so that the stout soldier was drowned in the dangerous water-pools of the dark-lake, which was afterwards named after him. Muincenn thereafter wended his way to his herds and cattle which he tended right carefully.
¶172] Then also Cuilenn, a battle-warrior of Meave and Oilill's people, fared forward to challenge Flann the Tall son of Fidach to fight and combat. He proceeded to Flann's castle and the people were startled at his array, his appearance, and exceeding uncouthness. The doorkeeper asked tidings from him,whence he came, and the purpose of his visit. He said that he came to challenge Flann the Tall son of Fidach to a duel. And you go, doorkeeper, said he, and tell Flann that there is a man of renown here inviting him to combat. What is your name? asked the doorkeeper. Cuilenn is my name, replied he, and I am the man destined to slay Flann the Tall. It is because of this that I have come to challenge him to battle and combat. And they said the lay:
- Doorkeeper of Flann's castle,
One is here seeking combat,
A stout warrior of Meave's army;
Say so to your lord yonder (in his castle).
- Warrior of haughty speech,
Tell me your name,
That I may report it within, yonder,
To Flann the tall son of Fidach.
- I am Cuilenn, big and stern,
'Tis I will slay Flann the Tall;
I kill a hundred in the day of battle,
No lie, doorkeeper.
¶173] Flann the Tall thereupon went forth to meet Cuilenn and said to him: Cuilenn, if you possess sufficient strength and valour bide a fight with me. I shall certainly do so, replied Cuilenn. The two fought fiercely, sternly. Each of them struck at the other with his shield, and the scratching sound of shield bosses as they were broken by the stout
p.213blows of these foremost champions was heard to the clouds of heaven. Flann the Tall son of Fidach raised his dangerous active right hand and aimed a blow at the head of the rough champion Cuilenn with the iron mace which he had in his hand. Cuilenn bent and turned aside his head and raised his shield high above his shoulders. The large and broad mace came down on the centre of Cuilenn's shield and on the top of his skull. The blow cleft the shield with its trappings, and crushed Cuilenn's head into fragments so small that not a bit of his brain of the size of a sloe could be found together. Cuilenn fell by that terrible blow. Thereafter (Flann) by a stroke of his sword cut off his head.
¶174] At the same time a great brave warrior and a wound-dealing veteran and a mighty commander among the nobles of Ireland, Uaithne Bright-breast son of Conall Cernach, resolved to seek fame and renown among the Gamhanraidh. And he purposed to go and attack and plunder the castle and good stead of Fraoch son of Fidach. Oilill and Meave were made aware of this resolve (of Uaithne). He fared forth to the territory and kindly land of the numerous and fiery clan Fidach. He seized great spoils, and committed many deeds of violence among them. Fifty of the youths of the clan Fidach fell in with him, and he attacked them savagely, relentlessly. While he was at his hardest slaying and destroying them, Fraoch son of Fidach the stout sternly-avenging champion came upon him. He addressed them and at once inquired who they were. Uaithne Bright-breast son of Conall Cernach, said he. A son of a friend of mine, replied Fraoch. We two at one time made alliance and friendship. I passed my word that I would never attack Conall or any of his family, and he did likewise to me. And seeing things have happened thus, do you leave my herds and
p.215cattle unmolested, and cease slaying the youths. And he said the lay:
But Uaithne would have none of that counsel at Fraoch's entreaty or that of his clan. He fell upon the youths and slew a very great number of them. Fraoch again addressed and advised him. Cease slaying my people said he; otherwise you will incur my wrath and that of this angry and spirited clan, whose cattle you have harried and whose youths you have slain. And leave off this strife in which you are engaged, and I shall forgive what you have done against my honour and that of the clan Fidach. Uaithne answered and thus spoke: I shall not restrain my triumph nor my valour, nor shall I go back on my promise and vow to Oilill and Meave and the four great provinces of Ireland. He sprang upon the youths and slew them. The great brave warrior Fraoch was furious at this, and he made a fierce attack on Uaithne who fell in that encounter.
- Leave off the conflict, Uaithne,
And abide by prudent counsel;
Many the heroes of great valour,
Do not practise excessive cruelty.
- Son of a friend and foster brother,
I declare a truth not to be gainsaid,
I shall not inflict my slaughter-feat upon you,
From my regard for the warriors of Ulster.
- Son of victorious Conall,
Leave my herds and property,
Our hosts have in turn overtaken you,
Here is one who will not desert you.
¶175] The proceedings of Meave and Oilill and the four great provinces of Ireland. They were before the castle of Oilill the Fair during seven years (or days), and a duel of six men was witnessed each day during that time. These were the names of the men who fought that duel, Cairbre and Aed and Amalgaidh, three sons of Oilill the Fair. And their opponents were Gaeiar son of Birrderg son of the Red, and Loiched son of Ithar son of the Red, and Aidgeall son of Angus son of One-hand Gaba. The champions made a brave skilful dexterous very spirited fierce unfaltering featful sword-swift cross-hacking ever-furious bloody heavy-wounding fight. The seventh day found them during the whole time, and they all declared that they never saw a duel of six men better matched. Oilill and Meave and the nobles of Ireland extolled them, and Meave said these words:
- I behold a well matched contest,
The fight of six champions,
The three sons of Oilill from the fortress,
And the three manly champions (who oppose them).
- Gaeiar son of Birrberg son of the Red,
And the stopping Cairbre of many feats;
Loiched son of Ithar from afar,
And Aed of the mighty blows.
- The son of Angus son of One-hand,
The fierce squat Aidgeall,
The noble stutterer Amalgaidh,
(Fighting,) man to man, I behold them.
p.297Now these six proud grim stately noble warriors, the choice of the princes, fought each against his opponent a well-sustained stout and sprightly duel, smiting overpowering side-hacking, swelling(?) wounding raging, until the six noble champions all fell together on the field of contest.
¶176] Then the three death-dealing Eochaidhs, three sons of Tigernach Tetbannach son of Degad, challenged the three Anguses of Baghna to duel and combat. And when they arrived at the scene of conflict each champion faced his opponent. The stalwart men hurled vaunting words at each other, and Meave incited the sons of Tigernach and recited the lay:
The duel was then fought quickly furiously nimbly. Each circled his opponent aiming at a fatal blow under the rim of his white shield and through the chinks of his speckled mail until the six fell together, so that not a man of them came out alive.
- Three sons of Tigernach,
Quit ye well in the fight;
Make a manly attack
On the three Anguses of Baghna.
- Wage a worthy combat
Against the sons of
For well matched in deeds of valour,
Are sons of kings and queens.
- Three Eochaidhs, three Anguses,
Let each of them hew at the other;
A fair fight as they stand
The three couples4 side by side.
¶177] Thereafter the three Breslenns of Breifne challenged the men of Ireland to a duel, to which the three Glas-Airgeds responded. These were three sons of Nuada Necht, the three torches of valour of the Tribes of Taidiu, and bosom fosterlings
p.299of Oilill and Meave besides. (In this case) the warriors were not well matched; three young inexperienced irresolute lads against three valiant brave champions. And so it was: the three powerful men and the three hounds of war, viz., the three Breslenns of Breifne prevailed in the unequal combat over the three handsome excellent sons of the high king, i.e., the three Glas-Airgeds, and slew the three. Meave and Oilill were greatly grieved thereat. She was distressed for having undertaken the expedition because of this deed alone. And she made these quatrains:
- I repent me of my counsel,
Not to have stayed (at home) is cause of sorrow;
No pleasure to me my three fosterlings
To oppose three champions.
- My quarrels were foolish
They have, Oilill, brought about this disaster;
The slaughter of the three sons of Nuada Necht
Was not the object of this expedition.
- Should satisfaction for the death of the three Glas-Airgeds
Not be demanded of me,
I still would be sorely grieved
For having allowed them to fight the three Breslenns.
I repent me.
¶178] The proceedings of the four great provinces of Ireland are not related now, but those of Oilill the Fair and Fergus son of Roigh who were in the fort opposite. Oilill said: A foolish quest brought Meave thither, said he; for had I no men of valour except those inside this fort, the men of Ireland would never be able to take it. He was listened to in silence. The Oilill and his household went upon the ramparts of the fortress to view the hosts of the Irishmen, and no one remained in the castle except Fergus and Flidais with her female attendants. And this is what Fergus said: Flidais,
p.301said he, the men of Ireland have heard of our mutual love, and were I to leave you here, you would never afterwards be held in the same regard as hitherto. What ought we to do in this case? I know for certain what we shall do, said Flidais; for I have a great feast prepared for Oilill; and I shall ply him with the choicest of the banquet until the high prince gets into a state of drunkenness and unreason and until his mind becomes greatly excited. When you see him in that condition, say that the men of Ireland attack the fortress but feebly. And he will reply: Do you think they would attack it more valorously if you were along with them? Then you say that if the might of your arm were aiding them, they would have captured it long before now. When he hears these words his unreason and high spirit will cause him to set you free.
¶179] Then Oilill entered the great palace and Flidais pressed the fiery liquor of that rich feast upon him. The drinking hall was set in order by the champions of the Gamhanraidh. Oilill sat among them on the royal dais of the hostel and Flidais with her retinue on the opposite side facing him, while Fergus sat in the champions' seat with Dubthach and Angus beside him. And when the arranging and seating were completed they were plied with drink until the nobles were intoxicated and loquacious. That was the time and season when the messengers of Flidais and Fergus reached stoutly and quickly with the view to capture it speedily, and to give three sudden startling shouts around the stead so that Oilill could hear them.
¶180] Then the men of Ireland proceeded to attack the fortress, and they gave three great mighty shouts around the fort. Then Fergus remarked: The four great provinces of Ireland attack the stronghold in a feeble dispirited fashion. Oilill raised his head and looked at him. Fergus observed again:
p.303I have myself seen troops that would attack it more valiantly than these. Which troops were these? asked Oilill. Those who accompanied myself in exile, said Fergus, when we captured the stronghold of Muirn Molfaig, and the other cities of Uarda. It seems to me, said Oilill, that you are of opinion that if you were among them, you and they would capture this fort forthwith. By my conscience, then, replied Fergus, were I outside and at liberty with the men of Ireland, I would have taken your fort long ago, and you yourself would be deprived by me of your triumph and your head. I give my word, said Oilill, that I shall forthwith set you free to join the men of Ireland and ascertain if this be so. Thereupon Oilill the Fair arose and removed their fetters and chains from Fergus and Dubthach and Angus son of One-hand Gaba; and they went forth from the castle to join the men of Ireland.
¶181] When the men of Ireland saw Fergus approaching them from the fort they all rose as one man quickly keenly fiercely hastily, buckling their shields, grasping their smooth-red sharp-pointed spears in the centre, and their stout blow-dealing swords by the hilts. And they donned their battle armour, viz., their well-fitting thrice-plaited shirts of mail and their handsome gem-studded helmets, and they marshalled themselves in three very large brave battalions. They all rose and donned their battle armour, and the host unanimously resolved to demolish Oilill the Fair's stronghold, to slay himself and to carry Flidais away.
¶182] Then Fergus joined the men of Ireland, and they all made him welcome and asked him regarding the state of the place from whence he came. I have left there, said he, the man of highest resolution and courage and spirit, and the man who holds hosts and multitudes in greatest contempt, whom I have ever met. He has dared you and me, men of Ireland, to take his castle by force. His own people especially
p.305made Fergus welcome. Bricne addressed him with great freedom, and persistently reproached the veteran. He said that never before did he brave the hero-warrior thus. Fergus replied that the fact of his being without his sword, together with numbers attacking him, that enabled them to capture him.
¶183] And they recited the lay:
- Rarely have you been seen, Fergus,
Without pride or distinction;
Pity that death overtook you not,
Before one could see you (in this plight).
As the result of your adventures,
Your valour has vanished;
I grieve to behold you,
Your looks are so changed.
- A hard case (was mine), son of Cairbre,
The number of the mighty weapons,
And of the men to wield them,
It was a dreadful doom.
The crash of cleaving shields,
It was no slight encounter;
My fight at the ford
Had almost burst the ground.
- My being without a sword
After my spear broke;
That the conflict was stern
I do not conceal, and do not thou.
Without a weapon in my hand,
When the fight raged furiously;
The rushes were savage;
Enough of venom was there.
- Where wert thou, Dubthach?
And thou, Angus, the fierce and fiery?
Two who would go to the fight
With zest and joy.
p.307There would be bloody blades;
You two alone would turn the tide of battle;
To this day you would sustain the brunt of it,
If only you were there.
¶184] Now when the men of Ireland saw Fergus approaching them, they resolved to abandon the fortress and not to face the attacks of the Gamhanraidh. Fergus swore by his weapons of valour that should all the men of Ireland turn from the fort he would not do so until he was forced to. And he beseeched Meave and the Irish chiefs to stay with him to harry and destroy Oilill the Fair's castle, for he was ashamed of the disgrace which Oilill subjected him to. Such was the influence of Meave over the men of Ireland that they were constrained to remain with Fergus. They all resolved to attack the fortress on the morrow's morning. The four great provinces of Ireland and the Dubloinges together with them thereupon proceeded to the attack. And Oilill and Meave and Fergus urged them on strongly, and they attacked the fortress forthwith. And they sounded their sduic and sdorgana in gage of battle, and they raised vast terrific shouts. When Oilill the Fair heard these shouts he rose up speedily, spurred on his household, marshalled his troops, and ordered the doors to be opened. The men of Ireland were amazed when they saw Oilill opening the gates of the fortress. And as to Oilill himself, he was surprised and confounded to find the battalions and phalanxes of the troops, the heroes and champions and battle-soldiers of the warriors and chieftains, ready to withstand him at that juncture of time,
p.309numerous though they were. Howbeit, loud was the uproar, and fierce the fury, and mighty the onset, and rare the thunder-feat, and daring the hero-charge which the troops of the Gamhanraidh and the household of Oilill the Fair made on the men of Ireland, so that multitudes fell on either side.
¶185] As to Oilill the Fair himself. No one could withstand him in fight or charge wherever he turned his face, so that men without number fell by his hand. The four great provinces of Ireland were routed that day. Their ranks were totally broken by the afternoon. (Oilill) returned to the fortress thereafter with the triumph of exulting victory over the men of Ireland. The place was thereupon closed up. They then sat down to the banquet, and kept drinking and enjoying themselves until the full light of day shone upon them. And so it was that during six days (they fought) in this wise. Oilill was not a single day during this time without victory on his side. And even on the seventh day he defeated the men of Ireland, so that seven hundred men from each of the four provinces of Ireland fell on that day. The seven hundred who opposed him all fell, save only seven score. And he returned to the stead in the afternoon. They were pursued to the gate of the castle. The place was closed thereafter. He then doffed his battle-armour, and forthwith summoned his people to council. And this is what he said to them: All the Gamhanraidh have forsaken us, said he, because of the deceit of Meave and the guile of Fergus and the interposition of Oilill and the very liberal bribes of the Maines. And it is certain that I should fall at this time on the expedition of Tain bo Flidais. For my wizards have foretold to me that I should fall on account of my wife, and by the hands of Meave and Oilill and Fergus. Where is my trusty attendant, Dub Dogair? continued he. Haste you to the Gamhanraidh, and reprove them. Tell Ferdiad son of
p.311Daman that he has kept troth only with respect to the false promises for which he forsook his prince. Say to Fraoch son of Fidach likewise. And say to Donald Yellowlocks, seeing that the whole of Gamhanraidh will not join him, not to risk conflict with the great hosts of Meave or the might of Fergus or the merciless animosity of Oilill. And as he sent the attendant on this mission, he repeated the following staves:
Dub Dogair departed on his mission and promised to return to Oilill by daybreak on the morrow should he secure the adhesion of the Gamhanraidh. He went forward on his journey, and pressed hard every man of the Gamhanraidh to whom he came to join (Oilill). The proceedings of the servant thus far.
- Fare forth, Dub Dogair,
Before this battle is fought,
And carry my commands
To the warriors of the western world.
- Charge the hero of the fortresses,
The generous man, to join us,
Unless the manly chief leaves me
To face the warriors of Emain alone.
- Declare to Fraoch son of Fidach,
That hero of the banquet halls,
That his lord's grave stone is fixed upon,
By the warriors of Emain.
- Say to Donald without delay
The warrior of many prowess,
Let not the illustrious king,
Pursue the great predatory hosts of Meave.
- Should Angus my dear capable son
Come from bright Dungleor,
The noble lusty warrior will advance,
And Dubthach Dubgha will come.
- Will come also, if he knows (our strait)
Cairbre from bright rugged Dun Ros,
Not far from him(?) to Ailill,
Eochaid from grey-topped Boirenn.
- To this hour there failed not
Their renown nor their honour,
I regarded Goll of Acla and Ailech
Loyal adherents of mine.
- The nobles will carry my body
Forthwith to Ard-railech;
A troop of the stout warriors,
Will come to view my triumph.
- They will fix in the ground
My sword and my spear;
They will place my stone over my grave;
They will celebrate my funeral games.
- My turf grave will be dug
By the warriors, great in their wrath,
They will turn lefthandwise
My face to blood-red Cruachan.
¶186] The movements of Oilill the Fair are now dealt with. After the servant departed he summoned a large number of his people and addressed them: Fight the battle hard on the morrow, beloved people, said Oilill, for Meave will assuredly plant her shield in the gate of your fortress; and Fergus will do the same, and Oilill and Cormac Conloinges and the Maines and the son of Magach and Lugaid son of Curoi and Lugaid son of Nos and Loth (son) of the Feibis and Angus son of Mesgedra and Eogan the Fair son of Fingen; and they will break down your stead, and raze your walls, and slay yourselves, and carry away your cattle and your wealth. That is a hard case indeed, O king, said they, we are too few to fight the battle, being in all three men short of one hundred. Seeing that is all you can muster, replied he, you shall all die. But those who show courage and prowess do not die. Fight then valiantly for yourselves and your lord. Had your evil counsel and the
p.315treachery of your wife not frustrated our efforts, (said they,) we would not have allowed Fergus out (of the fortress), and the four great provinces against us. But the treachery of your wife and of Meave has circumvented us. And the Gamhanraidh have besides forsaken both you and us. But there is no need whatever to ask us to defend you, for while a single man among us lives, neither wound nor spear-thrust shall reach you from any of Ireland's men. (My) blessing upon you said he, and my curse on those who have deserted me. For if I had along with me Fraoch and Ferdiad and Dubthach Dubda and Ferderg son of Dolar and Gaman of Sidgal the four great provinces of Ireland would be unable to conquer us. And as he spoke thus he recited the lay:
- Warriors, fight the battle
Which Meave will wage to-morrow;
She will plant her shield on your ramparts;
She will destroy your royal fort.
- Crown prince and great lord,
Son of Donald Yellowlocks,
We are but few for deeds of valour,
Three short of one hundred champions.
- If you are three short of one hundred
You shall all die, I ween;
(But) those who act valiantly do not die;
Fight the battle; defend your prince.
- A forlorn hope for an hundred champions
(To face) the Leinstermen and the warriors of Ulster,
Meave and the merciless Lugaid,
Ailill and Fergus, mighty men.
- What men can do we shall do,
Young Ailill, high king,
If so be that we fall,
An equal number of the enemy shall perish.
- While a man of us lives,
Valorous red-armed Ailill,
The attack of the divisions of the four great provinces of Ireland,
Will not win at you (to slay or maim).
- Donald will come with heroic rush,
He will wage war, he will lead the charge.
More grieved am I than if death were at my throat,
For the straits in which the mighty lord will be.
- Had I Fraoch and Ferdiad,
And the fiery Dubthach Dubgha,
And Ferderg son of Dolar, to fight with me,
We would clear the field in front of us.
- Had I been fairly dealt by,
And with an equal number of men and spears,
Numerous though Meave's soldiers are,
her warriors would find their (last) home here.
- I have been deserted through the enmity of Meave
By the truly brave Gamhanraidh;
I should not forsake any of her warriors
Possessed of valour and courage.
¶187] After this lay was recited the night was passed in despondent mood, without drink or joy or elation of mind or spirit. His people reproached Oilill bitterly for allowing Fergus out of his hands. The morrow's morn found them engaged in this kind of talk. Then they arose speedily, resolutely, and every stalwart man of them donned his weapons and armour. And they all made a ring round their high king, Oilill the Fair. And Oilill addressed them, and this is what he said: I know for certain, said he, that the men of Ireland will surmount our walls this day, for our numbers are insufficient to defend the place, seeing that the Gamhanraidh have deserted us. He then recalled his own shortsightedness and Flidais's treachery, and added: I myself perceive that it is up to this day, and no longer, that good luck has attended me. He then urged his sons and numerous household to quit themselves valiantly. Open the gates of the castle, said he, and follow me, and I shall clear a path in front of you. An let no one among you who can win through this fight turn back, for I shall be unable to protect you. I shall assuredly be the prime object of the men of Ireland's attentions this day. But, my trusted people, if I am stoutly supported, and able to avoid the men of Fergus or a duel, I have sent a messenger to Certan the steward, instructing him to bring my ship, to meet me in my extremity, to the harbour of Certan Nook, south-east from this fortress. This is (the place) now called Strand-bay of Certan Head. When Oilill the Fair had finished this address, he ordered his household to rise speedily, resolutely, recklessly, and made a well-devised
p.13courageous onrush, and a quick-stepping confident unanimous dash to the gates, and throw down the door-values under their feet, and bend their heads to the [...], and rouse their spirits to the emergency, and bring down their swords heavily upon the bodies (of their foes), and splinter the spears against their battle-shields, and give short shrift to the numerous troops. And so it was: Oilill's household rose quickly in obedience to the urgent pressing commands of their lord. And they made a broad, flaming palisade of thick staves, and a terrible, hideous, sharp-weaponed phalanx around Oilill the Fair to guard him. Their proceedings thus far.
¶188] The doings of Meave and Ailill and the men of Ireland generally are related now. When Fergus joined them and when they had learned from the messengers that the Gamhanraidh would not oppose them or support Oilill, they went to Ailill and Meave's tent to hold counsel. These were the nobles and high chiefs who went there,Fergus son of Roigh and Cormac Conloinges and all the chiefs of the Dubloinges; the Maines and the son of Magach son of Cecht, and the Dal Druithne of the Galians and of the Tribes of Taidiu; Lugaid son of Curoi, and Lugaid son of Nos, and Loth son the Feibis, and Eogan the Fair son of Fingin son of Luchta, and Angus son of Mesgedra, and MacNia son of Finn son of Ross and all the high chiefs of Ireland. And they concluded lit. said to destroy the walls, and to break down the strong keep, and to level the fortress to the ground, and to slay Ailill with his household; and not to permit a king of the same race ever to occupy it, or a man of the Gamhanraidh ever to rebuild it; and to carry away Flidais and her cows,
p.15with the Maol Flidais and her herds. There were many Connaught men who winced at this decision although they could not gainsay the haughty language of Meave.
¶189] Then Fergus son of Roich rose up with his troops and charged the provinces to rise also. He pressed the Connaught men with special vehemence. And he vowed that he would not leave the stead until all within it fell, or until he and his champions should fall in the attack. Then he charged the provinces to make a quick, reckless, and bold onset on the fortress to destroy it.
¶190] When Oilill the Fair saw these very large and terrible companies, and the thick, very tall, brown-bannered forests, and the red-shafted, sharp-pointed (spears) of these turbulent battalions, and the stalwart, stern, rough-tongued comrades he made a firm resolve to fight them. His fury rose at the violence (threatened), his cheek became of permanent purple hue, and he urged on his household and family. He called to mind his wrongs and injuries. He surrounded the champions and warriors, and made a circuit round the stronghold and stout fortress. He scattered the hosts and multitudes. He routed the young warriors and the high champions. He threw into confusion those on the lawn and in the courtyard, and made them into layers and unwieldy groups and detached fragments and heaps, so that they became riven and split and exhausted divisions, and that those who after (that onslaught) were left in wretched plight on the green were a helpless crowd side-pierced, axe-hewed, decimated, in disarray, hideous, full of wounds, [...]. (On the other hand) that band of brothers were dispersed and scattered, parted and sundered, so that not so many as six of them remained together for attack, or five for a charge, or
p.17four for counsel, or as many as three in one place, or even two unseparated. A phalanx of death surrounded the troops; their strength was crushed, and (all) save Oilill and his sons fell in that carnage.
¶191] As for (Oilill) himself, his death-dealing blows were (like) a fight with a bear, his attacks the destruction of hounds, his powerful charge the thinning of flocks, his rush the feeding of vultures, and his attack the omen of victory over nobles. He made seven powerful, fierce and haughty rushes at the foe, and seven hundred champions from each province fell fighting him and his sons. Then Oilill viewed the four airts of the hill, and wherever he looked he saw not a battalion or division or fighting company but was making for him to attack him And he took note that his household were slain, his clan destroyed, and his friends all fallen. He thereafter made up his mind to quit the scene, for the night before he made provision that his shop be brought to Kintra (Strand-end) of Tursgar Nook, to meet him in his need. And he instructed Certan to await him there, and if a friend of his he would meet(?) him.
¶192] Now when Fergus saw Oilill in this predicament, with hardly a champion or chief along with him, and deserted by his tribes and clans, he compared him to a noble lion of Africa with a pack of hounds howling around him (as he stood surrounded) by ranks of battle-warriors and numerous troops, while no one dared to attack him because of his renown and skill and fury and might, (knowing) that he would be vanquished because of the fear which his terrible mien inspired.
¶193] Oilill raised his head above his battle shield, and swept his eye over the royal troops. He saw not a man of his household but had fallen. He heard the exultant shout of his people as they were being cut down, and he felt sorely
p.19that he could not aid them. He put his sword hurriedly in its sheath, and brought his shield down straight on the slope of his back, and grasped his shooting weapon in his right hand, and faced due west.
¶194] The whole host followed him. Fergus vehemently urged on the Dubloinges. The warriors and heralds of the host quickly overtook him. But no one dared to face or attack him. He made a sweep round to wound or slay each man as he won up to him. Then he proceeded on his way. Thus did Oilill march on his course in the strength of his skill (in arms) and valour until he arrived at Kintra of Tursgar, called now the Strand of Certan Head. There Fergus overtook him. When Certan saw Oilill, with all the men of Ireland following, approaching him, he backed the vessel out from the shore. Others say that it was from hatred to Oilill that (Certan) deprived him of the use of the ship, because his wife had previously been wiled from him.
¶195] As to Fergus and the chiefs of the men of Ireland, they arrived at Kintra of Tursgar. Also with respect to Oilill the Fair: when he found that his own servant deprived him of his ship, he turned to face the men of Ireland. And Fergus addressed him: Ill have you kept your word, Oilill said Fergus, and far have you fled. Bide now a duel with me. And while saying so, he spoke as follows:
- Will you bide the scene of conflict,
Prince of the western land of Elga?
Let us take a turn at the deadly sword fight;
Let us cleave shields by fierce blades.
Remember the force of your old speech at the Ford of White Chariot;
You ought not, stout man, to belie your word.
Well chosen the place to which you have fled.
p.21You have had a fierce attack on the nobles of Leinster,
You have slain many Munstermen;
Destroyed many of Meave's host;
You have vaunted over the illustrious(?) Clans of Roigh,
Ever since the day of the blazing(?) battle.
Brave words you have threatened;
You have undertaken the beheading of me;
Numerous the witnesses on this field.
I am a champion hard to vanquish.
Come and do not dally.
Will you bide?
¶196] Ailill replied deliberately, guardedly, to this hard, violent, implacable, angry, unforgiving, and malicious language. And while doing so he said these words:
- I will bide thee, royal hireling;
Grant us a fair fight;
Let each restrain his supporters.
Let us have a turn at hard hewing.
Impossible for me hold the Dubloinges in check.
The troth of their champions fails.
Spring-tide current of Rugraide.
The wave of Tursgair is my emblem.
My match as a warrior is rare to find.
I maintain the fight in battle strife.
I shall lay your pride in the dust.5
Your martial career has come to a close.
You have been for long a source of trouble
Poor your fame as a provincial king;
Evil your record as a mighty prince;
Drunkard of Emain of Ardmacha;
Itinerating with tribes in cosy exile;
Maintainer of hound-packs;
Nursing long sleep in fair hostels;
Stay of Meave's harlotry;
The stock of jest and jibe;
The darling of queens' ladies' maids.
I will bide.
¶197] Then rose up the two immovable pillars and the two unconquerable bears, and the two imperishable oaks, and the two ferocious lynxes, and the two glorious, wide-spreading, full-blossomed, old trees, and the two grandest yew-trees ever seen in the woods of Ireland, Oilill the Fair and Fergus son of Roigh. Then Fergus recalled his wrongs and disgrace, and all the insults, which he endured at the hands of the Gamhanraidh from first to last. The two battle warriors thereupon took to sword play, and made fierce attacks upon each other for a long time and sustained period. It was not an easy matter to distinguish, or indeed to see, the two for any length of time, because of their extreme virulence and enmity, and the hard hammering of their blows.
¶198] But one thing: Ailill fell by the swift, strong, furious, angry, destructive blows of Fergus. Fergus beheaded him on the spot. His four and twenty sons fell along with him, and seven hundred of his household besides, as they defended him around the castle and on the beach, as also Garb (the Rough) son of Cet son of Magach, and the seven Eochaidhs of Erris, and the seven Breslenns of Breifne, and the Anguses of Baghna, and fifty Domnanns, and multitudes of others who are not enumerated along with them, for the force of the four great provinces of Ireland was mightier than theirs.
¶199] Fergus moved forward thereafter to Raith Morgan, bringing the head of Oilill the Fair with him. And thus he found Flidais with her women-folk in the company of Meave and Oilill on the lawn. And Fergus ordered Oilill the Fair's head to be laid on the ground before Flidais. Thereafter he began to court her, and said to her: There is my love-token for you, queen, said he.
¶200] (Flidais) was far from pleased (with the gift); for although she had previously loved the son of Ros she now repented, and her mind changed on finding that (Oilill) was slain on her account. And Flidais and her fair retinue began to lament loudly for Oilill, and to declare his good qualities, and to relate his great goodness and his liberality to all and sundry. Flidais ordered her female attendants to dress the head, and said:
After the lay (was sung) Oilill the Fair's head was suitably dressed, and Flidais sent poets and sages to bury it along with Oilill the Fair's body. And a grave was dug for them in the same place there.
- Dress ye the head of the king,
Ailill of many exploits;
Stars have not looked down upon
A head the equal of Ailill's.
- I bear testimony to Donald's son,
Although his head has been severed;
If his hands only were left,
He was Ireland's worthiest man.
- I attest regarding Donald's son,
Although his head has been severed;
That he never had fewer people
Than two thousand carousing with him.
- I attest regarding Donald's son,
Although his head has been severed,
That Cruachan after him shall never have
A king or reputation equal to his.
- I attest regarding Donald's son,
Although his head has been severed;
That there never raised shield in fight,
A hero more valiant against his foe.
- This is the testimony of truth,
From the first day he ascended the throne,
He refused none in food or in raiment;
He never offered insult to any.
- 'Twas wrong what Bricne did;
The noble warrior of Erris is headless,
Seeing it has been parted from his body
We shall fitly dress it.
- Dress fitly, sweet ladies,
This head that once was Ailill's;
You shared the joy of the hero;
'Tis meet that you should dress (his head).
¶201] The end of it was that the fort of Oilill the Fair was captured and destroyed. The host was divided in three divisions thereafter: a third was set apart to attend specially to Meave; a third put under Fergus, who went to Dun Engan Moor for the Maol Flidais; and remaining third under Lugaid, son of Curoi, who proceeded to Glen Mughaighe, where a large number of the chiefs of the men of Ireland were destroyed by the Gamhanraidh, to drive away the cattle.
¶202] It was then that Donald Yellowlocks heard of the battle having been fought, of his son with his chiefs having been slain, his fort destroyed, and his cattle and wealth and wives carried away by the Irishmen. And he began to lament his son and to declare his praises, and said:
- A great calamity the death of Oilill,
The high king of the west of Elga,
Multitudes are in sorrow;
Mighty his arm in times of stress.
- The right to spacious Ireland,
Was his among kings and lords,
His cattle and great wealth
Were carried away hastily.
- Goodly the palace of the king of numerous hosts;
Goodly his household bold and brave;
Many cups and goblets,
East, west, throughout his palace.
- Four hundred and twenty
Battalions active and nimble,
Those who were ranked there,
Were all of like names.
- And there were as many again
Who bore different names.
[gap: extent: one line]
[gap: extent: one line]
- Good his fortune and his reign,
His troops and his glorious men;
To him no dishonour clung,
His household was very numerous,
¶203] As to Fergus: he proceeded forthwith, accompanied by herdsmen and guides from Flidais, to seek the Maol and rouse her up. They went by Lake Letriach and came to the deep dell in which the Maol was put with her large herds, to avoid the hosts and to escape from the numerous troops. Fergus sent his men to gather the cattle quickly together, and they speedily collected the herds and cattle. They found the Maol Flidais lying down. And they were ordering her to rise. She refused. They again urged her vehemently, and still she did not rise. They were pressing her hard for the third time, but they could not remove her from where she lay. Then Fergus approached, for he was amazed at the behaviour of the crowd as they stood over her in the resting-place. And when he heard of the state of matters, he
p.109requested those usually about her to order her up. They said that they never saw her act in this listless manner before, and that they believed it was grief for her lord that prostrated her. Fergus approached her, and angrily attacked her. He gave her a thrust with the hilt of his weapon, when she groaned because of the injurious treatment. He struck her again incontinently, and yet she did not move. He struck her the third time with passion, still she did not give heed to him. But one thing: Fergus struck the cow nine heavy, grievous blows quickly in succession to rouse her up. Over the four airts of Ireland her bellow and lowing groans were heard as they were forcing her to leave her accustomed haunts and face the terrors of being violently driven away. There was not a lord of mansion or stead of the chivalry of the Gamhanraidh but heard the moan and became aware of the violent death of Ailill the Fair. Whence it was that this was the strongest muster they made to avenge Ailill the Fair. Fergus ordered his men to beat her, seeing that she refused to leave her resting-place at his instance, in case the poets would laugh at him. Then Bricne said that the cow would rise forthwith at his bidding. Fergus promised presents to him for rousing her up. And Bricne spoke thus:
- Rise, marvellous cow,
Maol Flidais whose milk is sweet;
Leave Erris with its rough furze,
For it never provided pasture fit for you,
On its red(?) precipices,
Only your devotion to Ailill (made it endurable);
Your herdsmen were beguiled,
While he lorded it there.
Seeing that the warrior no longer lives,
Your days of plenty(?) are also gone.
p.111Remain no longer on these cold hills
But accompany us on our royal road,
To Cruachan of the green haughs.
For the wife of Ailill also comes,
With us on this journey;
And if report be true,
You and she came together out of fairy dwellings.
I shall declare the terms
Which Fergus now offers you,
Magh Aei where Whitehorn dwells will be your home,
To feed upon and consort with him;
Over its kingly knolls and swards, surrounded by your numerous (subject) herds
Lonely(?) and joyless your devotion now that Ailill is gone.
If you fear
the weapons of Fergus,
Bide not the wrath of the stout son of Ros,
But rise at my bidding.
¶204] The (Maol Flidais) left her dwelling without further delay at Bricne's solicitation. The Dubloinges gathered the herds speedily, and drove them in front by Lake Letriach to the round knolls of Glen Mughaighe to meet Meave and Oilill and the sturdy chefs of the kindly host.
¶205] As to Luigdech, son of Curoi, and the third of the men of Ireland's host: they harried the whole of Southern Erris from Letter (slope) Fidach to Glen Mudhaighe. And they experienced very great hardship in these forays. For Muiredach the Stammerer, son of Oilill the Fair, and the clans of Finn and the chivalry of the Gamhanraidh from every part of Cruachan Oighle caught them up. And they slew many of the chiefs of their people, as also Senchan the Little and Senchan the Big and two cow-lords of Meave's people, and they were able to carry along with them only small remnants(?) of the herds to the (camp of the) Irish host.
¶206] The men of Ireland made their chief camp there. And Muiredach the Stammerer pursued Lugaid son of Curoi that night to the very centre of the Irish camp, and continued
p.113attacking the whole host until the morning. That was the night in which he slew Legan the Wizard, Oilill and Meave's musician. And this was the manner of his (slaying). His sleeping quarters were between the apartment of Ailill and of Meave in the royal tent. Muiredach heard him in the very end of the night, chanting music and minstrelsy to Oilill and Meave on a beautiful golden timpan. Muiredach knew that it was in Oilill and Meave's tent (the musician) lodged. He forthwith grasped his golden spear and with lightning speed hurled it at the tent, when it pierced the musical instrument and the breast of the artist so that he was killed outright where he lay. Meave rose early to view him, and all were lamenting him. His death greatly affected Meave. She ordered his grave to be dug, and recited (the lay):
- Legan Drai!
Many will mourn for him;
I promised him when coming to his death,
That he would reach his home again.
- Alas! never more shall Legan return
To his own house again;
Our musician and our wizard,
Whom we also made our sage.
- For his weight of red gold,
I would not part with the master of the delightful arts.
But now, day and night under red clay,
And mould over his pale cheek.
- When Muiredach the Stammerer came,
He wounded fatally the sage;
Often did he sing a song to me,
He was my darling, Legan Drai.
¶207] The adventures of the great Cet son of Magach are given here. He remained on the field behind the men of Ireland,
p.115burying his sons and fosterlings. When their graves were made he moved forward in the track of the men of Ireland. In following our steps he was much hampered by the incessant attack on the men of Ireland and the holding of them up at the fords and passes of Erris. Three very brave warriors of Meave's people fell in with him, Eignech Little and Eignech Big and Siadal son of Sirtachtar. The three fell by the hand of Cet. And Cet said that he slew them all by mistaking them for the pursuers. He pressed the Gamhanraidh in their pursuit of the men of Ireland so hard that he alone constituted a third of the smiting force in the pursuit.
¶208] Then Donald Yellowlocks with his stout troops from Dun Tuath joined in the pursuit to avenge the high king Ailill the Fair on the veterans of Ireland. He sent messengers everywhere urging the Gamhanraidh to follow him to avenge Oilill the Fair. He himself did not wait for their reply, but went forward in close, persistent pursuit of the men of Ireland until he reached the place where Oilill, Fergus, Meave, and all the chiefs of the men of Ireland were, arranged in orderly battalions, after Fergus and the chiefs of Ireland, with the (collected) plunder and booty and the Maol Flidais, joined them. Now Meave thought that they could not be tracked or followed in leaving the country on that march, seeing that Oilill the Fair alone fell, and that her covenant with the Gamhanraidh was so firm.
¶209] As to the Gamhanraidh. After they heard of the fate of their lord, they did not keep their compact with the troops, but proceeded (at once) to avenge him. Donald Yellowlocks was the first to overtake (the Irish host) with his pack of hounds along with it. These eagerly attacked the hosts so that the
p.117men of Ireland were forced forthwith to face them because of the furious and dangerous grip with which the wolf-dogs seized them. They and Donald's soldiers were with ardour destroying and beheading each warrior of the men of Ireland whom they fell upon. Fergus and the Dubloinges went to shield the men of Ireland from them, and he and the wolf-dogs fought forthwith. Fergus went in his chariot, and when a specially dangerous and powerful wolf-dog of Donald's saw him in the chariot it made a fierce and very sudden spring at him. Fergus with Fergarbh (Rough-man) his charioteer stood watchfully to meet the attack. The dog disregarding their weapon to deliver a blow, the chariot gave way under him, for it was not able a sustain the weight of the three powerful individuals at one and the same time, and its wheels and shafts and axles broke right away. When Fergus could not obtain a firm foothold in the chariot he leapt out, carrying his weapons with him. And when his warriors followed him the dog made an angry, fierce, and venomous rush with her teeth at Fergarbh. She caught the small of his body (i.e. his neck) firmly in the big-fanged, open mouth, and tore his head from his body. And when she failed to find Fergus near she seized on the horses, attacked them furiously, and killed them forthwith. When the men of Ireland saw Fergus leaving his chariots unsupported, panic almost seized them. Donald's people, and the dogs, and the first muster of the heroes of the Gamhanraidh slew a great many of the followers of Meave and Oilill and Fergus in that scare, and wrought many losses and disasters upon them. Fergus felt shamed at the check he experienced, and turned back again to the broken chariot, which he had abandoned. He found his charioteer and horses mangled by Donald's dog. He gave a look of triumph at her, and grasped his spear to
p.119crush her. He made a quick, well-aimed cast at her, when the spear entered her head, and, after piercing it, fixed itself in the ground, so that her life left her in that spot.
¶210] Fergus compelled the whole of those who fought and harassed them to retreat, and then they deliberated as to their journey and marches, their routes and [...]. They all proceeded to leave Erris-Domnann without delay. Fergus and the Dubloinges kept in the rear of the men of Ireland. They were not long on the march when they saw Donald's banners gleaming red in pursuit of them. The Gamhanraidh went and joined him at one place in quivering and blazing-venomous battalions to avenge Oilill the Fair on the men of Ireland. Fergus urged the Dubloinges to make all haste to meet Donald. The Dubloinges stoutly opposed the Gamhanraidh in order to prevent the effective force of the pursuers from getting at the men of Ireland, and (thus) to maintain the honour of Fergus. They attacked Donald in a body, and in the first brush hurled a battle spear at the stout warrior. He, without moving from the spot on which he stood, raised his shield, and the broad battle spear with sure aim hit the great shield. The mighty king's followers met that charge, and hurled weapons without numbers and with deadly aim against the Ulster men.
¶211] Then Fergus in a loud voice ordered his soldiers not to exchange weapons or blades with the enemy, but to leave him and Donald to make a stout fight on that spot, seeing that it was by his hand that Donald's son fell. Fergus's people then gave way, and the Gamhanraidh were also forced to cease aiding Donald. They cleared a broad, tramped-down space for the heroes on which to fight, for Fergus was anxious to ward off Donald's bold, sternly-venomous might from the men of Ireland at that juncture, and Donald was eager to make a fierce onslaught on Fergus in revenge of Oilill the Fair. Each hurled his battle-weapons furiously at the other as was the habit of the champions, but the weapons made no impression on them because of the proof of their armour and their breast-coverings. Then the (two) battle-soldiers
p.121closed with each other. They mutually pressed home their attack, they battered each other's heads and shields and helmets very fiercely, so that the whole of the four great provinces of Ireland heard the din. The men of Ireland turned their faces to gaze at them, and the chivalry of the Gamhanraidh who had joined in the pursuit watched the contest of these mighty men from their side, for they were firmly convinced that neither of the two would give way in that encounter, because of the ferocity of their swift blows, and the wariness of their defence, and the greatness of their enmity, and their overpowering strength. The two wielded their weapons against each other so furiously, viciously, venomously, threateningly, that shields were cleft, and mails hacked, and helmets twisted in that conflict. The fray did not cease until their hands got tired through (prolonged) exertion and their feet failed to support them. And great though the force was with which the battle-warriors smote each other, not a drop of blood was on the body of either. They observed that the men of Ireland were getting impatient as they looked on, and besides exhaustion and lassitude seized themselves, since neither of them was able to wound or maim the other. So they parted from that conflict skin-whole on either side.
¶212] Great vast wonder seized the men of Ireland on seeing those two might men parting (in this manner). They moved forward without delay to the hill of Dun Engan and to Glen Cruach, with all the Gamhanraidh in pursuit and committing great slaughter upon them. Thus the Gamhanraidh acted on their march: they carried with them the heads of all the men of Ireland who they slew, leaving their bodies behind, until they reached the glen in which the men of Ireland camped. And no sooner were they there than the pursuers were upon them in front and rear, fiercely attacking them. They made a heap of the men of Ireland's heads there, whence the name (of the place), Heap of the Heads. That night was passed there in great anxiety.
¶213] They fared forth early on the morrow, and Meran the warrior overtook them. He engaged the heroes with zest, and slew many soldiers, among them Legan, son of Lusg [...], a worthy warrior of Oilill and Meave's army, whence the name the Stream of Legan. They marched from that place in great anxiety to the slope of the hill of Finn, where Caillderg son of Lilach overtook them. This man attacked them with great violence, as if he were the only one who engaged in the pursuit, for not a mighty chief of Ireland's men met him but fled before him. And Buinne Beimennach (Blow-dealer), a battle warrior of Oilill and Meave's people, went forth to withstand and engage him. The two fought in the view of the men of Ireland on that field until Buinne Beimennach fell by the hand of the son of Lilach on that spot.
¶214] The men of Ireland left that place, and they did not halt on that march until they encamped in Glen-da-Aran on that
p.205night. Full of wounds, streaming with blood, and sorely bruised were the best of the men of Ireland that night after the charge of the Gamhanraidh, so that not one among them save Fergus only had any strength or valour left in him. Thus they were on that night. They rose up early on the morrow, after their physicians had bound up and dressed all their wounds and sores. Their non-combatants slowly went in front, while they themselves were in the rear drawn up in ranked battalions for the defence of these. For there was not a knoll they passed (but they had to face) the Gamhanraidh, whose chiefs had mustered and collected from all quarters to attack them, for affection and anger and contrition took hold of them, so that there was not a freeman of their people from Inver Luimnech to Drowes whose heart was not (now) bent on punishing the men of Ireland and thoroughly avenging (the death of) Oilill the Fair.
¶215] The men of Ireland heard this, and dread and great fear took hold of them all. They made little progress on that day, the Gamhanraidh harassed them so, and they encamped at the north end of Conloch that night. They sent Cormac Conloinges and Lugaid son of Curoi with a number of the Irish warriors to explore the road on which they marched out of the country, and to find out whether there was a mustering or gathering in pursuit of them from that quarter. They were so sorely pressed that night that they were obliged to tie the Maol Flidais to a pillar by the door of Meave's tent. The scouts returned early on the morrow, and informed them that the whole force of the Gamhanraidh were on the level ground at the head of Conloch, and the news reduced them all to silence.
¶216] They held counsel, and resolved to keep the front of their booty and battalions towards the path which the champions guarded, as if to show (the enemy) that the whole of their assembled force were to march in the direction (but meanwhile)
p.207they would endeavour to find opportunity to march secretly by another route. Such was their disposition during the whole of that fair day until night, while the enemy were hustling and harassing them. They had the command of neither road nor path, the warriors having all come together to one place to oppose them. Thus they were ready when next night came to march secretly back to the land of Breas, and thus get out of that danger. They sat down as though there was no way open for them; while the Gamhanraidh encamped in another place on the road on which, as they thought, the chiefs meant to travel. They were in that position, each watching the other, until night came. When night fell on the men of Ireland they all left the camp, save Fergus and the sentinels who remained to guard the rear until their fighting force along with the booty and sick people should all pass on. Fergus with his stout troops followed slowly and warily.
¶217] They had not proceeded far on that march when the Gamhanraidh became aware of this manoeuvre, and their scouts made known their escape. The Gamhanraidh then furiously pursued the men of Ireland. But they hardly made up with the troops until they reached Mag Bron, because of the deception practised upon them. Many of their warriors overtook them there, and inflicted great slaughter on the men of Ireland, which was a cause of grief and sorrow to their chiefs, whence the name of the placeField of Sorrow.
¶218] As to the men of Ireland: they proceeded in vast numbers to Red Stream. And they did not wait for the rear to come up, but plunged forthwith into the river, so that a vast number of their women and children were drowned and lost. Only their strong men and battle chiefs and principal champions and cavalry were able to ford the river. And their losses since the time they carried the Maol Flidais away cannot be reckoned.
¶219] As to Fergus: he marched in the rear of the host, accompanied by the Dubloinges. The last of them were
p.209at the ford opposing the Gamhanraidh when they saw the main body of the force approaching them in fighting order. They did not allow Fergus time to view them, but made him follow the men of Ireland across the ford. The Irishmen crossed the mouth of the ford, but they were hardly over sooner than the Gamhanraidh at another crossing. Both parties raised a loud exulting shout at the ford, the Irishmen boasting that they escaped the Gamhanraidh in spite of them, the Gamhanraidh vaunting about the number of Irishmen slain by them. The men of Ireland counted their host and troops there, and only seven battalions of the champions were found to have crossed the Ford of Lecon on that day, and to have made for Bres territory after that onslaught. The rear were not able to march from that spot before the Gamhanraidh held up the champions as formerly, being chagrined at their having escaped their troops through the dangerous traps (laid for them).
¶220] Meave summoned marvellous courage when she perceived the confused state of matters under the chiefs. She kept in the rear of the stout warriors. The Gamhanraidh were vigorously pressing the pursuit with the view to reach and to crush Meave. She did not blench or shrink from the situation, but kept her place valiantly in front of the hosts who needed her help so much that she did not find opportunity [gap: extent: seven lines left untranslated] so that Lecan became the name of that ground and spot thereafter. She then quickly entered her chariot, took her place gallantly among the warriors, and firmly kept step in the line.
¶221] The men of Ireland thereupon marched without delay, the Gamhanraidh fiercely pursuing them. Donald Yellowlocks
p.211overtook them there. The chiefs of the men of Ireland were greatly alarmed at his approach, for all the Gamhanraidh gathered round him, having left the place where they had hitherto been hewing and hacking. When the men of Ireland saw Donald pressing the charge home, they all bitterly reproached Fergus for (the issue of) his former duel with Donald. When Fergus heard these accusations great shame seized him for not having protected the stalwart men from Donald. He beseeched the Dubloinges vehemently to display great courage and to check Donald's attack. They all resolved to oppose him, and they sought opportunity (to slay him). Donald hurried the attack after crossing the Ford of Champions. And Fergus met him there. They fought on the brink of the ford, and none of the men of Ireland were able to intervene until they were battering each others' shields in conflict. Donald's men and Fergus's men joined in the fight, each to aid his lord and chief. These households pounded each other in the conflict until they fell side by side in the battle-fight. Fergus and Donald fought that combat in the view of the men of Ireland so furiously that his friend could not render aid or assistance to either, until Donald (at last) fell under the powerful blows of Fergus. And no sooner did the warrior reach the ground than Fergus and the men of Ireland were obliged to leave him where he fell, without stripping him of his armour.
¶222] They proceeded in the track of the retreating party closely pursuing them, and the host never experienced greater hardships than in the retreat from the strand of Ros airgid (silvern). Nevertheless they endured every calamity and loss that befel them until the darkness of night came to them. They encamped that night in great anxiety in the north of the land of Corann, and were obliged to tie the Maol Flidais to a pillar of stone, the knoll being called Maol's Knoll ever after. The Gamhanraidh surrounded
p.213them until full daylight came to the hosts, when, upon full daylight coming, their champions were engaged in promiscuous fighting; and the march of the hosts from that spot was almost a rout, so that they were not able to loose the Maol from the pillar to which she was tied.
¶223] Muiredach the Stutterer son of Oilill made a rush in front of the mighty host, and found by chance Flidais and her female attendants there. He carried her away with him forthwith. And he let the hosts past until he reached the centre of the men of Ireland's camp, where he reached the centre of the men of Ireland's camp, where he found the Maol Flidais tied to the pillar. He instantly loosed. He then sent word to the Gamhanraidh to cease fighting, and forbidding further pursuit. He told them how he found Flidais and the Maol Flidais with the booty. The Gamhanraidh thereupon ceased their attack, and the pursuit came to an end. And the chiefs of the men of Ireland proceeded with Meave to Cruachan.
¶224] Muiredach the Stutterer and the chiefs of the Gamhanraidh, with Flidais and her women-folk and her herds, turned back west on the same road on which they came, until they reached the place where Donald Yellowlocks fell. And thus they found him, with a band of his attached people and devoted friends around him keeping guard over him. They all encamped around him there that night. They build a turf grave over him early on the morrow. And Muiredach the Stutterer composed an elegy upon him and said:
- Sad the fate of Donald Yellowlocks,
From Dun Tuaith without his forces,
His pursuit of the foray, unsupported,
Caused his speedy death.
- Donald ought not to have braved
The great Dubloinges of Meave;
His death was a cruel deed,
A loss to those who loved him.
- The mighty lord of Erris delayed not,
Until we could have joined him in the strife;
Woe to the king who waits not for his troops,
Before engaging in stern warfare
- Ailill (fell) before his father,
Of the death revealed to him,
That he would die
Without aid from his warriors.
- Through Oilill the Fair, the husband of Flidais,
Met his death in his dread career,
Greater to us the loss of Donald
Through enmity and pride;
- Woe to those who went on that quest,
Where fell the noble warrior;
To be lifeless in the slaughter,
The foray was indeed a disastrous one.
¶225] When they had completed the grave of the battle-soldier and raised a [...] pillar (in his memory), they moved forward quickly until they reached the Ford of Lecan that day. They encamped there quite worn out. And they went over their exploits and their sufferings, and the story of the raid and the pursuit, upon which the poet composed the following quatrains:
- Here was fought a valorous fight,
It was featful, above the fair
Fierce and dexterous
Over the raid of fair Flidais's red cows.
- Goodly the Maol, great her
Her produce exceeded that of every other,
Fifty boys, with three hundred valorous heroes,
Would be fed by her milk.
- The host was divided in three,
(The chiefs surrounded the cattle),
A third of brilliant Leinstermen,
A third of fighting Ulstermen.
- The remaining third were Connaught men,
Powerful like a flood the warriors;
Although the roll of praise were closed,
(Still) would be found fiery warriors by the sea.
- The cow was lying on the ground;
A great chief found the herd;
Thrice were efforts made to rouse her,
The host could not accomplish it.
- Then came Fergus himself,
A fierce impetuous dragon of goodly presence;
He looked south, he looked north,
He stood up when he struck the Maol.
- Fergus struck the hummel cow
Thrice in the presence of this host;
Her low and moan were heard
East, south, and north.
- Strenuous arm and mighty hand,
Keen in vigorous onslaught;
Hacked carcases under red clay,
Beyond a river of the west.
- Donald's hound sped from his castle,
With fifty relentless hounds following;
She destroyed the prince's stately chariot,
She slew his truly generous charioteer.
- Fergus killed the slim hound,
With the polished spear that pierced her head
On the field above the glen,
The son of Roich's horses were slaughtered.
- Then came the
Tough and strong as an oak was he;
There with matchless strength he discharged
A hundred deadly shots in quick succession.
- Fergus made a mighty, powerful thrust
At the featful
'Let the hosts be restrained from impetuous blow
Let us two fight it out ruthlessly.'
- They fought where they stood,
Equal in valour, equal in arms;
A marvel it was, no blood on their body,
No wound was found on either.
- As they thrust vigorously,
And charged strenuously;
And soon (it ended), as we judged,
In the glen by Heap-of-heads.
- Meran ran through the fight,
A flow (of sweat) from his visage;
He wielded a heavy club, rough the shiver,
He slew Legan by the stream.
- Boinne from the hill was slain,
His blows did not lack force,
On the slope of the woody hill of Finn,
He fell by the hand of the fierce son of Lilach.
- They fought other fights equally glorious,
They made a bright large camp,
In the glen above spacious Aran.
- They chose their camp with knowledge,
On the slope above the seaport to the south:
They place troops with sure judgment
On the precipitous side of Loch Cuile.
- The mighty chiefs were forceful men,
The mould of their graves was bloody,
Terrible was the deed of the son of Roich,
Fair, specious, stern.
[gap: extent: one line]
[gap: extent: one line]
On the one spot
Let him lie alone after the hosts (have departed).
- They departed stealthily soon after,
It was a great confused movement;
They marched in fear and trembling,
Across the ford of Lecan, across the Moy.
- Seven battalions the number of the host,
With Fergus son of Roich who commanded them:
They fought many a fight,
Against the braves mustered here.
¶226] The Gamhanraidh placed Muiredach the Stutterer on his father's throne thereafter. And some learned persons say that he had Flidais with him there for a season; and that she, with the Maol Flidais in her train, went to Lake Letriach to hide her secret. And nothing is known of her from that day to this. Thus far then the Raid of Flidais's cows and the Pursuit thereof.